Yesterday we let the kids sleep for a while before having breakfast and preparing for a day at Dachau. Dachau is home to one of the concentration camps, actually the first concentration camp, from Nazi time period. The facility is HUGE and we only were able to see the area that was inhabited by the prisoners. The barracks for the SS and others was much larger that what we saw, and we walked for a while. The entire property is in excess of 500 acres. It was not only large, it was rather haunting in so many ways. We were allowed to walk through all of the main buildings of the site, including a barrack for the detained prisoners.
Dachau was originally set up for anyone who opposed Hitler and his actions. The camp was portrayed as a retraining center, trying to get people to see it the way Hitler did. The majority of the first wave of prisoners were not Jewish, but all different religions. What they had in common was their outspoken dislike for what the Nazi’s stood for. I can’t imagine this happening today with all of the news stations and all, but in the 1930’s there was nothing to show the world what was really happening. On the grounds of Dachau there is also a crematorium and a gas chamber. The entire facility felt so wrong, just impossible to comprehend that people thought that it was OK to do something like this to other human beings.
I know that much of our trip has been very enjoyable and educational around the history of the different civilizations, but yesterday’s experience was the most powerful we have had to date. We took the tour of the camp with a guide who spoke English, but before the tour was over there was a movie that was showing for the last time of the day that we wanted to see. The movie was extremely powerful for Drew and Noah, giving them a sense of what really happened here 80 years ago. This year the camp will celebrate 70 years since the liberation, which is coming up in the next week. We left the camp site a bit overwhelmed by what we had seen and decided to head for an early dinner and the kids and Ilise decided to call it a night.
I was planning to attend a Rotary meeting in Munich at 8 pm and was able to shower, get ready, take a few calls and head to the Hilton in Munich for my meeting. I randomly picked a club that was meeting on Monday evening as that was the only free night I had in Munich. When I arrived the club president greeted me in English and I was surprised, everyone was speaking English. I asked him if the whole meeting was in English and he said yes. I expected to sit through a meeting that I didn’t understand, but it turns out that I picked the only meeting in Germany that is done in English. This was the Munich-International meeting and it attracts people from all over the world. I enjoyed the experience very much and look forward to finding other clubs to visit as we travel through Europe.
Overall, it was an extremely powerful day. Seeing the history of Dachau and feeling the pain and suffering that went on was just overpowering. I will not soon forget our time yesterday and remember to hold that feeling with me as I see the world around me unfold. It just makes me cherish the freedom and opportunities that we have every day. The fact that so many people have so much and still can’t enjoy it pains me. It is incomprehensible to see what happened here just 70 years ago and not get frustrated when someone vehemently complains at a restaurant that their food is not exactly the way they expected it, or any other small thing that doesn’t go their way. I can’t imagine how that person would have been treated in a concentration camp against their will.
To a life well lived!