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Saturday, March 1, 2014

My Walk in Sachsenhausen

Getting a guided tour in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp was one of the sombre moments in Berlin (there was also another sombre moments when we we visited the Jewish memorial in the city with Sandsman free walks).

Arriving in Berlin,  you'll find plenty of brochures around that publicizes their walking tours. Pick any, they are all about the same rate, travel by public transport and they are usually conducted by history buffs so you can't go wrong. 

I'm not sure why i feel excited visiting a concentration camp. Perhaps it's because of my Scorpio inclination to all things dark, or maybe i'm only excited because i know i won't be suffering. 

Sachsenhausen was the administrative center of all concentration camps around the area in 1936 and was also a training center for the SS officers. People kept there are criminals, political prisoners and Jews. Among the prisoners, there was even a hierarchy. Rapists and murderers were at the top, becoming kapos (camp leaders) with the nice good men at their berating and torture. The SS made sure that by placing the worst of mankind as leaders, they could keep order and minimize risks of a revolt. 

However, in spite of all the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possible for spiritual life to deepen, as written by some survivor biographies. 

The Death Strip
Guards were given rewards like extra leave or service by the brothel made of female prisoners if they successfully shot and killed any prisoner who attempts to escape. Female prisoners may sometimes volunteer to be part of the brothel so as to get better food and treatment. 

Sachsenhausen was the site of the largest counterfeiting operation ever. Inmates with profession and skill of a designer were forced to forge American and British currency, a plan to undermine thee economies. 
In Labour, we work to Freedom
Over 8 years, 30,000 prisoners died from exhaustion, disease, malnutrition and pneumonia etc. due to poor living conditions. Many others also died from brutal medical experimentation or made to go on death marches or gassed. However, 3000 inmates lived to see liberation. Was there a trick to staying alive in such dire states?

I believe man can only live by looking to the future. Holding on to the hope that he or she will once again be reunited with their loved ones. How a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. I feel sorry for the friends who don't have the 'carpe per diem' attitude. They find their future bleak and they find no purpose in living. 

Humor is another of the soul's weapons in the fight for self-preservation. Humor, more than anything else in the human make-up, can afoord an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds. I have been called names in online forums and i found them funny.

The inmates found simple joys in camps, like having fire to keep them warm. Finding tiny pieces of potatoes in their soup (1 per day) or just finding a piece of paper with Bible scriptures scribbled on (found in the pocket of a dead inmate's uniform). 
Most importantly, i think what these 3,000 surviving inmates did, they found meaning in life. They didn't ask themselves "why me" in a sorry way. Instead of looking inwardly and asking what they expect from life, like most people do, they asked what life expected of them. They stopped asking about the meaning of life, instead to think of themselves being questioned by life. Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice. Some thoughts that ran through inmates' minds were, "i'm in here, so my wife and children won't be." I remembered once i wasn't feeling well and seeing the worried and concerned look my ex had, in that fleeting moment, i was glad i am the one lying in bed than it was he who is suffering. 

The more one forgets themselves, by giving himself to serve a cause or another person to love, the more there is to live. Life means taking taking responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual. These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment. No one has the right to do wrong, not even if wrong has been done to them. Recently saw a video that reverbrated this message.

"He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how."

1 comment:

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