Monday, May 19, 2014

Walking Through History

As this incredible journey across my ancestor's homeland comes to an end, it is hard for me to decide what part of this trip I enjoyed most. 

I don't think I could ever pick one particular moment or visit to be my all time favorite part.

However, one of the most poignant and eye-opening experiences for me would have to go to our walk through the Sachsenhausen concentration camp memorial we visited on the outskirts of Berlin over two weeks ago.

One of the many barbed wire fences built to keep in over 200,000 prisoners. 
It is one thing to learn about historical tragedies like the Holocaust, whether it'd be reading about them in your high school world history class or watching movies like "Schindler's List."

But the reality of it all doesn't really sink in until you see it in person…or what's there left of it.

What makes this camp unique is that the SS built this camp as the "model" for all the other ones which would be built later on. And the camp imprisoned over 200,000 civilians; tens of thousands of them dying due to starvation, sickness or mistreatment by the guards.

So this is where it all began. The building of prisons where innocent civilians would die.

The site preserved hanging poles where guards at the camps would hoist prisoners with their hands tied together above their heads.
Prisoner's uniform on display
My classmate Michael and I stood at the very spot of the shooting range where prisoners would be shot. We got to see the literal point of view victims saw last before a bullet splattered their brains.

And then came the rain. Out of nowhere and pouring down hard. And that was the one day I forgot my umbrella. It was hard to stay dry unless you stayed inside one of the original buildings of the
camps which didn't have any connecting skylines or walkways for people to keep dry.

Flowers lay at the end of the shooting range
where prisoners stood to be shot to death. 
The rain thoroughly soaked me from head to toe, my ballet flats nearly waterlogged and my mascara dripped down my cheeks.

And looking back on how much the rain annoyed me, I feel guilty.

We all got frustrated by walking through the rain to catch our bus back to our hotel in Berlin and yet we walked through a camp where hundreds of thousands of people dealt with much more that just a few speckles.

People died on the very ground we ran on as we tried avoiding the rain which just seemed to be a damper (no pun intended) on our day.

For me, it turned into a reminder on how we need to value life. And I think about how lucky I am. I will have my bad days and get frustrated. But something like this reminds how someone else out there is struggling more than I am; even if it did happen over 40 years ago.

And how while we need to value our own lives, we need to values those of others and reach out to them.

I hope to go back one day and continue to explore the history of the camp. And hopefully write more about it because this post could never suffice the emotions and thoughts I felt walking among those who are gone but not forgotten.

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