Bergen-Belsen

Bergen-Belsen

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In my travels around Germany with wonderful friends, I had the pleasure of experiencing many great places, steeping myself in history, exploring with words and images, and trying to fully enjoy every moment, even those in the wee hours when sleep eluded me. I only had one moment that gave me great pause. It wasn’t a museum, or a particular monument, no, what gave me pause was walking the grounds of Bergen-Belsen. This site had been a place of hardship and heartache, having served as both a prisoner of war camp and more pressingly as a concentration camp during WWII. There is a tangible vacancy in the open landscape, something in the very air that echoes what is missing, and weighs on what was lost. Listening the not so distant gun shots from the military base next door added an extra layer of sentience, an eeriness beyond denial. This past, the one where buildings held captive the lost generations, where guards gunned down any who dared the fence and where the crematorium churned lost lives into ash, this past is not so distant. The buildings may be gone, but their presence has not been erased. Across the landscape flowers are blooming, grasses are swaying, the green treetops outlining the blue sky, but on the ground are markers for the lost, and burial mounds which are home to thousands of those who had their lives stolen by institutionalized hatred.
I walked through the grounds, wondering, what this moment would have meant to my Jewish friends, with gun fire in my ears I wondered what it was like for my grandfather to fight this war so far from home, and what did this place feel like for my German friends?
Many questions, none with easy answers. I give you only a few photos, that you might leave this page with a few thoughts of your own. That maybe with a few saturated images you might feel the weight of this place, where the air still weighs heavily on a landscape that was forever altered.

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4 thoughts on “Bergen-Belsen

  1. Scrolling down through the photos and seeing that first one of the grave stones just above the field grasses was shocking and profound. oh my … we need these reminders, no matter how hard they are to see

  2. Thank you all for sharing your comments. There is a weight to this place that I cannot capture in words or pictures, and the experience will be different for all visitors. We need places that remind us of the worst parts of humanity, that we might work to ensure these horrors are prevented, and that we might always strive to improve upon the legacies left to us by previous generations.
    When atrocities arise may the people willing to stand up and do what is right regardless of the cost far outnumber those who would permit such horrors.
    One day, I hope, the ideologies used to divide us will hold no sway over the knowledge that we are all one human race.

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