Historical Sites: Buchenwald Concentration Camp

What remains of the Buchenwald ("Beech Forest") Concentration Camp, located near Weimar, former East Germany. From July 1937 to March 1945, 238,980 prisoners from 30 countries passed through Buchenwald. 43,045 of these were killed, died from brutal conditions, or did not survive forced "death march" evacuations. On April 11, 1945, the SS fled from the advancing US forces, and the camp underground took control, liberating 21,000 inmates. For those not familiar with its notorious history, an excellent and disturbing summary is at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/Buchenwald/index.html A graphic first-hand account of its Liberation in 1945 is at http://www.remember.org/witness/herder.html

Historical Sites: Verdun Battlefield

The Battle of Verdun in France was one of the greatest and lengthiest in world history. Never before or since has there been such a long and costly battle involving so many men on such a small area -- less than 10 Km -- of land. The battle lasted from 21 February 1916 until 19 December 1916, at the cost of at least 700,000 casualties (dead, wounded and missing). There was no real military or strategic justification for these losses: for the Germans, the entire point was to "bleed" the French Army, but in the end, both sides suffered equally grievously. Unlike most of the World War I battlefields, the destruction was so vast that no attempt could be made to restore the land, and even today it remains much as it was at the War's end. Andre Maginot served here, and the battle success of the Verdun fortifications gave him the idea for his Maginot Line proposals. For more details about this tragic event, please see http://www.war1418.com/battleverdun/ and also http://www.xs4all.nl/~verdun/ which has links to many other sites. For German-speaking visitors, I recommend Paul Ettighoffer's dramatic and still gripping "Verdun", a personal account by an ordinary soldier who was there from start to finish during that tragic campaign. The book was first published shortly after the end of The Great War, and can still be easily found. For my friend Andreas Collmenter, whose grandfather fought there.

Historical Sites: Nuremberg NSDAP Rally Grounds

The site of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) Rallies filmed by Leni Riefenstahl. Designed to appear impressive, the reality was shoddy construction behind the marble facades.

Friends and Memories

Some places I've been and some of the people I've been there with.

Lithuania ii -- Vilnius (Vilna)

Some images of Vilnius, the modern capital city of Lithuania, taken during a visit in Feb-March 2003

Saint Peter's Church Riga Close-Up

St Peter Church, Riga. It was first mentioned in 1209, as the Merchant's Church. At the time, it was intended to be the main one for the city. Originally, it was Catholic, but became Lutheran during the Reformation in 1523. During warfare with the Livonian Order in 1297, it was used for catapult bombarding of the Wittenstein Castle. In 1408-09 the Rostock architect I. Rummeschotel added a new altar area to the existing building. More construction took place in 1456, and by 1473 the old church was completed. The tower, originally of wood, was rebuilt a number of times. It once collapsed in a storm, totally destroying a nearby house and killing 8 people. It then it burned down for the first time in 1721, and it is said that the Emperor Peter the Great himself helped fight the fire, and then immediately issued the orders for its reconstruction. He ordered the chief architect to sit on top of the weather vane at the completion of the work, drink a glass of wine, and throw the glass to the ground. The shattered pieces were to be counted, and the number of pieces would show how many centuries the spire would survive. The glass landed on a passing hay cart and survived, with only the stem breaking -- two pieces. Sure enough, the spire was destroyed by fire again -- two hundred years later, on Saint Peter's Day, 1941. For many years it was thought that the church was accidentally hit in the crossfire of battle; however it has since been discovered that it was deliberately set on fire by retreating Soviet troops as a propaganda move to blame the Germans for its destruction. There is now an elevator to an observation platform from which you get by far the best view of Riga City.

Latvia Liberty Monument Close-Up

The Liberty Monument and surrounding area. The Monument was built in 1936 during the first period of Independence. Everyone has seen pictures of it, but normally just from the distance and you never see it properly. These photos are different: many closeup pictures, so that you can see the detail for once. Hope you like them. All taken by me in 2003. Also look at my Favorite Links section for some other interesting history links.

My Family Mystery Photos

Some old photos of my family from Latvia. If anyone can translate any of the writings on the back, please make a comment. Many of these are mystery photos from my father's personal album, and any useful information about the writings on them would be very much appreciated. Thank you for all the help, I am very grateful to you all.

Riga Konventa Seta

A beautiful quarter of the Old Town. It was once the site of the Seta Convent, but fell into disrepair. It is now being restored and renovated.

Lithuania i -- Riga to Vilnius

Trip from Riga in Latvia to Vilnius in Lithuania, Feb-March 2003.

Riga to Tallinn

Trip from Riga in Latvia to Tallinn in Estonia, Feb-March 2003.