Let Us Remember

The Second World War was a war filled with horrors. From the Katyn Forest Massacre to the biological warfare of the Japanese Unit 731, and from the Korean “comfort women” to the atomic bombing of Japan, one barely needs to look to through the history of World War II to find examples of human beings being horrible to other human beings. Two of these horrors came together yesterday as we visited Dachau and drove past Dresden.


Dachau represents the Holocaust, and the Nazis’ “Final Solution” to “The Jewish Problem”. The Holocaust needs very little introduction, but its sheer scale strains belief. At Dachau, between 30,000 and 45,000 people died. This is a lot of people. For some perspective, that is like killing a group of people the size of Calvin’s student body ten times. However, the number of dead at Dachau is four percent of the dead at the death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, where, at minimum, one million people died. For comparison, this is one and a half times the number of soldiers who died during the American Civil War. On a bigger scale yet, six million Jews died in the Holocaust. If some horribly bigoted person killed a group of Jews the size of Calvin’s student body every single day for four years running, he or she would still not have killed as many Jews as the Nazis did. This is before, of course, one looks at the Roma and Sinti, the homosexuals, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the communists, and all of the other groups the Nazis persecuted.

Dachau is a tribute to the dead, but it is a tribute of few words. It is does not need them. The cold efficiency of the crematorium’s design, the rows of barrack outlines, and the very air of the camp hit like a emotional sledgehammer, far more eloquent than any speech. However, five words define Dachau. The first three are found on the gate, though which the inmates and the visitors enter. The words are “Arbeit Macht Frei” (work makes free). This was the motto of the Nazi concentration camp system, a reflection of the fact that the occupants of the camp would often find release solely in a death brought about by overwork. These are the words of death.

The remaining two words that define Dachau are found on on the former parade ground, on a stone wall. The two words are “Nie Wieder” (never again). These are the words of memory, that the dead should not have died in vain, but that the horror of their death should lead those of us among the living to never allow such a terror to happen again.


On February 13, 1945, with the war almost won, Royal Air Force Bomber Command launched a raid on Dresden, aiming to burn the city to the ground. At this, they succeeded. An inferno with temperatures as high as 1500 degrees Fahrenheit devastated the city known as the “Florence of the Elbe”, guttings its buildings and immolating its citizens. Follow-up raids by Bomber Command and the US 8th Air Force contributed to the destruction. By the time the fire was out, eight square miles of the city lay in ruins. According to the best estimate, 25,000 people died in the flames.

To this day, debate rages over whether the annihilation of Dresden was justified or if it was a war crime. Arguments can be made for both sides. What is indisputable, however, is that we must not forget the horror that visited Dresden on February 13, 1945. War may be hell, as William T. Sherman so bluntly put it, but that does not mean that hell should be intentionally inflicted on other people.

Both Dachau and Dresden mark the capacity of humans to be cruel to humans. Even though several of Dresden’s architectural landmarks have been rebuilt, and Dachau has been significantly remodelled, the scars of the horrors that happened there still show today. Let us remember these scars.

Wittenberg and Bremen Germany

Today was one of our biggest travel days.  We left Leipzig fairly early and drove to Wittenberg, Luther’s hometown.  We had a chance to see the city, Luther’s home, and the two churches that Luther worked in.  Unfortunately, none of them were open when we were there, but we did see them from the outside, including the doors with the 95 theses.

From Wittenberg, we traveled for several hours to arrive in Bremen, Germany.  Our progress was slowed by a major traffic jam which was caused by an accident involving a car and two trucks.  The cab on the second truck looked to be completely crushed and looked very serious for the driver.  We arrived at Mercedes-Benz in Bremen for our tour of the plant, including walking through the robotic body assembly plant and the final assembly plant.  Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures in the assembly buildings.  It was an amazing tour!

After that, we arrived at our hotel and then walked to the Schuttinger Restaurant for our group dinner.  After dinner, we were able to walk around the old city of Bremen at night.  It is a beautiful city!

Gentex: Erlenbach, Germany

We began our day by visiting the high technology electronics company, Gentex. They’re based in Zeeland, MI, but have offices for distribution in Germany, Japan, and China. The tour started with a presentation given by their operations and engineering staff, along with food and drinks at our tables to snack on. Of course, for a group of college students this was a great start to our long day.

Gentex makes products in industries like automotive, aerospace, and fire protection. However, I felt our tour and discussions with Gentex evolved around their automotive industry more so. This makes sense as Gentex is the world’s leading supplier of auto-dimming mirrors. I think they’re very excited with the innovative work they have been developing for clients in Germany. These clients consist of automakers like BMW, Mercedes, and Volkswagen.

After the staff’s presentation we split into smaller groups to tour their facility. My group saw how the warehouse was operated by a well trained staff. As a business major, I got plenty of discussion from the engineers in the group on how an automated system would be a  more efficient way to run the warehouse, that’s why Calvin students are simply the best.

Next, we got the privilege to see how the cars rear view and side mirrors worked. Gentex employees gave us test drives in prototype cars to show us exactly what their products are capable of. Sadly, none of us were given the chance to take the cars for a spin. The most fascinating part of Gentex’s design was the camera located behind the small blade atena of the car. This allowed you to have better vision when viewing what’s behind you. The camera was helpful if you had someone in the back seat blocking your view or had something piled to high in the trunk. To finish, we watched a video of Gentex’s equipment used in a variety of scenarios along with what can be possible in the future for the company. Overall, I think we had a great visit with Gentex that was beneficial for every person in the group.