Visiting Buchenwald - Commentaries by the Bilingual History Course
Hannah Kessler, 10bG
I think the visit to the labour camp Buchenwald is definitely a valuable experience. It’s a long drive for us to get there, but there are several reasons as to why it’s so important that we get to see it. We learn about German history in school, but after all, that’s just a teacher talking about it, and some students listening half-heartedly. Going there, walking through the buildings and seeing it in front of one’s eyes, it all gets a lot more real. The guide explained a lot of things we didn’t learn about in school, and others we did learn about, more specifically. The numbers, how many people worked and died there, were particularly shocking to me personally.
A lot of the buildings have been destroyed during the war, but one can still feel the depressing atmosphere, which gives a better idea of the brutality of the events back then. The short film we were shown included interviews with survivors of Buchenwald. I think that’s also an important point, since their recollections are, of course, more accurate than any teacher’s or guide’s description can possibly be. Furthermore, they took the time to remember and talk about something that probably traumatized and still haunts them, and I think it’s kind of an inherited duty for us, the following generations, to take an interest in what happened to prevent such cruel events from taking place ever again and as a way of honouring the victims of National Socialism. The visit to Buchenwald shows us what happens if people with power consider themselves superior to other people because of their race, their religion, their gender or otherwise. Considering our current political situation and developments, I think it’s important for us, now more than ever, to be aware of how sudden such tragedies can take place, and how vigilant we have to be to not let it happen again.
Celina Zimmer, 10cG
Buchenwald is one of the biggest and best-known concentration camps in Germany. About 270.000 people were forced to work there from 1937 to 1945 because of their nationality, their sexual orientation or their political views. An estimated 26 000 were killed. Is it a valuable experience for students to visit the concentration camp or not?
On the one hand the time spent on the bus is very long in comparison to the time spent on actually walking around and really getting to see the whole camp. Moreover visiting such a camp only makes sense if both teachers and students have in mind what happened back then and what consequences such a terrible facility had and also what it means for us today. It shouldn’t be just a place being visited because of the curriculum.
On the other hand showing the students the terrible living and working conditions that the prisoners of the camp had to endure really opens their eyes. It is one thing to read about the horrible things such as being beaten and abused both mentally and physically, but really standing there where hundreds and thousands of people were slaughtered and being robbed of their dignity and their identity gives an even better idea of what the generation back then did and it also shows that everyone of us has a historical responsibility and that is to show respect to the people who died there.
In the end I would say that everyone should have visited a concentration camp memorial site once in their life because we all owe it to the victims and we all are responsible for something like that never to happen again.