Today was the one day of the trip that I was not especially looking forward to: the tour of the concentration camp located in Dachau, Germany. Although this was an emotionally taxing day for everybody, it was a very moving experience, and I learned a lot.
The camp was about a 40 minute drive from Augsburg, and Dr. Feick gave us a short talk on the way there about what to expect today. Obviously, the Holocaust is a sensitive subject, and I couldn’t even imagine how sensitive it is here in modern Germany. He told us how German students are required to take field trips to concentration camps as part of their school cirriculum. Similarly to the way American students are taught about our past with slavery, it’s something everyone should be educated about, but our generation should not feel responsible for the actions of our late ancestors.
Our tour guide, and elderly German man, was phenomenal. He was a veteran who served for the German army for 35 years and actually liberated prisoners of war himself. He was extremely knowledgeable about European history and the history of the concentration camp itself. On top of this, his tour was very enthusiastic and high-energy, showing that he really cares about the history of this place. Our tour guide also presented the information in a way that did not make people uncomfortable, even when explaining the more graphic content.
The concentration camp was eerie in a way that it didn’t look as terrible and menacing as I expected it to be. The main building looked like it could be a regular park pavilion, far from what its actual purpose served. The normality of the whole outside of the camp gave an insight as to how the Nazi party got away with this; at first glance one could not imagine something so terrible took place inside the walls.
One of the hardest parts of the tour for me was the gas chamber, which was originally disguised as a shower hall. Standing in the center of the room knowing how many people have died in the spot you’re standing was a very intense experience.
At the end of the tour, our guide emphasized how important it is that future generations ensure that this never happens again. He said that racism is growing in the world again, especially in America. He ended the tour with a chilling remark, “Germany had the original Cindarella’s castle, America just has the copy.”