One of the awesome perks of being in the military for 23 years was that we got to see amazing parts of the world. Places that I probably would not have seen or experienced otherwise.
There are still a few of those places that upon remembrance take my breath away.
While stationed in Germany we took a weekend trip to Dachau. I wasn’t a huge history buff, but I knew about concentration camps. I had read the horror that went on there. But I wasn’t prepared for what I would experience once stepping on to that sacred ground.
Dachau and me.
After driving through meandering roads and small neighborhoods, we finally made our way to the parking lot. Opening the car door and stepping out on the grounds of the Dachau Concentration camp was emotional. I was trying to place what I had learned with what I was seeing now.
This place. This place of horror was not remotely off in the back hills somewhere. No, it was right here. Right where I was standing with neighborhoods and roads all around. My mind couldn’t grasp the reality of it all.
We entered the hallow grounds and could easily see where dormitories had once been. Most of which had now been turned in to museums telling the story. I was curious. I wanted to know more of the story. I was really wishing I would have paid more attention in History classes.
All of the sudden I couldn’t catch my breath.
Standing in this dormitory museum I realized it wasn’t a story — it was their story! The walls were lined with picture after picture of faces. Faces with looks of hunger, despair and fear written within every line of their face. Eyes that seemed to scream out from behind the old portrait help me!
The lump in my throat began to built as I saw boney small children grabbing their moms for dear life. I couldn’t take this story! It was real and I couldn’t do anything to help.
Fighting back tears as hard as I could we rounded another corner and there were shoes. Real life shoes. Dusty. Beat up and torn apart shoes. Big daddy shoes. Shoes that a beautiful mother must have worn. And then there were the children’s shoes and the baby shoes. I gasp! The lump no longer would stay in my throat.
Deep darkness filled my heart as if I was suffocating. I grab my husband and try to say I have to get out of here. The words were stifled and after a few tries he understood my mumbled mess and ushered me out.
Trying to calm me he sat with me for awhile. Once I could breathe again, we agreed he could finish the museum and I’d just sit there.
It was a rather hot day for Germany. One of the hottest on record. This should have been great for my soul as I’m a sunshine-warm-weather kind of girl. But something weird had happened in that museum, I began to smell death. It was putrid and it lingered. The odor wouldn’t leave, nor the images of what I had just witnessed.
Because of the hot weather flies began to swarm. There I sat in a mess of tears and fear. Fear of how a place could feel so real when it is all but history now.
A history I prayed would never repeat itself.
Once Curt finished the museum he came back. I was so ready to go. I had come to see and not only had I seen I felt the experience. But before we left Curt wanted to make a quick tour around the rest of the grounds. I gasp, but agreed.
Walking towards the ends of the property we saw the ovens where bodies were cremated. I was paralyzed. I kept trying to see. I didn’t want to close my eyes and miss this moment to remember and learn.
I couldn’t get over the fact that there were houses just outside the property. How can there be people so close in proximity to this horror and this nonsensical travesty still continue? Questions raced through my mind. How this real life horror show came to be did not make sense.
3 Truths I Learned at Dachau and How they Relate to Voting Day.
1. Pay attention to what is going on in your city, state, and country. (not to mention the world)
Too many of us bury our head in our daily activities and never look up to really see what is going on around us. We don’t pay attention to who is elected to run our governments. Nor do we investigate those who are running and make a point to let our vote be known. Do you homework — this is your country. Our country — we the people.
2. You have a voice.
Your voice matters. Maybe your like me and you watch election returns and wonder if your vote even made a difference. Don’t let those doubts stop your voice from being heard. It’s when we all ignore what is going on that evil can run amuck. I wondered that day if the people living outside the property of Dachau set silent too long and before they knew it a concentration camp was built.
3. Make sure you vote.
We are privileged here in this country to be able to vote our choice. Don’t let this day slip by you as you run through your day apathetic to what is happening in the government. Know what you believe in and vote. Let your concerns and voice be heard. Once I left Dachau and dug in to history a little more (since I cheated my way through in school) I was floored to learn that Hitler was voted in to office. Not only that he was voted Man of the Year.
There is so much to learn from history. The feelings and smells of Dachau are still fresh when I recall what I saw. And what I saw was nothing compared to the reign of horror that happened from 1933-1945.
Make sure you vote. Your voice does matter.