Life in a Concentration Camp
A Lesson From A Place of Death.
"Its too cold out, but I have nothing else to do today" I thought as I Waited on the northbound platform of Berlin Bornholmer Str. S-Bahn station. Suddenly the train appeared on the horizon and pulled into the station with the brakes screaming in the morning air.
"Now the really boring part, the journey up." I rolled my eyes and boarded the train. The carriage was mostly empty, but there was a seat by the window. Perfect for watching the city disappear on route to Oranienburg.
The journey is a little slower than taking a regional train, but what I want to do is burn time today. I've spent a whole of five days in this city, and I've Already done all the normal touristy things. Now I just want to check off one last place on my list and call it a trip well spent.
The place in question is none other than a concentration camp named "Sachsenhausen" a political prisoner camp that later became the model for other camps throughout Hitler's Nazi Germany. Not exactly a great place to visit per say, but I may never get the chance to come here again.
Finally I arrive. It's even colder than I expected. I go to to pull out my phone which I had saved the map on . . . "Fuck," I muttered under my breath. My phone rebooted last night and the map was erased from the cache. I'm now lost and don’t speak a word of German, fantastic!
"Excuse me sir, do you know Where the Sachsenhausen concentration camp is?"
I overheard a conversation near the station house. I look back and there she is, a small blonde woman is asking a local man for directions to the camp, and in English!? Immediately I do a 180 spin and walk towards the them.
"Excuse me, are you trying to find the camp as well?" I ask hesitantly.
"Yes, its Apparently 20 minutes away" She Said with a sleek Scandinavian accent.
"Would you mind if I follow you? Also I'm trying to find it. "
"Sure!" She seemed oddly excited at the prospect of a walking buddy.
And with That we're off. I could not help but notice she was the stylish type, She Knew how to dress which came as no surprise when I found out she was from Stockholm. She had a brown cabbie hat and short hair blonde that just reached her shoulders, barely touching the grey fleece jacket. If I was to use any other word I'd say she was a knockout.
I'm horrible at small talk and even worse when it involves strangers, but I managed to string together a conversation to pass the time. When the camp came into view, I was instantly relieved as my current observation about the weather north of Berlin had reached its apex. Now I can talk about the history of the camp. . . If only I knew some!
Surprisingly she wanted to stick around inside the camp. They gave us an audio tour of the facilities and a map so "we won’t get lost", the camp really isn’t that big. Being the history-phile I am when it comes to Nazis I kept audio device glued to my head. We Talked a little here and there around the camp, making remarks certain structures and things in the area. I'm glad she doesn't mind my awkwardness, or perhaps she's just not showing aversion to it.
It had been almost a quarter of an hour since we arrived when suddenly she says she has to go. “My friends are having lunch soon and then a we have a flight to catch later tonight.” Damn.
"Oh alright, I'm going to stick around here for a bit, unless you want some help finding the station" I said that as a joke, but the quizzical look on her face made it appear as if it did not translate as such.
"Oh no. . . I'll be fine thanks. It was nice meeting you. "And with that I gave wave goodbye and she turned to leave.
It was no more than 20 minutes later I realized my mistake; I never got her name. Like I said I'm horrible with small talk, but this was just unacceptable!
So I ran. I ran as fast as I could. Nonstop, all the way back to the S-Bahn station on the other side of town, 20 minutes away. As I panted and wheezed up the steps I was delighted to see the train still there. I don't think I've never bought a ticket so fast in my life and seconds later I dropped my aching body into a seat. I made it.
That’s when I saw it, on the platform across from mine, in the window of an express train, the faint sight of a brown cabbie hat, blonde hair and grey jacket. Both our train doors closed and with one last wincing look I watched the train speed out of view.
I suppose there's always the possibility that it wasn't, but either way I left that small German town feeling utterly stupid and beside myself. I suppose that's one of life's little lessons. You get one shot and you have to make it count. At least I got some great pictures of a concentration camp.