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the lives of those before us

Written on: Tuesday September 25th, 2007

A journal entry from: Fall for Germany

Today we went to Buchenwald which was a concentration camp during WWII and a Soviet camp from 1945-1950.  Most of the buildings have been torn down, but a few have been preserved.  It's eerie to see the blank parade ground, the foundations of barracks, the empty enclosement of the zoo for the officer's kids, the crematorium with the ovens still in place.  I actively read things about WWII since I was in 4th grade and went to the Holocost museum in DC last Thanksgiving with Jamie, so nothing I heard was a surprise but it was surreal to see it all in person.  It was easy for my mind to wander away trying to escape thinking about the tragedy of what had happened.  The part that touched me most was the art museum.  They converted one of the buildings into a museum of art that had been produced during inmates stay in the camp and some things produced later.  A bunch of the sketches surprised me with their access to color and a precision I wouldn't have expected from covert acts like art.  A lot were charcoal (or some dark pigment that looked like it) and heartbreakingly well done of the prisoners at work, the faces of guards etched in their minds, the horror of their everydaylife.  There were also scribbled images of pencil of amatures that were no less moving.  The exhibition started with things produced during the war, moved to prisoners memories of the war, and then to others who have produced art in reaction to the war.  I noticed a lot of the memories were produced in the '80s and I wonder if it was in response to the deterioration of the iron curtain.  The memories were often bigger works that involved prisoner mug shots.  Then the bronze sculptures of human faces melding into nothing... wow.  It was amazing.  I didn't have time to do more than glance through the historical museum thing, but that's ok.  I felt that the Holocaust Museum in DC was an accurate replacement that was just as moving, if not more so.  The atmosphere of the Holocause museum is darker (black walls) and crowded with information.  The halls are small and crowded so your pressed with the other visitors that in a way mimics the crowdedness of the concentration camps. 

After lunch at the camp, we went to Weimar, the closest town to Buchenwald.  I was still affected from the concentration camp and also extremely tired, so I kept on falling asleep on my feet and probably missed some information.  The highlights are something about Schiller and Goethe, neither of which particularly interest me. 

Basically, all Eastern Germany has to offer is the DDR, Goethe, Schiller, and Luther.  DDR isn't that positive for them, I'm not a huge fan of Goethe or Schiller, and if Luther so much as made a pitstop in a town, they have a couple statues, a plaque and a museum set up for him.  It's not that I don't like Luther, but I got really tired of him.  I can barely keep straight what he did where. 

We took a four hour tour of Weimar.  We went to a Russian Orthodox Church that had someone buried in it.  I think it was both Goethe and Schiller, but you couldn't take pictures inside so I don't quite remember.  Also, when I uploaded my pictures onto my computer, they didn't load in sequential order and some of the time stamps are wrong, so I'm kinda confused what pictures I actually took IN Wiemar.  So I'm just gonna skip that part?.  

We're staying in Erfort for one  more night and tomorrow we leave for Liepzig.  I've been lucky to have free internet at both hotels we've stayed in, but there's no guaruntee that'll happen again.  So... until next time. 


From Jacqui on Oct 7th, 2007

Buchenwald is such a chilling place. On the day that we went, it was literally freezing cold, and the wind hit us about as hard as the depressing atmosphere. What did you think about eating lunch in the former SS barracks? Eerie... I remember origami and post cards, but no prisoner art. I imagine that would make things simultaneously more uplifting and more bleak. As for Erfurt, Eisenach, Leipzig, and the rest of East Germany...I don't remember much detail either, except long tours that made me very tired and hungry. Of course, I was grateful for the experience and I'd never complain to/around Dr. Whisnant or anyone else who planned the trips. It always bugged me when people did that too!