(pic of a memorial at Dachau Concentration Camp)
As mentioned previously, our teenage daughter, Emily, is in Germany and Austria for a week with the high school band. I was looking through the itinerary today and see they are going to The Dachau Concentration Camp Museum next week. When I read that it struck me how funding, maintaining and working at such a museum must feel like. I mean, the people in that community work there, right? The very same people (or their children) who knew it way back when…when trains stopped, unloaded people by the thousands and did it all over again, when smoke stacks spewed the smell of burning flesh. Did they not see what was before them? Were they complicit participants in the horror? Did they milk their cows and deliver cream and butter to the officers? Did they transport goods and services to the camp? Did they not see? Or, did they see and nod approvingly? Or, did they resist?
Now this same community tends a place that reminds the world of the horror their people inflicted on innocents. Every morning they open the gate to tourist busses and travelers who come to witness what they have done, to come and witness the worst atrocities their people have ever doled out.
I understand learning from history and the value of historical museums, for if we refuse to look at the past we\’ll certainly repeat it. A human slaughter house museum though…I wonder what it feels like for the locals, for the German people. Are they guilt ridden, are they ashamed? Do they feel stuck with a Hitler stigma? Is there a mass German inferiority complex? What do they tell their children, what do their school textbooks say?
I wonder if they can lead guided tours and tend the tourist shops with the awareness that they are forgiven. Forgiven? Yeah, by God…maybe not by those who suffered or the sufferers people (i.e. the Jews), but by their Creator.
How about us? Few of us have killed or been complicit in such a horror, yet we all have sinned, we all have places we\’d rather others not come and see, come and meander through with aghast countenances. Our thought life alone has harbored ill will, has \’killed\’ another while postulating how to keep him/her under foot. We may not be Nazis, but we aren\’t above hate or revenge, are we? If we think we are, we are self-deluded or utterly lacking self-awareness.
I commend the German people for eyeballing the horrors they inflicted and for opening such a view for the rest of the world. Their confession and openness signal that there must be contrition on their part, they must somehow want forgiveness. Whether they ever receive forgiveness from anyone other than God isn\’t really the point, is it? No, the fact that they have confessed, are contrite and have repented (vowed to never do it again) is enough. Divine forgiveness is theirs and they bless others with their example…they give us all permission to do the same.