Today was the last day we would be spending in Europe. We began our early day with our guide Mikail. We walked the very streets, stood in front of the very places that Adolf Hitler did. It was incredible! Reading about these places, and walking the same streets is a completely different feeling.
Mikhail was an excellent guide, and even gave a little background on the city of Munich before we traveled back in time, to a place where Nazi Germany was the norm. We walked over to Hitler’s headquarters (it is still standing today) which has now been converted into a music school. We then traveled to the eternal flame that burns day and night in the middle of a square, to honor those who suffered during the Nazi regime for their religion, sexual orientation, political views, and/or handicaps.
We then traveled to his former University, LM University. LM stands for Ludwig Maximillion–the first king of Bolvaria (now a state of Germany) and his son. We learned that this is where the students who formed the White Rose Organization had gotten their education. The White Rose was a group of students and one professor who created and distributed leaflets denouncing Hitler and the Nazi regime. They were all caught, and eventually beheaded.
Following the sight seeing around town, our group traveled to Dachau, a medieval town just outside of Munich. This is where we toured the first concentration camp ever to exist, thus making it the model for all other concentration camps to be created afterward. As we arrived church bells tolled in the town behind us, creating quite the eerie setting. The iron gate slammed behind our entrance with such finality, already settling sorrow in our hearts for those who suffered there. Walking along the stone and gravel fields, our steps linked history to the present, echoing the sinister steps of prisoners, marching to their deaths.
Mikhail took our small caravan through a small path where there lay stones dedicated to the fallen who were unknown. The craziest part was, as we were standing over these memorial stones, an owl above our head cooed its words, as if mocking the dedication stone, begging to know “who” these dead were. We witnesses what the prison cells, inside the camp looked like, and we visited the sights of the gas chambers and the ovens…chambers that consumed so many lives, connected to a multitude of never resting furnaces where the living were forced into the world of the forgotten. The thick stone walls of these rooms acted as a refrigerator for the cells. It preserved the cold hand of death against the warmth of life waiting just beyond its perimeters.
Dachau was closed when we left, walking through the empty pebble fields alone. The world around us was absent from the rest of the city around it. Grey stones, against greying grass, anchoring grey trees, against a backdrop of grey cinderblock buildings. The lack of color was so different from the beautiful blooming garden of Munich. It seemed as though Dachau concentration camp was aware that life’s color was not present in a place where death welcomed so many to their graves. As we left, and the historical sight was beginning to shut down, the leaving pilgrims, visitors, and locals followed suit, however their silent prayers filled the echoing space around us, and were as clear as ink on a page. Bless those who suffered here, and bless those who ended the suffering.
Tomorrow we leave for the United States early in the morning. Tomorrow will be the last blog for this trip, and I know I am not the only one who is sad to leave. The rich history swirling around us in Europe still has so much to reveal to us, but I suppose that just means we will have to come back soon!
Until then…Auf Wiedersehen!
–The GCU Travel Crew