The Birds Chirping at Dachau

CR 11 has spent the last four days exploring Munich, Germany. We transversed a brand new city, figured out the S-Bahn and U-Bahn system, uncovered ornate churches, visited castles, leisurely walked the city, all while enjoying each other’s company.

However, in my eyes, the staple of our time in Munich was visiting the Dachau concentration camp. Coming face to face with the horrors that I have read about in history books had me shaken to my bones.

Dachau did not pull its punches, it accurately displayed the depths of evil that engulfed this place. Initially, walking the road that led into the gates forced me to imagine what the victims of these horrors must have been feeling. Uncertainty. Terror. Worry. Not knowing what lie before them, these Jews, Soviet sympathizers, Roma, homosexuals, clergy, and political prisoners valiantly stared evil in the eyes, preparing for what lie ahead. Although it is important to focus on and remember the hideous crimes of the Nazi regime, it is also important to acknowledge the bravery and courage that the victims of these atrocities demonstrated. Frankly, I do not know if I would have had the strength and will power to continually fight against the forces of evil. We should never forget the utter wrongdoing of the Nazi regime. We should also never forget the tremendous courage of the people who endured it, to honor and remember them always.

Nonetheless, what is especially terrifying is the extent of maltreatment that the concentration camps enforced. Starving people for days on end. Forced isolation in a dark cell for months on end. Piling thousands into very confined living spaces. Beating and torturing individuals for the slightest mistake, including not having made their bed made perfectly. Scientific experimentation on sick and living prisoners that often resulted in the death of those victims. How? How can this evil occur? How can people commit these injustices to other people? A person can not justify doing these horrible acts to animals. Yet only about eighty years ago, an entire group of people justified the systemic and machine like murder of people who they deemed as sub-human. It is hard for me to even comprehend the depths of this evil. Lastly, as I concluded my exploration of the concentration camp, I made my way to the Crematorium, where dead and living people imprisoned in the concentration camp were burned to death by other humans. Walking upon the original crematorium, I found a single oven, and I could not turn my eyes away. My mouth dropped. I was in complete shock. I spent at least five minutes just staring at the oven, trying to understand. Trying to comprehend how this could ever happen.

Whether I or anyone can fully comprehend the horrors that systematically transpired, the important thing is to never forget.

I titled my blog “The Birds Chirping at Dachau” because it was one of the first things I noticed when walking onto the grounds of the concentration camp. It is very off putting to hear the birds carelessly and joyfully chirping on a site that experienced such evil. Although they do not have the ability to be in reverence and remembrance, there is a clear juxtaposition between the lack of awareness of the birds and the honoring that Dachau demands of those in its presence. As I was walking the grounds where thousands died, I wondered if the birds represented how humans often address these horrific events. People may acknowledge that these events occurred but may not fully take the time to be in remembrance or honor those that were affected. This leads to a lack of appreciation and understanding of the events in history. Which although seemingly insignificant can lead people to forget, forget places as important as Dachau. Even some people during our time at the site were laughing and leisurely walking through the concentration camp. The American hero Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once famously said that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garmount of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Actively learning about and being attentive to injustices is important because humanity is interconnected. Whether, we know it or not, we are dependent upon each other.

Due to Dachua, we know the extent that injustice can spread. Thus, I believe it is humanity’s duty to actively fight against this injustice, intentionally helping people who are potentially far away. Dachua was an experience that left me crushed, disappointed in humanity, and utterly sad. It is important to feel this sorrow in order to reflect and comprehend my emotions. However, I do not want my mindset to simply revolve around complacency and wallow. Dachau has motivated me and inspired me to do everything in my power to fight injustices. As small or as big as they may be, it is my duty to combat these evils in order to never let them happen again.

Dachau was tough. Yet, I could not have fully realized my feelings or comprehend the situation without those in CR 11 who journeyed through it with me. So thank you to Connor Nolan for processing and reflecting with me at dinner. I also want to thank Cooper Gollier and Lauren Klingemann for giving me a warm embrace when it was much needed. Lastly, I am grateful for Dr. P making Dachau a part of the CR experience. It is not easy, but it is something that is necessary to see.

These uncomfortable experiences are a part of the CR mission. I can not express enough gratitude for the stretching and growth I have experienced thus far in the journey. And I cannot wait for what is to come.

Thank you CR

Until next time,

Peter Donaldson

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