May 12th: With today’s visit to Dachau, I’d have to say it was very impactful for the group to see a concentration camp first hand.
Being something that we learned throughout our whole lives of school, I think it’s common for us to gloss over the impact of the Holocaust, especially since we did not live through it and we are not from Germany. A new weight was added to everyone shoulders the day of the visit, most of us nervous and unsure of what we would see. I personally felt uncomfortable taking any images throughout the tour of the camp, besides what was in the museum, so any additional images were taken online. Similar to our other days, it was very cold and today was increasingly rainy, which almost made it sink in the circumstances we were in. They told us different stories of people who had to work on the camp and the weather made some even more painful, such as them having to stand outside without moving for hours upon end. Another personal story the guide told us was that if a button fell off your uniform there was no way to sew it back on, but you were responsible for it. In that story, having something on your uniform altered would lead to punishment, but you would also get punished for having a possession.
It was personally very painful for me to walk through the shower rooms and how the progressed from a room where everyone believed they were going to take a shower, to the gas chambers, to the furnaces to burn the body. Although the showers were never used in Dachau specifically, the fact that the building was built solely for the purpose of mass murder and being inside it was very soul shattering. I cannot possibly imagine the people who went through the Holocaust and survived to be able to return there and share their experiences with their families, it is a kind of pain I cannot fathom.
Something that I had never realized through learning about the Holocaust in school was the progression of it. Everyone knows how awful it was in the final years, but I never thought about the gradual progression into it. We were told that the camp originally started as a camp to punish and lock away political figures who challenged Hitler. This continued to dangerously progress, turning into working camps for any group Hitler labeled undesirables, which lead to the punishing and executing that we are familiar with today.
This piece of history is so incredibly frightening to me. You can always think that if something like the Holocaust were to happen again, you would be aware of it and fight against it. But with the Holocaust, most people did not realize the cruelties taking place until they had already relinquished all their power to a dictator. Although I will try to avoid getting too detailed into American politics, this just especially worries me and many others because the Holocaust is a historic example of the casualties that can result from blindly following a leader who can create mass support towards hatred against other groups.
Once we returned back to the hotel we met as a group to talk about our experience and recollect ourselves. Since all of the blogs for that week were do this night, I spent the rest of the day working on them. Although the day started on a sad note, it turned around when Maya, Ryan and I decided to go to a coffee shop to work on blogs. We walked to the center of town and tried several different places, but most were already full. We finally found a small place that served coffee and ordered, but we soon realized there wasn’t actually any wifi there. Regardless, we stayed, wrote blogs, drank coffee, and overall had a nice time being in a fairly empty store together. After this we went to Starbucks to actually work where there was Wifi, which ended up being a successful trip since I got my work done.
Once we were done working on blogs, we walked back to the hotel while the sun was setting over Augsburg. We cracked so many jokes about dream catchers or “Billiards and Buckets” and with the sunset in front of us we ended on a very light hearted and peaceful note. The latter of today was one of the days where I authentically felt like a student studying in Augsburg rather than a tourist, which was a great feeling.
Overall today was a wide range of emotions. Dachau was what I expected it to be, since I went into the day expecting to see some very painful things. However, I didn’t expect to end on such a peaceful note with walking and talking with Maya and Ryan, which was probably the highlight of the day. I think the Dachau trip is something that will stick with me for a while in the future and I hope our upcoming days in Germany will lighten up, emotionally and literally (I really need the sun).