By all accounts, the Holocaust was one of the worst tragedies in human history. The fact that similar things have happened since and, indeed, still happen, should not and does not lessen its tragedy. It makes a person wonder if mankind will ever learn from our mistakes.
In Berlin, this monument covers nearly a city block. While uniformly level at the top, some of the blocks are probably 8ft high. It is possible to walk down the corridors between them. It is an unusual monument and if it were not for Natalie, my friend and Euro-travel buddy, telling me it what it was, I likely would not have known. There are no inscriptions on the blocks, as far as I could see. Just large blocks of concrete. Yet it is a memorial to the Holocaust. Perhaps in memory of the thousands of nameless people who were killed.
One of the things I wanted to do in Europe was visit a concentration camp. It is something, given the opportunity, that everyone should do at some point in their life. Perhaps if we experience it, the reality becomes more impressed upon our souls and conscience and we are more likely to speak out in the future? One can only hope.
I visited Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, just a short train ride north of Berlin. It was the model upon which other camps were based. Sachsenhausen was a model of killing perfection. It was set up so one guard in the tower with a machine gun could scan all rows between barracks and mow down everyone he saw.
The inscription on the gate says “Work will set you free.” Literally, I suppose that meant that by death in the camp, you were free of the horrors of being there.
After the Germans left the camp, the Soviets actually took over operation and continued using it for similar purposes with their own prisoners. This monument was a Soviet era piece.
The wall around the camp had a “Neutrale Zone” where you were killed upon entering (hence the skull and crossbones). If that didn’t happen in time, the electric fence would probably stop you.
The Jewish prisoners had their own separate barracks. A few years before I was there, some neo-nazis set fire to the Jewish section. I guess they thought it sent a message of some kind. Instead, there were a lot of people who funded the restoration of it. These bunks remind me of Schindler’s List.
While I usually don’t go in for crazy stories of the supernatural etc., I did find it interesting that throughout my time in the camp, I had a headache that kept on getting worse and worse… until I stepped out of the gate to leave. It totally disappeared.