22.09.2013 - 22.09.2013
Euro trip 2013
on travellinglise's travel map.
“Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedom -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way” - Viktor Frankl, Concentration camp survivor and Dachau prisoner.
A trip to Andechs Monastery & Brewery after our visit to Dachau lightened the mood considerably, but unfortunately had the opposite effect on our stomach. Whilst we have consistently been dumbstruck at the size of meat portions in Czech Republic and Germany, the meal at the monastery was by far the most overwhelmingly big we had come across - and we shared a meal!! Their famous pork knuckles only come in one size and weigh over a kg each (where are these monstrous pigs kept that these knuckles come from?! Or shouldn't I ask....) luckily the women cut ours in half so we could split it! With a side of potato salad and sauerkraut and some pints (no stomach room for steins!) of their locally brewed wheat beer, we were glad it was downhill to the bus meeting point - we just rolled!
Whilst Germany are not exactly hiding the atrocities of their past, they are not also not forward in speaking about it. When we mentioned we were going to Dachau, many Germans were quite adamant that we shouldn't go there because it is not a fair reflection on Germany of today. I agree that it must be very hard for young Germans to be living under the shadows of their country's past. We came across many unfair stereotypes of the German people and Germany as a country, and found most of them to be extraordinarily untrue. We met some fantastic young Germans, who were fun, easy going and open minded. However, a past like that cannot be forgotten and ignored and it was good to learn that German schoolchildren regularly attend Dachau and other prison camps to learn about their past, and to help ensure Germany can grow and learn from the experiences.
Taking a break from the beer halls we decided to learn a little more about the darker side of German history, and join the tour to Dachau concentration camp. From the moment you step through the huge iron gates emblazoned with the German motto "Arbeit macht frei" (Work makes you free) you are hit with a feeling of sadness and hopelessness. Most of the actual camp is no longer standing as it was torn down after the war due to being in a state of disrepair. The administration buildings are still standing and they house an extremely detailed museum starting from the rise of the Nazi party through to the end of the war.
Dachau was one of the first concentration camps built in Germany and was built to house Political prisoners (basically anyone who didn't agree with the Nazi rise to power, or was in the way of their progress). This was then extended to include Jews, ordinary German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries which Germany occupied or invaded. In the twelve years of its existence over 200,000 persons from all over Europe were imprisoned here. Although Dachau was not officially an 'extermination camp' there were 31,951 documented deaths during this time, and countless undocumented ones. Deaths occurred due to starvation, beatings, mistreatment, torture and murder by SS guards. All bodies were cremated in the adjoining crematorium (which are still standing), but fortunately (and it is unknown why) the gas chambers in the crematorium were never used for mass extermination. On April 29 1945, American troops liberated the survivors.
What we learnt today
Words cannot express the atrocity of what occurred in the camps of Germany during WW2. The museum was hard to deal with at some points; with photos and videos (often unseen footage taken by SS Guards) portraying torture, death, medical experiments and human cruelty. Sadly I'm not sure if the world has learnt its lesson from these horrors. Even today the same scenarios are playing out all over the globe - dictators, genocide, prejudice - yet not enough is done to stop it, and (in the case of my country) the innocent victims, in the form of refugees, are ignored and sent away. I just can't imagine how we need any more evidence than what happened in Nazi Germany in order to come to a realisation that hate is a dangerous emotion, and prejudice and bigotry need to be stamped out immediately. Sorry political rant over!
Posted by travellinglise
Archived in Germany
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