Thursday, September 27, 2007

A sobering visit.

Today we visited the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. There is virtually no way of knowing how one will react when one enters the infamous grounds of this camp. I had a very strong, yet not completely unpredictable, reaction as tears began to roll down my cheecks within two minutes of entering the imposing empty courtyard known as the "roll call area". I was truly overwhelmed by the thought of the thousands of prisoners that suffered unimaginable treatment at the hands of their fellow human beings. I felt as if my body was filled with the fear, pain, anger, and despair that surely permeated through this camp and soaked and stained each and every structure in this complex down to every stone on the ground. In fact, I could not keep myself from constantly gazing at the stones beneath my riding boots and imagining the raw bare feet of the prisoners whose lives meant so little to their cruel captors. One, two, three....30 thousand...sixty thousand devastated pairs of feet walking over these same stones, some for the first time, some for the last. It is almost too difficult to imagine, and certainly for me impossible to understand.
The memorial site is very well set up and it provides the visitor a pretty complete account of the history of Germany's first major concentration camp which became a model for all future Nazi concentration camps. We arrived at 2pm and were ushered out at closing time and I still could have spent another three hours there contemplating the enormity of the events that transpired in "that time" not so long ago...
It is difficult to talk about this visit without having the urge to go on and on about the whys and the hows but I will fight this urge and simply say that it is imperative that we learn from the lessons of our past and do everything possible to keep from making the same mistakes, because we are all part of the same human race.