It was not entirely a pleasure trip. You see, Ludi's grandfather (his dad's father) was a victim of WWII. He died in one of the concentration camps. During the war, after the German occupation of The Netherlands, Ludi's grandfather went to work for the Germans at an airport/plane factory near home. We will never know if he went voluntarily (because he needed the money for his family) or if he was recruited by the Germans. By "recruited" I mean he was more than likely forced. After being transferred a few times, he eventually ended up at Mittelbau-Dora camp (concentration camp). This is the place that the Germans set up a V2 airplane bomb factory in tunnels in the mountains. And that is where Ludi's grandfather was basically worked to death. He died there and was cremated there. His ashes were most likely dumped on the hillside next to the crematorium.
Mittelbau-Dora memorial (crematorium in the background)
There are a few other camps in the area that Ludi's grandfather was sent to. The first one he was sent to was probably Buchenwald.
There they had a quarantine area for new prisoners (to try to prevent the spread of diseases), so that was where most prisoners get sent to first before being transferred again. Ludi's grandfather was sent then to Dora to work in the tunnels (the bomb factory). When he was too weak/sick to work anymore, he was sent to another camp (Ellrich). It was basically a death camp, where prisoners were sent to die when they were no longer useful because of being too weak or too ill.
Ellrich Memorial (crematorium spot in the background)
This is probably where Ludi's grandfather died. At the time, there was no crematorium. All of their dead were sent back to Dora for burning. (The crematorium was built at Ellrich about 6 months after his death.)
Every year (I believe) the camps have memorial services on the date of their liberation by the Allied Forces. Every few years, Ludi's family goes to these services. It was the first year for me. I knew before hand that it wouldn't be a fantastic fun happy time. I thought it would be sad. Depressing. Haunting. Well, it was all of those. It also made me really angry to see first hand how these people were treated. How could a human being treat another human being so? It is beyond comprehension. The terrible conditions. The awful, purely evil things the German army did. Not just to Jewish, either. Because Ludi's grandfather wasn't Jewish. He just had seen too much for the Germans to let him go free.
In America, we didn't feel the same ... (searching for a word) ... torture about these events. It was so far away, and so long ago. 65 years ago now, basically. But here in Europe, where they experienced it first hand, they remember it like it was yesterday. I used to think "Oh, it was so long ago, can't we try to let it go?" I have since changed my mind about that. 65 years is not long enough to heal that wound.
Not enough by a long shot.
More information about the camps we visited can be found here:
I'll make another post about our Germany trip, a more pleasant one. To leave you with a little more positive picture, these flowers were growing all over the place. I don't know what they are, but they sure are pretty. They're short, kind of like ground cover. Anyone know what they are?
Happy blue flower in a sad sad place
See you again soon.