Lest we forget
Coming together at the scene of horror: Young people from all over the world meet in Dachau, where the Nazis murdered tens of thousands of people.
They come from Algeria, El Salvador, Israel, Poland and almost 20 other countries: Around 100 young people travelled to Bavaria to attend the International Youth Meeting Dachau, where they are addressing the topics of Nazism and the Holocaust for two weeks. They are attending workshops and meeting eyewitnesses. “Remember, encounter, understand, shape the future”, that is the idea.
The International Youth Meeting initiative was launched in 1983 by young people from the region. An international team of volunteers looks after the guests – many of them former participants themselves. Dachau was not randomly chosen as the location of the meeting: It was in Dachau that the Nazis opened the first concentration camp in 1933. More than 40,000 people died there.
How do the young participants experience the meeting at this location?“Other perspectives on the Holocaust”
Ela Gorden, 17, Israel
“My friends were confused when I told them I was coming here. They didn’t know that Dachau is a city and not just a former concentration camp. I was simply curious. I didn’t know exactly what to expect. Now I can say: The great thing about the Youth Meeting is getting to know other perspectives on the Holocaust. I attended a workshop on homosexuals murdered by the Nazis, for example. It opened my eyes to more stories, as has my time spent with the other young people here. It is wonderful getting to know all these different people and their backgrounds. What I have learnt from the workshops and meeting them all is that communication is the most important thing. You can learn something from everyone if you are open and willing to listen to other people’s perspectives.”
Jesús Eduardo Calvillo García, 18, Mexico
“Meeting so many eyewitnesses is one of the best things about the Youth Meeting. These survivors greatly impressed me. When you talk to them you don’t just learn something about history – you feel it too. When you comprehend the past you can understand the present and shape the future. That is why I am here. I want to assume social responsibility in my home country. I have come to realize in Dachau, among other things, that we, too, marginalize people in our contemporary society. We don’t want to help everyone. That is what I want to work to combat. It is always easy to say: ‘We are doing well, we don’t need to try harder.’ For Mexico I say: ‘Yes, we do. We need to become a better society.’”
Tommaso Paolucci, 18, Italy
“This is my second time here. Because I want to know exactly how I can prevent something like the Holocaust ever happening again. This year I am concentrating primarily on the question of how we can continue the culture of remembrance when there are no longer any eyewitnesses. For me, the basis of all memory is not viewing the Holocaust as something in the past. We should not run away from it and think it is enough to know that it happened. We must really make ourselves aware of what took place. And pass on the stories of survivors. Events like the Youth Meeting are just the right thing for this. Here we also discuss amongst ourselves the political situation in our home countries a great deal. It is fascinating to hear what the others have to say about their own country. Elsewhere you just get an outside view. I think we should listen very carefully to what our politicians say today. It would be naïve to think the kind of rhetoric from back then could not resurface. That’s why I am here. I want to be able to instantly recognize when something takes a turn in that direction. And then put a stop to it.”