Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jedem das seine

[ To each his own ]

Weimar was an incredible small city filled with immense amounts of history. Our trip for the day was not done, however, and there was another site to visit just a short drive away. This was the site of the Buchenwald KZ - Konzentrationslager - concentration camp, and revealed a much different chapter of German history.

As pointed out by Andreas, it is very difficult to understand how, just a mere 8 kilometers - less than 4 miles - from one of the most influential and historical cities in Germany, lies one of the most prominent of all concentration camps during the Nazi era.

I didn't know what to expect from seeing the camp. Walking through the gate of the wire-fence enclosed site, one doesn't really know how to take in the surroundings. The bunkers are now gone, just symbolized by gravel filled rectangles on the earth, and the enclosed area feels hollow. The crematorium still stands erect as a tribute to the hundreds where it serves as a burial ground.

The gate of the camp still has its metal fixture over the entrance : Jedem des seine.
Translated to " to each his own" and more loosely to " everyone gets what they deserve ". This nazi embellishment now stands over this gate as a haunting memory of the actions of the camp.

The history in the camp was overwhelming - and a stark contrast from the German history of eloquent writers, including Goethe, that scribed prose about humanity and the beauty of mankind in a town just minutes away. Any other details about the concentration camp I do not feel would be justly represented by this post. It is just important for me to share the different perspectives of history that I witnessed in one day. It has greatly impacted me, and something to deeply think about.

As a final note, Buchenwald may be familiar to English speakers because of its inclusion in the famous Holocaust account from Elie Wiesel, "Night". It is an important novel of a Holocaust survivor, and now is hard to conceptualize as this camp sits quietly as a memory amongst rolling hills in the very center of a now peaceful Germany and Europe.