Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Valentine's Day

Maybe this is too much for one week or even too much for one month.... but for Valentine's day, on the same trip I talked about here, we visited Dachau concentration camp. I'm not going to write a long post like my post on Theresinstadt. Mostly because this place disturbed me to my core but also because I could never ever find adequate words to describe it. I want to remember this trip, but I'm not sure I know how to write about it. 

It was a dark and cold day when we drove into the town in Upper Bravaria. I'm glad there wasn't blue skies and sunshine, it wouldn't have felt appropriate. 
The barb wired walls of the camp butt right up against the neighbouring town. Real life goes on outside- just as it did during the war. I think that is what gutted me the most. When the American soldiers liberated the camp they forced local citizens to come and see first hand the horrific truth that many had simply turned a blind eye to. 

Only one row of barracks stand, the rest are just a hollow concrete frame. A single line of trees now lead down the empty rows where thousands, lived and died.  
Dachau was the first concentration camp built in Germany and was used as a prototype for most of the future camps built.  It was classified as a work camp. Prisoners "lived" on 600-800 calories, very few hours of sleep and were essentially worked to death.
We stood in the gas chamber and passed through them to the crematorium in absolute silence. I'm not sure I said a single word until I walked back out of the camp.  Under the sign that read "Abreit Macht Frei- work makes you free."  Afterwards I breathed out a sigh that felt like it came from the depth of my soul. You don't leave that place the same-how could you? The devil himself put stakes down in Europe and the evidence is still there for you to see and you'll never forget it.

It was the most heartbreaking Valentine's day I will ever know.

4 comments :

  1. This trip would have been heartbreaking for me too. So sad, but glad you got to see everything.

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  2. Wow- I am sure you were chilled straight through being there. I just read the book The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult and it shared some stories about the camps. It's the most recent book I've read about them- and gave me chills.

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  3. Thanks for writing about this. Part of me wants to see this, part of me never wants to. We visited a Holocaust museum a couple of years ago and I couldn't even make it all the way through. The tears started and just would not stop.

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  4. My daughter and I also went to Dachau when we were in Europe on an orchestra trip. Most of the sightseeing on the trip was wonderful, but the time spent at the concentration camp was incredibly sad. I still remember the museum and all the info on human experiments done there. The cremetory - and the chapel... All reminders of unthinkable times in the world.

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