“There are other things you can eat. First there are dandelions. You simply pull out the whole root, shake off the soil and stick the whole thing in your mouth. Unfortunately there are only a few of them at our work site.”
-Jean Bernard, prisoner in Dachau concentration camp from 1941-1942.
I have never been one to take a lot of pictures within a museum. Occasionally I will snap a picture of the room as a whole if I find it striking, but not usually many individual pictures of boards, paintings, or even sculptures. But this time was different.
We arrived at Dachau concentration camp early in the morning and rain was in the forecast. We all split off on separate paths and entered the gates of the camp. The museum was to our right, which contained artifacts and the history of the camp, and the barracks and crematorium to the left. I chose to enter the museum first. The museum was located in the old maintenance center of the concentration camp. When I entered the building, I felt a physical weight fall over me. Learning about concentration camps at home and now actually being in one are two vastly different things I came to find out. I wandered through the rooms, trying to put myself into the shoes of the prisoners, although I could never even come close to understanding, who would first enter the camp through the exact room I was standing in. I read every bit of information I could, trying to process all that was being thrown at me. Halfway through the museum, I read a quote on one of the boards, not a rarity seeing as I was reading literally everything. But for some reason, I felt compelled to take my phone out and take a picture of this quote; the only quote I took a picture of out of the entire museum. It was in simple black and white font, and barely took up any space on the gigantic wall. If you weren’t looking closely, you may even miss the quote completely. But this is the one I chose to take a picture of.
I continued walking through the museum and when I was done I walked outside into the center of the camp, feeling almost numb to all the information I had just read. I sat on a step right outside and my gaze was focused on the ground, reflecting on the museum. I got up and was about to make my way across the main center to the barrack, but I stopped when I noticed something. Dandelions. Tons of them. The sign of hope for hungry prisoners was once nonexistent within the camp and now there were dandelions scattered everywhere throughout the grass surrounding the camp. I felt a feeling of fate as the only picture I had taken within in the museum was a quote about dandelions. Chills went up my spine. What touched me the most was how it comes to represent hope. Those trapped within the concentration camp had to hold on to any sign of hope they could, and today hope remains. The hope is that something this hateful and atrocious will never occur again. But there is also fear in that hateful things consistently occur/are said in the world today. As I looked around, I observed everyone else visiting the camp. I had hope that everyone there was educating themselves to ensure that history does not come full circle. I had hope that everyone there respected the horrific acts that had occurred. What terrified me was the amount of people who showed blatant disrespect for the grounds of the camp. It sent a different kind of chill up my spine, the chill of terror, that the Holocaust may be disappearing in the minds of some. I walked along the dandelion filled grounds and walked in the barracks and the crematorium, which was extremely difficult to say the least. But everywhere I looked dandelions, my new sign of hope, was scattered where I walked.
After the we left the camp, we all sat in silence not knowing exactly how to put our feelings into words. But there was a comfort in simply being together, even without words being spoken. This shows exactly how bonded we all have become. Munich in general has definitely been a turning point in the relationships built on this trip. Even Dachau created so much conversation regarding religion and salvation and how it is often in conflict with the Holocaust. These are the exact conversations that create bonds that simply cannot be recreated. There have been hard and (very) hangry days, as well as days filled with laughter and spontaneity. My team in Munich, Hohenschwangau, even jumped into a freezing cold river with quite a swift current. Waking up that morning, I could have never seen myself jumping into a freezing river in Munich, but that is exactly where I ended up. My team was absolutely incredible and exploring Munich would not have been the same without them.
Hope is everywhere. It is in our everyday lives, relationships, and even the unexpected.
Munich, you were absolutely amazing.