On Stalin’s order of 16 December 1944, an estimated 70,000 ethnic Germans in Romania were deported to Soviet forced labour camps as a form of World War II reparations. Many deportees died from the harsh labour conditions in freezing temperatures and from insufficient nutrition. All those who survived the hunger and misery of the first few years were released in late 1949.
ORDER 7161 recounts the stories and human experiences of the deportation through a combination of witness portraits, archival and contextual images as well as an important selection of recorded memories of 40 survivors.
Photographer Marc Schroeder (LU) learnt about the deportation while exploring German-speaking communities, whose ancestors had been settlers originating from Luxembourg. He quickly realised that even to the younger generations in Romania, let alone elsewhere, this event was largely unknown. Although the deportation had already been researched academically and explored in literary and cinematic works, no comprehensive photographic work existed about this part of Romanian history.
Meeting and photographing the survivors was a ‘last chance’ endeavour; many of the deportees Schroeder met were among the youngest in 1945 and most have, since their meeting, passed away. Apart from learning about the traumatic experiences in the work camps, the meetings with survivors enabled Schroeder to explore the delicate concept of ‘victimhood’ from the perspective of Germans with respect to World War II history.
This thought-provoking book not only bears witness to an often overlooked chapter of European World War II history, but it also provides insight into the ‘cultural memory’ of this collective trauma and the encountered discrepancies between fact and memories. On a more subtle level, the book stands as testimony to the meeting between photographer and each former deportee and reflects the empathic nature of that exchange.
In 2019, the dummy book was nominated for both the Luma Rencontres Dummy Book Award (Arles) and the Unseen Dummy Award (Amsterdam).
Including an introduction by Dr. Heinke Fabritius.