Monday, September 27, 2010

Very Real Europe

One very real thing in touring Europe I have encountered is the history that war has played on these collection of countries. I did several tours and far too often was shown a location where a building was rebuilt or missing due to bombings during World War II.

It is funny and sad how much individual history these countries all have yet the most common topic is a shared history of recent destruction they all share. Destruction that took place while North America was as it is today, in place geographically with little physical evidence of the wars, just stories.

While in Germany, I debated whether or not I should go to a site set up specifically for human destruction, a concentration camp. I understood the rationale that we need to learn from the horror of these camps in order to learn from the past and to avoid such a tragedy from occurring again.

I still find the sites themselves, the history behind them, creepy. I am well aware of what went on at these camps and think there are better memories available that still help paint that horrible picture.

In the end, going to the concentration camp won over, sort of. At first I showed up too early for the tour and then killed too much time and was late. I don't think I missed out on seeing a must see, although others may believe I have.

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This debate occurred while I was in Munich, but before I arrived there I went to Amsterdam. Holland was occupied by Germany during World War II and people were being shipped to concentration camps from there as well. One family had their hiding spot discovered and they were sent to Auschwitz, perhaps the most infamous concentration camp. This family was the Frank family, and I had the opportunity to see where they hid for so many years.

It was sad enough being in this place which made me want to visit a concentration camp less. There is at least some honor in this story. While 7 people's fate ended in tragedy, before this several people risked their lives to protect these people! It would be harder to see the slight hope in human kind by going to a death camp.

Despite being well aware of the diary, I am ashamed to admit that I never read it before visiting the Secret Annex. What better way to remove that shame then purchasing the book at the location it was written? It did not take me long to devour the book and feel inspired as well as a mix of other emotions.

Anne Frank was a great writer, and at such a young age. Not only was it a sad ending to a story of bravery, but the world was quite possibly robbed of a great writer.

I mentioned the hope for humanity this story brings, despite the fact these families were probably betrayed and almost all did not survive. We cannot however forget that this was not the case for everyone and that there were people in hiding who survived, thanks to the bravery of others. This is what we should embrace from the treacherous story of the holocaust.

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