Sunday, 20 March 2011

Save it, or let it slip away?

Two very different locations.
United by the most momentous events of the 20th Century.
Both incredibly important in the history of World War II, both decaying.

For a couple of years there has been a debate raging about what to do with some of the most important locations in World War II history.

In Poland it’s costing more and more each year to keep Auschwitz from decaying away, and a debate is raging that as to whether it should be allowed to rot away, or kept for future generations. The debate even made it into the British press in 2009
Cash crisis threat to Auschwitz

But it’s not just sites in the former occupied territories that are at danger of disappearing.

Here in the UK one of the most important locations, not only in the history of World War II, but also in the history of communication and computing, is slowly decaying.

Bletchley Park, nowadays on the edge of the Milton Keynes sprawl, was the home to the code breakers who helped the allies win the war.

It was from the unassuming small huts, many long since gone, and some of those that do remain in very poor repair, that people like Alan Turing cracked the Enigma code and enabled allied forces to read Hitler’s most private correspondence at the same time he was.

Today the site is a series of museums to the history of code breaking and computing. Much has been done to preserve parts of the site, and from where it was a couple of years ago when the “Saving Bletchley Park” campaign (Campaign Website) was set up large parts of the site are now back from the brink, but there are still parts of the site in danger of decaying to nothing.

Walking round Bletchley Park leaves you with an inspirational feeling for the work of the people who helped win the war from here.

Walking round Auschwitz is an incredibly moving and sobering experience. I’m not spiritual, but even I could feel something very odd in the atmosphere. I’m convinced that even if you didn’t know anything about the site or the Holocaust you couldn’t walk around the site without feeling that something very bad happened there.

And it’s perhaps for those very reasons that we need to keep these sites for future generations. It doesn’t matter how much you read about the places, no matter how many TV programmes you watch, nothing comes close to the feelings you get when you visit these places. Bletchley for all the right reasons, Auschwitz for all the wrong.

No comments: