Stillness and silence. That is how I would describe our experience at the Flossenburg Concentration Camp. It is one I will never forget. We started out our day at the Flossenburg headquarters, in which 15,000 people were imprisoned at one point. This spot is also where the SS would interrogate and torture prisoners. However, I did learn that mass killings came from the labor they had to put forth in the quarries, rather than from being sent to gas chambers. Nonetheless, the torture these prisoners had to go through was unbearable.
I was moved to tears after singing in the Synagogue. It was one of those experiences that is hard to put words to. As we gathered around the Star of David and joined hands, we sang Lamb of God. It was then when I truly listened to the words and fell in love with the beauty of that song. While the words don’t necessarily connect, there was one line that really stuck out to me-“Have mercy on us.” Singing in there meant everything it needed to be.
As I walked through the Valley of Death, I couldn’t quite grasp the concept of why someone would put innocent people through what they had been through. It was painfully obvious that if there was ever a time of evil, it was at that point. While this establishment was commemorated as a memorial, something still felt haunting as I took my first steps down. Our tour guide described it as “walking down into hell” which I think was quite accurate, with the entrance being located above the crematorium. There were pillars at the camp gate to represent the prisoners’ suffering. The ashes of about 15,000 people were scattered or buried near the crematorium. Walking inside the crematorium was nothing but eerie. The Pyramid of Ashes is made up of remains of those who perished at the camp. I walked around it just wondering how any of it could come to be. The Square of Nations memorializes those dead by country of origin. By the time I had walked the whole path and made my way up to the chapel, I felt a sense of revelation. The memorial site is laid out to resemble a Christian Stations of the Cross, so the chapel can be seen from the crematorium. I surpassed the Valley feeling relieved, as others should have been able to do.
The message was clear to me. It wasn’t about sorrow or grief. The concept of the Concentration Camp is remembrance. Remembering those who were put through things that some of us couldn’t imagine. They were all just people like us. They all had self worth, whether they themselves believed it or not. It was all overwhelmingly powerful. The only way to fully understand it is to experience it. Nevertheless, an experience to remember.