When I was 14 years old, I traveled through Germany with my parents. My father, a historian in his own right, felt it important for me to see the museum and grounds at Dachau, the first concentration camp built by the Nazis.
I had read the Diary of Anne Frank in school, but visiting the former place where such atrocities took place, was quite another level of coming to learn about the Holocaust. The memory of that visit was unquestionably one of the most significant experiences of my youth. My perspective on the world, on history, on what people are capable of, on what it means to be a survivor, all of this was shaped by that visit. I remember viscerally feeling sick to my stomach in some of the old barracks, and that the whole area felt like a vacuum, a dead zone. I wrote a poem (at end of blog) to help me process my own feelings and emotions of the experience.
Fast forward thirty years later. I had the opportunity to go back to Germany, although this time, the northern part of the country, and visit the former site of the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg.
Since learning to work with Reiki 18 years ago, I have brought healing to many of the places I have visited in the world. I intended to do the same for this site. Unlike Dachau, almost all of the buildings at Neuengamme had been torn down and replaced by 2 foot high ‘shadows’ of where the buildings had been.
It was a powerful statement to have those buildings torn down and just rubble remain.
There was one pile of stones in the ground that represented a solitary confinement cell block where many acts of terror had been committed. I sat down next to it and held out my hands, sending Reiki into the past, present and future. At this cell block, I also saw flowers and prayer offerings. I thought about how many other prayer services around the world have been conducted here and sent from a distance. Thirty years ago I did not see this. My Reiki session was but one of many, many more acts of healing that has been offered before and will continue to come over the years ahead from all the people that have been committed to making positive change in the world.
This space of change and hope is what I felt this time at the ruins of the concentration camp. There is more space than there was thirty years ago. And in thirty years to come, as long as the memorial remains, more healing will have taken place.
Untitled by Eileen Wurst (written at 14 and published 6 years later in 1990 in Whispers in the Wind: A Collection of Poetry, Quill Books)
I looked among their dying eyes
Full of the bitter tears of their bitter lives
Whipped, beaten, scorned and scared,
Shot, hung, slaughtered and starved;
…they had survived through it all.
Mocked against their religion,
Taken away their belief,
This is how they lived in their
many years of grief.
Freedom was just a word,
A laugh, a stale joke.
Opportunities never came,
Always absent was the hope;
…but still they stood tall.
The day they fell, the dark sky cried.
The generals smiled, full of pride.
Naked, they marched into the pits of hell,
Filled with wire, and of pungent smell.
Their hearts cried out,
Their souls were blest,
For finally they had come to eternal rest;
…and they had survived through it all.