Anna Lyman 2010 Buchenwald and Berlin Entries

7/3/2010

Today we went to Buchenwald concentration camp.  It was an extremely hot day.  As we drove through town (Weimar) Dr. Charnley pointed out the train station where the prisoners came before being taken up the hill to the camp.  Although there are trees now, at the time of the war there was nothing to block the view.  The town’s people were aware of who was arriving on the trains.

We drove into the camp on ‘Blood Road’ and then visited our first memorial.  Nearby was a newly cleared area that new research had revealed Poles had been murdered.  I couldn’t believe that as time has passed, new horrors of the camp have been revealed.  In addition, we walked through several flower gardens that were mass graves and in walking I knew I was walking over ashes of innocent people.

We saw the pits that burned 15, 000 people and I was enraged.  I could see Weimar and knew there was no way they could have been oblivious to what was going on just up the hill.

In walking through the gate marked Jedem das Seine I thought of the thousands of people who walked through the gate and never walked out.

The camp was surrounded by trees but I knew when the camp was operational it was barren allowing the prisoners to look upon the German farms producing the food they could not eat.

We walked through Little Camp and I saw some barbed-wire left-over.  From reading Inside Vicious Heart before coming here I knew the condition Little Camp was in at liberation—this was where Elie Wiesel was.  It was weird to be standing there and hear the birds and insects when I knew so much pain had existed there.

Many memorials had rocks placed on them and I learned this is a Jewish tradition because rocks last so much longer than flowers.  There was a picture featured at the beginning by Margaret White and I instantly recognized it.  I am glad that pictures from this camp were published widely—the world needs to know what happened here.

When I walked into the crematorium, I started crying and I couldn’t stop.  I felt like pure evil existed in that room and I had such a heavy feeling in my chest.  As Dr. Charnley said, the Nazis literally lit the fires of hell from that building.  In seeing those ovens, I understand everything we were learning and why this war had to be fought.

The corpse cellar literally sickened me—the chute, the elevator and hooks on the wall brought new tears to my eyes.  I knew women, children and adolescents had been killed here—people—women the same age as me!  This only happened 65 years ago to a ‘cultured’ and advanced society.  If we hadn’t won the war—it could have easily been our class and young people like us being exterminated there instead of touring there.

Although I was extremely sad in seeing the camp, the main emotion I felt was rage and anger.  I was so angry at Weimar that when I got back to the town I did not want to leave the hotel and see the town.  I know that Patton and Eisenhower were also horrified at the ignorance of the people and made them come up the hill and help clean-up, setting a precedent for other camps.

There is no way the people of Weimar didn’t know what was going on as they claimed.  The bear exhibit where children came was 100 feet from the crematorium, where bodies were being burned.  The whole set-up was unreal.  I was so angry that Weimar calls itself a cultural center but was so anti-Semitic they were given a concentration camp and watched as another culture was almost decimated.  The German Paradox is so present here it is sickening.

I was emotional and angry all day but I am glad I was able to go—I wish all people had to see this at least once—to experience the darkest part of mankind.  This is the only way we can stop it from happening again.

We later watched Germany win the World Cup game they played and wrote journals all night.  The breakfast here is so good!

7/4

Today we arrived in Berlin.  We woke up and had breakfast (best yet!!)  We got on the bus for the last time.  We stopped at a rest area on the way for lunch and even though it is kind of a pain to pay for the bathroom, it is worth it because the toilets are so much cleaner than in France!  We took the autobahn and the drive was smooth.  I noticed a lot of graffiti on both sides of the road.

Our hotel—Hotel California—is very nice.  We took a walking tour because Berlin was pretty much flattened by bombs…

 

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