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One Tall Voice: My trip to Germany

Published: March 7, 2008
Section: Opinions


Over this past February break; I traveled with the University Chorus to Germany. While in Europe, my fellow singers and myself saw a number of wonderful and awe-inspiring sites. We traveled up the Alps and saw magnificent castles. The tour group also traveled to Salzburg and visited the home of Wolfgang Mozart. Perhaps the most touching experience during the tour was our trip to the Dachau Concentration Camp. No amount of preparation could have prepared me for the sight of the grim campground. Words cannot express the feelings I had as I walked through the barracks, ventured through the gas chambers and saw the incinerators that witnessed the death of countless individuals. This experience will last a lifetime. This trip was one of the most meaningful of my life. It also influenced my way of thinking and I’d like to share some of my thoughts about this experience.

As you walk through gates of the Concentration Camp, the first words that meet your eye is the phrase “work shall set you free” in German. This site is quite grim, but near these words on a wall is a plaque with a picture of a tank next to a couple of sentences. The plaque talks about the American army unit that was responsible for liberating the camp, and gives thanks to the brave soldiers who helped defeat Nazi barbarism. This statement struck me. To think that Germans would thank the American military is intriguing. To imagine what American soldiers must have seen as they marched through the camp for the first time is unimaginable. These thoughts made me reinforce my positive image of America.

No matter how many mistakes the American government might have made in the past, the U.S. army has done some wonderful things as well. In the modern era, people are too apt to talk against the military when they have, in fact, also accomplished some wonderful things. If it wasn’t for the United States, Nazi evil may have never been expunged. If it wasn’t for the American army, concentration camps such as Dachau may still exist today. Whenever you may be thinking negatively of America, or our military, just think of all the great things this country has accomplished. Due to our government and its military, one of the greatest evils was eliminated from the Earth.

This awe-inspiring experience also made me rethink my Jewish identity as well. After my Bar Mitzvah, I really have had no connection to my Jewish background. In fact, I actively refused to follow any of the religious observances and thought nothing of my Jewish heritage. My experience at the concentration camp made me rethink this position. Countless individuals were utterly slaughtered for exhibiting the traditions that I refused to accept. Millions of people were executed for being part of a community of which I am also a member. Knowing this has reinforced my ties the Jewish community. I cannot forget to remember the culture of my ancestors, as this heritage is what the Nazis had attempted to eliminate.

There were plenty of memorable experiences on my recent trip to Europe. I had the pleasure of visiting the Alps, singing in a number of wonderful churches, and even got to dine in a genuine German beer hall. Still, the most touching experience came with my visit to the Dachau concentration camp. This trip made me more fervently patriotic as I know our government and its military has fought against some genuine evil in the world. This experience has also reconnected me to the Jewish community as I can no longer look past my Jewish heritage. I have also now become one of millions who not only denounce Nazi barbarism, but find meaning in visiting the sites of these concentration camps.