Category: Dissertation

History and Maps

I have been reading up on Geographical Information Systems/Sciences. There seem to be a number of flavors of combining history with maps and geographical data and methodologies. The various terms I have run across are Historical GIS, historical geography, cultural geography, spatial history or spatial humanities.

Here are the list of books I would like to tackle, with the first two being the most important for my research.

  • Knowles, Anne Kelly, Tim Cole, and Alberto Giordano. Geographies of the Holocaust. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014.
  • Gregory, Ian, and Paul S Ell. Historical GIS: Technologies, Methodologies, and Scholarship. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Black, Jeremy. Maps and History: Constructing Images of the Past. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.
  • Bodenhamer, David J., John Corrigan, and Trevor M. Harris. The Spatial Humanities: GIS and the Future of Humanities Scholarship. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.
  • Daniels, Stephen, Dydia DeLyser, J. Nicholas Entrikin, and Doug Richardson. Envisioning Landscapes, Making Worlds: Geography and the Humanities. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; New York: Routledge, 2011.
  • Dear, Michael J. Geohumanities: Art, History and Text at the Edge of Place. London: Routledge, 2011.
  • Gaddis, John Lewis. The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  • Hillier, Amy, and Anne Kelly Knowles. Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. Redlands, Calif: ESRI Press, 2008.
  • Knowles, Anne Kelly, and Amy Hillier. Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship. Pap/Cdr. ESRI Press, 2008.
  • Pickles, John. A History of Spaces: Cartographic Reason, Mapping, and the Geo-Coded World. London: Routledge, 2004.

I also started working through some of the interviews to pull out locations. This required me to first figure out what I was looking for. I decided to look for eight specific “locations” and map those on a map of the camp. My goal is to see if where these events happen influence why they happen. Or if there is any correlation or outliers after mapping the data.

I had a neat idea while reading one book: visualize what people knew geographically during a certain time. So the map represents the lands and info that a person/people knew about. Say a person from 1820’s England. Their “map” of the world would include Europe, eastern US, maybe a few other countries, but exclude Antarctica?, Irabian peninsula?, Madagascar?, Thailand?, India?

The Final Stretch

But not really. I’m no further than before, but the end is in sight, because I have to finish by January 2016 no matter what. I also have the opportunity to write up my dissertation work for a journal article, and that is due in summer 2015. So I have to be done by then. I will also be presenting my work at a conference in April 2015, so most of the work and write up has to be done by then.

So, you see what I’ve done? I’ve given myself strict deadlines by promising to have the dissertation done by a certain time. I’m holding myself accountable!

So, even though this is the final stretch, it’s still the whole race, practically.

I made a list of all the things that need to happen by the end of November.

  • Read through DH, GeoHistory, historical GIS books.
  • Fix the Omeka/Wiki/Scripto installation
  • Watermark all images
  • Import all images into Omeka
  • Contact Natalia Dudnik (GMU) about learning module for using Scripto
  • Contact UVA German department about learning module for using Scripto
  • Go through 5+ survivor testimonies and pick out all the uses of “place”
  • Figure out database schema to use while going through survivor testimonies
  • Finish chapter 1 about Germany getting ready for moving factories underground
    • Summary (numbers) of bombing raids (on Germany and Britain): total killed, total bombs, etc
    • bombing raid example of Britain
    • Bombing raid examples for Germany
    • Whole section on bombing’s goal of decreasing war production
      • plans, goals for Allied bombing of which factories, which areas of production to target
      • A couple of examples of factories being bombed, the view from the workers, the owners, the gov. Details about destruction, loss of production, work required to rebuild.
    • Big Week section needs to be flushed out.
      • Why Big Week important for this dissertation (it was the kick in the Nazi pants that got them seriously working towards moving factories underground.)?
      • goals
      • where they bombed and why
      • stats on bombing outcome
      • Flesh out big week experience as told by US pilot (better would be to have German perspective, or both)
    • More on Jägerstab
    • Rüstungsstab
    • SS building programs
    • Dispersal plans
    • Slave labor usage

I have also committed to blog more. Each week. Whatever I’ve done. I’ll write about that, or just post what I have written.

Bombing as Strategy

Day of DH 2014

One of the uses of Digital Humanities is to enlarge the community of scholars. Building up to a paper at the annual German Studies Association conference in September, I will be researching how the Open Source model of creating software and hardware can be applied to the humanities. Specifically, what does having open access to information and scholarship do to/for/with that information and scholarship. One mantra in Open Source software development is that many eyes on the code spot the errors more quickly. I would like to repurpose that mantra for humanities, specifically history: many eyes make more better history.

To try an experiment, here is a section of chapter one of the dissertation. A quick look at the use of air power as it changed from WWI to WWII and the use of strategic bombing in WWII. Any and all comments on the process, the information, scholarship, history, images, methodology, layout, facts, etc are welcome and acceptable.


B-24 Liberator in March 1945
B-24 Liberator in March 1945

By some accounts, the total Allied air offensives during World War II dropped almost two million tons of bombs on Germany, completely destroying over sixty cities, killing an estimated 583,000 Germans as well as 80,000 Allied air crew. 1 What was the goal of strategic bombing? Did the bombing of British or German cities really have the desired effect? Beginning with their implementation in World War I, airplanes were believed by only a few military leaders at the time to be of any strategic advantage in modern warfare. Incorporating strategic use of airplanes in wartime planning was in itself an early battle fought among US military leaders even before Germany invaded Poland. This section will describe the early use of bombing and how it came to be used strategically in World War II by both Germany and the Allies. Weakening civilian morale and destroying military production facilities were the main goals for both sides of the conflict. This section will look at these two goals, and describe the success or failure of the goals as seen by contemporary observations as well as present-day arguments. Finally, Big Week is discussed as a major turning point in German military planning, effectively cementing the turn from offensive to defensive measures.

Bombing as Strategy

A few British and US airmen saw the advantage of strategic bombing in World War I but were unable to convince Army officers in charge of the war to utilize bombing as an offensive strategy, that is, bombing specific non-battle front targets for the sake of military advantage. For US and British Army commanders in the Great War, the fight was on the ground, between the battling foot soldiers. The airplanes main and only responsibility, according to the commanding officers, was to support those troops. If bombs were to be dropped, they would be at or near the battle’s front. Bombing specific targets, such as military production facilities, was not seen as contributing to winning a war. After the First World War, United States airmen continued to push their belief that strategic bombing could impact a war.  Their break came, when air force strategists replied to President Franklin Roosevelt’s general inquiry to the US military in the summer of 1941 for best practices for defeating Axis powers, as they expected and planned for the US entry into the current war in Europe. 2


British Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris
British Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris

Britain had also began interwar plans for strategic bombing and beginning with their entrance into war in 1939, British air forces began a systematic bombing of German cities. After the United States entered the war in 1941, they added their air force to the British offensive intensifying the bombing efforts the next year. Bombing raids by the Allies were designed to complete two tasks in hopes of shortening the war: weaken soldier and citizen morale, and destroy German war production. As it played out, strategic bombing of key military locations in the European theater worked as planned, causing German military production great problems.
British Bomber Command under Arthur Harris sought total destruction of industrial areas and their associated civilian support as the main objective. While the press and population saw the bombing of German cities as retribution for bombed British cities, Harris saw it as the way to disarm the German military, city by city if necessary. 3

Americans approached the issue of bombing with different goals than the RAF. American air strategists, even between the wars, had long studied the problem of bombing in order to determine the most effective strategy. In studying New York city, for example, they learned that the city could be rendered uninhabitable by destroying just seventeen key location. In studying examples of how the Japanese bombed Chinese cities as well as bombing during the Spanish Civil War, American strategists came to the conclusion that terror bombing, or bombing civilians to weaken morale, most often had the opposite effect, and usually led to a much more resistant population. Based on these studies, American strategy was for precision bombing, targeting key industrial and military locations. That American bombing often ended up destroying civilian areas just as much as RAF bombing was due to the limits of technology, rather than conscious implementation of strategy. U.S. operational records and mission reports from raids show that the Americans consistently and honestly, even relentlessly, stressed precision bombing of military and industrial areas. 4

Lancaster B, September 1942
Lancaster B, September 1942

Differing opinions as to the purpose of strategic bombing caused some tension among British and American air force leaders. American air forces entered the European Theater as a junior companion to the British forces who had already been fighting for two years. While commanders of Eighth Air Force and Eighth Bomber Command were committed to day time precision bombing, and viewed civilian bombing as a waste of resources and inefficient military strategy, they did not want to create more unwanted tension in the British-American alliance. British military leaders pressed their U.S. counterparts to adopt night time raids, citing high casualty rates and the seemingly ineffectiveness of daytime bombing. American air commanders were able to reach concessions at the Casablanca Conference in January 1943 by persuading British leaders to adopt an around the clock bombing strategy, with RAF bombing civilian locations at night, and American bombers carrying out raids on military targets by day.


  1. Hansen, Randall. Fire and Fury. Doubleday Canada, Limited, 2009, 279.
  2. Birkey, Douglas A. “Aiming for Strategic Effect: The Evolution of the Army Air Force’s Strategic Bombardment Campaigns of World War II.” Dissertation, Georgetown University, 2013. Georgetown University Library, 7.
  3. Childers, Thomas. “‘Facilis Descensus Averni Est’: The Allied Bombing of Germany and the Issue of German Suffering.” Central European History 38, no. 1 (January 1, 2005): 87.
  4. Childers, Thomas. “‘Facilis Descensus Averni Est’: The Allied Bombing of Germany and the Issue of German Suffering.” Central European History 38, no. 1 (January 1, 2005): 88-89.

Zotero Bibliography for Nazi Tunnels

I’ve been meaning to get this set up for quite a while, and now that I actually have some solid sources (all secondary for now), I am able to put this together.

Zotero is a great bibliography tool, and the web version allows anyone to collaborate on a group bibliography. This will be helpful in working with the Concentration Camp Memorial and Documentation Center of Porta Westfalica (CCMDC), a group that is actively working with the city of Porta Westfalica to put up memorial signs and collect information relating to the former labor camps.

The Zotero bibliography is located here:

The CCMDC does not yet have their own website, I’ll have to see if I can fix that.

Work at the Porta Labor Camps

Job List

Reinhold Blanke-Bohne wrote a completed his dissertation on the Nazi SS labor camps at Porta Westfalica in 1984. There were many different commands that inmates were assigned to; they switched commands often for various reasons. Reinhold Blanke-Bohne has a list of 26 different commands; not all of them were in existence at the same time.

Some of the jobs at the labor camp in Porta Westfalica:

  1. Höhle 1 (= unteres System im Jakobsberg);
  2. Höhle 2 (= oberes System im Jakobsberg); (Beide Kommandos hatten mehrere Unterkommandos)
  3. Denkmalstollen
  4. Heserstollen
  5. Häverstädter Stollen (ebenfalls mit Unterkommandos)
  6. Stollenkippe (= oberes System im Jakobsberg)
  7. Betonwerk Weber (siehe Teil 4.6)
  8. Verschiedene Baukommandos für Erdarbeiten , Zement­transport und Mischung , Klinkerbau- und Transport, Betonbau (Betriebe: OT Einsatzgruppe Philipp Holzmann, ARGE Herford u.a.)
  9. Brunnenbaukommando
  10. Betonkolonne
  11. Kommando Kiesgrube
  12. Kommando Uhde
  13. Kommando Edeleanu
  14. Kommando Saupe und Hielke
  15. Kommando Be- und Entwässerung
  16. Kommando Barackenbau
  17. Verschiedene Transportkommandos
  18. Waldarbeiterkommando
  19. Kommando Büscher
  20. Kommando Maschinenbau
  21. Kommando Hammerwerke
  22. Kommando Baumgarten
  23. Gleisbau Walther
  24. Kommando SS Haus.
  25. Lagerkommando
  26. Kommando Badeheizer.

And English translations (Better, more accurate suggestions are welcome. Just add a comment to this post.)

  1. Large tunnel or cave one (the lower tunnel system in Jakobsberg)
  2. Cave Two or Phillip works (Upper tunnel system in Jakobsberg)
  3. Memorial gallery
  4. Weser tunnel
  5. Häverstedter gallery
  6. gallery dump
  7. Weber Concrete works
  8. Various’ construction for earthworks
  9. well construction command
  10. concrete column
  11. Command gravel pit
  12. command Uhde
  13. command Edeleanu
  14. Command Saupe and Mielke
  15. Command irrigation and drainage
  16. Barrack construction command
  17. Various Transport Command
  18. Forest workers command
  19. Command Büscher
  20. machine construction command
  21. Command hammer works
  22. Command Baumgarten
  23. track construction Walther
  24. Command SS-house
  25. camp command
  26. Command bath heater
Monument in Porta Westfalica to the former laborers.
Monument in Porta Westfalica to the former laborers.

Technical Notes

I have a copy of Reinhold Blanke-Bohne due to the extreme generosity of several individuals. Foremost is Wolfgang Walter from Minden who had a copy of the dissertation he allowed to be copied. Second is Dr. Gerhard Franke who had the copies made and sent them to me while I was in Berlin. And third, is Dirk Volkening at Kopiertechnik who made the copies. He actually scanned them to PDF files, which is even better than paper copies. I then opened the PDF in Adobe Acrobat Pro and converted it to a searchable document (Open the Text tool, select the Recognize Text menu, and click the “In This File” option; may be different in your version of Adobe Acrobat Pro).

Making a PDF searchable in Adobe.
Making a PDF searchable in Adobe.

Another option is to upload the PDF to your Google Docs.

First make sure the upload settings are set to automatically convert the document on upload, or at least ask you on each upload. When you view the PDF document in Google Docs, rather than Google Drive Viewer, you will have a searchable text page after each image page.


Nordhausen: Week Three

Entrance to Dora-Mittelbau memorial.
Entrance to Dora-Mittelbau memorial.

The largest memorial to the underground factories in Germany is near Nordhausen, at the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial. I was able to visit with Jens-Christian Wagner, the director of the memorial. We had a great discussion on the importance of memorials and the purpose they have in contemporary Germany. We spoke on the many different meanings of “Gedenkstätte”, how there are political, social, emotional and economic meanings and reasons for creating a monument or memorial site. One interesting, and sad, fact is, that much of the financial support for the memorials throughout Germany that commemorate the Holocaust is provided by survivors or their relatives. Dr. Wagner also noted how it was not until 1998 that a German Bundesregierung took national responsibility for their Nazi past in the form of financially supporting memorials and monuments. Before then, “cultural” aspects of the national past were left to local and state governments.

The current entrance to the tunnel, dug in the 1960s.
The current entrance to the tunnel, dug in the 1960s.

One question I asked of Dr. Wagner was how many memorials are needed. He replied that it is impossible to construct one at each location where people were unjustly kept prisoner or executed. It should be enough to use one ore two locations as an example, as in the case with Auschwitz and Dachau. Those sites with multi-regional, or national importance, though, should be funded by the national government. Local population and authorities should determine what is adequate and appropriate for them. Dr. Wagner warned that care must also be taken due to issues that can arise when there is good intent, but no input from survivors or those affected. He was adamant, though, that something should be done. Dr. Wanger said that they also offer their services as editors and advisers on how to construct an appropriate memorial, but are limited themselves as to the financial contributions they can make. We discussed that the reason for memorials should be for social history, and only as it relates to the concentration camp inmates. The use of forced labor can never be separated from the technological and scientific discoveries made by the Nazi engineers and scientists. For example, you can’t separate the technical aspects of the V-weapons and tunnel building from the forced labor and the laborers. Doing so leads to disconnect from the laborers and leads to right wing Nazi fascination.

_MG_1147There is a problem even nowadays with people seeking to clear the Nazis of wrongdoing, looking to find Nazi secret weapons or proof of Nazi creation of an atomic bomb. Dr. Wanger was quite emphatic that the German war production and armament program was a fantasy. The only thing the projects produced was the death of thousands. The role of the memorial at Mittelbau-Dora is to show how completely fantastic and impractical the plans were that the Nazis had made. There is no way to separate anything they did from the reality that what they did was kill people. Everything they did here was well documented and well known. There were no secret atomic bombs here, or at any of the other tunnel projects.

Inmates were forced to march to other camps as the Allies came to liberate. Many died on the way.
Inmates were forced to march to other camps as the Allies came to liberate. Many died on the way.

We also discussed the looming issue that within 10 years, all of the living Holocaust survivors will pass on. In the past they have successfully lobbied to have the German national government fund some memorials, but within 10 years they will all be gone and the leverage they could extend will no longer exist. One question that arose was, what happens when nobody feels responsible for the history? In the 1990s and early 2000s there was a “bloom” of memorials as the government and citizens came to a “reawakening” of the horrors perpetrated during World War II. During that time there was finally a political party in power that wanted to take responsibility of the past. We also discussed that how the past is remembered is a generational issue. The question that memorials should answer is: For the youth of today, what connection do they have with the past, and why does it matter? For teenagers today, World War II is as far in the past as the Middle Ages. The Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial tries to teach the visiting youth that the structure of today’s society, with racism, political ideologies, and class separation are still in existence, just as they were in the 1930s, and that the choices their grandparents or great-grandparents made over these same issues is what lead them to a society that allowed such atrocities as the Holocaust to exist. The question then becomes, how do we learn from that past? Or, getting more to the heart of the matter, how do we deal with the “others”? How do we deal with differences of culture and class, religion and gender, and a host of other issues in our society? When youth realize that they face the same issues, as did their ancestors who allowed for fascism, then the past is no longer distant. It is relevant to them and the situations they face now, and becomes a learning tool to shape their future.

One of the original entrances, destroyed shortly after the war.
One of the original entrances, destroyed shortly after the war.

One final point of discussion was how much the people in Nordhausen knew about the concentration camp. Dr. Wagner was direct in stating that everyone at the time knew what was happening, and that they knew that forced laborers were used and abused. It was directly in front of them every day. For example, the hospital for the concentration camp was in the city, near the main train station. There were businesses in town that would “rent” inmates for war production jobs. It was similar in nearly every city in Germany. They knew what was happening.

Langenstein: Week Three

I was able to visit three other tunnel locations, besides the tunnels at Porta Westfalica. The first of these former projects is near the small village of Langenstein. From the train station, it is a 5-kilometer walk to the memorial museum. Along the way I found another monument and memorial. It was originally built to honor those from the area that died during the First World War. Those who died during the Second World War were added on later.

Part of the path goes through private property, so is lined with fences.
Part of the path goes through private property, so is lined with fences.

From the museum house, it is another 2-kilometer walk. I had to walk the distance there and back due to a lack of taxi and public transportation. This ended up adding a certain amount of appreciation for the concentration camp inmates who were forced to walk from their barracks about 3 kilometers every morning to the tunnel entrance where they worked for 12 hours, and then marched back another 3 kilometers. Indeed, in planning and building the memorial museum, the planners purposely built the museum house 2 kilometers away, so that visitors would have to walk the same path as the inmates.

The orange line is the pathway from the museum house (on the right) to the tunnel entrance (on the back side of the mountain).


I spoke with an older grounds keeper on the way to the tunnel entrance. He was helpful in providing some background history on the former underground dispersal project. I was curious to see how much the neighboring villagers knew about what was happening a short distance from their homes, so I asked my guide. He grew up in the village, as did his parents who lived there during the war. He said that the villagers only knew that “something” was happening in the mountains, some kind of building project, but they did not know what exactly. According to this local, they did not have any knowledge that concentration camp members were used as forced labor. Taking into account the distance of the village, and the accompanying fear that people had in saying or doing anything against the Nazi party (a point that was continually brought up by Dr. Franke in Porta Westfalica), it is understandable that no one knew or would claim not to know anything about the nefarious acts of the Nazi party.

One other aspect of the visit to the memorial museum at Langenstein is of interest to note. Part of my dissertation research is to find out how the Nazi past, particularly the victims of the Nazi government, are remembered in the present. It was interesting to see that a youth organization was at the memorial grounds volunteering their labor to keep the area clean and beautiful. A good way for youth to connect in some way with their history is by performing service to commemorate and honor those from the past, particularly those who suffered unjustly.

A final experience in Langenstein is worth sharing. As I walked through the town on the way to the memorial I noticed signs for the cave dwellers of Langenstein. After my visit to the memorial, I made a stop at the cave dwellers. The story goes that in 1856 or there about, several families moved to Langenstein, but there were no houses available. They were instructed to carve out some rooms in the Shepherd Mountain sandstone. So they did. Upwards of 12 families lived in these cave houses, just like Hobbits, with one house being continuously occupied until 1916. Here’s the website: And some pictures of the place:

Neuengamme: Second Week Part 2

South of Hamburg, and just south of the town of Bergedorf, lies the rural area known as Neuengamme. During World War II this area was turned into a large concentration camp, housing mainly political and war prisoners from surrounding countries. During the last few years of the war, many of these prisoners were taken to “satellite” camps for use in SS building projects. One of these projects was to become the underground factories in Porta Westfalica. Some 2000 men and women were transported from Neungamme to Porta Westfalica to convert the mines and create new tunnels into underground factory space. After the war, the Neungamme concentration camp was used as a prison, and only recently turned into a museum and archive commemorating the victims of Nazi terror.

The staff at the archive, particularly, Mrs. Alyn Beßmann, helped me find all of their resources regarding the sub-camps at Porta Westfalica. Of particular interest from the Neuengamme archive were the many interviews conducted by former concentration camp inmates. I was able to make copies of the interviews of twenty-four inmates who were moved from the larger camp at Neuengamme to one of the smaller camps at Porta Westfalica. Particularly helpful at Neuengamme was the exhibits about the life of inmates at the Neuengamme concentration camp, and the extent of the concentration camps in Germany’s occupied territories. Particularly striking, is a large map with small markers indicating the location of all known large main camps and sub-camps. Fourteen large camps provided inmates to hundreds of smaller sub-camps throughout Germany, France, Holland, Austria, Czech Republic, and Poland. The extent of the terror brought about by the Nazi ideology is truly astounding.

Porta Westfalica: Second Week

2013-06-29 04.11.31
Me, being lonely.

My first week in Germany was very lonely. I’m such an introvert, so it’s my own fault, but still. That’s the reality.

On Saturday I took the train to Minden. I dropped my things off at the hotel, then took the train further to Nienburg. I served there as a missionary for my church 16 years ago. I had contact with friends there, still, so I stayed there Saturday night and went to Church on Sunday. That was great fun. Sunday evening I was back in Minden.

2013-06-29 03.25.07
Train station

On Monday, I met with Dr. Gerhard Franke. He is a retired school teacher and teacher instructor (which he did for over twenty years). He was interested in this topic because he grew up in Hausberge, was four years old when all of the tunnel stuff was going on, and is interested in history. He was a great help. He had contacted the city of Minden archives and was notified of several people in the area who were interested in the topic. So, being the great person that he is, he made appointments for us to visit with them.

The first stop on Monday was with a Herr Münstermann. He was a teenager during the war and experienced the issue first hand. He also later became a city official for many years. I wasn’t prepared to even meet with anyone that had lived through this time period, so I didn’t complete any paperwork at GMU to allow me to use personal interviews in my research. But nothing says I can’t listen anyways. He told us a little about the situation, and most helpfully, explained why it came to the point where forced labor and underground factories were necessary in the first place. Basically, after “Big Week” (a massive, multi-day bombing raid on Germany by the Allies), the Ambi-Budd company in Berlin was nearly completely destroyed. Numerous other business suffered a similar fate. They began the process of requesting increased protection from the military and help from the government. The idea was then, to disperse factories into smaller sub-factories where products could be produced in part, then brought together at yet another facility to be assembled.

Neat old building in Minden.
Neat old building in Minden.

In 1944, the decision was to move dispersal to underground facilities to further keep the factories secret and protected. Herr Münstermann had several copies of documents created by Rainer Fröbe and others. It would have been great to get copies of some of these documents, and Dr. Franke asked. Herr Münstermann, a very serious but kindly man (he is a widower and we could tell he was pleased to have us as company, he even put on a tie, and his suit coat when we sat down to talk), but he never gave out his things, because they had a tendency to not be brought back. We sat in silence. He capitulated, based on the good relationship Dr. Franke and he had. After our meeting, we immediately went to a copy shop, made double copies, and took the originals back to Herr Münstermann. Thank you, Herr Münstermann! (As it turns out, I found all of those documents in the Neuengamme archive, but you never know, so get copies while you can!)

Former local government building, until WWI. Current location of local archives
Former local government building, until WWI. Current location of local archives

Our next visit was with Thomas Lange, someone I ended up having much in common with. He was my age, for one. Second, he did his masters thesis on this topic. Thirdly, he is into technology. He’s actually a sound technician now, after finishing his Masters in History. Dr. Franke very kindly invited us all to his house for the discussion. Thomas, also very, very generously, provided Dr. Franke and I with nice, bound copies of his Master’s Thesis. He was thrilled that someone was interested in his work, doubly so that some crazy American was interested. We had a good talk about the subject, what sources he found and where, and things like that. Good stuff.

On Tuesday, we traveled all over Porta Westfalica (which consists of 15 districts which used to be individual villages, including Barkhausen, Hausberge, Neesen, and Lerbeck). We visited the Wilhelm Monument, one of the entrances on Jakobsberg (apparently we missed some huge cement oil tanks that can still be seen), and one entrance on Wittekindsberg, under the monument and behind the current lodgings of the Schützenverein Barkhausen. Dr. Franke knows lots of people and was able to work out some amazing opportunities.

One such opportunity was to meet with Wolfgang Walter who was very young in the military during WWII. He ended up serving in the West German military in the Porta Westfalica area, and thereby developed a great interest in the tunnel systems near by. He was a joy to talk with. He even gave me a large, 2 foot by 3 foot map of the area, so as to properly get a sense of my surroundings and landscape. Thank you, Herr Walter!

Schützenverien (shooting club) Barkhausen
Schützenverien (shooting club) Barkhausen

Dr. Franke had called the local newspaper and set up an appointment for a photographer to come take pictures. So on Wednesday just before I left, we (Dr. Franke and I) and the chief of the Schützenverein had our picture taken by the old entrance. It was blown up in 1947, so the only thing left to see are huge concrete blocks.  Dr. Franke is very interested in turning the tunnel system into some kind of memorial or museum, and is using me (coming all the way from America, showing interest in this place) as an example to local government officials and what not, that this is something important, and worth spending money on. A great thing, I think.

My time in Minden/Porta Westfalica was much too short. I could have used another day in the archives, and another day taking pictures and meeting people. But all in all, a great experience.


Staatsarchiv Detmold: First week in Germany

Well, here I am. In Germany again. The overriding thought for this trip is not the awesome opportunity to be in Europe, to see wonderful cities, meet amazingly friendly people, or finally be able to get into the “meat and potatoes” of this darn dissertation. No, I’m much more practical than that. My overriding thought, is… I sure miss my family. How can I be away for a whole month? My baby girl won’t even remember me, will she? Think about that next time you think going off to Europe to do research sounds so cool.

Hotel Nadler, home for a few days.
Hotel Nadler, home for a few days.

That’s the reality of the situation. Now on to the academic and other sides of things. The first stop on my research trip is Detmold. It is a very pretty city, so I’ll intersperse this post with pictures. Here I will be looking for anything in any way related to the tunnels at Porta Westfalica. I’m staying at the Hotel Nadler, a quaint little Fachwerkhaus turned into a restaurant and hotel. It’s right on the outskirts of the city center, where all the action is. I picked this location for it’s closeness to the city center and because it’s not too far from the archive. Just a 10-15 minute walk. I have done that for all of the locations except Berlin. That makes me walk so I get some exercise before and after sitting at a desk looking at old papers all day.

I got to the city too late to get to the archives the first day, so I went the second day I was there. And the two following days there after. That was Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The first day made the trip seem a bit worthless. Of the fifteen or so folders of material that I had to go through, I got through about seven of them on Wednesday, and there was nothing worth wile in them, at least not for me. I did almost want to change my topic to something about how to prepare your house or building for bombing raids. There were some cool brochures and books on that. I later saw a portion of a documentary on TV that showed some training videos on what to when bombed by the British fire bombs. That seems like it could be a good research project; focusing on the literature and other forms of educating the populace on how to survive bombing raids. Anyhow, I digress.

This building is a bit off-kilter
This building is a bit off-kilter

On Thursday and Friday I hit the proverbial jackpot. Not for documents relating to the building and use of the tunnels during the war, but what was done with it afterwards. Most of the works out there all close their research with liberation by the US or British. I want to write about what happened after that. How did the people in the area deal with all of those former prisoners? Where did the former prisoners go? What did they do with these huge holes in their mountains? What happened with the equipment? Who was punished?

What I found in the archive were loads of documents that dealt with this post-war period. Unfortunately the archive follows the arcane tradition of not allowing users to maker their own copies of their documents. If I had a whole month, or $1000, I could have got all of the information. But I will have to be satisfied with what I could transcribe into my computer. One folder was full of tabulations of the weekly hours worked in the tunnel site in dismantling hardware and machinery, and preparing the site for demolition. Another folder was full of correspondence to those in charge of the post-war tunnel and the companies and firms that had contracts for building during the war. They apparently felt they should still be paid for work done. That’s something I had never considered before. Companies that contracted with the National Socialist Government to build and design, were promised money. When the war was lost, the National Socialist Government dissolved. Well, did that dissolve the contracts as well? Were the companies to lose out on the money owed them? I’m not sure what the answer on that one is. But I found a bunch of complaints and claims from building companies and architecture firms that wanted payment from somebody.

Detmold Church
Detmold Church

One final thing that I found in Detmold, was the correspondence between the town of Hausberge and the occupying British Army. The British plan was to blow up the whole of the tunnel system due to the possibility of the location being a highly usable military compound. The Allied Occupying forces want to completely wipe out any German military compounds.

My time in Detmold was a bit too short, but I may be able to swing a day on the way back if all goes quickly in Berlin. But I doubt I’ll ever be back, unless some other generous organization would like to pay for another research trip.