My life and my thoughts - on faith, culture, politics, whatever comes to my mind

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Freedom at last – more remembering

About 60 years ago, on 29 April 1945, US troops entered the Nazi concentration camp Dachau (Bavaria) and the prisoners, hardly alive, finally were free. These days 60 years ago most concentration camps were liberated, but alas far too late for many victims. Millions had died in the most horrible ways, many lost their lives shortly before the camp liberations as the Nazis forced them out of the camp in so called “death-marches” to other camps.
During the reign of the Nazis more than six million Jews, Sinti and Roma (if you don’t know these names, they were formerly called gypsies, but this term is considered deragatory), political prisoners, resistance fighters, homosexuals, Christians, Germans who tried to help their persecuted neighbors and many others were murdered.

I have already posted about German resistance during WWII and one of my “virtual” friends asked if the Nazi terror regime and the war are avoided topics in Germany. They are not, actually they are more like ever-present. You could say that what happened between 1933 and 1945 is part of the German conscience. It is taught extensively in school (at least in highschool), there are many documentaries on TV, discussions, museums, etc. It is a part of history, as horrible as it is, that Germany cannot get around and doesn’t try to either. It happened and we need to learn from it for the future (and we hopefully have learned from it!). When a famous author once said that maybe we could finally “get over it” (not his exact words, but the general impression of what he said) there was a public outcry.

If you have ever been to Germany, you may have visited one of the concentration camps. Although the Nazis tried to destroy evidence of the hideous happenings and practices, they did not succeed completely.
For the 60-year-liberation of Dachau there was a huge ceremony on the premises of the camp with 350 former prisoners. The pictures I saw in the news almost made me cry.
I have only been to one former concentration camp, Sachsenhausen close to Berlin. It is smaller than Dachau and the main killing method there was a shot in the neck. The ruins of the crematory and one gas chamber are still there as are the barracks and the “hospital”. I remember seeing three very old men walking around the premises. One of them actually spoke to us in German and told us that he had been a prisoner in that camp. They were standing close to the main killing spot, crying.
We visited the “hospital”, tiled from floor to ceiling, with drains in the examination “beds”. They conducted medical experiments on children, forcing bacteria down their throats watching them die from the illness over the following weeks.
Words cannot adequately express how I felt that day.
After its liberation Sachsenhausen was used as a prison camp by Russian forces. There were resistance fighters who were first imprisoned there under the Nazis and then imprisoned there again under Stalin.

Now we are approaching the 60 years remembrance of the end of WWII (8 May 1945). Evil ends if there are people willing to fight for what is good.