The Hard Days You Can’t Skip…

… on a World War II tour in Europe.

Dachau memorial. Munich, Germany. June 2015.
Dachau memorial. Munich, Germany. June 2015.

There are a lot of things that can start off a post like thi,s but I think I like the way my mother put it best:

“Today has been a tough but important stop on our WWII sites. At Normandy, we were in awe of the sacrifices made by so many to liberate others. Today has been about the other end of the spectrum, how so few could inflict such suffering and death on the many.”

Whenever I’ve told anyone about this trip, mainly the World War II theme, I mostly get a single reaction: why in the world would you want to go around Europe looking at all the sights where people were killed in mass?   Then there is a quick segue into how nice it must have been to spend time with my family or how crazy it is that we fit so much into this trip.

But, as with most things, most people don’t really want to linger on the harder subjects that we deliberately put on our agenda—yes, this trip covered topics rarely seen as part of polite conversation.

And then again, I’d argue, these are some of the most important parts of travel: going to places and seeing things that force you out of your comfort zone.

So while those first few days were tough, our day in Dachau was something else.

The problem with visiting sites like this is that you can never really express the feelings you get wandering around a place where so many died for no reason. So instead, here’s a few simple facts:

Dachau was the first major concentration camp built during World War II (March 1933) and it was one of the last to be liberated (April 1945). It housed men from 34 different countries over the 12 year span, beginning with political prisoners and then branching out to all other groups deemed undesirable. This was also the testing camp—the place where methods of containment and execution were tested before being implemented elsewhere.

We spent the whole day here between wandering the camp by ourselves and on the guided walking tour, and, if you really want to see everything, it’s a good idea to plan for a long day.

The tour was a really helpful way to see the camp. You move quickly through each location getting a lot of extra information. But when I say quickly, I mean, very. You won’t be able to see or read much while being led, which is why you’ll probably end up spending the whole day there retracing your way through the museums.

My favorite part of this was seeing one particular memorial art instillation. While this piece is great for looking at those who suffered here, what is interesting—and again, you’ll get a lot of this information in the tour—is those who were not represented; who also suffered and died but who, years later, were not deemed worth remembering. While some are debatable, I just find it interesting that we still go around passing judgement on who is owed what and why, while we know nothing about the individuals we judge.

See? This is why we travel.

We ended the day back wandering the Marienplatz and having a well-deserved shandy—a beer and lemonade mixed drink which tasted like neither part—at the Hofbräuhaus, which on a happier note, is well worth a stop.

I’m keeping things short, but this was an experience I had never had in my other adventures, but that I do recommend even when the experience is a hard one to take in.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

The Hard Days You Can’t Skip…

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