Monday, 3 June 2013
Markus Gleichmann, Heinrich-Jung-Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Zella-Mehlis/Meiningen, Germany, 2013, ISBN 978-3-943552-05-8. Illustrated, hardcover, published in German, English, Italian, French, Russian, and Dutch.
Cover image © by Heinrich-Jung-Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 2013.
In January 2010, this blog featured an entry discussing various publications examining the REIMAHG underground aircraft plant at the Walpersberg mountain in Thuringia, Germany (see REIMAHG Me 262 Underground Manufacturing Plant At Kahla, 1944/1945). One of the books covered, Düsenjäger über dem Walpersberg by Markus Gleichmann and Karl-Heinz Bock, presented a particularly comprehensive assessment of the manufacturing site, both during its construction and in its current state.
Four years after Düsenjäger über dem Walpersberg, Gleichmann has published a companion volume of sorts: REIMAHG-Werk "Lachs". This book was created together with the Geschichts- und Forschungsverein Walpersberg e.V. [History and Research Association Walpersberg], and it has the distinct feel of an exhibition catalogue, the exhibition in this case potentially being the Association's guided tours of the Walpersberg area.
While Gleichmann's original Düsenjäger über dem Walpersberg was a book of 176 pages, containing 94 photos and 13 maps and drawings, his new book is more of a captioned photo album, comprising 201 illustrations on 118 pages. There are text pages, but they are kept to an absolute minimum. The same applies to the photo captions themselves. Such brevity is a result of the decision to print the text and captions in five languages (German, English, Russian, Italian, and Dutch), thus making the book accessible to a wide variety of interested parties and/or visitors to the site. For anyone with more than a cursory awareness of this topic, however, these brief captions are a bit of a disappointment. Given the nature of the subject matter, every single photo in this book could conceivably be accompanied by an exhaustive description.
The photos themselves (in black & white as well as in colour) are as absorbing as those in Gleichmann's earlier work. Once again, they depict the REIMAHG site during the war, in the course of the immediate aftermath, and today. This includes countless intriguing shots of the incomplete underground facilities inside the mountain (an area currently inaccessible to the ordinary visitor), as well as the surrounding buildings, the inclined aircraft elevator, and the mountaintop runway.
A significant section of REIMAHG-Werk "Lachs" is dedicated to the fact that forced labour was used in harshest conditions in both the construction of the REIMAHG facility and the commencement of actual aircraft assembly/manufacture. It is to Gleichmann's credit that he has chosen to accord so much space to this horrendous aspect of the REIMAHG story. Nonetheless, there likely remains an infinite amount of relevant information yet to be documented and published.
In an effort to assign proper credit, Gleichmann has included an authorship code for all photos reproduced in the book. Unfortunately, this code is printed in a small, rectangular box within the photos themselves (instead of as part of the captions), which, in the case of small photos, is somewhat annoying. There's a key linking each code to the photo source at the end of the book.
There are other nitpicks. In order to fit a photo into the assigned space on page 110, the person in charge of the layout simply stretched the photo horizontally, resulting in amateurishly distorted protagonists and equipment. Such a thing should not happen in a book of otherwise formidable quality. Some of the translations are a bit simplistic, although this is of no great consequence in view of the aforementioned brevity of the text. Lastly, it would have been nice to see a photo of a Ta 152 still in German hands and thus with authentic German markings instead of the haphazardly repainted post-war example in the US.
In spite of such trivial criticism, REIMAHG-Werk "Lachs" is a welcome and highly informative book. Moreover, its content is even more valuable if used as a supplement to Gleichmann's earlier Düsenjäger über dem Walpersberg.