Digital Lala

Where in the World is La La!?

Germany

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

Memorial for the Murdered Jews in Europe

I took a day trip to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp one of my first weekends here in Berlin. It was a very incredible experience. (Especially for someone who tends to be very empathic! UGH) My flat mate Shannon and I went together; it was nice to have someone else there to share the experience with, and while we are usually two very chatty ladies, this day we were particularly quiet and subdued.

The area in front of the camp wall was a no man;s land or Neutral Zone...

The area in front of the camp wall was a No Man’s Land or Neutral Zone…

I took some photos, but I couldn’t bear to post them on Instagram- I felt like they deserved more respect than that somehow- so they are all in this post only. Also- I am not sure what kind of post this will be. It’s difficult to describe how you feel and what you saw- even though a lot of it is “just plain facts” but there is sooo much more to it than that… so bear with me and I will do my best in this post.

Part of the Neutral Zone

Part of the Neutral Zone

Sachsenhausen was one of the centers of the concentration camp system in Eastern Europe. Even though it was not considered a death camp, there was by the very nature of the concentration camp system, death and destruction of the human spirit everywhere.

Dorms where normally 200 men slept- but at the end over 400 at a time were in this small room.

Dorms where normally 200 men slept, but at the end over 400 at a time were in this small room.

One of the things that really struck me was what an absolutely gorgeous sunny day it was. And I was standing in the middle of a concentration camp. And thousands of people had stood there before me, in the worst place and under the worst conditions of their lives. Death was constantly around the corner. And yet the sun still shined. There were beautiful sunny days. I wonder if it made them sad, or it was a beautiful thing to experience, to know of the constancy of nature? I cannot even imagine which of those things (if those are even the only two choices) I would feel under those circumstances.

People leaves rocks to remember the dead... there are a lot of rocks left here.

People leave rocks to remember the dead… there are a lot of rocks left here.

It was interesting to hear the stories. Most of the information I more or less knew from both history classes and school and all the reading that I do. But to hear them, while at the same time walk around the place where they actually happened? It adds a level of reality that was truthfully, a bit startling.

Death pit. They lined people up in here and just shot down into the pit to kill them all.

Death pit. They lined people up in here and just shot down into the pit to kill them all.

It got especially difficult for me when we walked over to the “Industrial yard” where they had the gas chamber, death pit, and crematorium. The “empath” in me found it very hard to manage my own feelings, along with all the feelings of the people around me. I was on the verge of tears for the next hour or so. (I will probably go to visit Auschwitz next month- I’m going to have to do some practice zipping myself up from all that stuff before I go!)

Crematoriums

Crematorium

Our guide was good. She was politically aware of both the historical times that allowed these atrocities to happen as well as the political climate of the times we live in now. The similarities to the things that are happening today to how and when they happened then? It’s terrifying. (I have a blog post about that rumbling around in my head- but we’ll see.) Let’s just say for now- that we must look outside ourselves at the bigger world and stop being afraid of other people/nations etc.

Statue to honor the dead at this camp. The prisoners were the ones who dealt with the dead and dying, not the guards. This statue memorializes that struggle as well.

Statue to honor the dead at this camp. The prisoners were the ones who dealt with the dead and dying, not the guards. This statue memorialized that struggle as well.

There was a man imprisoned there at Sachsenhausen- Pastor Martin Niemöller who wrote this after surviving the camps.

Martin Niemöller plaque in the cell he was kept in.

Martin Niemöller plaque in the cell he was kept in.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

In memory...

In memory…

You can learn more about the German Concentration Camp System by clicking on those words. Also, check out the foreign film “The Counterfeiters.” It is based on the true story of the largest counterfeit operation in the world, ever. Run by the Nazis from this concentration camp. Very interesting story.

Have you ever visited one of the concentration camps, or death camps? Was it difficult to talk about after?

12 Comments

  1. Jennifer Ellis

    Wow Laurie, that was heavy. I could feel the weight of what you saw and what you wrote. It makes it so much more real seeing it through your eyes. It’s so easy to forget and move on and not think about. Thank you for sharing this experience.

    • La La-

      Thanks Jen! It was pretty incredible.. and so much more recent past than we allow ourselves to realize too. 🙁

      La-

  2. Cheryl

    I’m speechless! Really breaks my heart!

  3. Becky

    La- Thanks for the post. If it would help for you to have a picture of my hubby and I on your phone when you go to Auschwitz please don’t hesitate to ask. It might help to have a visual reminder of the fact that the Nazi’s did not accomplish their task. Also it is customary in Jewish culture to leave a stone on the headstone of the person you were visiting in a cemetery explaining the number of stones there. I got a chance a couple of years ago to go to the US Holocaust Museum What I was able to see there pales in comparison. Beautiful post my friend.

    • La La-

      <3 <3 Love you guys! Yes, I knew about the stones- didn't do a very good job explaining that in the post. Every one of those stone slabs represents a mass grave of 100 people each. There were over 10 of them on the site. So there were lots of stones left. 🙁 I am still hoping to get to the Holocaust Museum here. I did go to the Memorial of the Murdered Jews in Europe. I posted one pic of that place on Instagram. It’s a very interesting memorial- it covers a whole city block!

  4. We must study the past to protect the future.

  5. Mri

    I visited the Holocaust museum in Washington DC and the hardest thing to understand was how everyone just accepted it. How in just a few years people went from being friends with a nine year old Jew to cutting him off the swimming team and then treating hime like trash. They used to be best friends and then just because some random person they never met told them that Jews shouldn’t be treated like humans, they listened. And I always found that so hard to believe, but as I walked through one of their exhibits it started to make sense. It was such a slow and calculated process and people were just so blind. It was sickeningly awful and the exhibit mentioned that the number one cause for slaughters such as these is scapegoating – something that’s happening back in my home country.

    However, during my visit there I had the utmost honour of being able to chat with a Holocaust survivor and it was one of the most magical moments I’ve ever experienced. For him to have survived having his throat slit, then gone through with being a medical dummy when they were puzzled why he was still alive, and then finally left for dead amongst his dying friends before being trapped in another kind of camp…to have gone through all of that and still be as joyful and enthusiastic as he was…it was amazing.

    If anyone wants to read more: http://lifelongvagabonds.com/travel-blog-2015-usa.shtml#holocaust-survivor

  6. Such a powerful story in a dreadful Place. I had a little of the same experience visiting Hiroshima and the Peace museum there a few years ago. Such a powerful and emotional Place full of horrible history. It is important to have these places and to visit them, just so that we remember all the injustices done and keep them from happening again.

    • digitallala

      I think the Germans do a great job of not hiding the past but remembering it. I was pretty impress with how many ways they discuss and keep these things in the forefront of people’s minds. Thanks for stopping by!

      La-

Leave a Reply

Theme by Anders Norén