Yesterday was Holocaust Rememberance Day. It made me think of my trip to Germany, and my visit to Dachau.
Dachau stirred up some very mixed emotions. Torn between wanting to see it and not wanting to see it, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What we found was a well-documented memorial of an infamous period in history. We learned much.
Dachau was the first of the Nazi concentration camps and was the model for those that followed. Audio tours of Dachau take you along the same path a prisoner would walk upon being admitted to the camp. Through the iron gate with it's proclamation 'Work Makes Freedom' into the open yard, through the main hall and the rooms beyond, where they were registered, gave up their papers, gave up their belongings, gave up their clothes – now filled with signs and photos and documentation of that awful time.
Surprisingly the grounds are peaceful – no feelings of foreboding or lurking evil as I expected - the guard towers silent witnesses to all that happened there. Memorials and monuments dotting the grounds commemorate the persecuted and the fallen. A wood and barbed wire gate separates the camp from the area that holds the crematorium and it is chilling to read the markers on that other side - the mass grave, the pistol range for executions. It was humbling to be in this history laden spot. As we walked out the gate to go back to our car we had one thought. We were free to leave.