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Lesson Learned at Buchenwald Concentration Camp

Buchenwald concentration camp

Buchenwald concentration camp (Photo credit: ebatty)

A few days ago I had the opportunity to talk to a gentleman who was part of the American liberation of the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald in April of 1945. He was a military policeman and was used to harboring prisoners of war, feeding them, giving them opportunity to bathe, transporting them here and there. But he said he was totally unprepared for what the American soldiers found at Buchenwald.

“I just kept thinking, how?” he said. “How could this happen?”

He couldn’t believe his eyes. He said there wasn’t even room for anger, such was the shock and horror. He just shook and kept asking, “How?”

If you’ve ever seen the Band of Brothers episode where the Landsberg concentration camp was liberated you have some idea what these soldiers met. (You can watch a clip here but as a warning, there’s some harsh language). This gentleman said he’d watched the episode and it was pretty accurate, only the real thing was “much worse.”

He had photos he showed me, snapshots of stockpiled dead bodies, the cremation ovens, mounds of bones. Some of his photos are part of the collection at the National Holocaust  Museum in Washington, D.C.

After repeatedly telling me he was not a religious man and never was, he said, “Some say you can’t learn anything in war, but they’re wrong. I learned one thing.” I braced myself, thinking he was going to expound on the horrors of war or the wickedness of man, but he surprised me when he said, “Treat other people the way you want to be treated.”

Think about that. Wise words from a man who had witnessed first hand the exact opposite. That one rule–that golden rule–holds the power to change lives, even change the course of human history.

Hey, I’m sold. If I didn’t take it seriously before I sure do now.

Question: How have you witnessed the power of that simple rule? Or what pain have you seen caused by the breaking of it?

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About michaelkingbooks

I write stories of faith and family, love and loss, heartache and triumph. Here I blog about faith, relationships, and genuine living.


3 thoughts on “Lesson Learned at Buchenwald Concentration Camp

  1. I usually respond to whatever you write every day to let you know people actually enjoy your posts. I know I do and they have also helped me a lot. I love reading other people’s comments. After seeing a part of this film, I can’t compare anything to it. To me it is just plain evil. I sat here crying. I cannot watch stuff like that anymore. I dream and think of it for days. How could people let this happen. My dad was in the second war and he told me some things that were unbelievable. Sad, but I think in today’s society such things are so common place to watch that most people don’t even feel much. They see too much on TV and it makes them numb to it. The only thing that can change our hearts is God. I think most people cannot use that rule without The Holy Spirit making them aware of it. But in that case we really have to listen for God’s guidance and hear all of it, not just what we pick and choose to hear.

    Posted by Terri Conrad | July 17, 2012, 6:45 am
    • Terri, I’ve seen that clip a couple times now and every time it makes me cry. I think your sentiments were what most of the soldiers were feeling. How could anyone let that happen? Evil resides in the heart of man and only God can banish it.

      Posted by michaelkingbooks | July 17, 2012, 7:12 am
  2. WOW! What an opportunity to get to the heart of another human being’s life experience! I love it when God allows us to grow through the eyes of others.
    I had such an encounter about 20 years ago when I was able to hear a woman speak, who as a child, escaped German persecution in Austria. Her parents were captured but the three children in her family ran into the woods in mid-winter and survived.
    Can you even imagine? I’m sure her little head asked “Why?” many times in the bleak cold; parentless and hungry, freezing and paralyzed with fear. And I’ll bet in her later years–as she was elderly when she spoke on it–she still asked “Why?”
    Then I think of Job. His life experience ran the gamut between rich and poor, healthy and sickly, fullfilled and longing, father and childless. Did he ask “Why?” YES, he did. It is a human question. But through it all, he still found himself faithful.
    Is it bad to ask that question? No. What would be bad is if we lost faith in the wondering.

    As always, thanks, Mike, for the opportunities for thoughts… and for answers.

    Posted by donnalynndavis | July 17, 2012, 7:25 am

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