Racism, past and present – an educational trip to the Buchenwald Memorial

The Buchenwald Memorial is located on the Ettersberg, just under 10 kilometres north of Weimar. Between 1937 and 1945, the Buchenwald concentration camp was one of the many cruel forced labour camps and places of detention of the Third Reich. Around 266,000 people from all European countries were imprisoned there during the war, and around 56,000 of them were killed there through torture or medical experiments or died due to emaciation.

We want to do educational work. Together with the Malteser Hilfsdienst e.V. in Leipzig, we organised a two-day educational trip on the topic of racism, in former times and today to the Buchenwald Memorial.

In preparation to this, we had two seminars in which we dealt with the history of National Socialism in Germany as well as current forms of racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination.

Questions that arose during the workshops included:

– What is the difference between culture and religion?

– Is there racism against “whites” and if so where?

On the second day of the workshop, among other topics, we discussed the definitions of the terms stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination. It became clear that definitions are not so easy. As we still live in a society full of stereotypes, prejudices, racism and discrimination, we also asked ourselves: “What should we do if we become witnesses of discriminatory or racist behaviour?” The answer seems so simple: say something, go to the victim, offer help, show solidarity. One thing is clear: looking away and doing nothing will not help.

One question that was also discussed with regard to the trip to Buchenwald was: “Crimes of the past: remembering or forgetting? The clear consensus among the participants was: Remembering! However, remembering alone is not enough. We must actively work to ensure that racist and discriminatory behaviour finally disappears from our society.

The excursion to the memorial took place on 31.10 and 01.11. In two groups, each with one educator, we walked around the grounds and visited the museum on site. We also had a look at the impressive memorial. Overall, the impressions we got at the Buchenwald Memorial are difficult to describe. One becomes quiet, thoughtful, dejected.

In order not to leave the participants alone with their impressions and feelings, we met online for a follow-up seminar after the excursion. All participants were given the opportunity to exchange views on what they had seen and experienced. The impressions of the participants can be found in two quotes from the follow-up seminar:

“It is so important to remember what happened and to stand up against racism again and again.”
“Racism is the most terrible form of violence.”

The feedback of the participants has shown us how important these seminars and excursions are. For this reason, it will not be the last event on the topics of racism and discrimination because the more we deal with these topics, the better we can work on making our society more just and creating awareness for the topics of racism and discrimination.

 

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