Travel: Holocaust Mosaic

For this, I will consolidate my Germany City experiences into one. I do not mean to skip forward and back, but each visit to important sites of the Holocaust only serves to reinforce the overall picture of horror that continues to grasp me. They each deserve recognition for the vital, yet horrific role they play in this nation’s history, but I can’t bring myself to have to recall each emotion that gripped me; nor can I subject my readers to multiple instances of horror. I had thought not to include pictures, to best illustrate the somber mood with which I want this article viewed, but perhaps basic shots, will help convey the darkness that I witnessed.

The areas we will touch upon are Hamburg, Cologne, and Brandenburg.

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In Hamburg, My compatriots and I paused at the old company building that was responsible for the development of Zyklon B; it was the gas used in the chambers.  Death at the hands of this gas was anything but merciful, it was slow, and often the body would react radically in defense. The Nazi commanders thought it more merciful for their soldiers, they didn’t have to interact with the victims by personally murdering t.  It was previously used as a pesticide with an odor, however to prevent victims from realizing the imminence of their death, the company removed the scent, an illegal act violating international law. It was this fact, that allowed the one of the owners, Bruno Tesch, be sentenced and executed for his war crimes in 1946.

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In Cologne, I stopped to visit the EL DE Haus, it was the site of the main Gestapo Headquarters. It is within these walls that the secret police imprisoned, questioned, and tortured people or interest. The Nazi’s rented it in 1934, and remodeled it so that the basement level contained prison cells. It also provided a broad history on the rise of the Third Reich to power, and those affected by their hatred. When I entered the cell-block, I started crying. You can still see the inscriptions carved into the fall, imagine the unhygienic conditions of shoving up to 30 people in the small cells. I had never been so ashamed of my species, my race called man, until this moment. How could individuals, in my physical form, commit such atrocities against each other? It’s on a level that I couldn’t even comprehend.

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The last major stop for me was the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, it was the model camp for all future camps because of it’s equilateral triangular layout, so designed that the main guard tower, ‘A’ was the tallest building, and could thus see everything on the fields. Furthermore, it is here that the ‘death squads’ were trained – the commandant Rudolf Höss of Auschwitz traced his origins here – and that the standard for prisoner treatment was developed. Primarily used as a work camp, an assortment of work details were available, examples include the boot track, the kitchen, the brick factory, the ammunitions factory. Some had much shorter life expectancies than others, and were assigned to those at the bottom of the Nazi Hierarchy list, each was identified by a different triangle on their prison uniforms. 10,000 Soviet POWS were executed at this site, they were shot in the back of the neck through a hidden hole in the wall, during a uniform measurement. Unfortunately, when the camp was finally liberated in April 22, 1945, only 3,000 prisoners on the verge of death remained, the remaining 33,000 inmates were sent on a death march by the troops the previous day before.

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Arbeit Macht Frei is a prime example of Nazi Cruelty. It means “Labour makes (you) free.” For the prisoners, it was a taunt, the regime was mocking the forced workers, It was not work that set them free, it was death, either through the work, through lack of nutrition, or the infamous station Zeid.

It was a very sobering experience. It was in Berlin, that I finally attained the sense of freedom that I have been so desperately seeking; it was like a cloud of peace and freedom settled over me. No stress, no worries, no cares, just pure bliss. Those of you that know me well will recognize that this may have never occurred in my lifetime thus far. I think this is primarily due to the horrors that I have learned about; as individuals in this huge universe, it is often difficult to comprehend how meaningless the little nuances in our lives are. Yes, they are important to us on an egoistic, personal basis, but in the larger scheme of things, we are incredibly fortunate. It can be difficult for us to see sometimes, but so many of us have livelihoods that millions of people will never get the opportunity to experience. Think deeply about that.


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