I am a history geek. Invite me over for pizza, beer and a two hour documentary of anything history and I’m there.
I think it all started when I was a boy. Every Sunday night a one hour documentary called World at War was on. It was made in the early 1970’s and I remember being drawn to its honesty. I came from a time of sugar coating but this particular documentary was raw.
One night an entire episode was devoted to Dachau. I remember how it shook my young mind. It scared me. It angered me, but above all I felt helpless.
I knew when we visited Dachau it would be unlike any town I had seen on our tour. But still, I could not help but wonder, would the emotions I had when I was a boy be there that day?
Writers connect with their characters and create a world that is real. But Dachau wasn’t my world or my creation. Would our visit be nothing more than empty buildings?
I’m your typical tourist. I’m the one holding the camera in one hand and a video camera in the next. But something was different when we exited the bus that day. There would be no video.
It didn’t feel right.
We arrived at a gate that I recognized from the documentary. We traveled down a long hallway. To our left and our right was where they were forced to live.
I kept thinking who these people might have been. Were they shop owners, shoe makers or farmers? Whatever they were they were now being held prisoner by their former neighbors.
I entered these tiny places they called home, curious to the stories they might tell. But did I want to hear their stories, I asked. Can’t I go back to being a tourist?
Is it that simple to forget?
I touched the walls they leaned on and placed my shoes on the floors they walked. I wondered if I waited long enough would I feel their echoes?
I’m not sure if the kids in our group fully understood the history but that’s understandable. Some things take a while to sink in.
When we left Dachau I felt empty, alone but most of all frustrated. It was a bad story with a bad ending. The only hope I see is a reminder that history tends to repeat itself and this is one repeat we cannot allow.
Maybe that’s why the camps of Dachau still exist. Maybe that’s why their echoes can still be heard.