Berlin. A capital of Germany. Not exactly what I would call the only place to be in Germany.
The city itself does not have the charm that you would expect from a European city. In fact, it feels almost soulless, with its block buildings and graffiti.
Everyone told us to do an ‘alternative’ tour, because then you would get a better understanding of all the street art. I didn’t fancy standing/walking for 3 hours learning about graffiti, in all honesty. I’m just not hip enough.
I wouldn’t want to take anything away from Berlin, though. Everything is more or less easily accessible and signs are pretty okay for an Austrian and Dutch person travelling together (needless to say Austria wins this round purely for language purposes). Transport is easy and cheap compared to other European cities, and food is also amazing for the prices (highly recommend the curry wurst near the front of the Berlin Wall. Cheap and tasty).
I think the biggest tick off the bucket list is the Saschousen (sp?) concentration camp. I’ve never been to one, and considering that my grandparents were alive during ‘the war’, I always felt I needed to go, to see the other side of it, if you will. Oma remembers staying in barrack-style housing in her home town, her father being a police man meant they were privileged and didn’t go hungry: But the Dutch were occupied, oppressed. Oma’s brothers got sent to labor camps.
Even now, I’m trying to wrap my head around the inhumanity. The camp was quite small and speaking in numbers of tens of thousands I couldn’t quite put two and two together. How could there be so many people that went through here? We were in a barracks and I couldn’t imagine what that was like: it was too foreign, too unacceptable 400 people in a space meant for 170. I was leaning on the autopsy table when we were in the infirmary, learning about the experiments they did on prisoners. For reals, wtf was I thinking, leaning on that damned table. Where was my respect?
Also, as a side note, Hugo Boss was the designer of ALL Nazi Germany’s uniforms. Down to the striped pyjamas. I shit you not. I don’t care how good that cologne smells, stop buying that shit.
No matter how much our guide talked about history, I couldn’t stop drawing parallels to today’s world. Our tour guide was a slightly disillusioned American who was well read with the likes of Chomsky and Hedges, so we spent a bit of time swapping theories and thoughts. My friend also reminded our small group, history repeats itself. So what next? Someone pointed out that the world population is exploding. We literally don’t have enough water for everyone. What are we going to do? There are some sick ideas out there, and I would be lying if I said I never entertained them, even if just for a moment. But that’s how it starts, isn’t it? Ideology. Radical thinking. Racism. Violence. War.
While we were listening to the different stories of people that went through the camp I just couldn’t help but realise that a lot of ‘those people’ I know today. I know the over zealous anti-government protester. I know the hippy environmentalist. I know, follow, and repeat so much of what I see on Twitter, Facebook, etc. That’s not so different from writing pamphlets and inciting protests 60/70 years ago, or reading them and sharing that with your circle. You start wondering, when are they going to get picked up, rounded up, and beaten? Are they already on some government watch list somewhere? Am I?
Back in the day, people were just trying to get on with their lives under difficult conditions. Homosexuals, disabled people, and all sorts that didn’t fit in with the Aryan race were sent to this camp. Today, we take so much of this for granted- at least, I know I do. I just wonder, how well would my friends and I have done under that regime? How would we have survived it? Or would I have just walked towards the neutral zone and not look back until I was shot dead? Stalin’s son did: his father wouldn’t trade him for a higher ranked officer. He knew there was no way out except through suffering, or death. At least being shot, to him, meant less humiliation and immediate relief from suffering.
Walking through that camp, I felt so much blood on my hands. I am able to write about, tweet, make videos, sing (badly) about my distaste for Chinese or American imperialism. I’m allowed to kiss a girl in public if I wanted to, I can travel the world on the worlds second best passport, I can live where I want, love who I want… I can even marry myself. How many people had to die for me to be able to do that? How many people in Taiwan had to die so that I can have a picture of HHDL in my house, or practice His teachings?
So, I guess the lesson is that I cannot let this life go to waste. I will not let this freedom be used for the superficial things in life, because those 70,000 people in that camp did not die so that I could be an ego maniac and spend my life buying the worlds largest collection of comfortable shoes. I have to make my life count because they didn’t get that chance when that’s all they wanted, how dare I throw mine away?