Human Rights in Germany Spring2011

During spring break 2011, students, faculty and staff are visiting Holocaust sites in Germany.

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Feeling the camps’ anguish and terror

An update from Zohra, a junior pre-law and psychology major with minors in human rights and Latin:

These past two days have been packed with visits to concentration camps. On Tuesday we went to Sachsenhausen and Ravensbruck.

Zohra1.jpg Sachsenhausen was amazingly expansive. The camp had been liberated by the Red Army, and for the most part was erected initially in memoriam of political prisoners. It has now grown to include tribute to all of its victims.

Looking through the camp, you are enveloped by the barbed-wire fence, wall and guard towers (photo, right). With the barbed wire and walls, it would have been futile to climb for escape. They linger till this day to serve as a reminder of the true defeat one feels when inside the camp walls.

Zohra2.jpg There was also a Station Z on this site. Station Z was the final station one could be at; it was the extermination site. To be able to see through the windows and walk through the crematory (photo, left) was seriously life-changing.

At this grave site the majority of us tried to maintain the sanctity of this site. However it was interesting to see and note how some youths were acting at this sacred place. While some were giggling as they sat upon the graves themselves, others sobbed at the pain and suffering that had occurred here. It was highly upsetting to see those who literally sat upon the ashes giggling among themselves.

Zohra4.jpg Ravensbruck was especially moving. It was the most horrific gender-based sites of the Holocaust: it was only for women and children, run by SS women officers. The Camp is situated by a beautiful lake. But the events that took place here were not so: women and children deemed unfit were cremated (photo, right).

Zohra6.jpg The horrors here, cannot be summed up in words by me. However, each affected country had a room in the old prison filled with memorials and art to remember the lost souls. The Polish art sculpture especially grabbed my attention (photo, left). It seems to perfectly sum up the pain and torture that took place at this horrific place.

On Wednesday, we went to Bernburg. Bernburg was a Euthanasia site as well; located within a functioning hospital, all knew but chose to ignore what was taking place on the other side of the hospital. Here “unfit” humans were first gassed in the gas chamber and then cremated. The exhibit is still part of an operating hospital.

Zohra9.jpg The exhibit has maintained the gas chamber – though no longer functioning – for visitors to step through the same rooms were thousands took their last step. All workers at this extermination facility in Bernburg were forced to watch through a small window before they were allowed to work. The regime wanted to ensure nobody could claim ignorance of the happenings here.

After Bernburg, we visited the treacherous Dora-Mittelbau: Dora is located within a mountainside. Here a group of Dora’s prisoners was held in tunnels within the camp to create the missiles that were attacking the Allies. The average life span of this group was 4 months: once you went in, you never came out. Walking through the tunnels was daunting and scary – even for a claustrophiliac like myself. We walked on bridges over the catastrophic happenings that had taken place in the tunnels – though not all prisoners of Dora were sent here. Needless to say, it was the most treacherous job to have.

These past two days have been very moving. I have had feelings of pain, anger, frustration, fear, sadness, and even tears. It is true that life will not be the same after this spring break; but I welcome it with open arms.

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