Today we visited the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranienburg, which is north of Berlin. The heavy rain started in the morning and did not stop, resulting in flash floods in the area. Buses and cars were stopped as the roads became waterways. Some students panicked but this did not stop our journey to the historic site.
Upon arrival the tour guide directed us to a room outside the gates of the actual camp. The room documented the early Oranienburg camp in which the Nazis persecuted their political rivals. This camp was an early predecessor to the horrors of Sachsenhausen. The Nazis were able to operate this early camp under the guise of “re-education” of social deviants. This is the most extreme form of “othering”. The SPD and other political rivals such as communists were thrown into the camps with little or no resistance from the general public. The divide between a set of people had become so large that the persecution of others who do not fit the dominant narrative was not acknowledged or even welcomed. This lack of sympathy and understanding led to the Sachsenhausen camp that murdered tens of thousands of Germany’s others (Such as ethnic minorities and persecuted religious groups).
As we continued through the rooms one thing became clear. For many of us in the group, we saw that there is parallels in today's world and recent past, and realized that this kind of extreme hatred is not unique to Germany and the Third Reich. From the Rwandan genocide to the Syrian Civil War, the ghosts of the past continue to haunt us. It is easy to look for simple answers to very complex world issues, and the unfortunately it is the others who are blamed for a slow economy or loss of jobs. Just as Germany fell into this trap, so are many people today. Divisive rhetoric is used commonly in the United States and many other parts of the world and this breeds violence, discrimination, and hate against vulnerable people across the world. In this way the past becomes a very real and tangible thing.