While we have been learning about it the entirety of our lives in school, nothing compares to standing in the exact spot where it all happened. You really do not expect it to hit as hard as it does. Even though the Holocaust occurred before our time, it still impacts us and the world around us today. We were scheduled to visit Dachau concentration camp today, which is located just northwest of Munich.
Our tour guide for the day was amazing from the get-go. He walked us around outside of the camp and helped paint for us what was happening in the world at the start of World War II. He informed that the original gate containing the slogan “Arbeit macht frei,” or “work will make you free,” was stolen a few years ago and just recently recovered in Norway. In the meantime, the camp had installed a replica while they kept the original locked on display.
After entering the camp, the guide showed us a sculpture in front of the museum depicting skeletons of those who died in the camp. The sculptor is actually from ex-Yugoslavia whose name is Nandor Glid. It was the first of many coincidences that day.
We were shown the different symbols stitched into articles of clothing used by the Nazis to differentiate the types of prisoners, such as the yellow star of David for Jews, green triangles for political prisoners, pink for homosexuals, and so on. It was really demoting, in a sense, trying to figure out the different ways people were categorized and imagining what if everyone was still labeled in such a derogatory way today.
I managed to keep my composure the entire time, until we reached the gas chambers. Once I entered, I saw etchings on the wall from those unfortunate to have entered the room during the Holocaust. I saw one heart on the wall, with “Bosnia” written in the middle of it. It was the second coincidence. Before I had time to even process it, I felt tears streaming down my face. It reminded me that my family is rooted in Yugoslavia, that they, too, suffered from this tragedy first-hand. My friend Eric saw me breaking down in tears and consulted me, which was very uplifting, and I could not be more grateful for the gesture.
The tour guide led us through the museum where we were able to read more facts about the prisoners of Dachau, those who worked at the camp, and the liberation. It did not get any easier. I saw the original gate locked behind a glass display, as well.
At the end of our tour with the tour guide, he pulled out a picture from his binder depicting the liberation of a camp located in ex-Yugoslavia. Third coincidence. Again, without hesitation, I blinked, and tears began rolling down my face. I ran after the tour guide and told him my family is from there, and that they suffered a great deal because of the war. He informed he was in Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina, where he was part of liberations. The tour guide gave me a hug and told me words I will never forget: “Despite all the evil that happened, the world is still full of good people – like you.”
Since it was an emotional day, we were given the rest of the day off. Again, I napped right away when we arrived back at the hotel.