Dachau

Remembering the Holocaust

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I said in my last post that I would write about Nagarkot and Pokhara next, but in light of the violence that has happened over the last few days, I would like to talk about something a little more serious.

We live in a world where there is so such hate and intolerance. We think murder and war is an effective solution to rid the world of an opinion that is opposing to ours. Everyday when you open the newspapers, you find some evidence of a hate crime that is happening somewhere in the world. I think it reflects really badly on us as a species that we cannot even live together without wanting to kill each other. In that sense, we’ve become worse than animals.

We remember the Holocaust as one of the most heinous hate crimes to be committed in all of human history. Why I bring the Holocaust up is because we have not learnt our lessons from history. The Holocaust started because of one man’s idea that if he could remove all traces of a certain groups of people from his land, the world would be a better place. Millions of jews, gypsies, gays and people with genetic defects were killed because of this ideology. What’s happening in America right bears echoes of this…

I had the chance to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. It was the singular most depressing place I had ever visited in my life. Dachau was the first concentration camp and more than 40,000 people lost their lives here due to starvation, torture, forced labour, disease and execution. It served as a model for the other concentration camps and as a school of violence for the Nazis.

As one walks along the compound, an eerie vibe permeates the whole place.  There is a trail lined with mass graves. The tourists only talk in hushed whispers. The prison compound is unnaturally cold – walk into a cell and you feel the grim echoes of what terrible thing must have transpired here. Dachau is a horrible place to be in. The sense of uneasiness I felt did not leave until I was a good distance away from the compound.

What I felt upon walking through the gates was a overwhelming sense of sadness and grief. Dachau has not fully healed, and many disturbed souls remain. I don’t have the words to describe the horror of the Holocaust. As a child, I read many novels about the Holocaust but coming face to face with it is a terribly emotional experience.

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Gate with inscription “arbeit macht frei” meaning “work will set you free”. It is a cynical statement considering the Nazi never intended to free any prisoners but rather work them to death

Places like Dachau serve as a reminder of the mistakes our forefathers made and caution us not to repeat them.

Long before the Holocaust there already existed anti Semitic views. Hitler’s ideology only added fuel to the flames and the people became so blinded by hatred that millions of people eventually believed that their fellow human beings were untermenchen, below men and deserved to be exterminated. With the right spark, their passing hatred for their neighbour had become a justification to kill.

Are we not far off from that today?

One of my favourite quotes from the Baha’i writings goes like this:

“When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love.” -Abdu’l-Baha

Why do we as a species harbour so much hate for our neighbours in our hearts? I believe the only chance for our survival is to treat fellow human beings with love and celebrate our diversity. We can separate people by culture, religion, skin culture, sexuality, political beliefs etc. We as a species have always tried to come up with different ways to separate ourselves from each other and maybe this is the root of all the problems we face today.

If we do not learn to live together in unity, then we will surely destroy ourselves and the planet. I don’t believe any policy we implement now be it in terms of gun laws or immigration will truly work until we first change our mindsets about each other. You cannot force people to tolerate each other, but perhaps we can remind each other to love.

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The memorial wall at Dachau reads: “May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defence of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.”

I find these words very powerful and I hope you do too.

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