Over 70 years have passed by. 70 years after one of the cruelest crimes in the history of humankind. And here I stand, now at the age of 24, wondering how to deal with our past.
I’ve been here before. On my first class trip to Prague we also went to Terezín. I was 17 back then. 17 years of age and far, far away from being mature enough to comprehend the meaning of the place I was visiting. Maybe I had a shocked expression on my face, but the weather was good and I had my friends with me. So what?
Standing here again at 24, I still don’t think one can be capable of understanding the whole thing. And never will be. The concentration camp was liberated 1945. I was born in 1993. There is a whole generation between World War 2 and my birth. Still I’m standing there in the dusty ground, trying to get my head around the importance of this place, to grasp even a little aspect of it, while reading the big sign that announces “Arbeit macht frei”.
Of course I have matured during the last 7 years. Of course I am able now to see some connections between events in our history. Of course I read more books and saw more movies. But in the end, I just stand there, shivering, sweating, and wondering which is the role I have to play here? Is there even a role for me? Am I supposed to act like an attendant of a funeral? Am I supposed to pretend that I even understand a fraction of the suffering that took place here?
I didn’t find an answer to one of these questions. All I knew was that this should never ever happen again (but then again it’s happening all around the world RIGHT NOW) and a united Europe is worth fighting for. Without any answers but with a lump in my throat I enter the bus that brings us away from the camp towards the town of Terezín.
Leaving the bus in Terezín I kept feeling uncomfortable, like someone announced to every inhabitant of the town that “the germans are here.. again”. Anyway, was there a reason to feel ashamed? Sure. History demands it. But then again even my parents haven’t been given birth when all this bad things happened here, so do I really have to feel guilty? About what? What some of my countrymen did? About being born in Germany?
Anyway, I pushed all these too complex questions away and started strolling around the town and what strucked me first was that it looked sort of abandoned to me. Sure, there where cars and some people on the street, but I immediately started to wonder who these people are and why do they want to live here? Despite all the history, or just because of it? Or because they don’t mind at all?
At first it felt a bit like ghost town to me, then this changed more to a feeling of walking through a film set for a historic movie. The arrangement of the streets and houses really contributed to that, like everything here was planned on a drawing table and the houses are just wooden facades.
Then I spot the black-red-golden flag of Germany in a window corner on ground level and somehow stare like an idiot. This is probably the flag I would have expected here the least. Would a german that lives in THAT town really show this flag so confident? And if it’s not from a german, then who has it put there? Football and the World Cup 2014 comes to my mind. This place causes so many questions in my mind, but there is also the feeling of this being a normal town suddenly. Because even if the Nazis have been here and done cruel things, today it’s totally okay to have a german flag in your window. And I feel kinda released by this thought.
Normality raises when we watch some sort of oldtimer rallye going through the main street. It takes a lot of the strange atmosphere away from this place and shows that now, more than 70 years later, nothing is forgotten, but maybe forgiven. At least that is what I hope for when I get back in the bus.