Friday, 15 February 2013


It was cold, not so cold that beneath thick layers of fleece and wool you were iced to the bone, but cold enough for the snow to have frozen over and icicles to have formed. It covered everything, the snow did, the pathways, the buildings, the trees and all of the grass. The buildings would look cold, I decided, even in the summer, but maybe that's because I know what had happened here all of those years before and what was marked in the basements and cellars and the various remains of the barracks and structures. Most of all the barracks and resource centres have been raised to the ground and in their place lie simply the outlines of their foundations which are filled in with pebbles and gravel, and I can’t help but feel terrified by the vast immensity of it all, how naked and open I feel admits the vast openness of the enclosure, as if I could be shot down from anywhere I looked.
I know what it is and what it was used for, it was a concentration camp where thousands of political prisoners, Jews, homosexuals, people like me, and other “non-humans” were held for years and years, starved to death, worked to death, shot and poisoned and experimented on, used to try and find a cure to their various ailments and illnesses, but instead butchered upon, mutilated and slaughtered in their masses. But no no no, it’s how empty and massive the whole complex is that scares me the most, how there can simply be nothing here.
The main gate, directly ahead now, is, just in itself, a building that makes my heart race. I have seen similar gates elsewhere in Germany, but these lead into quaint little gingerbread style villages and not a complex used by the radical and sadistically objective monsters of National Socialism to unleash their terror and tyranny. It leads into the vast emptiness of the main housing area that terrifies me so much. I march where the starved and deathly exhausted marched, look at where they were kept and where they ceased to be, and I grow scared at how little I feel besides the fear of the emptiness. I can see the memorial to the these deaths, a gargantuan brick obelisk behind a bronze statue of those liberated by the Soviets triumphantly declaring their freedom; ironically from the cruelty of the Nazis into the influence of the empathically desolate hearts of the Russian troops. The snow, unblemished and beautiful, covers up the remains which, under the inch, lie restful and waiting.
I move towards the memorial and feel nothing still, but simply remain aware. I can be seen from every direction, every guard tower, every foundation and every pathway and everything else is gone. I see the sign “gallows” and move past it towards the obelisk without a care, because it was sixty years ago that they were hung, their blood has long since eroded away; and I stop out of regret of my thoughts and pinch myself in punishment.
But, I must remind myself, it is true. They are gone, all gone from this place and it has ended, there are no bodies left and the even the buildings are gone, the remains of the execution room have to be specially preserved in some sick memorial and tourist attraction, the tent covering it disallowing the snow from hiding it away. You can even visit the rooms where they conducted the experiments, down in a basement, covered floor to ceiling with disgustingly clean white tiles and sinks so medical you skin crawls in anticipation of a needle or scalpel, and over in the corner an information board, waiting like a shunned little demon. I’m torn between two hypotheses; one, that the doings of the camp are slowly being forgotten and hidden up, whether its from the snow or the destruction, like one of the barracks being subjected to an arson attack in 1992 by Neo-Nazis; and secondly, its being turned into a tourist attraction. There’s even a gift shop and cafe. Strange, I feel, to gorge on schnitzel, ├ęclairs and strudel in a place where thousands starved to death and would kill each other for a crumb. Maybe I should just move on...maybe there’s a balance between hiding and, well, this. But if there is a balance, I don’t think it’s what there is here.   

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