May 8, 1945 – or VE Day: the day of Germany’s unconditional surrender of its armed forces, the end of a horrendous time in Nazi-Germany (and other occupied countries), or the start of rebuilding a broken society and the trust of the world.
Last year was my second time visiting the concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. I first visited the site with my 9th grade class while on a week-long trip to Munich. I remember walking through the gate, reading the informative texts, and trying to fully engage into where I was standing.
It was a Tuesday in August, the weather was gorgeous which made the visit an even harder one. We were walking along the tree-lined path towards the memorials to light a candle in remembrance of those who have suffered worse than one could possibly imagine. The sun was hot and bright which made the place look so terrifyingly peaceful.
The camp was full of visitors from every corner of the world – but yet everyone spoke the same nonverbal language. Some brought flowers or other little tokens they would leave as a sign of respect. I noticed our strides getting slower, and during most of the tour we barely talked. A quiet sigh of disbelief and horror was all you could hear after each part of the audio guide ended.
We spent a few hours listening to the audio tour which was more than informative: it was captivating and petrifying, but also left you more mindful of the past and future outcomes of our actions (and it almost left you hopeful after hearing some of the survivor stories and the unconditional love they have tried to spread ever since).
This was the only picture I took on our trip to Dachau last year. I was appalled by people taking pictures in front of the gate, or the barracks (or any other place); has our society become so numb to what suffering and gruesome deaths happened on the exact same soil that they are standing on now while talking a goofy selfie with their friend?
The picture was taken outside the infamous ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ gate. You can see remains of the train tracks. For me, the ending train tracks symbolize ‘end station’ for humanity, but also hopefully a ‘departure’ from the misguided, hate-filled existence we have let ourselves become over and over again. Mistakes made in the past should now be used to create a better and cohesive world by wanting to understand your neighbor’s religion and culture. One would think that ought to be easier than building death camps.