“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
- Elie Wiesel
History Doesn’t Have to Repeat Itself
On a cold afternoon in March 2011, I crossed the daunting iron gates of Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp built in Germany. I found myself in a space that once represented a point of no return for thousands of victims of Fascism. While I walked through the camp’s historic exhibition and observed the images and objects depicting past atrocities I felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness. As I stepped outside of the memorial buildings and looked at the watchtowers I became increasingly more uncomfortable. For the first time in my life, I felt imprisoned, anguished and in a desperate need of relief. I, however, chose not to abandon this place without fully absorbing all the history and the lessons it had to offer.
I stepped into another set of buildings that used to function as dormitories, workstations and gas chambers. These spaces aroused in me a myriad of emotions. I felt desolation and anger, but above all a deep sense of compassion for the victims of abusive power and injustice.
In a late afternoon in March 2011, I crossed again the daunting iron gates and left Dachau behind. At that precise moment a sense of relief rushed through my veins and I felt infinitely fortunate for my life. I realized how privileged I am to not have been a victim of this genocide.
Dachau triggered in me a bundle of emotions empowering me to become a global citizen devoted to fighting injustice. Regardless of the career path I choose to follow, I will make sure to stand for social justice because I realized through this experience the importance of stepping up when nobody else is prepared to do so. I left Dachau behind, but not its memories. Those memories are a reminder of my commitment to not allow history to repeat itself.