77 Circles

Directed by Jakob Ganslmeier
Voice by Ana Zibelnik
Camera by Jakob Ganslmeier and Ana Zibelnik
Edited by Ana Zibelnik and Jakob Ganslmeier
Sound by Daniel Hermann-Collini
Text edited by Isabel Fargo Cole, Jaka Gercar


Deforesting the area where a commander’s house stood is a violent act. After the British Army burned down the concentration camp buildings in 1945 to prevent the spread of diseases, nature started to reclaim the camp. With the exception of the commander’s house, the Bergen-Belsen grounds were made visible again between 2007 and 2011 as immense, open fields in a forest, often surrounded by NATO cannon roar. Nearly eight decades after the war, the bare ground on which the commander’s house once stood is in the process of being made accessible to the public too. At the request of the artist Jakob Ganslmeier, Bundeswehr reservists felled the trees in one of the first camp sections formerly associated with the perpetrators. The clearing resembles a giant wound. Can the discourse that this act provokes ever turn it into a healing scar?

What does the nothingness of this blank space tell us? Like the reservists who cut them down, the trees bore witness not to the crimes committed by the Nazis, but to a long silence in the period that followed. It is this silence that the blaring noise of the motor saws breaks so radically.

Talking about perpetrators is a disturbing and uncomfortable process that doesn’t necessarily bring relief. But refusing to acknowledge that there were perpetrators, and that without them there would be no victims, can only lead to an incomplete image of the camp’s history. 77 Circles may not offer an understanding of the place by means of projection — filling in the blanks— but it acknowledges its mere existence and attempts to make perpetrators part of the memorial’s experience and history at large.