Visiting Sachsenhausen and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin were experiences that brought into context the terrors experienced in WWII by the Jewish people living in Germany, that suffered so greatly under their systematic targeting and the Holocaust. Understanding how Germany has responded to the Holocaust helps us realise that dialogue and education are key to helping reconcile the events of the past and prevent history from repeating itself.
As a young person that was born well after the Holocaust, it is crucial to connect and learn about the events leading up to the Holocaust and the aftermath, with its lasting effects on Europe. In order to grasp the full depth and terror of the Holocaust we must be able to connect with the people and their stories.
Both Sachsenhausen and the Berlin Holocaust Memorial were focused strongly on the daily experiences of the Jewish people of Europe, especially at the concentration camps. Many of the exhibits were oriented towards teaching the history and displaying the atrocities that were carried out by members of the Nazi regime.
These disturbing accounts brought the Holocaust into comprehension through the power of human empathy for suffering. The exhibits allowed us to see images and read first hand accounts of Jewish people that suffered and died at concentration camps.
Many people alive today were directly affected by the events of the Holocaust and for many older people, these events happened during their lifetimes. Even as the older generation alive during WWII passes, the effects of the Holocaust will ripple on in the lives of countless others throughout the generations.
I found it very difficult to comprehend the justification of these actions taken against the Jewish people of Europe. So many soldiers working for the SS of the Nazi regime were relentless in their actions of terror against the Jewish people that they rounded up and murdered. I found it hard to comprehend how so much hate could result in a systematic genocide of 6 million, nearly wiping out an entire group of the population. It makes me wonder what it takes to make people take calculated, systematic, violent actions against others.
In a time of heightened political divisiveness and tensions between groups within nations across the world, it makes me wonder what it takes for Genocide to occur in the world today. Especially in the present, with increased immigration, heightened political tensions and anti-immigrant rhetoric around the world, this environment looks very similar to the one that promoted the rise of antisemitism in Nazi Germany. Visiting these sites in person helps us understand that these concentration camps are real places, that not so long ago were methodically used to cause extreme suffering and death. By visiting these sites and hearing the stories, a disturbing realisation can be gained that the Holocaust and Genocides are not a thing of the distant past, but can occur when a balance of peace is broken in a nation. The value and fragility of peace can only be appreciated when we see the tragedies that result from its failure.