Tag Archives: war

IKEA: Syrian Home Installation

IKEA has worked with the Red Cross to build a replica of a real Syrian home inside its Norwegian flagship store. The ‘apartment’ (designed with help from creative agency Pol) is based on a refugee woman named Rana, a mother of four, who all live in a tiny two-bedroom, 25-square metre apartment in Damascus. Pol visited and filmed Rana’s home so that they could recreate it exactly.

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Built from rough concrete blocks, the showroom is antithetical to the usual IKEA dream home setup, giving customers a glimpse of what life is like in a war zone such as Syria. Also, IKEA’s recognisable price tags were used as a narrative to convey the refugees’ stories and to provide information on how to donate to Red Cross.

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IKEA are no stranger to proving aid and awareness to the war in Syria and their victims. In February employees delivered donated merchandise to Helping With Furniture’s new depot for household items for Syrian refugees in Ottawa.
The furniture depot for new Syrian refugees opened its doors in Ottawa in February this year, providing used household goods to families in need (since 2005). IKEA Canada donated $5,000 worth of IKEA goods!

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That’s not all IKEA have done to help refugees – a few months ago they unveiled an easily deployable solar-powered shelter that can provide sturdy, safe housing in an emergency. In collaboration with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, the shelters are a perfect solution for the mass shift that individuals experience when fleeing from the war in Syria. Although the Lebanese government was hesitant to approve the use of the IKEA shelters, after 6 months of negotiations it’ll finally be available to Syrians in Lebanon.

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Protest for Syria: An Accidental Art Installation

Yesterday at the Russian Embassy in London a group of 25 activists from human rights organisations Syria Solidarity UK and the Syria Campaign created a peaceful protest and outdoor art installation. Whilst the protest wasn’t supposed to be a work of art, and purely for a demonstration, it’s hard to ignore the creative outcome with the use of mannequin limbs. The protesters collected and displayed 800+ mannequin arms and legs near the front gates of the embassy representing the massacre of Syrians in Aleppo. I think this should be bought by a gallery, and give the money to the organisations!

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Bissan Fakih, deputy campaign director of the Syria Campaign said:

We have the limbs ‘flowing out’ of the embassy. We want [Russia] to stop their war crimes in Syria. We want them to stop bombing children. Our message is very clear to the Russian government. The world is watching.

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The protest represents the tragic events of Moscow committing untold atrocities in Syria’s largest city. Two activists even chained themselves to the embassy gates. Boris Johnson previously encouraged people to protest earlier on in October due to innocent children being killed, and doctors being bombed for trying to help civilians.

Through the medium of an unintentional art installation, the message serves as a poignant reminder of the abuse endured by Syrians, and a plea to politicians.

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This Is What Winning Looks Like

A friend recommended this, and I’m glad I watched it! What an awful, disturbing place.

“I guess money talks…”

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“Down, down inside the Pyongyang Metro stands a statue of the Eternal Ruler of North Korea, Generalissimo Kim Il Sung – dead these past 19 years but still calling the shots. Brainwashing cast in bronze.

The regime’s florid propaganda blares from loudspeakers: ‘The pure white snows of our sacred mountains’ artillery will wipe the filthy enemy from existence.’ Or something like that.

The newspaper racks on the platforms detail the latest from the ‘American imperialist aggressors’ and warn of thermo-nuclear war.

 
On the inside: Panorama reporter John Sweeney with a North Korean colonel overlooking the De-Militarised Zone

Inside: Panorama reporter John Sweeney with a North Korean colonel overlooking the De-Militarised Zone

 

No ordinary North Koreans talk to us. Almost 400ft below the surface, it’s hard not to feel that we’re trapped inside a doomsday cult like the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, or Jim Jones’s Peoples Temple in Guyana. Only this one is a cult nation, armed with nukes, and the clock is counting down to Armageddon.

I’ve reported from Ceausescu’s Romania, Saddam’s Iraq, Gaddafi’s Libya, Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and the Ayatollahs’ Iran – but after eight days undercover in North Korea, I believe this regime is the most frightening tyranny of all. 

Kim The First’s grandson, Kim Jong Un, has the power to make the biggest of bangs. The new boy-God holds his people in near-total mental enslavement.

The regime is mad, bad and silly, all at the same time. But its grip is fading – and that makes it even more dangerous.

If the truth about North Korea is slowly trickling down to its people – that it is dirt poor, led by a preposterous gangster-dynasty – then that is the best explanation of Kim Jong Un’s nuclear sabre-rattling.

He’s leading his nation to a state of pseudo-war, lest they wake up and snap out of it and tear him to shreds, as the Libyans did to Gaddafi.

 
Daily grind: Peasants working in a stream in a countryside that resembles a moonscape

Daily grind: Peasants working in a stream in a countryside that resembles a moonscape

 

The scariest scenario is set out by Professor Brian Myers, author of The Cleanest Race and the greatest living authority on North Korean propaganda: that pseudo-war turns into the real thing by accident:

‘We may see a thermo-nuclear  war but it wouldn’t be because the North Koreans wanted it. It’s not their plan to unleash that, but it might come to that as a result of a disastrous miscalculation.’

DAY 1: I fly from China. Beijing, the centre of the world’s great authoritarian power, feels like San Francisco compared with Pyongyang as I get off our plane and stumble through a large cattle shed.

It turns out to be the airport terminal. The absences bite. No Adverts. No planes coming and going. No internet. No mobile phones that can talk to the world. No 21st Century.

North Korea doesn’t allow journalists here so I’m going in with a group of holidaymakers.

The tourist coach is a great tool of totalitarian power: one microphone, one exit. Our lead guide wears a black suit, is a complete believer and has a subtle sense of humour when he greets us: ‘Hello everybody .  .  . the situation is very tense.

‘Nobody knows when the war will be provoked but we will be safe.  Our bus has the mark of the Korean International Travel Company so the Americans won’t strike our bus. Ha ha .  .  .’

Our hotel boasts five stars, North Korean-style. The lobby is dominated by a painting of Kim Il Sung and his son, Kim Jong Il. Kim The First wears a business suit, the hideous goitre on his neck airbrushed out. Kim Two sports a Mao suit, silly Elton John-esque glasses and an Elvis-era quiff.

The television offers endless repeats of the Korean War and Kims One and Two opening factories and things. It’s fascinating for ten minutes, then suddenly it’s not.

The public areas of the Pyongyang version of the Ritz are unlit and freezing, the floor of the gents a stagnant pool of stinking water. Outside my hotel room, human ants build a joint venture with a Chinese bank, night and day, day and night.

 
High and mighty: North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un inspecting troopers at a cavalry training compound in a picture released by the regime's press agency

High and mighty: North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un inspecting troopers at a cavalry training compound in a picture released by the regime’s press agency

 

Kim Jong Un was born on Elvis’s birthday, schooled in Switzerland and seems to be happy to dump the command economy that his grandfather copied from Stalin.

The question is, can Kim Three free things up economically while retaining absolute political power?

DAY 2: They take us to an almighty monument, a hammer, a sickle and a calligraphy brush: workers by hand and by brain, symbols of an old religion.

Many people think of North Korea as Communist. One year ago Marx and Lenin still had pride of place in a big square in town. But on our trip, they’re gone.

If North Korea is not Stalinist, what is it? Former British ambassador to the country John Everard was blunt: ‘There are sad parallels between North Korea and Nazi Germany and although some people describe  North Korea as a Stalinist state, it’s actually much more accurate to describe it as neo-Nazi. It is deeply racially biased.

‘Kim Jong Il [Kim The Second] was an unabashed admirer of Hitler and copied the Nuremberg marches that are staged in Pyongyang to this day.’

They take us to the mausoleum, beautifully lit, spotlessly clean and splendidly heated. Kims One and Two lie in glass boxes, waxworks both. In North Korea, only the dead rulers lie warm. We’re told to bow, and being undercover, I submit.

Mark Fitzpatrick, an American expert on North Korea, says this is the only nation in the world ruled by a dead man. Generalissimo Kim Il Sung is still the leader of the country – a kind of god.

It’s rule by Zombie and Sons.

No wonder it is the worst-run country I’ve ever been to. They take us to the West Sea barrage – a signature regime achievement. Our road is blocked by an ancient lorry tipping rocks against the barrage wall. It’s falling into the sea.

They take us to a bottling plant. On the production line, there are no bottles. They take us to a show farm, complete with anti-aircraft guns. But no crops. No fields. No beasts. Propaganda drums out from loudspeakers, all the live-long day. The sound is scratchy, the record stuck these past 68 years.

Off to a spa hotel, set aside for regime trusties and foreign tourists like us. It’s pure Bond villain kitsch. We have a barbecue, clams flambéed in petrol, washed down by N‘rocket fuel’ – North Korean vodka. This is a heavy drinking society. I toast our minder: ‘Let’s not have thermo-nuclear war any time soon.’

We were the only guests.

DAY 3: The more we see, the worse it gets: huddled figures scouring the earth by a dead factory, a woman washing clothes in an icy river. Our guides grow anxious: ‘no photos’. The town we hurry through is dirty and mean. An entire industrial complex looks as though it’s been idle for years. From a great chimney, no smoke. At the Daean Heavy Machine Complex, we’re greeted by a nice lady in national costume who points to the mural of Kims One and Two – and then the lights go out. Can we see anything being made?

Our lady guide translates: ‘Now the situation on the Korean peninsula is getting worse. On the verge of Korean war, so they are now producing the military things. So they can’t show the whole factory.’

 
Admired and adored: The rule of Kim Jong Un has been compared to Nazi Germany, with photographs like this drawing parallels to Hitler Jugend meetings

Admired and adored: The rule of Kim Jong Un has been compared to Nazi Germany, with photographs like this drawing parallels to Hitler Jugend meetings

 

DAY 4: We drive through a countryside more like a barren moonscape to see the DMZ – the DeMilitarised Zone where North Korea stops and South Korea starts.

In 1950, North Korea, supported by Stalin and Mao, invaded the South. Three years later and one million dead, the border was back to where it had been – the 38th Parallel. The two sides declared a ceasefire, but there has never been a peace treaty.

The question is: who started the war? I ask the colonel in charge of the DMZ: ‘The Americans, South Koreans and the British say that North Korea invaded South Korea, not the other way around?’

He disagrees.

We talk about the chances of war. I explain that in Britain we are less afraid because we are farther away.

Our female guide translates that as: ‘He needs to leave now because war might break out.’

The colonel puts his arm around my back, laughs, and says: ‘Don’t worry about it.’

At the DMZ it could hardly be more peaceful. But on the other side, something’s missing.

Normally, there’s South Korean and American military watching the North Korean side, watching us. Today, no one.

I ask the colonel: does he think there will be a shooting war?

‘There is no shooting, you can’t say this is a war,’ he replies.

‘Don’t know if war will break out. Whether there is a war depends on the Americans.’

We ask for a group photo, and the colonel obliges.

Up on a hill, by yet another Kim statue, the strangest thing happens: I pick up a phone signal from the South only a few kilometres away.

If I can do this, so can a North Korean. The digital revolution is eating away at the regime’s control – and that makes it harder to keep people brainwashed.

DAY 5: Military have flooded into the capital. At the People’s Study-Library, a vast, freezing ballroom of a place, dominated by Zombie Kim sitting in a marble throne, I ask for one particular book: 1984? No George Orwell, but they have got Discovering Food And Nutrition.

That’s grimly ironic – because mass starvation is one of the regime’s achievements. In the Nineties, its military-first policy brought famine to the land. But images of children with stick-limbs staring at the camera have never been shown. Maybe a million died, maybe more.

 
At war: Pyongyang declared the 1953 non-aggression treaty between North and South Korea invalid last month, cut two military hotlines, and announced that it considered itself in a state of war with the South

At war: Pyongyang declared the 1953 non-aggression treaty between North and South Korea invalid last month, cut two military hotlines, and announced that it considered itself in a state of war with the South

 

DAY 6: We’re on the road again, heading east. Our coach threads through mountain gorges, dotted with late snow. Due north of here is something our guides would never, ever show us: the North Korean gulag.

In South Korea, I met a defector who had been a prisoner. He told me that in winter the ground was so hard they could not bury the dead. They waited until April, the burying season: ‘The dead were kept in a warehouse. When we went to bury them, they were already decomposed. We moved them by shovel and buried up to 80 people in one hole in the ground.’

He said this was still happening now.

We found another defector, a  doctor. ‘I lived as a robot. I was not a human being,’ she said.

I asked: ‘If you as a doctor had said, “We need more money for medicine for the patients”, what would have happened?’ ‘They would kill me that very day,’ she said.

DAY 7: They take us to the biggest hospital in Pyongyang. I’m wearing my coat, jacket, shirt, vest and thermal long johns inside for a reason: it’s freezing. At least the power is on, I think. Then there’s a power cut. They show us a series of fancy machines, but no patients.

The doctor guiding us says he can’t show us patients without their permission, but this feels like yet another propaganda tour, and I’ve had enough: ‘Tell the doctor we’re not fools. We haven’t seen any patients. Please don’t treat us in this way.’

Our last stop is the circus. And who should I bump into in the stalls? What feels like the entire North Korean officer corps – not one of them armed. It’s as if the regime doesn’t quite trust its loyal officers.

Top billing at the circus, hanging just above the trapeze, is a model of an intercontinental ballistic rocket. As it rises up, two lissom acrobats explode from its entrails. The officers clap as if the world about to end.

On the day I leave, North Korea declares a state of war against its neighbour.

How Kim Jong Un – the most dangerous man in the world – chooses to celebrate the 101st birthday of his grandfather tomorrow is up to him. Let’s hope it’s just with lots of candles and a big cake.

 

John Sweeney’s report, Panorama: North Korea Undercover, is on BBC1″

 

You don’t even need to know much about North Korea to see the resemblance to Hitler – the photographs are so Nazi, it’s scary!

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Squalid sofa where Hitler and Eva Braun sat as they killed themselves revealed in photos released for the first time

Black and white images taken by the first Western photographer to enter the squalid bunker where Hitler and his wife Eva Braun killed themselves have been compiled in a LIFE.com gallery for the first time. 

Many of the photos did not make the final cut for the special edition published immediately after the war in 1945, but have been flagged up now after a trawl through the magazine’s archives. 

Photographer William Vandivert was the first Western snapper to be granted access into the bunker carved beneath the pompous Reich Chancellery which was reduced to brickdust by Allied bombs and Russian artillery shells.  

Traces of the dictator: War correspondents examining the arm of sofa stained with blood which might have been Eva Braun's, while one of them uses a candle to search the floor for evidence of suicide in Adolf Hitler's underground shelter

Traces of the dictator: War correspondents examining the arm of sofa stained with blood while one of them uses a candle to search the floor for evidence of suicide in Adolf Hitler’s underground shelter

 
HQ: Adolf Hitler's command center conference room partially burned out by SS troops and stripped of evidence by invading Russians, in bunker under the Reichschancellery after Hitler's suicide

HQ: Adolf Hitler’s command center conference room partially burned out by SS troops and stripped of evidence by invading Russians, in bunker under the Reichschancellery after Hitler’s suicide

 

 
Office: Burned and scattered papers on desk inside Adolf Hitler's command bunker where he and his mistress Eva Braun were said to have committed suicide

Office: Burned and scattered papers on desk inside Adolf Hitler’s command bunker where he and his mistress Eva Braun were said to have committed suicide

 
Secret lovers: Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun kept their affair hidden for many years. but new images collated by Life magazine shed fresh light on their final moments

Secret lovers: Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun kept their affair hidden for many years. but new images collated by Life magazine shed fresh light on their final moments

 

 

Hitler’s Reich, which once stretched from Calais to the shores of the Volga in Russia, and from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, was reduced to a few spartan rooms in a stinking cement submarine where he and his wife killed themselves on April 30 1945.

‘These pix were made in the dark with only a candle for illumination … our small party of four beat all rest of mob who came down about forty minutes after we got there,’ said Vandivert whose evocative photographs have lost none of their power to shock and awe.

One of the pictures shows war correspondents examining the sofa upon which the couple ended their days, and the spreading dark stain of the monster’s blood upon the fabric after he shot himself in the mouth with his service pistol. 

Left over: A mould-covered Nazi SS officers cap with a Death Skull insignia on the bunker's floor

Remnants: A mould-covered SS officer’s cap, with the infamous death’s-head skull emblem barely visible – this photo was not originally published in LIFE
 
 
 
On guard: Russian soldier standing amid rubble in Adolf Hitler's command bunker

Discovery: A Russian soldier standing amid the rubble. They fought their way to the heart of Nazism, in a crusade of revenge for the 27 million deaths Hitler’s forces caused in their homeland

 

Abandoned furniture and debris: Vandivert was the first Western photographer to gain access to Hitler¿s Führerbunker after the fall of Berlin

Abandoned furniture and debris: Photographer William Vandivert was the first Western photographer to gain access to Hitler’s Führerbunker after the fall of Berlin

Another is a relic of war, a rare 16th century painting looted from Italy to adorn a wall of the bunker’s study where self-appointed ‘artist’ Hitler issued his final commands to non-existent armies in the dying days of his rule.

On the floor of one room a badly scarred S.S. officer’s cap with it’s grinning death’s head skull is caught in Vandivert’s lens while yet another previously unpublished picture shows LIFE correspondent Percy Knauth sifting through debris in the shallow trench in the garden of the Reich Chancellery where the bodies of Hitler and his wife – he married her hours before their suicide pact – were doused with petrol and set ablaze.

 

Source: Empty jerrycans of gasoline reportedly used by SS Troops to burn bodies of Adolph Hitler & Eva Braun after their suicides in his command bunker

Source: Empty jerrycans of gasoline reportedly used by SS Troops to burn bodies of Adolph Hitler & Eva Braun after their suicides in his command bunker

Examination: LIFE correspondent Percy Knauth sifting through the dirt & debris in the shallow shell hole where the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were thought to have been burned after their suicides, in the garden of the Reichstag

Examination: LIFE correspondent Percy Knauth sifting through the dirt & debris in the shallow shell hole where the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun were thought to have been burned after their suicides, in the garden of the Reichstag. This photo was not originally published in LIFE  

 
 
Burned wreckage inside Adolf Hitler's command bunker
Unident hand touching destroyed hinge of door to Adolf Hitler's command bunker, burned off by advancing Russian combat engineers.
 Burnt out: Wreckage, left,  inside Adolf Hitler’s command bunker and right,  hand touching destroyed hinge of door to Adolf Hitler’s command bunker, burned off by advancing Russian combat engineers. These photos were not originally published in LIFE magazine 

 

 
 
After the Fall: In the garden of the Reich Chancellery, Berlin, 1945

After the Fall: In the garden of the Reich Chancellery, Berlin, 1945. This photo was not originally published in LIFE

 
Symbolic: A crushed globe and a bust of Hitler amid rubble outside the ruined Reich Chancellery

Symbolic: A crushed globe and a bust of Hitler amid rubble outside the ruined Reich Chancellery. This photo was not originally published in LIFE

 

 

Other never-before-seen images are those of the ventilation tower of the bunker, pockmarked with shrapnel from bombs and shells, a desk used by Hitler strewn with papers and the entrance to the troglodyte warren.

A particularly poignant shot are the empty jerry cans of petrol used for the Fuehrer’s funeral pyre, lying abandoned in the rubble of the Chancellery garden.

Russian soldiers who fought their way street by street and building by building to the heart of Nazism, in a crusade of revenge for the 27 million deaths Hitler’s forces caused in their homeland, are seen in a photo taken on the same day moving a huge bronze swastika that once loomed over the entry to Hitler’s Chancellery on to a pile of rubble.

 

Defiant: At the Reichstag, evidence of a practice common throughout the centuries: soldiers scrawling graffiti to honor fallen comrades, insult the vanquished or simply announce, I was here. I survived'

Defiant: At the Reichstag, evidence of a practice common throughout the centuries: soldiers scrawling graffiti to honor fallen comrades, insult the vanquished or simply announce, I was here. I survived.’ This photo was not originally published in LIFE 

 

Heavy work: Russian soldiers and a civilian struggle to move a large bronze Nazi Party eagle that once loomed over a doorway of the Reich Chancellery, Berlin, 1945

Heavy work: Russian soldiers and a civilian struggle to move a large bronze Nazi Party eagle that once loomed over a doorway of the Reich Chancellery, Berlin, 1945. This photo was not originally published in LIFE

It's pver: A U.S. soldier, PFC Douglas Page, offers a mocking Nazi salute inside the bombed-out ruins of the Berliner Sportspalast where the Third Reich often held political rallies

It’s over: A U.S. soldier, PFC Douglas Page, offers a mocking Nazi salute inside the bombed-out ruins of the Berliner Sportspalast where the Third Reich often held political rallies. This photo was not originally published in LIFE

 
Bitter: A man on bicycle and young boy going past smashed vehicles and abandoned artillery which fill Oberwallstrasse street, where some of the most bitter fighting for control of Berlin took place

Bitter: A man on bicycle and young boy going past smashed vehicles and abandoned artillery which fill Oberwallstrasse street, where some of the most bitter fighting for control of Berlin took place

Other hitherto unpublished photos include a shot of an American serviceman giving the Hitler salute in the bombed out Sportspalast stadium in Berlin, from where in 1943 propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels made his infamous ‘total war’ speech, and inside the Reichstag, where Russian soldiers carved their names and graffiti on the walls of the parliament building.

A crushed globe of the sort Hitler used to gaze at and dream of world conquest, together with a bust of him made of bronze, are also reproduced for the first time.

 

At the time Vandivert, who died in 1992, reported for LIFE; ‘Almost every famous building in Berlin is a shambles. In the centre of town GIs could walk for blocks and see no living thing, hear nothing but the stillness of death, smell nothing but the stench of death.’

 
Death pact:Adolf Hitler with mistress Eva Braun - the pair died together in the bunker

Death pact: Adolf Hitler with mistress Eva Braun – the pair died together in the bunker

 

Vandivert was the first Western photographer to gain access to Hitler’s Führerbunker after the fall of Berlin, and a handful of his pictures of the bunker and the ruined city were published in LIFE magazine in July 1945.

On the LIFE website today WEDS it states; ‘A few of those images are republished here; most of the pictures in this gallery, however, never appeared in LIFE. Taken together, they illuminate the surreal, disturbing universe Vandivert encountered in the bunker itself, and in the streets of the vanquished city beyond the bunker’s walls.’ 

Fascinating… but very eery! 

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