In January of this year, a few people celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet army. The Russians marched in on January 27th, 1945. By the time they arrived, there were only about 7,000 people left to save.
I just saw an article today about the fact that Germany had decided, in January of 2015, to house refugees from Syria among the building and outbuildings of Dachau and Buchenwald.
In some ways, my heart is torn by this. The thought of refugees being brought to these places out of love and mercy, rather than hatred and cruelty, is…difficult. Like watching happy children run through a cemetery.
Should we be disturbed because this site was supposed to stand forever as a monument to grief, loss, and shame in the past? Or should we be happy because there are people in the present who might find shelter?
I was raised on war and genocide narratives from my older relatives, many of whom spent some part of their lives as refugees, as soldiers, or both. The modern refugee crisis definitely hits me in the chest. There are literally millions of people pouring out of Syria right now, and there have been since 2011. Because the modern media bombards us with irrelevant data, it’s hard for North Americans to know what’s happening, or why. You have to troll the Internet for a helpful cartoon to figure it out.
If living people in need of shelter and mercy take refugee in the empty rooms and corridors of a concentration camp…here’s my opinion, after sober reflection.
Let it happen.
If the dispossessed are brought to these places and treated kindly, given food and medical care and clothes…let it happen.
If their children run and shout in the courtyards of Dachau, if the old women hang brightly-colored cloth in the windows at Buchenwald, if the old men gather to smoke, drink tea, play chess and read newspapers in the common rooms…let it happen.
If fathers and mothers hold one another in the night and tremble with relief that “what God willed” was survival, rather than death…let it happen.
If Dachau and Buchenwald have ever been cursed places, that curse was human cruelty. Poison never flowed from the land or the buildings–it was in people’s hearts.
And if the heart of a nation changes?
Let it happen.
We have all stood by and let worse things happen, believe me.