“I am haunted by humans.”

by Andrew Stein

I get up early and make my outside the city via train and towards the Dachau Concentration Camp. I have an idea of what to expect from museum exhibits I’d seen, books I’d read, and explanations I’d heard. However, soon after arriving, acquiring an audio tour, and making my way through the camp, I realize I had very little idea of what to expect. In terms of raw facts, most of what I am learning is not new, but my my reaction to the material is much stronger than ever before. Walking down a road that so many others had done before knowing that they might not survive long enough to walk back in the other direction, standing in a barracks that housed suffering prisoners whose life dreams had been condensed to being able to survive, and seeing images of dead bodies being rounded up by a tractor just steps away and only 60 to 70 years ago all make my stomach tighten and my neck tense. How can this have happened? How can someone get away with this, and on such a large scale?

I can barely look at the crematoria that were used to dispose of the dead bodies. These methods prove that killing had become so regular that the disposal of the dead was more troublesome than the killing itself. And eventually, even cremation was too burdensome leading to the use of mass graves. The scale of such murder makes it hard for me to understand each death on an individual basis until I walk around and begin reading stories of some of its prisoners. Each story is so real and seemingly so normal until their entrance into the camp. After this experience, I am not sure what to write to fully recall my emotions in the future; however, capturing such an experience with words may be nearly impossible. This explains why I was unprepared at the beginning of today despite having learned much about the Holocaust before my arrival.

The Dachau Concentration Camp was the first one opened in Germany back in 1933. It later served as a model and training ground for future Nazi concentration camps. The camp contains records of over 200,000 prisoners and almost 32,000 deaths between 1933 and 1945.

Summing up many of my emotions after my visit, the last line from a book titled “The Book Thief” that I pick up at the shop outside Dachau reads, “I am haunted by humans.”