Tales from Abroad: Beautiful Buchenwald Sep13


Related Posts

Share This

Tales from Abroad: Beautiful Buchenwald


Beautiful Buchenwald

One of my favorite places that I had the opportunity of visiting in Germany was the Buchenwald campsite, which I thought was an interesting and conflicting place. Unlike most other concentration camps used by the Germans for their prisoners, who were imprisoned in improvised school or office buildings, this camp was specifically designed and built for the purpose of incarceration, forced labor, and torture. As part of the guided tour, we watched a documentary at the beginning that informed me

of the terrible conditions at the Buchenwald concentration camp during WWII. A camp survivor recounted stories about bloodhounds tearing into the flesh of weak but live victims, extreme hunger that led a prisoner to kill another prisoner for a handful of potato peels, and poor hygiene that resulted in people dying of diseases that were not found anywhere else in the nation. I wonder if anyone else felt a sharp pang of regret in learning that even after liberation, victims of concentration camps were still dying of the effects of their maltreatment. In the days and weeks after liberation, hundreds died due to the lack of available food and medicine while thousands died in the death march.

Something that I found interesting about this place was that although the SS officers believed that they were doing something good and necessary in imprisoning and murdering the Jews and social outcasts, they felt the urge to cover up the events that transpired in the Buchenwald camp. They went out of their way to humiliate, denigrate, and torture the inmates, forcing them to build the beautiful homes and gardens neighboring the camp for the Nazi officers and their families. The Buchenwald prisoners even built a zoo and a park for the relaxed enjoyment of their captors, whose ostentatious lives across the barb-wired fence were clearly visible to further taunt the mistreated and helpless prisoners. The tour guide commented that Nazi families would bring their relatives to show them how beautiful the place was and how they could build and make their own homes there, despite the obviously inhumane environment of the nearby camp.

What struck me most about the present day site of the Buchenwald camp was that it is much more beautiful than I had anticipated, and it made me think of the song Beautiful Things, which begins “all this pain; I wonder if I’ll ever find my way; I wonder if my life could really change at all… could a garden come up from this ground at all.” These words seem to repr

esent the dreadful situation of the prisoners, who might have wondered if they would ever be free again

and if their scars would ever heal. The song answered these questions with the encouraging words that “all around hope is springing up from this old ground” because Jesus “make[s] beautiful things out of the dust.” Buchenwald today seems to agree that yes, beautiful things can spring from ground that has seen immense suffering and pain, which is a dichotomous concept that is simultaneously beautiful and difficult to come to terms with.