This quote from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness kept running through my head during our group visit to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. From the poor housing where the prisoners lives to the morbid health center and everywhere in between, one word summed it all up: evil.
During the audio tour around the main gate, the guide explained a haunting fact about the camp. It was designed to be a “perfect concentration camp” for future camps to emulate. The triangular shape of the camp ensured that any prisoner inside could be seen by at least one guard at all times. The fact that someone needed to think of a “perfect” way to set up a concentration camp is terribly upsetting. This is one of the most unsettling examples of how engineering can be used to harm others rather than aid them.
Another moment that struck a chord with me was Station Z. This part of the camp was where Nazi guards pretending to be doctors would take prisoners in to do a physical examination, and midway through, they would shoot the prisoner in the back of the head. Station Z also was the location of the gas chamber and crematorium, so it was one of the hardest parts to walk through. To think that so many people were shot, gassed, or burned there was unfathomable. It’s hard to imagine anyone could want something so horrifying to happen, and that he was capable of convincing a group of people that genocidal evil was necessary.
As sad and depressing as the tour was, it was necessary for us to go through. It’s a somber reminder of how evil the world can be. It is also a reminder of how resilient good in the world can be. The darkness will always give way to light, just as Jesus claimed victory over sin and death.