Day 9: Dachau

(January 11th)

Warning: This post may be depressing, but that shouldn’t stop you from reading it

This morning we went to Dachau Concentration Camp. It was a very fascinating and depressing place. Dachau was the first of these camps to be built, so many other camps were based upon it. It usually held about 10,000 prisoners at a time. We saw a short documentary then looked through some of the living quarters, working areas, and (worst of all) the gas and incineration chambers. We learned all about the daily horrors and fears face by the people there. There was a daily role call which everyone had to attend, even if you were ill or dead. The people had to stand around for hours so the guards could check that everyone was accounted for. You had to stand still and you couldn’t help anyone. This camp housed not only Jews, but also prisoners of war, political prisoners, Jehova’s Witnesses, and anyone who opposed the Nazi Regime.

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The guards there made it so absolutely no uprising could be possible. They systematically sucked the hope and life out of everyone there. There is a long stretch of gravel road between the main court yard and the gas chamber. For someone who was no longer fit for work, this must’ve been the longest walk of their life! Not only were they physically and emotionally exhausted, their mind must have been reeling, their emotions hightening, knowing what was coming. It’s just sick.

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For me the strangest part was that the guards harassing and torturing the prisoners, the doctors experimenting on the inmates, all thought this was for the greater good. They thought they were going to make the world a better place. I will never understand this because I could never possibly imagine what was going through their heads.

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I agree with our tour guide when he said that everyone should see a place like this. It’s so important to see what can happen when we see someone as less than us or less than human. Or tour guide also gave us a quote to think about:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” – Martin Niemöller

Sometimes it’s easier to stick our heads in the sand, but we need to stand up against oppression, even if it does not affect us.

On a completely different note, after Dachau, we headed off the the Rhine Valley. We are currently staying in a renovated castle! Tomorrow we are going to Amsterdam!

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