A Trip To a Tragic Past (Day 8)

Today I had a waffle with Nutella (I swear I will switch it up tomorrow), a croissant with strawberry jam and yogurt, which was different from usual because it was premixed with fruit and it was not lactose free, but I am a yogurt fanatic so of course I still enjoyed it.  

Then on the way to Dachau, I was looking outside and something very common in the scenery are these very long, thin pine trees where all the needles are at the top and you don’t normally find trees like this in New York or on the east coast. The pine trees around there have thick stumps and have the needles starting at the bottom, looking like Christmas trees. 

Once we got there, a somber mood was already set by the gray buildings and sky, and the cold rain. We luckily had a guide to take us around the camp and give us the history of what happened there.

the gate through which the prisoners entered to the camp

We first visited the main building where the registration happened for the newcomers, this area was also turned into a museum. The tour guide explained that they would get 25-50 beatings and if the prisoner forgot what number they were on, as they were receiving their punishment, that they would have to start over and would end up getting a lot more than 25-50. For me, it was really hard to understand the brutality of these acts, the guards were violent and hurtful towards the prisoners for no reason, the punishments were for acts like missing a button on their uniforms and such. 

the building where the newcomers were taken first that was later turned into a museum
the flowers left by those who came to visit on the anniversary of the day that the camp was liberated

When then went to look at the electric fencing of the camp later, and she again told us that the guards would throw their hats in close to the fence so that the other guards would think they were escaping and kill them, and if they didn’t get their hat the guard would kill them. There was no way for the prisoners to come out alive. When we were looking at their living conditions, our tour guide told us how they had very little clothing and had to stand outside, and with the weather we had it made it more real how hard their life was. Just from two hours in that weather, I got a cold and have been feeling slightly sick, I cannot even imagine standing out there without any protection would have felt. At one point, they explained how the guards killed children, pregnant women, and the elderly in the gas chambers (not at Dachau) because they wouldn’t be able to work and be productive towards keeping the camp running and in my head all I could think was how the guards, especially guards that were parents could think of sending their children or loved ones to die. 

I watched part of a film they had running in the museum and they mentioned like our tour guide that though gas chambers had been built at Dachau they were never actually used. They also added that they didn’t use them because they had pity for those imprisoned, but it is not known why they didn’t use them. I mean no matter how brainwashed these guards were, it is hard to erase the tragic history of these camps. 

In this same film, they showed us a video of citizens of Dachau walking into a room full of dead bodies after the camp had been shut down, and how they were completely shocked, either unable to react or crying. It was absolutely terrible to see that each and every one of these people were not given the respect they deserved; they were treated like nothing being thrown into a room like that, with no burial or time to let those who loved them grieve. 

Disclaimer: Only read the next paragraph if you have seen the Sound of Music

Something I thought about was how in the Sound of Music how Rolf (a young soldier who was told to join the Nazi forces) is put in a position at one point in the movie where he is ordered to be violent towards Baron Von Trapp and is unable to actually follow through. He is young and follows orders but when it comes down to it, he really wasn’t able to harm them. To me, after being at the camp I had a thought that maybe more guards were forced into that position and unable to follow through so it is tough to learn the guards did not just implement the Nazi rules but also were hostile just because they could be. It is insane to think that human kind was able to commit such acts. 

We then got a chance to visit the barracks where they were housed, and some shocking things I learned that I did not know about before, were how they had to four people into one bed allocation, and that the prisoners were so malnourished that by that point, they fit well, and were not sitting directly on top of one another. We also got a chance to look at their lockers where they could keep their uniforms and dining utensils, and our tour guide explained to us that every day after working hard outside getting dirty and dusty, that they would have to make sure the floor was sparkling and that their living quarters were clean. What kind of expectations were these? After a hard day of work, how could one not be expected to be dirty? 

It was definitely hard to see the living conditions but thought-provoking to get deeper insight into what living in a camp was like. In school, we had learned about the Holocaust and World War II but it was different to walk the grounds where thousands of people had been tortured and lost their lives. 

While we were there, church bells began to ring at one point. I realized prisoners would not have been able to keep track of time when their belongings were taken away and that they probably lost track of the amount of days there and maybe if they had a church close by then that might’ve been the only way for prisoners to tell time, this would have most definitely reduced the hope of those who were there, making it feel like they were going to be there forever. 

After our visit, I started to think about our future, and I did get a little scared. I began to wonder if such a genocide could ever take place again as racism and acts of discrimination are still quite common. I would like to think that human kind is able to learn from their mistakes but the Nazi party came to power gradually, and it was not immediate for an event like that, that changed the world to occur. 

On the bus ride back, we were given sandwiches and pretzels from Ihle. They were incredibly good, and I was surprised that a chain bakery such as that made food that was pretty good, our Subway in the United States would not make sandwiches as good as the one I got to eat. After we made it back to the hotel, I began to work on the blogs. For dinner, we all got doñer sandwiches, which were again, amazing. The man in charge there now recognizes us, and actually talked to us a bit.

a picture of my vegetarian doñer sandwich

Afterwards we got gelato from a café nearby, and it was absolutely amazing. It was also only one Euro, which left me so happy, as ice cream in the U.S. is always at least $3 even for the smallest size. This is definitely one change that Americas NEED to make, though it was a heavy topic that we discussed for most of the day I am happy I ended with the joyful note of eating tiramisu flavored gelato. 

a picture from our adventure to get gelato

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