Weimar and Buchenwald

Trip Start Aug 14, 2006
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Trip End Aug 26, 2006


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Monday, August 21, 2006

Sunday morning we visited the former concentration camp at Buchenwald. The weather was bizarre during our visit, sunny and hot one minute, cold and pouring down rain the next. Buchenwald was not an extermination camp, though some 1000 Soviet prisoners of war were summarily executed there, and an estimated 56,000 prisoners died from harsh conditions, malnutrition, disease, and medical experimentation. Most of the camp was subsequently demolished; only the main gate and crematorium remain. It was up to our guide to invoke our imaginations of what the camp was like, and he must have done a good job because I was close to tears the entire time. What really struck me, as the rain clouds parted and I looked out over the grounds where the prisoner barracks once stood, was just how beautiful the place is. Buchenwald means "beech-tree forest" and the site is on a hill with a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside. I felt like Marge Gunderson at the end of Fargo when, after all the senseless murders, she says: "And here ya are. And it's a beautiful day. Well, I just don't understand it."

In the afternoon, we toured nearby Weimar, home of Goethe and proud of it. Any building that Goethe once graced with his presence has a sign, such as "Goethe lived here" or "Goethe ate here" or "Goethe spent the night here." Or even more amusing, "Goethe's secretary lived here."
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