I couldn’t NOT click on the article. It was called “Chilling Beauty” and it shared the personal story of a visit to the beautiful, picturesque village of Wannsee on the outskirts of Berlin. In this town, in the beautiful villa shown above, the Nazi’s met to conceive of the Final Solution.
The reason for the visit was an interfaith conference. But what is interesting to me wasn’t the content of the conference or the author’s perspectives on the trip, but, rather, the title of the piece and the actual setting on the event.
Often we think it’s ironic when images of beauty and horror coincide. Thats makes perfect sense. When we conjure up horrific historical events, like the Final Solution, terrible, ugly images of death camps, firing squads, and gas chambers come to mind. We don’t imagine bucolic, green and flowery scenes. It’s more than ironic, it’s disgusting and unjust.
And yet, the contrast between these beautiful landscapes and the horrors that they sparked is actually appropriate in a way. The other side of beauty is ugliness. Seeing the beautiful landscapes of Wannsee don’t deflect from the horrors but actually reinforce them. When we see how beautiful the world CAN and SHOULD be, and then realize how ugly it actually has become in some instances, the ugliness feels that much more jarring.
Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List reflects this dichotomy well. While the film does an excellent job portraying the horrors of Holocaust, the film is still a masterpiece. It’s beautifully written, acted and shot. Perhaps this is why the film still captures our attention to this day.
Whether we remember terrible acts in history with images of horror or beauty, the lesson is the same.