Before realizing what the winter school would be all about, I thought I'd find some spare time to maybe visit the Dachau memorial site myself. However, with the daily tasks that soon began to pile up, a trip out of Munich seemed rather unlikely, unless of course it would be organized.
And in an attempt to broaden everybody's horizons, the LMU did just that.
Finishing earlier on an awfully cold and rainy March afternoon, we took off to the nearby town of Dachau that might seem like an ordinary little Bavarian town at first, if it wasn't for the very first of Germany's concentration camps which opened its gates in 1933 - way before their existence or the system itself would be considered dangerous and wrong beyond every possible imagination.
The camp site itself starts with a modern info center, from which a gravel road leads to the main entrance. Its greeting words may not be as prominent as in some of the later camps, but still, it becomes instantly obvious that the message has been the same all the way.
While many of the original barracks are torn down, the remaining ones serve to offer a glimpse of a part of history that should never be repeated again. From a multimedia presentation to exhibitions...
... Lots of empty space for words that don't really come to mind...... To preserved halls and hallways...
... And recreated conditions from the past...
... Past foundations of many more barracks, more memorial sites and a whole system of fences and wires...
... All the way down to the crematoriums.
And a way back home with many questions spinning around - from the most obvious ones to those who leave you perplexed by the sheer absence of the concept of critical thinking, freedom, and democracy.
"Why does the government allow this?"
"Teaching about [concentration camps] at schools?"
Our guide must have seriously considered the presence of a hidden camera somewhere, but she was dead serious. Being professional and obviously used to all kinds of Q&A, his best response was:
"Because Germany is a democracy."
And suddenly, it became clear that it's far from self-evident to have the right to criticize government actions, present or past. To have access to quality journalism that makes one able to form opinions that are supported by facts rather than empty populist slogans.
A common sense that favours equality, solidarity and humanity over hatred, regardless of its target and who fuels it.
A freedom of speech that can and should be used and protected because it is, after all, the very base of democracy.
~ to be continued ~