The last time I remember visiting Dachau, the location of one of the concentration camps from WWII, was a couple days before my eighteenth birthday. It was a hot, summer afternoon, and though I didn’t suffer from the cold or extreme heat like many of the concentration camp prisoners, I felt tired from the heat. (My body doesn’t do too well in the heat.) My latest visit to Dachau wasn’t much different. I can only imagine what the people living in the concentration camp had to go through.
Goodness, I don’t even want to imagine.
I just want to close my eyes and pretend it never happened. I want to live in a world where people don’t hate, torture, and kill without reason. But there are days where I have to open my eyes and admit it happened. The Holocaust happened. The day we start denying its very existence is the day we are in danger of it happening again. As Elie Wiesel (author of Night) wrote, “To forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.”
Visiting Dachau was perhaps one of the most surreal, sobering experiences. It’s a reminder that the concentration camps that I’ve only read about in history books or seen clips of in movies are real. Dachau may not be one of the larger concentration camps infamous for its atrocities, but that doesn’t mean inhumane treatment didn’t happen.
The Holocaust impacted the world in many ways. Some men, like Wiesel, lost their faith. Others, like Corrie ten Boom (author of The Hiding Place), had it shaken but also had the opportunity to share it. Today we live in a world where the scars are still there, evident from the bomb craters in Point du Hoc, France, to concentration camps like Dachau, Germany. Even injustice, cruelty, and wars still exist.
From fiction to nonfiction, films to books, WWII stories have captured audiences with stories of horror and courage, atrocities and humanity, hatred and love. While I believe it is important today to protect our mental well-being without overexposure to the horrors of death, it’s important to remember the people who suffered and the reasons others hated.
In the telling of stories, the treating of every human being with dignity and love, and remembering the past, we can share the grace of God that many have tried to destroy for centuries. And it’s like ten Boom also writes in her book, “Love is larger than the walls which shut it in.”
I highly recommend her book to Christians and non-Christians alike, as a testimony of a holocaust survivor. During one of our visits to Dachau, my dad, Colonel Michael Klein, told me that one of the reasons he joined the military was to help prevent something like that from ever happening again. Although I’m not in the military and may never minister to people in the same way he has or share the truths of a survivor, I read to remember and I write in the hopes that others might do the same.
Have you ever visited any of the WWII memorials? What is the most memorable WWII story for you? What can you do to remember?
Literary references: Elie Wiesel’s Night and Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place.