The worldwide Augustana College experience

Buchenwald

IMG_1113I vividly remember being in 8th grade and learning about the Holocaust and the atrocities that were inflicted upon millions of innocent people. I remember being in high school and learning the history behind WWII and the various strategies for the allies. And I remember being a junior in college learning about the political philosophy and ideology behind socialism and communism. Overall, that means I have had a good eight years of learning about Nazi Germany and the innumerable war crimes.

Nothing can prepare you for when you walk into a concentration camp. It doesn’t matter that I read somewhere about crematoriums or that I saw a picture of one of the infernos. The feeling of stepping into a room and seeing a dirty table where medical experiments were performed is not something that is easily translatable. The emotions that I felt as I cautiously walked around in the camp flowed from bitter anger to inconsolable sadness. Yet, the hardest part of the trip to Buchenwald was not the crematoriums or the barbed wire fences, but rather going down into the cellar below the crematorium where corpses used to be stored until there was a free stove. It wasn’t the elevator that took the bodies from the basement to the smoke stacks that made me the most upset, but rather the hooks that hung on wall that were used to strangle people if for some reason a person was brought to the cellar alive. I pray that these camps will remain intact and open to the public for many years to come, to remind the world what humans are capable of if we are not careful.

Even in a camp so full of death and horror, there was something remarkably calm and peaceful about the ground where barracks used to stand. There were birds singing in the trees and the sun brightly shinning; it was almost hard to believe when looking out onto the soft rolling Germany hills that only 70 years ago this camp was used to exterminate people. In the end, there was an eerie sense of tranquility that was truly indescribable.

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