Munich:: Dachau Concentration Camp/drive to Roggenburg/stay at Roggenburg guest house
Friday, we left one another in a light-hearted mood. We regrouped mid-day and found ourselves on the bus for the first time. Meeting Hans (the driver) was a pleasure. I’m not sure he’s aware of how much he’s loved.
It was quite a sight: thirty adults with all their luggage, intermingled with the soccer fans dressed in, what we might call, Halloween costumes. A lego man, complete with yellow head, and two cave men stand out in my mind. There’s an important playoff tonight, I hear—and those in Munich plan on celebrating!
A 45 minute drive later, we arrived at our destination only to be greeted by Jenny, a St. Norbert graduate from 2005, not on our tour but visiting the site today—interestingly, only a few hours earlier, Fr. Jay wondered how long it would be until we bumped into a grad.
The Tour brought us to Dachau Concentration Camp today. I was interested in touring this site, at the same time, afraid of what I would see and feel while there.
Pictures cannot capture the strange silence among the hundreds of visitors. The air is dense with thoughts and feelings—numb, overwhelmed or confused were the reactions I noticed the most. I felt an overwhelming sense of “WHY?!” To what end?
A few last minute pictures brought me to the furnaces, that nauseated me. How could a place like that actually could exist? It isn’t just in movies, real people really died there.
Many of the stories in the audio guide make you cringe. Labeling people with triangles that color coded them by race, religion, sexual orientation, and arts occupations—determining the level of dignity individuals were afforded in the camp. If a Jew were any of those descriptors, their triangle would get placed upon another one making the Star of David and they were doubly doomed, landing at the bottom of the social scale.
One of the large memorial pieces layers geometric shape and color images in remembrance of those who were marked.
The camp was filled 500% past its capacity. Grown people were forced to occupy beds, smaller than a twin…that would be like sharing with up to four others. The beds were stacked three high, one being on the floor.
This camp was for special cases. Dissenters, clergy who preached against the movement, those that associated with Can-Can girls, or homosexuals, were all imprisoned.
There is much to process after this experience. Sadly, this situation lives on in so many places around the world today, right now. Words like “atrocity” and “tragedy” are spoken freely, people shake their heads, we talk about “how could they…?” and then the new story flips and we move on. Many of us don’t believe we can make a difference in the world because these evils are so big and overwhelming.
One small act can change things. Paul Lederach spoke about this very thing not too long ago at St. Norbert. Along the same vein, this is why I’m glad that the Norman Miller Center, on campus, exists. Bringing the dialogue, that informs change, out into the open (regularly) and inspiring a sense of calling in people is never in vain.
Tomorrow we will celebrate Mass here, tour the Abbey and then drive to Schlagl Abbey.