Sickening. Horrifying. Humbling. Sobering.
I could go on and on, but those are the adjectives that immediately sprang to mind upon seeing Dachau Concentration Camp. Whether this was a good idea or not, it was the first thing we did once we got to Munich. We knew it was the kind of thing we wouldn't be able to stand for very long, so we thought we'd do it as a half-day trip on Saturday since we had already used the other half of the day traveling.
This place has special meaning for B's family, because his grandfather was part of the liberation army at Dachau on April 29, 1945. Still, despite the fact that good people came to eventually release these prisoners, it was still really, really hard to see. B's mom didn't even go, and I can't blame her. This place displays the essence of human evil, concentrated in one place.
The part that really got me was the crematoriums. I absolutely could not wrap my mind around the fact that humans put other humans in there. These ovens, they are big brick ovens with arched openings. They wouldn't look amiss in a baker's shop or a pizza place. I kept waiting for a big guy in a white apron and a bread paddle to show up. There's no way people were put into those things. But they were.
Another crazy part is the juxtaposition of the crematorium and the gas chambers, and a little stream that runs through the place. There are little paths through the woods. There are plants, bushes, trees. Birds are chirping. It looks like a nature walk. And yet just a few yards away some of the worst crimes against humanity were committed.
But evil doesn't exist in a vacuum. It doesn't come from robots, and that's what we have to remember. I think this post sums it up perfectly, much better than I ever could.
I didn't take any pictures. This is not because it wasn't allowed. It was because I personally could not bring myself to photograph this stuff. I didn't even bring my big camera. It just felt weird. This was not a tourist attraction, in the typical sense of the word.
However, if I had brought my camera, the one picture I would have taken would have been of a wall with a quote written on it in letters that were raised. On top of one of the letters, someone had placed a red enamel poppy pin that said, "Never forget." That little red poppy pin really moved me.
And we should never forget. It's our job to pass down the memory of these atrocities to our children and grandchildren. Only by remembrance of the horror of the Holocaust can we hope to avoid catastrophes like this in the future. You better believe my kids will be reading Number the Stars and Night and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.
This was not an easy trip to make. We didn't talk very much at all, because what can you say? It's not something fun to see, but it needs to be seen. If you find yourself anywhere in Germany, take a few hours to visit a concentration camp. And never, ever forget.
In love and peace,