To the editor:
Had many good comments to my Aug. 25 Guest Commentary. One was that it was too short. Here is the rest of the story.
The elephant in the room with Germany is the Holocaust. Other countries, including ours, have oppressed and killed minorities. None has done it with such brutal efficiency as Germany.
In Berlin, the Holocaust Memorial is 5 acres of “stellae” — stone blocks that look like tombs — in the no man’s land where the wall once stood near the Brandenburg Gate, the Bundestag (legislature) and the Chancellery (executive). In Hamburg, there is a three-part memorial planned on the site of the “deportation” train station destroyed during the war. The real memorials are the death camps themselves, like Dachau near Munich and Auschwitz-Birkenau in Poland.
Dachau and its satellite camps were work camps where about 41,500 died. It featured torture, sadistic medical experiments and a railroad underpass where Russian prisoners of war were gunned downed upon arrival. Auschwitz was also a work camp where the mass gas chamber was first used.
Its neighbor Birkenau was purely a death camp with four mass gas chambers and crematoria. About 1.1 million people died at the two camps. At Birkenau, people arrived by train, sorted and marched to the “showers.”
The worst day of my life so far was the day I visited Dachau. But it toughened me for the Auschwitz-Birkenau visit, which is overwhelmingly depressing, especially on a rainy day.
So Germany is a contrast: Champagne and Steinways, ornate churches and city halls, modern symphony halls and baroque opera houses, gas chambers and crematoria.
My opinion is the death camps should be seeded with flowers. Those who have relatives who died there can mourn in beauty and smell the flowers. They should become proper cemeteries.
Estimates are that 11 million Jews died in the Holocaust, mostly from Germany and Poland. Another 5 million Germans died in the war. Twenty-two to 28 million Russians died in the Soviet Union. China lost between 15 and 20 million. Japan — 3 million. USA — half-million. Etc. Grand total = 75 million. Whew! Enough!