Дахау Лагерь (Dachau Concentration Camp)
Earlier this week, my boyfriend and I went to Germany via Poland to visit some of his friends in Munich and do some photo shoots there. While there, we planned to visit the Nazi death camp, Dachau. Having dated a very sweet and amazing Polish girl a few years back, I had known of the suffering of the Polish people at the hands of Hitler and I had wanted to experience this for myself for years now. I had been here in the summer of 2014, but didn’t get to spend the time I wanted to here.
The issue that was close to my heart on this trip was not what others might have done, but what do I do, each and every day.
Visiting Dachau was heart wrenching. After Alexei and I spent the day there, I told him over dinner that evening that something deep within me was pulling me back to the death camp – that I still had unfinished business and unresolved issues to confront. So Alexei encouraged me to return to the death camp the next day – alone.
I arrived at the camp early in the morning, hours before it opened, and thought that I would sit outside the camp’s gate – the same gate the prisoners were marched through
from the train tracks only yards away (thanks to furtherglory for this correction! For much more detailed information on Dachau, check out his great blog).
But something prompted me to stand up and go up to the camp’s infamous iron gate marked ironically with the words “Arbeit Macht Frei” (“Work Makes [You] Free”) and gently push on it. When I did, it opened. There, looking out over the acres upon acres of the death camp, I was the only person in sight.
I stepped through the door and walked to the center of the courtyard – the same courtyard where the prisoners would stand for roll call each morning and again at night. I stood there, alone, and collected my thoughts. As I did, I could not avoid the stark reminder that evil does still exist here; that apathy and indifference sometimes get the best of us; that at times we turn our backs on one another just when another person is most in need; that sometimes we even hide from one another.
There is much more about my experience at Dachau that I want to write about someday, but not today. Instead, on this day, I simply wished to focus my thoughts on what it means for me to stand my ground.
Certain cultures have the belief that “if you save one person, you save the world.” This notion is a simple and powerful entreaty to step forward and engage. To me, its meaning is that each of us, as individuals and collectively as humanity, holds the innate capacity and responsibility to make a difference in the world. That it is possible.
On this trip, as I entered this emotional and mental space, I was reminded of this basic notion – that “if you save one person, you save the world” – and to ask, “How well am I fulfilling it?” In doing so, I was reminded that my main task is not merely to land the next big project, but to make sure that what I do holds meaning. That implementing my work is never enough; instead, the test must be, “did the work make a difference in someone’s life?” That while I can always find ways to run faster and harder, the real question is whether I will slow down enough to hear the next person?
For me, on this solitary trip, the world stopped for a very long moment as I stood alone in the middle of the courtyard at Dachau. There, I was reminded that success is not achieving what one desires; rather, it is doing something desirable.