Wednesday, May 22, 2013
May 18th, 2013 - Ravensbrüke Concentration Camp
MAY 18th, 2013
Today we woke up and left the hotel at 8:30 AM. We all got on a small bus and took a two-hour drive to Ravensbrüke Concentration Camp. This camp was specifically made for women and children during the holocaust. Upon arriving to the camp, we were introduced to our tour guide. He was very knowledgeable and passionate about studies in the holocaust. He was able to tell us a lot of first hand accounts about the camp. For example, he told us that one of the women who donated photos to the camp exhibits took out pictures of herself. The reason for this was before the picture was taken, the Gestapo interrogated and abused her and she had bruises on her face. This was not the image that she wanted to be remembered by. However, eventually she decided to give the camp al the pictures. It is a very telling photo and shows how much suffering and oppression that women at Ravensbrüke went through at the time.
When we went into the camp our tour guide was able to tell us more personal stories. For example, he told us one story about a group of women at Ravensbrüke who were brutally punished because a member of their group escaped. The remaining women were told that they had to stand at roll call for over a day. Because of exhaustion, starvation, and overall fatigue many women died during the punishment. Eventually, the escaped woman was returned to the camp and initially handed over to her original group. They were instructed to do with her what they wished. Although they did nothing, this was very telling of how much these women had lost touch with humanity. There were many cases where these women would turn against each other in the midst of all the suffering and hysteria.
He did end the tour with a story of hope. He spoke about a woman who was liberated from the camp. She describes seeing an attractive man come into the camp with a red cross on his jacket. She immediately went to fix her hair. It was at this point that she finally felt like a woman again. The camps had ripped away her identity, womanhood, and hope. The liberation gave them a small glimpse at all of these things, which had been taken from them. After the tour we were allowed to walk through the crematorium, which was separated into rooms, which memorialized various groups of victims in the holocaust. Each room was very unique and did a great job of depicting each group’s struggles. Overall the experience at the concentration camp was very powerful and I learned a lot more about the holocaust then I ever have in a classroom.
After the tour of the concentration camp we met as a group in the hotel and spoke about our own personal feelings and reflections from the camp. It was really interesting to hear how other members of our group felt at the camp and how they interpreted certain rooms and stories differently. We spoke a lot about the visual representations of women and children during the holocaust and whether or not it is respectful to show them or not. I think that while these representations don’t show these women at their best, the images are important to have because they are the most powerful tool we have to convey the pain and suffering of the holocaust.
At night we were all able to sit in the hotel lobby and watch Euro-vision, which is like a European version of American Idol. It was interesting that most of the songs were in English. As an American, I feel as though we should be required to know more than one language. English is the only the language that almost everything is translated to, which shows how ignorant Americans are. I think it would be helpful for there to be a greater stress put on the incorporation of foreign languages in American School Curriculum. Regardless, it was nice to see some cultural similarities between Europe and America while watching Eurovision. Like in America, it seemed that Euro-vision is very popular and has become a part of European culture.