I laid in my bed tonight and reread my journal from Europe. I relieved moments spent in ancient towns, historic cities, new experiences, with exciting new friends and was positively flooded with a whole array of memories. Today, six months ago (wow! It's already been six months) we went to Dachau. It was a horrible, eye-opening experience for me - and though it is sad, though it is horrific what happened there - I wanted to write excerpts from my journal here. It was a significant part of the trip for me, it had a lot of impact, and I want it as part of my blog diary. Read on only if you wish - this post is for me.
We visited Dachau. I was a bit anxious about visiting a Nazi concentration camp where thousands of people died. At first we couldn't even find the elusive prison camp, and after driving through the town of Dachau and examining the cryptic street side maps, we became quite mystified...to say the least. I finally asked Daddy to pull up next to a bus so I could ask for directions in my "stunning" German. We ended up following the big, blue bus through the winding, narrow streets of Dachau - all the way to the camp. Amidst the bustle of the little city, there was a quiet oppression, like a silent, hidden horror. Upon stepping through the rough iron gate into Dachau camp I was filled with a chilling sense of dread. You could see the leaves rustling in the gentle breeze and hear the birds gaily singing, but when I closed my eyes I could hear the groans of the tortured and dying and see the ghastly living skeletons. The grey stones crunched under our feet and the iron gate clanged shut in the wind.
I felt trapped and scared in that awful place. We listened to an in-depth audio tour as we stood before grim photographs of miserable men. I looked around the desolate enclosure surrounded on all sides by tall electric, barb-wire fences and seven tall menacing watchtowers still guarding the hopeless shadows. It was a horrible, sickening, horrific place.
I numbly walked into the museum that once served as an SS Headquarters - it was filled with testimonies from liberators and survivors...and countless photographs depicting the hellish living conditions and utter hopelessness. Pictures of the dying. Pictures of the dead. Lines of white bodies, skeletons rather, lying on the ground. Tall heaps of dead men; tossed together like rag dolls. I couldn't speak. I suppose that's how I deal with incredible grief...I never cry. I become a silent screamer, a horrified, grieving mute.
Later on, I saw the crematorium. A large brick building shrouded by lush green trees and rows of flowers concealed a much darker history. I stepped into the first door to find four brick ovens. They were tall and similar to bread baking ovens, but twice as large. Iron doors hinged open at the bottom so coal could leap onto the flames while long chains on pulleys opened and closed the heavy front slab...like a guillotine hatch. Inside the open hatches were long iron stretchers; 7-foot death beds. The ovens were like MRI machines in which the person lays down and is inserted into a constricting tube. Only, these people were no more than skeletons, and they were greeted with flames, not x-rays. It was terrifying.
I backed against the wall, as far away from those awful, hungry ovens, away from the horrible death-eaters. Legs trembling, I stumbled into the next room, hoping for some slight solace. I found a square, bare, cement room with large cracks and a drain in the middle. The storage room. This was the room where the pictures came from. This was the room where the heaps of limp and mangled corpses lay. I was standing in the very room hundreds and thousands of bodies were thrown together. Carelessly. Jokingly. Simply 'purification'. How could people do this to people? How could a man treat another man such? And for what? Why the cruelty? Why the terrible inhumanity? Why the torture and malice and hate? Why the evil?
When I closed my eyes I could see the white bodies stacked to the ceiling...waiting to be burned. I reeled from the hideous, deathly silence while in the other room, 60-year old imaginary fires roared greedily on. It was a horrible, sickening, horrific place. And it only gets worse. I numbly walked into the next room, and found myself in an oppressingly small room with an incredibly low ceiling. Dark holes in the ceiling were numerous, and there were no windows. Just darkness. The gas chamber.
How can you describe your feelings? How can you write of the horror and terrifying reality? I felt sick. I was shaking all over and yet unable to leave. Haunted by the ghastly truth of this place, I was rooted to the spot. Poison gas once rushed onto unsuspecting victims from black holes just inches from my own face. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run away. I wanted to cry. But I just stood there, in the hideous, horrible gas chamber where people died. I looked back. There was the room where hundreds of white, beautiful, horrible bodies were thrown in a wretched heap, and if I looked farther, I could see the ovens waiting to devour more bodies laying on the long, iron stretchers. It was a horrible, sickening place.