I visited the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin around eight months ago. The Holocaust, as we all know, is probably the most horrific parts of modern history and the true depth of the evil that occurred during the Nazi regime is something you can’t really put into words. This systematic, pseudo-scientific atrocity which treated humans like farm animals and separated them by the most arbitrary things into who deserved to live and who should be disposed of is something you never can or should get over.
The thing about history is that it’s very easy not to think too deeply about the horrific things people have done to each other. Statistics don’t bleed as they say and when you’re reading a history book, watching a video or writing an essay you write down these statistics and describe these events but you become desensitized. Sometimes you read something particularly bad and it shocks you, but after a while, you come to expect that most parts of history are pretty bad.
Places like the Holocaust Memorial are important because they force us to go beyond the statistics and actually comprehend who these people were and what happened to them. The Memorial is very effective because they show us that these statistics describe real people. It’s very difficult, but you need to visit it because we need to remember the extent of what humans are capable of and how a poisonous ideology like eugenics was used to justify it. These events happened a long time ago, but we can never forget them.
Entry from 28th October 2016
I could write a whole bloody essay on that place but to keep things nice and blog length lets just say it was powerful. Very powerful and almost horribly well done.
Everyone knows about the Holocaust and everyone knows the 11million dead figure, but you still don’t … know. You don’t know about the 5-year-old kids and entire families and people in their best clothes thinking they’re going to get work when they’re about to be gassed.
The Holocaust memorial was so powerful because it is dedicated to personalizing the Holocaust and showing you the victims. There is a general information room which has stuff about the build up to and the murder of the disabled, Roma, Sinti, Catholics, political prisoners, and of course the Jews.
The rest of the museum is less general and focused on the individual experience; so there is a room full of experts from the letters and diaries of the victims including children and young teenagers and it shows that most of them knew. They knew people were being murdered and they knew they were going to die, and they were right. Out of all the experts in that room, only one of the writers survived the Holocaust.
Then you have a room full of stories about individual Jewish families. They used family pictures and they tell you what the family did for a living and then they show you how many of the people in that photo were murdered. Some did survive and one even lived right up until 2011. Most didn’t.
Then you have this dark room that you can sit in and the surrounding screens show a name and then they tell you a bit about the person. Some of the names are just part of the records so they tell you about particular incidents or camp and say “such and such was knew of the victims” and sometimes they don’t know anything else about them, but sometimes they do and it’s horrible. There was a 5-year-old girl called Simone from Istanbul who was murdered. 5.years.old.
The Holocaust museum will traumatize you a little, but then you need to be traumatized a little. You need to see the victims not as nameless stats from a history book you never really read but as real life people who were murdered not for anything they did but because some warped pseudo-scientists and crazy egomaniacs decided they weren’t really people.
The scariest thing about the Nazis is that real life villains don’t do things just because “mwahahah I’m evil”. They believed in it. And they weren’t the only ones. America sterilized and murdered people in the name of Eugenics. Britain started the whole damn thing. The idea of breeding humans like dogs and killing off the sick ones wasn’t just accepted, it was implemented. This was less than 100 years ago.
I’m not sure if it’s just me, but before going to university I hadn’t really learned that much about Eugenics. I’d never studied Nazi Germany in depth before, but I still find it a little odd that, whilst you obviously know that they murdered people for being Jewish or Catholic or against the Nazi state, I’m not sure how much earlier education goes into what their ideology actually was or the fact that it wasn’t limited to Nazi Germany. The idea of breeding humans like dogs and killing off the sick ones wasn’t just accepted, it was implemented.
The fact that Eugenics was very popular in America during the 1930’s is known, but I don’t think it’s still widespread knowledge. When we talk about Nazi Germany we normally limit it to what was going on there, but it’s important to realize that America was also sterilizing people they deemed to be ‘unfit’ of ‘breeding’.
Obviously, after the world found out about the true horrors of the Holocaust other countries would have wanted to dissociate themselves with any memory of the ideology that spurred these atrocities on, but we need to remember it. This is a significant part of not just Germany’s past but also the USA’s and, to a lesser extent, the U.K.
We need to remember how evil humanity can be not so we hate ourselves but so we can fight the idea that one group of people gets to decide who is worthy of life, who is lesser than or more than someone else.
The Fuhrerbunker is apparently three minutes away from the memorial but as far as I know its in this park which was closed off at night so apart from reading the little information board and learning through the gate I didn’t really see much.
The Mall of Berlin is massive and really quite beautiful. They have quite a big food court where I bought a tofu burger which turned out to be literally tofu. In a burger. With salad and sauce. Fried tofu doesn’t have a lot of flavours and it was a little disconcerting at first but at least it wasn’t soggy and the protein made me feel alive.
I even managed to walk back from the mall to the hostel with only one “ahhhhhh where am I!?” moment and even then it turned out I was actually in the right place, so, all in all, I think I can call that a pretty successful day.