Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dachau Memorial

We visited the concentration camp memorial in Dachau, Germany (near Munich) today (Konzentrationslager or KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau). What an experience. Today I'll mention just one thing. The shame that I felt for ever having made a joke about someone being a Nazi in my life.

Something about seeing the concentration camp itself, walking the grounds covered in stones, going into the buildings where prisoners lived (up to 2,000 prisoners where there were only facilities for 200), other buildings where prisoners were tortured, pictures of the science experiments, the images of prisoners being freed by U.S. Soldiers (April 29, 1945), pictures of the hundreds of dead bodies that were discovered, and the gas chambers put me, needless to say, in a somber mood.

It is a common thing in America to call an over controlling person a Nazi. A typical example is the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld's sitcom. I think a better phrase would be drill sergeant. Someone who demands perfection in a certain situation. I think I remember referring to someone as a Nazi where a better phrase may have been micro-manager or even anal-retentive.

I remember, while hosting our first exchange student from Germany in 2004-2005, our student taking such a statement very personally. One of the fellow students in our congregation said Nazi instead of drill sergeant, micro-manager, etc. I explained that the phrase is a bad one, but that the individual who used the phrase was not intentionally demeaning the history of the 2nd world war and the great atrocities that took place under the Nazi regime.

Now I better understand why our German exchange student took this so personal and I was sad that I used something so horrible as the Nazi regime and as a joke. I plan to write some impressions of our visit over the next days. I know that Tamara plans to provide some pictures and details regarding the trip as well.


G in Berlin said...

Thank you. I also take trivializing the Holocaust and the enormity of the Third Reich very personally. When someone uses a phrase such as "feminazi" or "Soup nazi", I feel deeply and personally injured and I am glad that you see also why that is so.

Maria said...

I remember my first trip to Dachau like it was yesterday... and 80 silent high school students as we left. I also remember sitting on the bus crying for quite some time afterwards. What really kills me are the people who say it never happened.

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