Author’s mission to document fate of Lower Silesia’s forgotten palaces reveals ‘harrowing agony of a silent apocalypse’
Hannibal Smoke’s ‘The Silent Apocalypse - The ruined palaces of Lower Silesia’ is an emotive and harrowing tale documenting the fate of the region’s hundreds of abandoned palaces and estates.
In 1945, there were at least 2,000 of them, half of which were destroyed: burnt, knocked down, blown up and levelled in subsequent decades, leaving behind only anonymous mounds and piles of rubble.
The plight of these places was told in Smoke’s first book ‘Invisible Lower Silesia’, which featured 600 photos and stories of palaces which no longer exist.
Now the crime writer, photographer, journalist and graphic artist has published ‘The Silent Apocalypse’, the latest in his non-fiction trilogy, collectively described by him as a ‘forbidden history’, in which he turns his attention to the some of the 1,000 palaces which survived complete destruction, only to waste away and fall into forgetfulness.
Documenting the plight of around 200 palaces in Lower Silesia, the book reveals how they slowly fell into ruin after 1945 as a result of neglect, simple indifference or insensitive building works and suffered the fate of depressing modern transformations.
All of the palaces still exist, but cannot be found in any guidebook or any tour and are a far cry from the beautifully restored and maintained palaces of Książ, Moszna and Czocha.
One of the palaces whose heart-breaking story and shocking metamorphosis is featured, is the Palace in Bielany in Lower Silesia, whose photographs from 1920 and 2018 reveal an almost unrecognisable transformation from a fairytale residence to a soulless, shapeless block.
Writing in his book, Smoke says: “For the purposes of this publication, we needed to decide whether palaces, stripped from their period features, can still be said to exist, and, with some hesitation, we came to the conclusion that they do, just in a dramatically altered form.
“The Palace in Bielany undoubtedly deserves the title for the most depressing transformation in Lower Silesia which resulted from rebuilding works in the 1950s.
“The aim of this soul-less ‘castration’ was the creation of residential flats and library, though it is hard to resist the impression, that death would have been a better fate.”
Curious renovations are only one of the aspects of the book. There are also places which have simply fallen to ruin such as the dilapidated palace in Świdnica which was ruined through the vandalism of those who used it: the red army, state collective farms under communism and looting carried out by various individuals, leaving only an unrecognisable skeleton of the building behind.
Smoke also regularly posts about the unusual and shocking renovations of period palaces from all over Poland on his Facebook page, with the help of other internet users such as Damian ‘Daymond’ Marćinczak.
One of these posts, is entitled ‘Metamorphoses of Horror’ and brings together examples of horrific renovations of former palaces from all over Poland.
Smoke said: “For the most part, what you will encounter is a harrowing silence and loneliness of places on the eve of agony, where destruction is more important than building and the fall more important than glory.
“It is a story about modernity, which blindly annihilated half of Lower Silesia’s palaces and residences and in silence and complete disregard, is killing them still.”
Further information and pictures of the histories behind Lower Silesia’s abandoned palaces and period residences can be found on Hannibal Smoke’s youtube, Facebook page and books.