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War

Every face tells a story that is possible in any place at any time

In 1987 I lived in a house in Berlin whose facade still showed the bullet holes from World War II. I saw documentations and files of that war, and I visited Dachau and Oranienburg. Discussions with young people about their identity problems, stories told to me, as well as books and reports created a picture of that war before my inner eye, but it was a picture that was more than 40 years old.
I asked myself what war and its impact meant to an individual.
In 1990 the Gulf War began. I witnessed an absurd hysteria in Berlin and there were heroic reports in the media.
In the spring of 1992 war broke out in Bosnia. I returned to Austria. The war was very close to where I was living now, and every day there were media reports on the atrocities inflicted on innocent people, on refugees, on people wounded and killed. The short-lived presentation in the newspapers and on TV created a picture of the war that I was unable to comprehend.
In March 1993 the “Caritas” (NGO) arranged for me to travel to Varazdin and I witnessed the misery in two refugee camps. The people there were under shock, they were paralyzed by fear and despair. I travelled back without having taken a single photo.
I established contact with refugee organizations, press offices, camps and private persons and in November 1993 I started my series of portraits called WAR. The photos were taken in Vienna, Lower Austria, and Croatia. I photographed Bosnians, Croats and Serbs. The conversations were tape recorded and translated.


A village nearby, ..... she was there with her husband. And she said, we heard shots and running out of the house we see a fire. The house is on fire …. Their son lives on the other side of the village …. he has a house there … their son, the two children and his wife … and I and my husband run away from our house, the forest is not far and we hear them walk, we hear them set fire to the houses, one after the other, and when they reach our house we hear them say, what are we gonna do with him, we’ll butcher him too … They set fire to our house, not to us, because we were not there, and then, I don’t know exactly when, maybe at dawn, I don’t know, they left … The mother wanted to check what had happened to her son, they thought .... when her husband said over and over again, if we managed to flee he too should have … then over there, the house was burned down … she went alone, she entered the house, when she was in the house, in the kitchen, the son and his child, burned …. his child, ten years old … what remained was his skull and his chest … burned …. she left, her daughter-in-law and the child killed … I don’t know how old it was … one was ten, the other younger …. I fled the house and started to tremble, and I sat down …. I couldn’t go on …. Then some army came, I don’t know which, and they asked, what’s wrong … she said, they’ve burned my son, they’ve killed my son …. Stay here, the police will be here soon …