Buchenwald. A concentration camp that served as a Nazi work camp and place of the utmost horror, suffering and hatred during WWII. We visited this place early in our trip.
My journal reflections:
June 18, 2014
“In the bright, warm sun, ringed by green trees full of singing birds, we crunched across the expanse of gray gravel in a place that has seen unfathomable horrors.
Small flowers and an orange butterfly were by my feet while I stood steps away from the crematorium, the “doctor’s” office, and a room that is the closest thing to hell on earth I have ever experienced: a cellar with metal hooks hung high around the room, a room in which humans systematically and efficiently strangled other humans, groups at a time, causing them a horrible, slow death. Humans – all humans.
A metal monument rests warm in the ground in this sheet of gray wasteland,in memory of those who suffered in this place. It warms to remind us of our body temperature…when you place your hand on its surface, you remember we all share life, we are all human. Buchenwald is over. Hatred is not; discrimination is not. We all must do our part to rehumanize, to restore dignity to those dehumanized by their fellows, and to work against hatred.
As we walked out of Buchenwald, I was alone. I walked down the path and heard my feet crunching. I heard birds chirping so loudly, ringing in my ears. Birds don’t hate each other. Only humans are capable of such cruelty and torture, such atrocities. Birds just live. The world has such beauty, and it is intermingled with such horror.”
So struck by the life in and around the camp – the flowers at my feet, a butterfly, a bee, the singing birds, the everyday life on the hills beyond its borders – which stands in such contrast to the bleak, gray gravel, I drew the life and land and color surrounding the field of deathly gray. The dichotomy of life, with its beauty and goodness, and its cruelty and horror. All in one.
The last place we visited on our way out was the camp’s prison, as if the camp itself wasn’t prison enough. There were pictures and memorials in the cells of the men who were kept there, men who spoke out and refused to bend to such evil. Two of them wore clerical collars. I recorded in my journal:
“We remember your stand, even if you did not live through it. We are glad you did not bend no matter what cruelty and violence was put upon you by your fellow humans who operated at their basest level. We hope and pray these things will end – I would say never come again, but I know torture and hatred continue in this moment in many forms. May we do our part, with even a portion of your courage, to lessen such hatred, to speak against it, to save those who live in a hell.”