On Visiting the Site of a Concentration Camp

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We’ve all read about World War II and the Holocaust. Most of us (my generation, anyway) read the Diary of Anne Frank at some point in our early educational careers. We’ve seen scratchy film footage of Hitler’s vehement speeches and appalling photographs of emaciated prisoners.

But real history is heavy. It weighs on one. Visiting an historical site of mass murder and persecution hasn’t left me with a lot to say. I think it has to be experienced.

I learned a lot today – like the difference between the concentration/detention camps (such as the one we visited – Sachsenhausen) and the extermination camps (such as Auschwitz). I learned the difference between the SA, the SS, and the Gestapo.

And I think that for the first time, a lot of it will sink in.

I learned that the Nazis killed more than 6 million Jews, and more than 27 million Soviets. 27 million.

This place – Sachsenhausen – was used as a detention and extermination center for a lot of Soviet troops. I didn’t take a picture of it, but there was a display case featuring this measuring stick – like you see at a doctor’s office, with an adjustable platform at the top to measure your height. Except this one had a 1/2 inch split down the middle, and the measuring platform showed the Nazi on the other side precisely where to fire the low-calibre bullet into the back of the prisoner’s head. So he would die quickly and efficiently.

I don’t know what there is to say about that.

I took some pictures. And I’m glad I went. It’s important to understand, to really, really understand how awful the world can be if we don’t pay attention.

 

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