Sunday, June 3, 2012

Arbeit Macht Frei

Arbeit Macht Frei “Work Will Make You Free” is what thousands of innocent souls read as they entered the gates of Dachau, which was the first concentration camp of WWII. Today was the first day that our Survivor, George Spooner, was able to follow the footsteps that his father and two uncles took in 1938. As we stepped into “Roll Call Square,” no one could anticipate the amount of emotion that we were to experience. Dachau is where over 30,000 people died. We will never understand the amount of physical and mental torture that the prisoners of Dachau experienced.

As we stood in the square a steady rain began to fall, and a wreath was laid in honor of the Survivors, Liberators, and those who perished in the camps. The Veterans and Survivors were able to stand in silence together as we stood with them in the rain. The rain signified the raw emotion that we all felt and helped us to better understand the significance of the camp.
Over the past couple of days, we have been able to develop a close relationship with our Survivor, George Spooner. He was born in Vienna, Austria in 1928, and lived there with his parents. On November 12, 1938, the day after Kristallnacht, George's father and two uncles were taken from their homes by SS troops and sent to Dachau concentration camp; Mr. Spooner was only ten years old. On December 21, 1938, his mother put him on a train bound for England with the Kinder Transport. The Kinder Transport moved 10,000 Jewish children to England to escape suffering in a concentration camp. His mother was able to track down his father after going to several Nazis offices and demanded to know where he was. His father and uncles were released from Dachau three months later and his father escaped to England where George and his mother were waiting. They moved to New York where his mother and father passed away. Today Mr. Spooner lives in St. Louis with his wife.

As we went into the museum, Mr. Spooner was very quiet. We walked from exhibit to exhibit and throughout the museum Mr. Spooner would read to us and give us extra details at each exhibit. At every picture, Mr. Spooner would look for the faces of his father and uncles. It was such an honor for us to experience this visit to Dachau with Mr. Spooner, who has such a deep connection to the place.

As we walked outside, and looked over Dachau, we could never know what took place here and the amount of suffering that was bestowed on the victims.

There were monuments on a dark trail that marked the places where thousands of bodies were buried and where many prisoners were murdered. As Mr. Spooner looked at each monument, he took a few seconds to reflect and then silently moved on. We could see the pain etched on his face for the loss of the thousands of prisoners.
There were also two crematoriums still standing that remind us of the reality of what actually happened. Staring at the furnace gave us a very chilling and horrific feeling because we know that actual human bodies were burned inside them.

To finish the afternoon, we visited a convent. The sisters of the convent sang a Gregorian chant for us and after the service some of the Veterans and Survivors spoke to us about their experiences.

We are grateful for our visit to Dachau and the opportunity to further educate ourselves about the Holocaust. We are truly honored to accompany these Veterans and Survivors that were involved with these camps. Mr. Spooner has said many times that people are taught to hate, not born to hate.

Alex Berner, senior
Kari Jurgena, junior

1 comment:

  1. Bill & Paul,
    You guys are doing an amazing job! I have really enjoyed both the pictures and the video. I'm so glad the trip is going well for all!