The worldwide Augustana College experience

Weimar, Post 2

Location:
Dorm Room

Status:
Reflective

Here is post two for my weekend of Weimar.

And to start it off is my visit to Buchenwald, the concentration camp that’s 8km outside Weimar. Even if I had had my camera, I wouldn’t have taken any pictures. That, in my opinion, would make it too touristy for me. For those who have been to Buchenwald or any other concentration or death camps and have taken pictures, that’s fine by me. Refraining from taking pictures is a personal choice for me.

Anyway, there was a film we watched before our tour, which ended up being in English. Most of us wanted it in German, but the tour guide seemed glad to try out his English. The film was informative, interviewing surviving inmates and displaying the camp’s history.

Then the tour began. We were led to “Blood Road”, which was the last 300 meter stretch between the camp and the train station and the SS made the inmates run that length. And right next to that road as the building for the commander. The tour guide let everyone inside, where there were a few people cleaning off debris found throughout Buchenwald. There were short chunks of barbed wire, broken bottles and combs, rusted over plates, etc. We even got to examine some of the artifacts that were already cleaned. The three objects that stand out in my mind are an old toothbrush, a blue bottle, and a dented spoon.

It was surreal knowing that these might have been prized possessions for the victims of the Holocaust.

Soon we found ourselves walking through that had this translated message welded onto it: Each deserves his own fate. A field of stone and barrack foundations greeted us as we passed into the camp.

There are many touching memorials throughout the camp, especially in the crematorium, which was the most disturbing part of being at a concentration camp. Walking through the crematorium made the 56,000 who perished in the camp all the more real.

If you really want to know what it was like being there, then go there yourself. There’s only so much I can say on the matter. Humans do terrible things every day, but sometimes, these terrible things grow into something monstrous.

And the Holocaust has always been a frustrating subject for me. Not only did I have to learn about the merciless killing of many, many people, I feel like I was presented with poorly executed information. I learned that the Holocaust was basically Germans killing the Jews living throughout Hitler’s reach. But it was not just Jews who were killed: other races, political opponents, homosexuals, mentally impaired, etc.

I have had people come up to me in the past, using the “Germans killing Jews” version of the Holocaust to question why I was studying German. “Why are you learning German? It’s the Nazi language, and they killed Jews.” “German is like a dead language; there’s no point in learning it.” “Why take German? No one is ever going to speak it.” And then there were always snide comments about how I was a Nazi because I was studying one of the languages of my heritage, and that, since I am a pastor’s daughter, that I  must, must, MUST hate Jews (Christian + Pastor’s Kid + Learning German = Nazi??). For the recond, I don’t hate Jews. I worship one (Jesus).

As you can see, the Holocaust has always been a frustrating subject for me because of misinformed people and their immaturity and intolerance.

Going back to my Buchenwald experience, everyone was in a somber mood by the end of the tour.

We all split up for lunch when we returned to the shelter of the city of Weimar, and I ended up going on my own for the afternoon. I was still feeling down about Buchenwald. But I went to Weimar’s Schloss Museum, and I felt better. The rooms were so ornate, and on display were pianos from throughout the world from different time periods. The art helped rekindle my hope in humanity, considering I was at the remnants of Buchenwald. I could have spent hours in there, looking around at the art and pianos, and exploring the castle. I tried opening so many doors, but all of them were locked, so my hopes of finding a secret passageway were diminished.

But I still had some time to go to Franz Liszt’s house, since I purchased a combination ticket to save some money on the museum visit. So I navigated myself through Weimar to Liszt’s house, mind still full of some of the art I saw in the Schloss Museum. Seeing his house was cool and hearing his music was even better. I was very satisfied by the end of my visit.

***

On Saturday, Professor Vivian took everyone to Eisenach, which meant another train ride. Don’t worry. We weren’t kicked off this one. Though, it had stormed the night before, and the temperature dropped from the low 90s to the low 60s.

When we got to Eisenach, we caught a bus to go see one of the things I wanted to see my entire life: the Wartburg Castle, the very dwelling where Martin Luther was taken after his friends had kidnapped him to save his life.

We got a group tour, and the castle is absolutely wonderful. I wish I had my camera on me. But visiting there is something that I will never forget. The rooms were gorgeous, well, at least the ones where the royalty stayed. We learned a lot about St. Elisabeth, a princess who lived in the Wartburg castle who fed the hungry and did many other good deeds. She ended up being Amanda’s saint she chose for her confirmation. Oh Catholics and their saints. (I mean that in a friendly manner).

We saw lots of art and artifacts, and it was a while before we found ourselves in Luther’s room. It was really neat to see the place where the New Testament was translated into the common language, considering it was only in languages that only the highly educated knew prior to Martin Luther. No one else really seemed as enthused as I was, but that’s probably because I was “geeking out” a little too much.

If you’re ever in Germany, go to Eisenach and visit the Wartburg castle. It’s history will amaze you. And no, I didn’t find any secret passages there, either. Silly locked doors.

***

And today, Monday, was my first day of class. I had a 1:30 PM Martin Luther course (I actually feel like a college student, considering I had all 8:30 AM classes every day last year!), and then a 3 o’clock tour with that professor, which was awesome, because he told us about the most historical places in Wittenberg and the best places to eat. So far, Missie and I are planning trips to a pastry shop, a soup bar, and an Italian place. And a bunch of us want to see the film Slumdog Millionaire, which is airing in one of Cranach’s courtyards on Saturday.

Anyway, back to the Luther class. Almost all of it was in German, and I understood most of it, which was awesome. We’re not really going to be studying the theological aspect of the Reformation, more of the Reformation and why it was good for Europe. That’s fine with me, but I hope to dig into theology a little bit, since it has had such a huge impact on my life.

And we had a BBQ today with a bunch of other international students: Japanese, British, Welsh, Polish just to name a few. It was fun; we played badminton and other games. The food wasn’t bad either. Who am I kidding? It was a free dinner, so of course it was good!

Now I have to finish my homework for tomorrow: German conversation and Landeskunde (which is history).

So far, I’m enjoying my time here in Germany.

2 Responses to “Weimar, Post 2”

  1. Abby, I read with interest what you had to say about the reaction people have to your study of German. Yes, there are many misinformed people out there — glad to see that you aren’t one of them!

    I am curious how the people your age in German feel about this topic…

  2. I went to Buchenwald with some family members a few years ago, and it was as searing as you describe. I tried to write a poem about it, since I wanted to do something.

Leave a Reply