‛There is nothing to do. It is obsessive and it obsesses me.“ Chantal Ackerman
To try to explore the Sudeten lands, you must arm yourself with patience. Prosperous in the past, today semi-deserted and of a somber beauty, these regions do not welcome intruders or curious passers-by.
Although I photographed the Sudeten lands for more than 3 years, until recently it was still not clear to me why on earth I had started the project. The sole and tenacious certainty was that I must carry on; continue to the end of the road even without knowing which path to take.
Immediately, the Sudeten lands resisted, putting up linguistic and cultural barriers. It is a taboo subject about which few want to talk. Of all those villages destroyed since the 1950s, many traces of Sudeten heritage are mere ruins or already entirely erased. How to photograph the memory of a place stricken from the map? To capture an absent referent? How to evoke man’s apparent voluntary loss of a memory?
Little by little, pieces of the veil tore away, snatches of ideas sketched the beginnings of a trail. The tragic destiny of these lands, literally in the geographical centre of Europe, sounds as a warning from our recent past to our present which believes itself protected from horror forevermore. How can these regions with their harsh and wild beauty, bathed by a sublime light, have served as the backdrop for such a sordid and violent act?
To attempt to photograph the Sudeten lands is to confront our own impotence in the face of such waste, our disregard of our past, of time, in a modern world prey to consumption at excessive speeds, prey to a zapping culture.
But recognizing weakness is not a defeat. In an assumed impotence hides a resistance, a discrete but determined way to keep thinking, to remain standing, alive.
Around the year 1000, the kings of the Premyslide dynasty invite the German population to colonize the Sudetenlands and Bohemia.
1620 - After the Battle of the White Mountain [Bila Hora], persecution and expulsion of non-Catholics.
1900 - The German minority accounts for 30% of the population of Bohemia.
1919 - End of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Recognition of Czechoslovakia. Mostly against their will, 3 million Germans become Czechoslovak citizens.
1938 - Following the Munich Agreement, Hitler annexes the Sudetenland region on October 21. Expulsions and persecution of the "enemies of the Reich". [Jews, Roma, Christian Democrats, Communists, Pacifists, anti-Nazis...]
1939 - On March 15, the German army enters Prague. Beginning of the violent "protectorate". There will be around 300,000 civilian victims of the war in Czechoslovakia.
1945 - Signature of the Beneš decrees. Until 1947, expulsion of more than 2.6 million Germans. Around 30,000 dead.
1948 - Gottwald's "Victorious February". The communist government installs the Iron Curtain. A safety zone 6 to 12 km wide is closed along the Germany and Austria border, abandoned to nature.
1964 - Cleaning of the "no man's lands", about 3,000 villages are wiped off the map, lands are rendered for cultivation.
1989 - The Velvet Revolution. The borders are opened.
en français ici