The unimaginable atrocities committed by the Nazi regime against Jews, political opponents, the disabled and other groups deemed “undesirable” is something I have only encountered in books. It is one thing to read about it, but something entirely different to see it in person.
The site today is quite large, yet only represents only 15% of the original camp in its entirety, not including 100 satellite camps. After you walk through the gates of the watchtower, past the iron wrought ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign, you are standing in the roll call area, which was surrounded by a semi-circle of prisoner barracks. Straight ahead lies a memorial, and the Soviet special camp behind it. To the right you can walk into the pathology barracks and the prison, and to the left are the infirmary, mass graves, and ‘Station Z’ crematorium and gas chamber.
Visiting such a place is difficult to explain, so I hope to leave you with an impression of what I saw in photographs I took at the site.
There is exactly one hour until I depart for Rome (via Munich), and I am pretty sure I haven’t forgotten anything. Well, I may have forgotten a little bit of German since my last day of class in May, but I will have plenty of time to practice when I start school in Germany (For those that don’t know, I am studying in Berlin at Freie Universität for a semester, and am also researching at the Bundesarchiv Militärarchiv in Freiburg in December).
I am sitting in the Lufthansa lounge with not much to do except scroll through Facebook and dream about all the delicious European coffee I am going to drink over the next months. However, I did find myself making a checklist of what NOT to do the week before a 5 month long trip…
1. You do not need half of what you think you need. No, Natalie, you do not need that extra pair of shoes, a box of bandaids, scissors, 3 novels, or a tent.
2. Don’t go shopping. That pair of shoes could have bought you a delicious piece of schnitzel!
3. The travel size aisle is not your friend. Again, it makes you think you need more than you really do!
4. Don’t watch Taken. Don’t do it.
Anyway, almost time to board…Tschüß!