The bullet-riddled, bombed-out buildings of Aleppo may bear little resemblance to London’s gleaming skyscrapers but the two cities once had much in common, something German artist Hans Hack has seized on to bring home the reality of war.
Before Syria’s six-year civil war, Aleppo — like London — was its country’s biggest city, as well as a key commercial hub. But, unlike teeming London, half of Aleppo is now effectively a ghost town.
To bring the suffering home to those in Europe, data visualizer Hack has used United Nations satellite data of Aleppo’s destruction and created equivalent maps of London and Berlin.
“For me it’s hard to understand in the news what it means, how strongly Aleppo was destroyed. I wanted to take this information and project it onto something I know personally that I can have some reference to. So I chose Berlin and London,” hack told Reuters.
London suffered the same damage as Aleppo, entire neighborhoods would be wiped off the map — in this alternative reality, Buckingham Palace, the Olympic stadium and the tower of London are all rubble.
It’s an echo of what happened in Aleppo. When the Syrian army captured the city from rebels in December 2016, the area was in ruins.
What the map doesn’t show are the human casualties. Since Syria’s civil war began the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that Aleppo’s population fell from 2 million to 1.3 million just after people started returning to the city.
A drop of similar proportions in London would see about 4.3 million people killed or displaced.
Feras al-Shehabi, chairman of the Aleppo Chamber of Industry, told Reuters in February that his city’s situation was “very similar to Berlin in 1946 or Tokyo in 1946. So you have a destroyed city.”
Still, Hack is reluctant to compare modern-day Aleppo with the cities ravaged in World War Two.
“I’m reluctant to draw parallels with history because I don’t think you can directly compare the way people have suffered. But I can imagine those who remember what it was like then (World War Two) don’t need a map like this,” he said.