Went to Buchenwald. We specifically chose to go because it was a Concentration Camp. Megs and I had voiced a lot of interest in seeing one since we are in Germany. So, away we went. The train took us directly there, as in no transfers along the way. That was great. Then we got off and decided to take the bus to the camp instead of a taxi. Neither of us has been on a bus outside of the US. Okay, that’s a lie. I took one in Mazatlan, Mexico during my freshmen year’s spring break vaca. Besides the point. We’re in Germany, trying to take a bus, not speaking a lick of German. I found out we have to take bus 6. Roundtrip for two of us is a total of 5.60 Euro. Super good deal. Walked out to the street, see bus 6, get on. I plop my coin into the coin slot and the bus driver is shakin’ his head and speaking feverishly in German. Apparently, you place the coin(s) on the tray and the driver sorts everything out, handing you a ticket afterwards. Oops.
On the bus. Awesome. We are NOT going in the right direction at all. Very impressed by the bus driver’s maneuvering though. Very impressed. Everyone gets off the bus by the last stop. We don’t know what to do. The driver gets up and checks the bus and tries to talk to us. English? He tells us that we got on the #6 bus going in the wrong direction. Damn. His bus is out of service now because he has to go do a school route or something. But he’ll take us to the train station where we can meet up with the 6 going in the correct direction. He also schools me on my pronunciation of Buchenwald. In case you are wondering, it’s Boo-kin-vaaaaaaald. Bitte (translation: you’re welcome, pronunciation: bit-eh). He stops close to the bus stop, opens the door, and says, “Schnell!” I already know that means ‘get the fuck out and run, stupid American who doesn’t speak German but comes to my country anyways’. It literally means ‘fast’. Get on the other bus, fumble with whether we need show our ticket as a transfer or pay the 1.70 euro for the ride. We pay the 1.70 euro each. Sweet!
Arrive a the camp.
#1 I can’t believe how huge it is. I guess I always envisioned the camps to be, well, concentrated. Everything squeezed together and well hidden. This thing was expansive and never seemed to end. It was windy, cold, and lacked food. I was dressed warm and had money to buy food whenever I wanted. Oh, and I could just walk out the gate when I was good and done. Meghan and I felt so guilty about this. People in the camp worked harder, slept less, ate mostly nothing, and had minimal clothes/shoes.
#2 Being in a building were Jews and Gypsies and Sintis and Homosexuals and Blacks were lined up thinking they were being measured for height but, in all actuality, were shot through the base of the head buy a SS Soldier on the other side of the door who never had to look them in the eye… now that is chilling. Doesn’t make you feel good.
#3 There’s a building that’s now being used as a memorial with lots of pictures, artifacts (is that the right word?), and history of the camp. Shoes that are completely torn apart. Handmade dominoes, probably that someone was killed over after an SS confiscated them. I walk up to this weird upside down v-shaped wooden beam. I touch it, trying to figure out what the hell it is. Looking at the wall behind it I see that it’s 2/3 of what was used to hang people. There were hooks from where nooses would hang. The picture shows lifeless individuals hanging from each hook. I touched it. I touched it. It leaves the sickest feeling.
#4 There’s a heavily forested area encompassing the back end of the camp. Six foot tall metal poles are everywhere, doubling that of the tree population. Listening to the iPod tour purchased for 5 Euro we find out each pole represents about 6 unknown bodies. Anonymous was the word they used. People who have died. No way to identify them. Families don’t know. It’s surreal. I’m struck by how many people are out there that think the Holocaust never happened. Mel Gibson, what an idiot.
I think we spent the rest of the trip in silence. There’s nothing to say after, plus you’re just in such a different headspace. I’m not stupid. I knew where we were going and that we wouldn’t come bounding out with smiles on our faces, singing sweet songs of joy while puppies pranced through fields of daffodils. Duh. I just wasn’t aware of how somber it would be. Now I know.
I think everyone should go. Go see it. History books are terrible because they take the view point of America the Savior. Look what we SAVED these people from. No, no. You need to see what these people LIVED and died like. You’ll learn more.