The Inescapable Prisons of Man
I hadn’t been back in the US of A for more than a few days when the news confronted us all with a tragedy that is un-explainable The literal massacre of innocents, the 20 schoolkids and 6 adults at the Sandy Creek Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut was a sort of phenomena that can only happen in a place like the United States. Mass murders are not uncommon in certain developing countries, but they are for political or religious reasons-although this in no way exonerates them-and are not carried out by one single madman. It makes one question humanity and the American psyche, for all of our police and laws and supposed ‘development’ you don’t have to venture beyond state borders for senseless tragedy…
During my trip to Germany I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp, a place that that stands out in the history of mankind for the cruelty, loathing and senselessness that it represented. Dachau serves as a horrific reminder of what fear and hate drive us to do; this prison shows us that it is mankind who imprisons himself and demonizes himself, and that Western, ‘developed’ mentality can cause just as damage as those people who original anthropologists deemed ‘savage’ and undeveloped….
Unlike other concentration camps Dachau-which was the first one opened by the Nazis-was not primarily an extermination camp, but a labor camp for political prisoners. In the United States the focus on the concentration camps always centers around the European Jewish population that was rounded up by the Aryan Nazis, which I find is unfair to the other people who were sent to to the camps; do their lives hold less value? Political prisoners (including Communists), Homosexuals and Gypsies/Rom as well as the physically unfit were prisoners of the camps, and I feel that not acknowledging their presence in the camps just continues the Nazi’s belief that some groups are better than others.
The town of Dachau is so close to the concentration camp that it dumbfounds one to think that the citizens didn’t know what was going on. This is what mystifies me the most about the 3rd Reich: how the Germans were so overtaken by the Nazi Party’s ideology that they went along with it’s horrific values. According to my German guide, the German people had a tough time admitting that the atrocities that occurred had ever happened, and to this day are still in denial.
An installation at the camp which, quite frankly, is a bit too macabre for such a somber place.
The irony here, of course, is that work did not set the prisoners of Dachau free: they were forced to work regardless if they ever had a chance at getting out. This is also the type of quote that people in charge, the people with the power, would create but which doesn’t truly apply to the general masses, because most people work their entire lives in the great machine without recognition.
One of the four guard houses still standing.
A view of the main yard facing the barracks.
The barracks were so damaged and in disrepair that the American soldiers tore them down. The first barracks were rebuilt; numbers mark where the barracks stood.
After the war, different religious sects built places of worship on site. This, for the Russian Orthodox Church, was not built until after the Soviet Union broke up, and furthermore was only allowed to be built outside the general camp walls, removed from the other houses of worship.
“Never Again,” this sign reads in Hebrew, French, English, German and Russian. Visiting Dachau is a strange experience, because unlike a monument that celebrates a victory, or a person, or even a war memorial which at least honors a collective dead that fought against something bad, Dachau is but a tragic cimitiere where one can only mourn in horror. “Never again–” did that mean that never again would the countries in power allow atrocities like those that happened at Dachau happen again? Because America and Britain, France and Germany have not succeeded in stopping madmen around the world from killing innocent people. Israel itself continues atrocities against the Palestinian people, and Russia, while perhaps not running a gulag, is far from having a high human rights index.
In short, the powers of the world have not succeeded in eradicating torture, tragedy and the mistreatment of people, whether collectively or on an individual level (as the massacre in Sandy Hook proves). But while preventing further tragedy might be seem impossible for man, we can try. We can work to make sure that mad men do not have access to guns. We can work to educate people. We can make sure that people never forget those who paid for their lives to serve as an example for the need for human rights watch and safety. We can work to end torturous governments across the world.
We can say “Never Again.”