Saturday, May 21, 2011

concentration camps & such

I just ate Burger King. I am ashamed. We're on our way to Rothenburg, & I was somehow hungry... oops ;)

This morning we went to Dachau, the first concentration camp in the world. I knew it would be a lot to take in, but I didn't really expect this feeling? I want to tell you all the history I learned from the 3 hours we were there, but I'd be typing till tomorrow... a brief overview it is.

So basically, this camp wasn't known for mass murders - most of the people that died there passed away from exhaustion or sickness. Quite a few (thousands even) were murdered for 'misbehavior', but once they were gone, the camp claimed them all as suicides. (There were gas chambers on the grounds, but were never used for mass execution. That sort of thing took place in Auschwitz - the people that were sent to Dachau died slowly from malnutrition & exhaustion, unless they provoked guards or challenged the system. Or tried to escape.)

This first camp was built in 1933, and was created for Hitler's political enemies, as a way to make opposition to Hitler impossible. It was a model for all the other camps built in the next 16 years. It was filled with Jews, Roma, priests, homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, gypsies... basically anyone who was not part of the 'fittest' race - Social Darwinism played a huge role in who was sent there. Any people group that was viewed as 'weak' was to be completely done away with asap.

The motto of the camp was 'Arbeit macht frei' - Work will set you free. But, most died of the absurd and inhumane living conditions, without any hope of ever being free again. People worked 12+ hours a day, doing nothing but pointless labor, designed to torture the body but mostly the mind. They were fed one bowl of nutrition-less soup a day, slept in barracks that were designed for 200, but instead housed 2,000 at a time, many were the test subjects of deadly medical experiments, (tests like seeing how long a man can live with consuming nothing but saltwater, what organs fail first when dying from hypothermia, how much air pressure the human brain can endure - sickening stuff. Disgusting, unnecessary & completely unbelievable)1 bathroom per 2,000, no heat, no rest, no doctors, Typhoid, lice, families were purposefully separated... the list goes on forever. At the camps worst moments, the crematory was burning all night & all day to dispose of bodies. They were only buried when the coal ran short.

Everything I read made me shiver.

I learned about a Jewish doctor who was a taken there, he was secretly trying to help the sick. He was caught, tortured, &  told he'd be shot if he didn't stop - but he kept helping others, he said because he took an oath to do so. He was taken to the shooting range the next morning. I'm sure there were more doctors with this same story - but it really broke my heart. I kept thinking about my dad, and how I was sure he would have done the same thing. Thoughts like this can make you feel so heavy.

None of these people had done anything wrong. That doctor did NOTHING wrong, yet they were all treated even worse than livestock. the unfairness of it all is completely staggering.

We went through the museum, watched a 20 minute movie on the history of the camp, (the pictures were so graphic I hardly watched... my stomach was in knots every time they showed a pile of bodies. The gruesome details were so overwhelming I just listened instead of watching. Everyone was sobbing. The place felt haunted) & went to the memorial chapel at the back of the grounds to sing, which was terribly hard to do though the tears. We've been pretty much silent since. We're on the bus now but I think there is a mutual understanding of reverence for the rest of our day.

p.s. I posted 3 blogs in a row, just so you know :)

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