Friday, January 21, 2011

"Don't Worry: The Pain is Only Temporary"

...but for them, it wasn't.

For them, whether they lived or survived...the pain would be tattooed onto their conscious...for them, the pain was forever.

For them, pain was life.

"You are without rights, dishonorable and defenseless.
You are a pile of shit.
And that is how you are going to be treated."
-Josef Jarolin (Concentration Camp Protective Custody Leader at Dachau 1941/42)

Walking through snow and icy paths with just tennis shoes and a pair of socks, I can feel the cold seeping through my skin. I am taking a day and exploring, breathing, and discovering the Dachau Concentration Camp in Munich, Germany--I am saddened by the Dachau Concentration Camp in Munich, Germany.

'This is what they lived in--these barracks, these boxes, these jails...with nothing to eat--nothing to keep them warm...This is wrong--this is really wrong,' I think.

I am numbed by both the cold and this idea of having to be in these conditions. I am happy to have socks and shoes...even if my feet are still without feeling. I am happy to have my freedom, even if there are times when I don't get my way. But these people didn't have socks or shoes most of the time--and these people definitely didn't have freedom.

'I wouldn't last a day,' I thought out loud--'I wouldn't last a minute.'

Now standing in the gas chamber, I hold my breath and count to myself. "1, 2, 3, 4, 5...16,17,18...22,23,24 EXHALE." For 18 seconds, I can hold it comfortably. For the next few I want air, and in the last two seconds, I struggle and release. 'Holding my breath + being gassed...not the way I would want to go down--not the way I would want to look back on my life in a flash...not the way I would want to die.'

People often debate that one way of death is probably less painful than another. "I wouldn't want to burn to death." "I wouldn't want to freeze to death." "I wouldn't want to be shot to death." "I wouldn't want to suffocate." "I wouldn't want to starve to death."

But it's all painful--all of it--and more so when it's at the hands of someone else--more so when you are powerless and defenseless.

"You are standing where dead man slept.
You are walking where starving men starved.
You are breathing where executing someone was a man's daily chore."
-Libby Segal

I may never be a prisoner, and I may never know the true struggles of the millions of people who were in concentration camps, or the hundreds of thousands who were imprisoned in this one, but I do know ONE thing...I would never survive--I would never be able to go through it. I would never last in the barracks or be able to lay n the cold, unsure of whether my family was okay or no. I would never be able to sleep at night with my hands tucked between my legs and my body touching another person's knowing what I would have to go through when I opened my eyes the next morning, when even if the sun shined, darkness was always relevant. I would be hopeless. And even the thought of hopelessness is painful---imagining a day in the life of these prisoners is painful...

My feet are numb but it is only temporary.

My breath barely runs out after twenty-four seconds, but I can catch up.

But what happened here, to these people, what these people felt--or didn't feel--it wasn't temporary. It was not imagined. It was real. And it will be felt forever.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely could not imagine surviving in the concentration camps after reading this. And holding your breath for 24 seconds, until you couldn't bear it any longer? I don't know if I could do that.

    Imagine repeating those 24 seconds 3,600 times a day. 25,200 times a week. I can't.

    I'm sitting inside, and my feet are cold. But I feel so lame compared to those people who survived such atrocities. Thank you for sharing such a vivid experience.