Soldiers, family members visit concentration camp for Day of Remembrance
April 20, 2012
HEIDELBERG, Germany -- Europe is steeped in rich history and culture, and on April 17, more than 200 Soldiers and family members from U.S. Army in Europe got to witness that history during a Day of Remembrance tour to Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany.
The tour, sponsored by Europe Regional Medical Command, was part of a two-day event to give participants the opportunity to reflect on, and learn about, the Holocaust.
"It's one thing to hear and read about, it's another thing to actually go and know what happened in these places," said Sgt. Jamie Ray, preventive medicine noncommissioned officer for Europe Regional Medical Command in Heidelberg, Germany.
The part of the trip that made everything a reality for Ray was the crematorium, a place where thousands were killed and burned from 1933 to 1945. She said after reading the plaques on the wall she could imagine what those people went through.
"Just looking, you can only imagine what it must have been like for someone there," Ray said. "You're in the hallway looking into one of the rooms with the bars on them but imagine what it was like for someone on the inside barely big enough for three people and looking out down these long hallways. You can only imagine how dreary and gloomy it was and how quickly it sucked the energy right out of you. You can imagine what the whole purpose of the place was just by looking at the barracks and the living conditions."
Dachau was one of the few concentration camps in use for the entire Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945. During that time, people were killed and died within its wired fences, stone walls and wooden shanties
Some would have considered these camps to be inconceivable before encountering them during World War II.
"Historically, it gives [Soldiers] a lot more perspective, especially when it comes to liberation, when the troops came through Germany, what they found and how unprepared they were to deal with this type of crime against humanity," said Sgt. Robert Kalich, clinical training NCO for Europe Regional Medical Command in Heidelberg, Germany.
Visiting camps like Dachau help remind people why it's important to never forget.
"The Days of Remembrance is about remembering what happened in the past and making sure it doesn't happen again in the future," Master Sgt. Jason Reisler, Equal Opportunity advisor for ERMC in Heidelberg, Germany. "This is what the military does; we are supposed to be guardians of humanity. We are supposed to go out there and if something is wrong we should stand up and be that right example, the Be, Know, Do. You have to know what history was so that way we never repeat the same mistakes."
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