Today was a heavy day, not necessarily in terms of the number of things we did today, but in terms of the day’s content. Today, we visited Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp in Germany. The trip was moving. We had a tour guide who was really knowledgeable about history and he really helped us all to understand the role Dachau played in German history. An emphasis was placed on the fact that Dachau was not an extermination camp. It was never used for mass killings. It was a relatively tame concentration camp compared to others. The camp was used for labor instead of extermination. Regardless, over thirty thousand people died from hunger, diseases, living conditions, and exhaustion.
I had a conversation with a German student the other day. He thought that it was cool that we sang our national anthem frequently. He said that the only time that Germans really sing the German national anthem is during the world cup. In a lot of ways Germans are confronted by a dark past. They feel shameful about it which makes me sad because they did not do anything to contribute to it. Germany’s past is not their fault. Instead, they have to deal with the actions of their grandparent’s past and it’s not fair to them. It is just strange to think about since we, as Americans were born with such a different past, which admittedly has its own skeletons in its closet to be shameful about, but we also have so much nationalism. Just thinking about how we sing our national anthem before every sports game or say the pledge of allegiance every morning from 1st to 12th grade… that aspect of life is so different in the U.S. compared to Germany.
For three hours straight I don’t think anyone but the tour guide spoke. The group understood the impact of world war two going in, however, once we were there, the depth and magnitude of the impact of concentration camps confronted us. I am blessed to be able to learn from history and from this experience.