Gedanken über Auschwitz

Unsere Schülerin Heike Hoffmann (1. Semester) hielt am 14. Oktober 2014 eine Rede vor den deutschen und israelischen Schülerinnen und Schülern, die sich am Austauschprogramm unserer Schule mit der israelischen Eliezer-Ben-Yehuda-School beteiligten. Sie stellte in ihrer Rede ihre Eindrücke von der Gedenkstättenfahrt nach Auschwitz dar, an der sie im Rahmen der 10. Klasse teilgenommen hatte. Anlass der Rede war das Thema Gedenken, welches unsere Schüler gemeinsam mit den israelischen Schülern bearbeiteten.

Dear pupils of the Eliezer-Ben-Yehuda-School, dear classmates and teachers,

I was chosen to explain to you, why a German school like ours gives pupils the opportunity to visit the concentration camp Auschwitz.

Theodor Adorno once said that the first requirement of education should be that something like Auschwitz should never happen again.

Our school shares this opinion. We do this trip to Auschwitz, because we want to learn about history, because we want to see the cruelty with our own eyes. The trip should teach us to be aware of history and so to be aware of what happens in the world. We should learn to think about what people do and that we should not accept any opinion given to us before thinking about it.

Last year I was in the group of our school that has visited Auschwitz. You should know that we did not do this trip without a proper preparation. Almost half a year we spent time on learning about the history of anti-semitism and the Shoa. We visited a few important places before we went to Auschwitz. We had some workshops in the house of the Wannsee Conference and learned there about how the Nazis decided on the building of concentration camps and on the killing of millions of Jews. We also went to the Jewish Museum here in Berlin and had a very interesting and touching talk to an old lady, who had to flee from Germany to the USA, in the Nazi time, only because she was Jewish.

Then, in June last year, we finally went to Auschwitz. I cannot give you a proper view on how we all felt, but I can explain to you how I felt when I was visiting.

It was a sunny day in June 2014 when our group visited Auschwitz; the weather didn’t really fit to what we should see on our day. We stepped out of our bus, and in front of us was it: the place, which we learned about so much. I was a little scared of going into it. It wasn't my first visit of a concentration camp, but I knew that everything I have seen would be much smaller than this. We got our headphones and our guide started with the tour. I don't remember anything so well, because I sometimes forget things, that were too hard for my head to understand. But I remember very well how straight and formal everything was built. It looked like someone took exactly the same house and built it up for 20 or 30 times. Today in every of these houses there is a museum. Sometimes about the Jews from special nations how had died there, and sometimes about some cruel things the Nazis did to the people in the camp. I remember that three of these houses have touched me really strong.

The first one was a special house of the camp. It was the house, where people were punished. There were some rooms without any light, or some where people had to stand in the night, so they couldn't sleep. In this house I had a moment, where I was so disgusted, shocked and sad that my breath was away. In that moment I wanted to close my eyes and stop, and just run out of that building. I got myself together, but this moment will last.

The next house we have visited showed an exhibition by the museum in Yad Vashem, which some of you might know. In the end of this exhibition there was a book. This book had over 4000 pages. On every page there where names over names. The names were the names of people killed in the Shoa. Some of our group looked up there family name. So did I. My family name isn't really special and so I have found two pages just with people with my name. In this moment I had to cry. I realized that in this camp just normal people died. People like you and me. They were killed without any reason. I knew that before but I have never realized it as hard as in this moment.

The next house, and the last I want to present really proper to you, was the most terrible thing I have ever seen in my whole life. The first room I remember very well was the room where the empty luggage of the people, who had died in this camp, was shown. We have seen tons of lost suitcases, little bags and big bags. The next room was full of glasses, jewelry and other little things. I could never imagine in my life to see so much glasses in one place. There were many rooms like this, filled with clothes, with things people brought to the camp like pots to cook. The room, which I remember the most, was the room with the hair. I have never in my life seen so much hair. The guide told us, that it was 12 tons. 12 tons of hair. Each one has its story. Can you imagine this? I never could till I have seen it by myself. After my first look in this room I felt very sick. I wasn't prepared for something like this. The same feeling as in the first house.

After our tour around Auschwitz 1, we took the bus to Birkenau. The first thing we got to see from this place was that famous, big gate. Maybe some of you know it from pictures. There aren't many things I want to tell you about Birkenau. Two moments have to be enough.

The first moment, was when we stood on top of tower on the gate. You could be seeing the whole camp from there. The problem is that it is too much. You can't see any end. You know in the horizon thereis an end of the ruins, the walls and the fences but you can't see it. This is the moment where you realize that you can't imagine the dimension of this. Your head can't, and doesn't want to picture this ruins 80 years ago. It is so big.

The second moment was the moment where we stood next to a little lake, a bit offside the camp. The guide explained, this is where the Nazis threw all the ashes in. He said, the white edge off the lake is caused by the ashes. And that's the moment when you know, that you walked the whole day on a grave. And this feeling is so horrible, I can't explain it.

The last question is: What have I learned from this?

I surely learned what I never want to happen again. I don't want any of these things to happen again. But I also learned something really important. I learned that as a freethinking human it is my duty to fight again any kind of discrimination, fascism or violence. After my visit in Auschwitz I was sure that it is daily job to keep my eyes open, to look how people act to each other but also what happens in the world, so that I can if it's necessary fight against it. And I think, why we did this trip to Auschwitz, is to learn this.

Text: Heike Hoffmann; LK Geschichte, 1. Semester (Schuljahr 2014/15)

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