Traces on the buildings
Photos of writings on the wall on the 5th floor of the first building (Unterbringungshaus 1, 08.09.2021, Archive Emilia Henkel
1 Wall Drawing in English: Welcome to Hell.
2 Wall drawing in English: Fuck the Scheise Tambach.
3 Wall drawing in French: The last will be first - Long live freedom.
4 Wall Drawing in Arabic: My Lord, harm has touched me, and You are the Most Merciful of the merciful. This is a verse from the Quran (21:83), a prayer Job.)
5 remains on the floor of a room with a note in German: The window cannot be opened
6 stickers on the window of the common room: Dates from Algeria, best before 06/30/2002.
7 Aluminum foil wall decorations
8 wooden construction on the wall
9 Inscription on room door in Arabic: Barber
The two buildings housing the asylum seekers in the camp near Tambach had been built in 1983 for the paramilitary training camp. The four-storied prefabricated slab buildings resembled the schools and the public housing high rises built in the GDR during the 1980s. In 1993 the Thuringian government added a fifth floor and a gable roof to the blocks to maximise the capacity of the camp and to make the buildings look more pleasant to passing tourists. The fifth floor consisted of one washroom for women and one washroom for men, several bedrooms for up to eight people and two common rooms. The Christian association „Camp Impact e,V.“, which bought the place in 2008, has since been renovating the buildings. However, on the fifth floor of the first of the two buildings, the walls and ceilings have not yet been redone. Therefore traces of the refugees, who lived there until 2003, writings on the wall, stickers or tiny remains of decorations are still visible.
What do you notice about the photos?
What do you find important about it and what not?
What questions do you ask yourself after watching?
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The photo with the devil moves me because the resident must have found the refugee home to be hell. Sealed off from civilization and fenced off with barbed wire sounds like hell to me too. Hopefully there is no such thing today in this form. I have never lived in a refugee home and see it from an outsiders perspective.
Looking at the second photo makes me really sad. There's a syringe with blood on it, which to me means life was really bad there. Certainly 60% of the people who left the camp in Tambach were mentally ill. That reminds me of 2015 in the initial reception center in Suhl. People also wrote a lot of things on the wall there.
I have never been in Tambach but I got to know what it means to live in a camp during my asylum process in Thuringia, which started in 2015.
I especially like the first photos (1-4). They give me the impression that the people there were living in very badly conditions. Especially the inscription, in which the place was compared to hell, is frightening to me and seems to me about the worst comparison that you could draw.
I also noticed the photo of the wall decoration because I used to decorate my wall in a similar way when I was younger. The stars and the moon are set very high towards the ceiling, maybe there was a bunk bed there.
I wonder if it was a child, for whom the decorations were put on. Or maybe it glued the stars on itself? How long do you think it lived there in the camp? How many families with children have been housed in this place in the middle of the forest?
I grew up in a village near the camp, but I only know it from outside (from hiking) and for a very long time I didn't know that people seeking asylum lived there at that time.
To me, the sticker on the window saying “Dates, produced in Algeria, packed in France, best before 30/06/2002 stood out. It allows a glimpse into everyday life in the camp, which is not filmed or reported on in protest letters. Someone who lived there, in the middle of the forest, wished for something sweet and bought dates. Where were they bought? Did someone carry them 5km uphill through the woods after a shopping trip to Tambach-Dietharz? Or were they bought in the one supermarket in Friedrichroda, which accepted the vouchers the asylum seekers were given by the authorities and then taken home on the bus going back the 10 km to the camp? Maybe a visitor brought them as a present, or someone who resisted the residence obligation and only came to the camp to collect the pocket money. Maybe the 200g of dates were shared in the common room or reminded someone of home? In any case, they are an example of what the inhabitants of the camp chose to eat, when they could finally decide for themselves after years of protest. And dates certainly were not included in the canteen meals served to the asylum seekers beforehand.
I grew up in a village only 5 km from the camp since 2002, but only found out about its history as an asylum camp by chance in 2020, when I researched racist violence in the 1990s.