Upon my arrival to Germany, I had no idea how to go about any of the holocaust history — nonetheless, if they even spoke about it. Well, I was thoroughly informed, well-over my mind’s capacity. June 27, 2015 is a day I will never forget.As a group, the eight of us went to see Buchenwald concentration camp in Weimar, Germany. Jesus Christ. I have never felt more weak in my knees or sick to my stomach. I’ve watched movies, read books, and heard plenty about the holocaust and the terrors behind it. Heck, I even saw the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, but never have I been in the area that it had all happened. That changed quickly on this Saturday morning. Just pulling up to the site an eerie feeling takes over your body and you cannot help but feel uncomfortable that you’re standing in a place where so many innocent people were killed. They do not try to sugar coat anything. The main gate has a sign above the entrance stating, “Jedem Das Seine,” meaning to each his own. The people really were soulless. So many people had been dragged in and out of that gate, burned, tortured… it’s so sickening.
The tour was at your own pace, and they offered iPods with an informative tour guide right in your ear. I was the only one in my group to get one, and it was evident how much more deeply instructional it was. The fields were plain, torn up, dried out — but the history behind them was so tragic and stomach-churning. They murdered half a million people in the place we were standing for the sole reason they did not like how they looked. They were Jewish; they didn’t have blonde hair and blue eyes so they were just taking up space.One of the areas in the camp was called “the sick house,” which clearly did not mean much. They would send inmates to this part of the camp to be murdered rather than to be treated. They didn’t have room/energy for people that weren’t on top of their health and they would simply kill them off — in the audio guide they said there were only two types of people in the camp, “healthy and dead.” I had heard all about things like this, but never actually been faced with it. There were ovens, torture instruments, suffocation ropes, chutes; everything you have nightmares about.
I was so in awe at everything around me that I chose not to document these treacherous things. I took a few pictures, but couldn’t get myself to take more than five. It was a very heavy-hearted and emotionally draining experience, which I did not want to relive.
It is important, though, to be exposed to this part of history because it did happen. I was afraid that it was scolded to bring up anything about Nazis or the holocaust in Germany, but they fully own up to their mistakes. It was a dark, dark part of their history and they try to move forward from it. As can happen with any government, they were tricked by a dictator and their world was turned upside down.
The Buchenwald camp was also filled with beautiful artwork, contributing to the lost victims and trying to express the sorrow of family members through art and memories. There are letters throughout the memorial mourning lost ones, flowers planted, and prayers expressed. To move forward is to accept and learn from mistakes, not to hide and pretend it never happened.