What makes us human?

Image   Never Again

The photographs above are from the Dachau Memorial located at the once Dachau Concentration Camp near Munich, Germany. It was designed by one of the prisoners of the camp who was saved during the liberation of the camp by the american troops. The only message these survivors wanted to convey was “Never Again” i.e. the brutality and terrible torture of one man over the other must not be repeated in future. The sole objective of preserving this place was to remind people of what it means to be human and what are the greatest threats to humanity.

I went to visit Munich in September 2011 on the occasion of the famous Oktober Fest.  I enjoyed it a lot with my cousin while travelling across the beautiful city of Munich and even made some German friends there. The short video shows the some people singing, dancing, drinking and celebrating so close to such a deadly and soul-less place. The same people who once has to witness such horrors but they decided to learn from it and rise.

Oktoberfest celebrations

Although I am very fond of the World War period history but I never imagined that these concentration camps could be preserved and I will visit one of them one day. I was surprised but curious to go there when I came to know about it. It’s an open space with a huge ground but later I came to know that it was occupied by short structures built to accommodate war prisoners and political criminals captured from different European countries. It was one of the prototypes of the various concentration camps to be followed and was built in early 1930s. The exhibitions were full of the stories of the prisoners of the camp, the times of the war and the horrible ill-treatments given to those captured there.

While studying about World War II at school and the in-human treatment of the Jews by Hitler, one question I always felt unanswered to myself that how could men be so cruel to their fellow people ? One man’s hate can still be justified but how can men in such large numbers madly follow one man full of hate ? How can they not think by themselves and resist such happenings ? How can they not stop themselves from filling those people into small rooms and later killing them with poisonous gases followed by feeding them to open furnaces ? I could not think of anything more in-human than this. In the stories I read at that place, I found my answer.

At that time, almost everyone was afraid of Hitler in Germany, people have to follow orders or they will have to face the same punishment which they are giving to others. It makes sense that Hitler controlled these people by fear, the very thought of being treated like they are treating the prisoners would be enough to make them do these things. Few men tried to resist but they were captured and punished to set examples to stop others like them from raising their voices. The brutality must be so severe that these people suppressed their humanity to live their lives. But still in the darkness of fear and brutality humanity survived in hope of freedom among the prisoners.  And they were brave enough to survive and even teach others the lesson of humanity.

More information is available on the official webpage of the memorial: http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/stop13.html

I strongly suggest interested readers to watch the movie Schindler’s List (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108052/) if they have not have yet.

In my opinion, the greatest threat to humanity is personal greed and ego. The lack of understanding and trust among people encourages such feelings. Only if people can truly understand each other these threats can be overcome and humanity will prevail.