I’ve attended Jewish pre-school and worked as a camp counselor at the same Jewish Summer camp for multiple years. Out of all the years I’ve been surrounded by beautiful Jewish individuals, I couldn’t fully empathize with their history until I went to Berlin.I’ve recently visited Berlin, Germany with my roommate Liz, her sisters, and friends from home. Ultimately we only had one and a quarter of a day in the enormous city. We arrived safely at our hostel safely, the Grand Hostel Berlin. It was a quaint and clean one, with a library doubling as a bar for it’s guests.
After settling in we headed towards the center of the city, passing the TV Tower, and arriving at Hofbräuhaus. Once entering the restaurant, the open space filled with old school Germanic music, cheers from the one large group that was there. It was rather early for it to be in full swing, but the beer was still endless (5 euros for a liter!) Our servings were large, filling, and especially hardy.
The following day we woke up rather late and headed to obtain the best hangover cure: schnitzel. Specifically Scheers Schnitzel. For a reasonable price and unlimited sauces to choose from it’s hard to say no.
What followed after our meal was the Berlin Wall that can be seen from the outside eating area of Scheers’s. Right. Across. The. Street. Each section was covered in beautiful art created by locals. Emanating colors of emotion, of pride, and of pure emotion.
We walked a bit to the main train station, to start our hour journey to Oranienburg. From there we hopped onto a local bus to visit the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.
The next two hours on these grounds were one of the heaviest my heart has ever been. Based on the map at first glance the space did not seem rather large. When passing the camp’s gates onto the actual grounds I was shell shocked. My heart dropped, looking at the sight in front of me. It had seemed there was no end to the barren field. Plots covered in dark grey gravel implicated where barracks use to stand holding hostages
On our walking tour, the woman’s voice went on with endless history . I couldn’t help but feel sick to my stomach as we visited each site marked on the map. Minimal barracks remained for visitors of the museum and grounds to walk through. All in it’s original state with slight modification to include informational plaques.
This experience made me reflect upon my previous relationship with the Jewish community. I grew up in a Hasidic Jewish neighborhood, attending pre-school, summer camp at a Jewish community center, as well as becoming a camp counselor there. The same community center would bring in Holocaust survivors to talk to pre teens, show them the hardship and pain that was brought over the Jewish community. Taking part in listening to these heroes, I was touched, but could never feel the extent of their pain until stepping into Sachsenhausen.
I could not understand nor explain the feelings that have overcome me… My heart was heavy throughout the whole tour, despite the bitter cold nipping at our skin. It had seemed the camp went on for ages, filled with endless ghostly plots that once stood. To write this post is quite difficult even almost a week later.
I would like to take a moment to respect those who were treated unfairly and can only continue to listen to their stories. As the years go on, we only have so many left to listen to, so embrace these survivors and cherish them. But over all else, thank them.