Having been in Europe for just a little over two months, some may take it as a surprise that I haven’t yet been to a concentration camp. Now that I think about it a couple months later, I am not too sure why I hadn’t. Maybe it had to do with my minimal knowledge of the 20th century. But I can tell you now, anytime I am near a concentration camp memorial or site, it’d be a privilege if I had a tour or visited the camp even if it was as small as Sandhofen.
Sandhofen, a district north of Mannheim, really opened up my perspective of how things were for Germans, Jews, and everyone living here during that time period. It really does give you a different viewpoint of life. These men were forced to walk countless miles. Not only in the chilly, winter months of Germany but they were also wearing minimal clothing and wooden shoes. It was as if this tragedy was a type of business being run. In that, there was power, control, and discipline but all in the wrong ways.
This concentration camp was in the middle of the city yet people never spoke of it during that time period. Even today, it’s hidden away like this never happened, never existed. How can a reality like this seem non-existent? It’s because no one wants to see “concentration camp” when they drive by or drop there kids off at school. Even today, the people of this city would rather not mention it. It took this camp 20 years to put ONE sign up to remember these horrific years. TWENTY YEARS?! That is my whole life.
The survivors of this camp were put through hell. Whether they worked at Mercedes Benz (yes, the car you drive every day was part of the Nazi history) or worked in the farm, they were treated inhumanely. In order for a person to get food, they would need to go outside and an SS guard would have to watch them. I’m in Germany now; I barely want to even go outside just to walk to get food. I can’t even begin to imagine the hell that these men suffered.
Why can’t we learn from the past to improve our present state and the future of our children? Why do people choose to not seek the truth? I can ask myself why about many things in this world.
Even after the war, NO ONE was getting punished for these cruel acts. Only one German SS Soldier at Sandhofen got in trouble after the war. He had a 16 year old killed because this BOY had mismeasured a few parts on a Mercedes Benz car. The SS guard thought this boy was doing it on purpose and chose to execute him.
Some argue, that Hitler’s uprising was a surprise and they had no idea what was going on. People VOTED Hitler in power! They knew the war was going to happen, they had 11 years to end this war but they CHOSE not to. They decided to sit back and act as if nothing was happening or going on.
As the years were passing, more and more were being killed. As the war was coming to an end, that is when the most people died. Two days before the war ended in Sandhoffen, a man raised a white flag and was killed right then and there. Can you imagine?? TWO DAYS. That’s all the civilian needed was those 48 hours. Every 9th person in 1945 wasn’t German. How did someone living in this country NOT know what was happening?? EVERYONE KNEW. In one camp, SS members killed 60,000 people by gas chambers. Germany was full of concentration camps (photo). How did someone not know??
Inside the camp, hierarchy did everything; whether you were homosexual, a sexual, Jewish, or polish, you weren’t treated as human.
I live in a society today, where I was born and raised in freedom only. I don’t know what it was like to not have rights, not have my opinion (sometimes even too outspoken), but I can tell you for damn sure that I am grateful to be living in the world we live in today. Just a half-century earlier, my colleagues and family wouldn’t be able to express who they are. We sometimes tend to disregard our history as “just something you learn” or “it’s the past, why do we need to know it?” We, as children and grandchildren of those who had to survive this period, should realize that everyone has to make choices at some point in there life. Some choices you regret later in life, some drastically change the outcome of your life, and some improve the quality of life. Some are bigger then others, but the most important, obvious realities are right in front of you. So, the next time you make a decision, don’t be selfish; is this choice going to impede, improve, or alter your life? Only YOU can make that decision.