I said this to myself when traveling around Europe, “I am not going to visit the concentration camps.”
Well, the dark retort to not to visit was short-lived. I avoided it vagrantly for the first time in Austria, till I visited Munich, and I was destined to visit one—The Dachau. The bitter reality is the word ‘camp’ associated with Dachau, inseparable and complicated. The 9th century Dachau was far cry from what is known today. The Dachau of yore was an artist’s impression of life and vigor, called as an art colony. It was home to many artists during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The richness of the Loam (Loam – clay-like, Daha meaning clay, and ouwe, water overflown land), somewhat alludes to the scent of the episodes that this place was a witness to. The real Dachau for all obvious reasons is shrouded under the canopy of World War II. Don’t know what it looked like and to date, Dachau’s trying to make an honorable and civilized standpoint.
For me, Dachau is a center stage of hopes, dreams, and despair. As you stand with your head upright, “Arbeit Macht Frei”, welcomes you with a deafening silence. It merely translates to ‘work sets you free’. But the profoundness is much more than what a mind can imagine, in between the lines, in between each letter. A pall of helplessness lights the entrance with an intended mockery of the expression “work will set you free”, and we know where it all began.
I spent an hour or more walking through this familiar path. My camera, a small note pad, and a pen were my only mates. Every fragment of the camp was impeccably organized but deep-rooted lay the dastardly act of ripping humankind to shame. The bittersweet verve was palpable as I stood near the roll call area; no remorse, rain or shine or snow.
A little further, the barracks were left as is, with crudity all over; the diminishing paints, jagged floors, the clamoured beds, the toilets, etc. The hair, suitcases, shoes, dolls meddled for attention as I walked through the display. Imagine carrying your whole life in one suitcase but from the point of no return. The rooms were of different sizes, dark rooms, torture rooms left to the whims and fancies of the officers. The mastermind and the answer to the final solution, the gas chamber. The most cowardly thing any civilization can resort to, perhaps it would have been easy if people just got killed accidentally, but the rarity of a plan like this can leave one high and dry. I was overwhelmed and heavy mere looking at the sanctity of this place and could feel the chill down my spine as I recalled the scenes from the movie Schindler’s List. There was such veneration in that crematorium, no one spoke, no one asked questions, everyone moved around slowing and quietly.
No matter how much you read in the books and watch endless documentaries, somethings will just stay with you as it is meant to be including the photos. As a mark of respect, I placed stones on the grave and also carried one along with me back to India.
As Charles Barkley says, “Sometimes that Light at the End of the Tunnel is a Train”.