Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tears of heartache, tears of joy

OK to start the day - a red BMW kinda looks like an old Torana - not very sleek at all. And our car likes to travel at 120 mph (175 kph!!) - even if only for a short burst for me to test it - it guzzles fuel at higher speeds though, so we didn't do it for long! (Remember fuel is close to $3 Australian a litre in Europe).

I don't think it will ever matter how many times you visit Dachau or any other of the holocaust sites. Being a human, it will always reduce me to tears. It is almost incomprehensible how cruel man can be to man. We are surely the only species in the animal kingdom who actively chooses to be cruel or nasty or even unkind to one another. Not a very good recommendation.

As I have been to Dachau before, I want Michael to be able to tell you of his impressions rather than me just babble on again. So, here goes:

"God must have been on leave during the Holocaust." - Simon Wiesenthal
One can read, study and argue the reasons leading to the implimentation of 'Die Judenfrage' (The Jewish Question) and 'Die Endgültige Lösung' (The Final Solution), for in the end these arguments are pointless. The truth is seeing the machinery which was devised by a criminal element to add fear in an endeavour to prolong the 'Reich'. Through our travels thus far, we have seen the good side of humanity outweighing the bad. Goodness, therefore should prevail - it must prevail otherwise our universe holds no meaning. However, our visit to Dachau Concentration Memorial Site certainly made me most aware that this type of oppression continues to occur.

I had no pre-conceived ideas of what to expect when we drove into the memorial's carpark. The weather was bright, sunny and hot; the air mixed with the dust that visitors create when the walked, scuffed or sauntered along the main pathway. Mind you, the path was not a dusty track but a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with an aggregate mix. You know the type of gravel I'm referring grinds underfoot creating a crunching sound likened to that of many marching and booted feet?

To the left is the Memorial's visitor centre and slightly further on, also on the left, is one of the many information boards strategically placed about the complex. However, this particular board indicates that the path we have all been treading is where a structure stood which housed the Gestapo camp headquarters, administration offices and interrogation rooms.

Further on, we arrive at the main gateway and ahead of it lay the remains of the railway siding where the trains unloaded the many 'inmates' destined for incarceration or worse. These poor souls were herded through the gateway with the following words laced into the wrought iron gate: "ARBEIT MACHT FRIE" - "Work Makes Freedom". Most of the inmates would eventually only find death within the camps' walls. It is imponderable to imagine what it would be like to be told that once you had passed through this gate you have no rights; no privileges; no dignity.

As we pass through the gate we are greeted by the sun glaring from the surface of the parade ground, where the prisoner roll call was conducted - rain, hail or shine - two or three times a day. All the incarcerates were to be accounted for: the able bodied, the infirmed and the corpses of the recently deceased were placed on the parade. Should any prisoner be reported missing, then the whole prisoner community were forced to remain standing to attention for hours on end. On a day like today, let alone in mid winter, I for one could not even begin to imagine the effects of such an attrocity as this?

Moving further into the compound, and my eyesight adjusting to the glare, I find that the parade ground lies before the 'Maintenance Building' which once held the kitchen, clothing store, workshops, baths; and on the roof was once painted the following words: "There is one path to freedom. Its milestones are: Obedience, Honesty, Cleanliness, Sobriety, Sobriety, Diligence, Oderliness, Sacrifice, Truthfulness, Love Of Thy Fatherland". Behind this building is the 'Bunker' which was the central site of terror within the camp.

"The green barrack buildings could be distinguished through the barbed wire. An air of foreboding permeated the place - frightful, cold as death. Never before have I experienced an atmosphere so uncompromisingly dangerous or so fiendishly hostile." - Kupfer Koberwitz

Of the thirtyfour prisoner barracks, only two remain standing whereby one has been restored and is open to the public. The crematoria I and 2 remain as found in 1945, however any evidence of human use has been expunged long ago. Throughout the complex are many memorials to the many victims, in the form of gardens, plinths and structures. I suppose the most imposing is the memorial erected between the parade ground and the Maintenace Building, created by Nandor Glid and built in 1968, it simply called: "International Monument".

I could go one and continue to provide a step-by-step 'tour' of this most moving and unforgettable memorial. However, I commend to you the links to the Memorial's web page.

(Maria again) While there we watch a documentary on Dachau in English. We had not got to see this last time I was here as the times it ran did not coincide. But today is different with us here for a large part of the day. I am almost thankful that we didn't get to see it last time as I don't think that Mum would have coped with it very well. The theatre that seats 232 (yes I was seat counting) was almost full and every time a single person let out their breath you could hear it. They will only admit children under 12 with a parent (has to be parent) and will not allow children under 6 to attend at all. Maybe that gives you some idea of how blunt it was. Certainly makes you wonder how they kept the awfulness of it hidden for as long as they did. I mean the smell locally must have been horrific.

While I waited for Michael later, there was a group of American students - I guess around 15 -16 years old. It was very interesting to hear them discuss world politics and where the perceived threats lie. They all agreed that England and America would never go to war against each other because they are both democracies who lead the world! (?) Interestingly thay saw threats from China and India (because of the population and the fact that their leaders are encouraging new commercial growth) but nothing from the Muslim world and even the Middle East was dismissed. We (the US) are there and are keeping everything under control! There was no mention of the internal threat. There was plenty of talk about how the US government can keep the US state safe. (911????) Very interesting. I hope that at some time they all learn to look and listen and hear with open minds. And I hope for all our sakes that there is never a real test of their navietie.

So we leave behind this stark reminder of our collective shame. We now turn south, back through the outskirts of München towards Austria and Innsbruck. Driving through the rain cools the day slightly and by the time we are in the Tirol mountains, the temperature has dropped 11 degrees to a cool and delightful 18.5°C. After the last couple of hot days it is a very welcome relief. Doesn't last long though, as soon as we are down the two 16% grades into the valley where Innsbruck lies, the temperature is climbing again and is soon back up to 31°C. (sigh) The Jegendherberge (Youth and Family Hostel) is not air-conditioned and with the open window the traffic noise will be unbearable, so it will be off with the quilts tonight. Still we are on the bus line into the old town in about 5 minutes and the room is clean with a private bathroom, breakfast is included for the sum of €104 for the two nights! And our sheets are pure cotton. And pressed - yeha!

And finally, from this morning, there are the true tears of joy. Hels is coming, Hels is coming - at last! Her tickets are booked, with an arrival in Paris on August 31 via Tokyo and Amsterdam. She will travel with us until 29 September - WHOO HOO! We Skype this morning and although I can't hear her, it is clear that we are both very very excited (he he, as if!)

1 comment:

Hels said...

I am in your blog.. and soooo happy