Our first full day in Germany has been a packed one. Warning: some of this section may be hard to read. If you’d prefer not to, please skip down after the first few pictures. We started with our only plan for the day, and to be honest, the most important thing on our list: going to a concentration camp. We went to Dachau, which was the camp that many of the others were modeled after. I didn’t feel right taking lots of photos, though I’m sure some of you would’ve liked to have seen it; I hope you can understand why I just wasn’t comfortable with that today. I did take some of a few quotes that really stood out, a memorial at the end of the main road in the camp, and of the trees that line the main road and the spots where several of the buildings used to be.
We read a lot about what happened at that camp specifically, like the experimentation and general treatment of the people, and then we walked through the “prisoners” quarters and saw where they slept, washed up, and spent time. Throughout the camp there were quotes from the victims of the Holocaust, and in this section someone talked about how they were punished if they weren’t clean enough, but hundreds of people were given mere minutes to wash in the morning and were harassed while they tried. At the end of the camp, we saw the crematorium and the rooms where people were told that they were going to shower, disrobed, and then were sent to the gas chamber. On the other side of the gas chamber room was a room where they separated the bodies, and on the other side of that room was the oven. We saw all of it along with pictures from the very rooms we were standing in. It was difficult for me to wrap my mind around the fact that humans could actually do all of that to other people. It was especially odd because all around the camp it was eerily beautiful. Trees towered around the edges, and their small leaves were falling all day, giving the area a sort of ghostlike feeling. If it hadn’t been a concentration camp, the scenery would’ve been beautiful, and I can’t help but think that some people would’ve wanted it that way now because we read a lot about the solidarity between the prisoners and how they wanted that place to be a place for remembrance. But at the same time, I couldn’t help having the impression that those tiny leaves falling in such great quantities were reminiscent of ashes.
Several stories stood out to me while reading about different people’s experiences. There was one man whose trumpet was on display because he managed to keep it in the camp despite not knowing how to read music. He was able to join the orchestra, and it said that when they got to play, it was often a temporary escape. Another story was of a woman who had a child but was taken to the concentration camp away from her daughter. Someone was able to send her a photo, and somehow, she managed to keep it. That photo of her daughter was cherished by her mother and many others in the camp because they got to see her little face. The other thing that stood out to me was talk of the solidarity between the “prisoners.” I don’t like to call them that because they shouldn’t have been, but that’s what they were referred as in the camp. It was said that people made an effort to look out for one another and in secret sang songs from their homelands and tried to stick together. This struck me because it’s not something I’ve heard very much of when learning about the Holocaust. One man said he was rewarded with one small bowl of soup for something and he shared it with four other people. It’s just insane to me that that kind of love could exist, and also that it had to. I still can’t believe people were okay with doing these things to other humans and it scares me that the world could get to that place. It’s even more of a reminder to stand for your beliefs and for the good of other people, and to listen to your heart above the crowds of sheep.
After that we just wanted to see Munich so we walked around the main square/old town and looked at some shops. We passed a market of street vendors that looked really nice, but we ran out of time to see it when we decided to have dinner at a very busy restaurant. First, we got lost several times on our way to find it. Then, when we finally did, there was an hour wait after ordering to receive food. We stayed there anyway and had an amazing, gigantic meal, and met some crazy people from Australia. We were going to order dessert but there was another forty minute wait for that so we decided to find a cafe with dessert and hot chocolate instead (it was chilly!!!). It started raining, but luckily we found a place with hot chocolate and THE BEST tiramisu I’ve ever had. Friends, family, anyone, if you’re ever in Munich, check out this cafe’s tiramisu. The place is called “Rustikeria,” and it’s got a great atmosphere, very friendly staff, and again, THE BEST TIRAMISU I’VE EVER HAD. No joke, check it out if you can. After that, we half-ran to the main train station because it was raining and cold, and it ended up being a wonderful, unplanned night in Munich.