Donnerstag, 2. Januar 2014

1914 - 2014: Geographies of Memory

In the year 2000 my father died of cancer. He was born in 1937 (or 1315 corresponding to the Afghan-islamic calender). When my father died, he left behind a notebook with photographs of his father, my grandfather. My grandfather was born in 1893 (or 1271). He fought in the World Ward I 1914-1918. With or against his will - the documents don't make mention of it. He was 21 years old then, in the trenches of the Western Front (battle of France, Belgium/Ypern) and a little later on the Eastern Front (Bukowina). In the photographs my grandfather left behind (he was authorized to take photos on the front, a document states) is this photo of a bullet that had penetrated his leg. The bullet was later removed. It is with me now. The French call Wolrd War I „la grande guerre“, the big war. It was the first time men and amunition came together to reach unprecedented levels of kinetic power and destruction. 70 Million soldiers fought in WWI. Nearly ten million died. Mostly young, unmarried soldiers. Among them thousands of soldiers with Islamic identities from the African and middle Eastern colonies of the European imperial posessions. Every eigth soldier did not make it home. The years of WWI and later in WWII were, as an Afghan sociologist remarked, more stable in Afghanistan than in Germany in various respects. In 2014, Afghanistan goes into a year of new uncertainties, the international forces withdrawing, and a hundred years after I discovered the bullet of my grandfather.

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