Friday, April 25, 2008

RAVENSBRUCK: Quiet Horror









I just wrote this as a comment on another blog - Zoe's "A Complicated Salvation." Please give her a visit, she does good stuff.
After reading through my comment, I decided I would like to share it, in a slightly expanded version with those few of you who visit here from time to time.

An odd thing. As I mentioned in an earlier post my wife and I recently spent about ten days visiting our son who lives in Germany. The day after Easter we toured Ravensbruck, a concentration camp set up by the Nazis primarily to imprison and murder women and children. It obviously wasn't a happy couple of hours for us, but there was something about the atmosphere there that was at once haunting and yet stunningly peaceful.

Inside the walls all of the barracks in which the prisoners lived are gone leaving only an impression in the gravel of the outline of each building as if the collective misery which permeated those buildings left an indelible stain on the ground beneath. There are multiple rows of Linden trees remaining originally planted near the door of each building, a cruelly ironic gesture if given some thought. Far to the rear of the complex are buildings which served as a factory wherein the women and older children manufactured SS uniforms. Otherwise, the space is open, barren.


Outside the confines of the camp itself is a lake with a plaza at the end nearest the camp. On the plaza is a tall pillar topped with the statue of an obviously emaciated woman carrying a dead or dying child. That alone is quite moving.

But one can turn away from the lake, looking back beyond the statue toward the camp and see, scanning from the left, the crematory still in place and the space where the gas chamber once stood. Scanning further one sees a long narrow field of grass and perennial flowers which is a mass grave for over 300 women and children found dead when the camp was liberated by the Russians in 1945. Behind the grave is a wall commemorating all of the various countries from which the prisoners - the women and children - came. According to available reading material only about 16% of all the prisoners brought to Ravensbruck were Jews. Many were "Romas" or gypsies, a variety of political dissidents, even Catholic nuns.

Turning back, I looked once again first at the pillar and statue, then the lake. It was all very serene. It was a cold, but sunny day. I sat for a time atop a low wall adjacent to the lake and took all of it in for a time until Joan and Nick caught me up.

Quietude. The place is, in its own way unexpectedly beautiful - the surroundings, not the camp. Ravensbruck is situated north of Berlin in what is Germany's lake country - its Wisconsin if you will.

Looking through many of the displays and photos of the camp when active, has the effect of jangling one's sensibilities. One tends to respond that this is just not possible! This happened in the middle of the 20th century, a time we consider to be part of the modern, supposedly civilized era. How could anyone so purposefully, so methodically carry out such barbarism? And yet, there it is.

Over one hundred thousand women, children and a small number of men perished at Ravensbruck. It's not even one of the larger or well known camps.

I wanted to cry. I felt like I should cry. I just couldn't.
TLS



7 comments:

Zoe said...

And so my friend, I've finally made it here to read it again and behold your pictures.

Sobering. As I said on my blog, I know I won't get to Germany so I appreciate you sharing this here.

Thank you for the mention and the link. Unfortunately, I've had trouble of late managing my Wordpress blog so I've retreated to Blogger. I will be keeping the Wordpress blog online.

Terry S. said...

Zoe,

Glad you came by. I know the traffic's a bitch, but well worth the hassle, don't you think? {;-)>

Didn't you have trouble with Word Press before? As I can, I will redirect people to your new digs.

Does your new place have a view? Is it close to schools and shopping? Oh, and churches? (I guess I'm a true real estate kinda guy.)

TLS

Terry S said...

Zoe, and whoever,

Just thought I'd add that I have several more photos, but those chosen I thought illuminated the text adequately. I didn't particularly want to overdo it. I may publish a few more that further illuminate what I want to communicate about our experience. I'll see.

TLS

Zoe said...

I would have been here sooner, but, yeah, the old Wordpress thing was driving me batty! You know, not that you mention it, I think I did have trouble before, though that was prior to the updgrade.

I can't load any pics and the videos I had were slowing everything down and there's been tons of complaints from Wordpress users and my hormones, oh sorry, I mean my temper got the best of me.

I'm not sure how my Blogger blog loads when people open the page. I'm wondering if it happens to load slowly or opens but is missing some of the sidebar widgets? This could all be taken care of if I would just settle for one of the Blogger templates provided at Blogger. But, nooooooooooo, I'm too fussy and I want one of the pertty (spelling intentional) templates with flowers and such. I thought that little pink flower turned upside down was perfect. You may recall I use a similar flower albeit, an upright one, for my avatar at Wordpress. Anyway, in my small little world here, I was amused.

Will Zoe ever get a life?

Terry S said...

Zoe,

If memory serves, you've had a number of problems over the past few years, not the least of which was the theft of your entire site.

I just loaded your site a couple of times and it did so in 2 to 3 seconds - no problems that I could see. Of course, how any particular site loads is, as I understand it, at least partially dependent upon each individual's type of service - broadband, dial-up, etc. - among other things.

You are more creative and adventurous in your blog creations than I. Mine is pretty basic. I do use one of the stock blogger templates. I don't really know how to do much in the way of creative stuff beyond what I write. I'm just not that computer savvy.

A little excitement hit near home a couple of days ago. As I may have mentioned sometime earlier, my brother in-law, Frank ran and lost a mayoral race in the little town of Beech Grove, IN last fall. However, even in defeat, he has become the local democrat's go to guy in Beech Grove (for whatever that might be worth.) On Monday, he got a call from the Obama campaign. They wanted him to put them in touch with a random union member living in the Grove, which he did.

On Wednesday both Barack and Michele came to the Grove and had lunch with the selected union member and his wife. My brother in-law's wife, daughter and grand kids also met both Barack and Michele. Barack phoned my brother in-law thanking him for making the arrangements.

Frank's wife, Mary even got a brief back rub from Barack. Now she's in love and says that Frank can never touch her again. (She's just kidding -- I think.) A number of photos were taken of Mary & her grandkids with Barack & Michele.

I think I know for whom they will be voting.

Oh, by the way. Sorry for my latest post. I suppose it's rather infantile, but I just couldn't resist. I needed a bit of levity. I don't suppose the victims of these "thefts" have found it particularly humorous, but what the heck.

TLS

acomplicatedsalvationreborn said...

Terry,

This is yet, another blog alert. I'm back at Wordpress. Believe it or not, I actually figured out the problem. So, the prodigal has returned home to face yet another day of blog woes.

Obama eh? I can well imagine the excitement everyone went through. :)

Do you think he'll eventually get the nomination?

I caught your humour in that post. The things people do eh? Geesh. Sometimes we have to laugh or we'd sit down and never stop crying.

Terry S said...

Zoe,

You're a hard person to keep up with.

Obama? Yeah, I think he may well pull it off, but Clinton will not go down quietly. She could turn the tables.

Both of them have been all over the state during the past few weeks. I think Jo and I are going to see Obama at an outdoor rally Monday evening.

While in Germany, we were asked numerous times who we favored - Clinton or Obama. McCain's name never came up. It's interesting that the U.S. presidential race is of such interest abroad.

I can live with Clinton, should she pull it off. A lot of people REALLY hate her, though.

According to my brother in-law, Frank, a problem that Obama has is that his appearances require an unusual amount of security because he, too, has stirred up a great deal of hatred primarily amongst died-in-the-wool racists. It's not been widely publicized, but I guess he's received numerous death threats. It's a great country I live in.

Nothing like a little penile humor to break the monotony, though.

TLS