I couldn't help but see in the news that President Obama is in Buchenwald today. His great-uncle helped liberate a nearby satellite camp, just days before the U.S. Army overran Buchenwald. The President said that the victims and the perpetrators of the camp alike were humans and everyone must stand guard against a repeat.
This brought back memories of my visit last September to Dachau. I am reposting my blog from my personal blog which I would like to share with you below:
After visiting elegant and historic Munich, I had the tremendous and sacred honor to pay homage at one of the most notorious and infamous concentration
Consistent with my visit thus far, the concentration camp located in the outskirts of a quaint, Bavarian town was not that clearly easy to find. Perhaps it was due to memories past that wanted to wither away and never surface again. The first concentration camp to open in Germany served as a prototype and model for other Nazi concentration camps to follow.
Dachau also served as the central camp for Christian religious prosecutions. It was the bitter sad home where tens of thousands of innocent civilians were tortured and tens of thousands more died or were subject to cruel and inhumane medical experiments that was so tragic that it was inconceivable to even imagine.
I have visited the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in the Nation's Capital over a dozen times in the last ten years. Each time, I walked away completely shattered and shaken to a million little bitty pieces, sometimes, not being able to sleep, without turning, tossing, and thinking deep within myself.
But this first-time visit to a real place where real lives were twisted and turned and thrown away like scattered ashes held no comparison to a memorial within walls.
When you enter through the tar-black wrought-iron gates, plain and eerily dull, you are immediately slapped with these simple and sinister words: Arbeit Macht Frei, a German phrase that means: "Work brings Freedom". Nothing can be further from the truth -- what a cruel and conniving statement fabricated by the unscrupulous and sinister Nazi. These words will always reverberate in my mind.
I was completely horrified by the way that the Jews and other discriminated and displaced persons were imprisoned, tortured, dehumanized, many, many put to death.
Then I took the time to methodically and courteously walk through the main building to witness with my own eyes the drastic and drab conditions -- so horribly wrong and inhumane. The images were gripping that touched and tugged at my heartstrings with such deep-throated pain that at several unannounced moments, I had to literally freeze in my tracks and reflect on the pity and pain and the metaphoric meaning of life.
From this picture, you can see the footprint of the old barracks that have since been torn down.
I also had a chance to see the bunker which is the prison inside the concentration camp. This is where the clergy and political prisoners were housed. They had no sunlight and food only every fourth day.
Dachau, Buchenwald, and other horrible places of death and disparity, surprisingly numbered into the 20,000 according to a recent study conducted by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The scope and scale of this is an immense tragedy in the true annals of mankind, and one that we have to continue to remember and to honestly pay tribute to so that we will never forget, and like President Obama said on June 5th, 2009, "reflect on this difficult history" because it is a reminder of the "dangers when people are in conflict and not acknowledging a common humanity."
When I departed the pattern, I was so grateful to have seized the opportunity to pay visit and pay homage -- this side tour would be the most memorable and impactful part of my trip, and I knew it would stay with me for a very long time, if not for the rest of eternity.