Last Wednesday we had to pick up a large group of college students. Those students have chosen a course to prepare them for a job in either the army/navy/air force or as a security guard. In order for them to be able to make up their minds properly they have 'field trips' to, in this instance, a large military training area in Germany. They learned how to march, they were drilled, they were shouted at, they had fun and they had to learn about the past and see what war can do to the world. They stayed for three days and were quite tired on Friday. Here some impressions I had...
Considering we were in a massive German military area, which (apart from the shooting) is usually left alone, it is not unusual to see wild animals like badgers (check), foxes (check twice), deer (check), rabbits (check) or boars. This was the only thing I saw of the boars in the area. Their footprints. The rest of the prints had disappeared under tank tracks!
On day two we had to wait for the college students to come back to the coach and while waiting we saw this beautiful sunset. The colours were just gorgeous and I managed to take a few photos. This was the best. The buildings you see are part of one of the army bases in the military training area.
The military training area where we were was established in the early thirties of last century to train up large amounts of soldiers for the coming war. Bergen-Belsen became a workers' camp for men from all over Germany. They had to build the army base and made good money. After the war started, the camp housed Dutch, Belgian and French prisoners of war. After that Russian POW's. The camp was extended and became a holding camp for political prisoners. Then 'exchange Jews' to exchange against Germans. Extended again it became a work-camp for Jews, where they would work themselves nearly to death in local businesses. The last function it held was a death camp. Jews from concentration camps near the Eastern Front (like Auschwitz in present day Poland) were trained around the country to get as far away from the front line as possible. When they arrived at the trainstation, they still had to walk about 6km (4 miles) to the camp. There they would receive little nourishment, since the aim was to starve them to death.
Anne Frank is the best known of all the people who died in Bergen-Belsen. One of the college students (16/17 years old) asked me who the other people were who had remembrance stones in the grounds of the camp. They had heard of Anne Frank, but it's only thanks to her diary, her Dutch ally Miep Gies (who helped hide them) and her father that she is now known the world over. Otherwise she would have been just as nameless as all the other people who died, but who were just as important to their families and friends. Anne and her sister Margot died in March, the camp was liberated by British forces in April.