Original post by Kerri Smile
I really didn’t want to talk about concentration camps tonight. But today I’ve seen a certain post going around saying something to the effect of “Germany didn’t take down their concentration camps, so why should we take down Confederate statues?”
Whew. Deep breaths.
In 2004 I went to Germany (one of a few trips I took there). Part of the trip entailed visiting some historical sites related to WWII. I sat in the courtroom in Nuremberg where Goering and crew were tried and condemned for their actions. I can tell you, there was NOT ONE BIT of honor for them in that room. We watched a graphic video in English, German, and Hebrew detailing the atrocities these men were condemned for. The theme of the lecture was “What they did was horrible. We as a nation stood behind it. We own it. And we will never allow it to happen again.” Know what we didn’t see? A single freakin’ statue of a Nazi.
But while we’re talking statues, let’s talk Dachau. The Dachau visit was the day after we went to Nuremberg, and my heart just couldn’t take it. So my dad went, took lots of photos, and told us about it.
Dachau is completely saturated in remorse and resolve. There is nothing honoring any soldier. There is no glory in the Germany of WWII. There are no “alternate story lines.” The statues there glorify those who were tortured and killed by the Nazis. One of the most famous statues at Dachau portrays skeletons strewn across barbed wire because so many of the prisoners ended their lives by throwing themselves into the fences and being shot, rather than suffer another day at the hands of the SS.
This particular statue though is the one I want to talk about. It is called “The Unknown Prisoner.” He stands tall and proud- because the prisoners were required to keep their heads bowed and eyes averted. He has his hands in his pockets- because the prisoners were forbidden to do so. He is not wearing a hat- because the prisoners were required to wear a hat on penalty of death. And his inscription reads “To Honor the Dead, To Remind (or warn) the Living.” This statue is brazenly defiant. And I love it.
So if you want to compare the way Germany has kept their history alive with the way the South has, don’t look at it in statues and memorials. If we want to follow Germany’s lead, every plantation would be a solemn memorial to a dark time in our nation’s history. There would be no weddings there- just like there are no weddings in Auschwitz. There would be no nostalgia for days gone by, but only reminders of the horrors of those enslaved.
If we want to follow Germany’s lead, then every statue of a Confederate general should be replaced by a statue of a slave breaking free of their chains, or standing proud in defiance of the slaveholders.
Don’t make comparisons if you’re not willing to follow them through all the way.
For further reading: http://www.privacurity.com/prisoner/