Kein Held 2023

2023 - ongoing

„Kein Held“ is a personal photographic essay exploring the history of my grandfather Heinz Nieland who fought in the German Wehrmacht and became a prisoner of war in France during the Second World War. Whilst imprisoned Heinz collected and wrote down over 800 poems and created three books with them. By collaborating with the poetry and old letters I aim to create a dialogue between the past and the present. With the approach of viewing my personal German history in a perceptive way, I aim to close the emotional gap that I feel my generation has towards the Second World War.

Heinz died in 1971. “He was just like you”, my grandmother told me last year when she gifted me his ring. „He always loved taking pictures and would be proud seeing you become a photographer“, she added when she gave me the three poetry books and untouched boxes full of Heinz Nielands be- longings. I didn‘t know much about him. When looking at the first documents I realized that when he was a prisoner he was the same age as I am today. Fascinated by this I began to put together all those puzzle pieces that I was handed.

Therefore I traveled through France for two weeks following his footsteps from the place of arrest to all the former prison camps where my grandfather was held captive between 1944 and 1947.

By reading the poems and following his traces I tried to find a connection to him. Even though he was my age, I couldn’t relate to being a soldier and even less to fighting for a fascist regime. This is why it made me proud when I discovered documents stating that my great-grandfather was an anti
fascist. It also added a complexity to the narrative I tried to include.


5 September 1944                                                                                                Arrested in Merelbeke, Belgium

5 September - 13 September 1944                                                                      Transport from Merelbeke to the Normandy

14 September 1944 - 8 September 1945                                                             Prison Camp Audrieu (Nr. 2225)

9 September 1945 - 22 December 1945                                                              Prison Camp Fleury (Depot 301)

23 December 1945 - 14 May 1946                                                                      Prison Camp Cherbourg (Depot 301)

15 May 1946 - 8 November 1947                                                                        Prison Camp Thoreé (Depot 402)

Heinz Nieland was released on 8 November 1947.

First Book-Dummy “Kein Held”, 148 pages and a small index booklet, 2023

The cover is made out of an original french military tarp from the Second World War. The book can be read from both sides. Opened from the first it consists of my pictures combined with old letters and the poems. From the other side it tells my stories along the way and combines them with pictures that my grandfather took during the war.

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