Day 11: 15 April 2014: The Joy of Concrete
Today we acquired more evidence which will enable me to be able to answer the crucial question of what survives archaeologically, after 70 years, of a forced labour camp that was in existence for just under two and a half years and comprised mainly wooden barrack huts which were removed after the end of the war. Most people would assume that the answer is ‘nothing at all!’, which of course is why so few of these camps are still visible or have enough structures present to be turned into heritage sites.
Today we have been finding more iron nails, small slabs of concrete, brick with concrete attached, and some aspestos. I think that this is building debris from the labour camp. The broken nature of these objects speaks to me not just of how the German occupiers dismantled the camp to cover their tracks, but how this process of breaking up all traces (or nearly all traces) was completed by islanders after the war who wanted to leave no ‘taint’ of the ‘mark of the beast’, as they put it, on their soil after the Occupation.
While this debris was soon covered by brambles, ivy and bracken, and the leaf litter gradually became compost and then soil, natural processes completed what the Germans started and the islanders contributed to. The camps became ‘lost in the landscape’, which is the name of my project on Lager Wick. And while pieces of concrete may not be ‘beautiful artefacts’, they constitute proof of the practice of forced labour during the German Occupation of WWII.