Wednesday, March 5, 2014

In which I worry over response to concentration camp

To Berlin last week with my friend Vincent, and to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Pronounced Saxon-hausen, a common placename in Germany. I would fain have avoided this visit but Vincent was keen. I'm glad we went, and I may have more to say about it in due course. But for now I just want to relate my own feelings as I went round.  The point is, I had none.  It was as if I were visiting any other archaeological site, a castle say with medieval dungeons, or a cathedral.  I was bothered about this. Some inadequacy of sensitivity on my part.

Members of our Sachsenhausen tour group inspect a hut charred by an arson attack in 1992
Only two original huts remain. The compound has been vandalized several times by Neo-Nazis. In 1992 they set fire to a hut now used as Jewish museum. And the foundation that runs the camp, instead of restoring the burnt beams, has preserved them in their charred state. This is good. The arson attack is itself part of the site’s history.  But what is not good, is that here I am again harping on about archaeology rather than concentrating on the misery and suffering that occurred there.

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