We’ve spent one day a week traveling to some nearby historic WWII sites. We made it into Germany to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp and Berchtesgaden, home of Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest retreat. Unfortunately the Eagle’s Nest was closed for winter but we did visit the Dokumentation Obersalzburg museum and underground bunkers. The museum was all in German so I had to work extra hard to understand what was going on, and I think that I learned a lot more because of that! I wasn’t familiar with Berchtesgaden at all before we came and I left feeling really glad we went!
I wasn’t so naive walking into Dachau. I can remember when I was in elementary school and heard about the Holocaust for the first time. I remember sitting on the ground in the older kids section of the library (we shared a building with the junior high) scouring books for pictures of the atrocities that occurred in the concentration camps and I remember dreaming of visiting one in person. I’ve always kind of wondered and even worried slightly about what it was that drew me so strongly to that dark piece of history. The pictures of naked, emaciated bodies piled up in a pit, being bulldozed, heads being shaved, beds sleeping 5 and 6 at a time. I still don’t know. But I’ve never cared much about any other history. Holocaust history on the other hand, I devoured. I’m wondering if it’s the compassion and sympathy it sparked in me. These stories, these pictures made me feel something so deeply.
That dream of mine came true this month. Dachau was the first concentration camp, established only weeks after Hitler took office in Germany. I believe the buildings where the exhibition is housed is actually the original building the prisoners were admitted, stripped, showered, shaved and dressed in ill fitted prison clothes. There were experiments done there. There was a crematorium and a model of a gas chamber but apparently gas chambers might not have been in use there. It was solemn and sobering but I actually had a hard time accessing my pain and the emotions I’ve always wanted to process standing ON that ground. Short on time and young kids made that a little difficult for me, but such an important visit.
– from @nomaderwhere_mama on instagram.