Blog written by Adrienne Liu
As I sit down to write this, there are a thousand fresh memories from an adventure-filled three weeks in Europe, but none have stuck with me more than the visit to Dachau – the most notorious Nazi labor camp, which also served as a model for the camp system as a whole. While the stories of the countries we’d visited prior had the fabric of the Holocaust narrative woven in, as one might expect, none was more explicit and direct than those of Germany’s. The camp visit brought to a culmination the voices and sights of the preceding trips which all alluded to the horrors of the war and Holocaust in some form or another – memorial, museum, or exhibit.
I knew I had to visit Dachau, not only as a civic obligation but also as a member of the i-Act team and as someone who’s studied these humanitarian tragedies in courses without having to ever really confront it. The experience struck everything inside me and then some. Words are futile in conveying the power of the visit, but perhaps the most disheartening thing to see in the present is something that was inspirational in the Holocaust’s immediate aftermath: the “never again” plaque. It’s a common occurrence for words in everyday speech to ring with a bit of hollowness, but when words of such promise and magnitude are so widely proclaimed, their failure to deliver hurts even more.
I left Dachau with a heavy heart, as did the crowd who visited the camp with me. What I wonder, though, is how will the gut-wrenching experience affect their present lives and open their eyes to the fact that we are allowing the same atrocities to continue on during a time we see as developed and modern? I’m so grateful for the work i-Act does, because although the sweeping promise of “never again” is so difficult to keep–and, even worse, some people think it’s been kept–there are still people fighting to give the words real meaning again.