Never did I think my study abroad trip would lead me to what happened today. It is June 8th, and our itinerary states that we are visiting a concentration camp.
I was not ready for what was tocome. But who would be ready? How can someone be ready and prepared to endure what is to come?
Walking in I felt sad. It started off as a huge and empty entrance area. We were surrounded on all sides by 10 foot concrete walls with barbed wire at the very top. The entrance gate had a sign in German that stated “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” meaning “work sets you free” but that was far from what actually happened in this concentration camp.
This specific confrontation camp was known to be a training camp, where the prisoners would do hard labor. It was used for isolation. Some stayed here for years without being able to leave. Even though this was a training camp, it did not mean that people didn’t die. It was estimated that 35,000 people have died at camp Oranienburg. Attached is a photo of the trench that was used for the prisoners to stand in when they were about to get shot and killed by an SS officer or to get hung. The reason for the trench was to give the SS officer a better view to shoot their gun and prevent them from running away.
I sat here wondering, who would want to become an SS officer? Why would anyone want to be part of this? I learned why so many took this job. An average SS officer would make 10 times the amount of a typical worker in Germany. That is a crazy amount of money during this time. The people were told that big career opportunities would come out of this. This was a perfect solution to someone who was unskilled and didn’t know what their future looks like. It is horrible of how brain washed these people were.
It was tough to walk around. Seeing how these prisoners lived was so shocking that this went on for so long. Prisoners were shoved in bunk beds likesardines. Bathrooms were all open with no privacy. The privilege of bathing was given to prisoners starting two months after arriving at the camp. After the two months, you were allowed to bath and wash clothes every two weeks.
It was a sad day for all of us. I knew that I would be affected by the concentration camp, but I did not think it would affect me as much as it did. We all learn in textbooks about the concentration camps, but it does not compare to how it is looking at it with your own eyes.
And I will leave you with a quote from a survivor of this concentration camp.
“And I know one thing more – that the Europe of the future cannot exist without commemorating all those, regardless of their nationality, who were killed at that time with complete contempt and hate, who were tortured to death, starved, gassed, incinerated, and hanged.” -Andrzej Szczypiorski