Thursday, January 27, 2011


Today is my fourth on the continent, and I travelled into the darkest hours of history, visiting Sauchsenhausen Concentration camp just outside of Berlin. It was exactly what I expected, which means it was entirely different than I expected. Everything was normal. So everything was disconcerting. It was more saddening and disturbing than I could have ever imagined, just like everyone said it would be. A seemingly normal cobblestone – how many political prisoners, Jews, Roma, gays, passed over this stone, cried silently over it? A seemingly normal field, half brown in the winter – how many thousands stood here freezing, during 5:15am roll calls?

Everything is as it is supposed to be, according to the documentaries, the pictures, the testimony. But then there are the souls. You can’t capture souls on film or in words. They shudder in cramped wooden bunks. Their stomachs turn inward at roll call in the cold morning, after a breakfast of crumbs and water. They writhe on whipping blocks in the camp center, after failing to complete the afternoon work detail. They silently disappear, slowly snaking skyward. The camp is barren. Its victims have been erased from the book of life.

If we allow the crimes of the Nazi regime to depress us, to permanently sadden our limited time on earth, we are handing Hitler a posthumous victory – confining another soul within the walls of barbed wire that his SS erected at camps and Ghettos across Europe. The Holocaust commands us to celebrate diversity, to fill our lives with joy, and to make sure that all of humanity is privileged enough to experience life as rich as life can be. Liberation was not a single moment in 1945.

NB: I may post Sauchsenhausen pictures when I have a chance. As I've said, no words or pictures can capture the camp. Your life has to pass through the gate in order to experience the power of the site. Below, please find a wonderful and non-sequitorial shot of my unconventional arrival in northern Germany late Sunday night.

As we got closer to port, the fog became denser and denser. By the end of the day on Sunday, as we approached Bremerhaven (our destination port in Germany), we were sailing through a thick cloud turned deep orange in the midnight flood lights. 14 story cranes towered above our massive vessel, and 4-story container trucks were barely visible as they busily hummed through the misty stacks of cargo that would be coming on board.

1 comment:

  1. I was moved by your account of Sauchsenhausen and how you were motivated to live a fuller life after feeling the presence of the lost souls there.

    I'm glad you arrived safely at your port destination and look forward to reading more of your journey.