I knew about forced labor in Germany during the War. But visiting the Nazi Forced Labor Documentury Center opned both my mind and heart even deeper to that topic.
When I applied for the excursion "Nazi Forced Labor", I did it mostly because of the importance of this topic to me, but not in order to be deeply impressed. Due to my school education and my work as a teacher, I am aware of many tragic sides of World War II – that's why the topic of forced labor isn't unfamiliar to me. Nonetheless, the exhibition in the Documentary Center touched me deeply. There were lots of different pictures - exhausted people, frightened and desperate faces. I don't think there was any need to explain something, because the photos spoke by itself. But then we learned some facts - some statistics, some stories, some memories - and it was even more impressive.
Dangerous tasks, Deprivation, Abortions, Death
"The forced laborers of Soviet Union were considered subhumans."
"Pregnant women were forced to make abortions."
"Forced laborers barely had a possibility to wash themselves or to get clothes". "Forced laborers had to work in enormously dangerous conditions: to put bombs away from German streets, to take corpses out of burning houses, to work in mines with no special equipment, to clean surfaces from acids bare hands."
"If a child was considered to have German-like appearance, it was taken away from his mother to be raised in German family".
And there were many, many more facts that could make anyone shiver. Then we went to the barrack, which was a part of the forced laborers' camp. 3000 camps for those people were here, in Berlin at that time. Not all of them were saved, but we had a chance to take a look at the part, which remained the same from these times. It was very cold inside, rooms were way too tiny, way too bare and empty. There was this smell of an old building, where the time got frozen and preserved, where you could feel yourself lonely, desperate and helpless. I can't even imagine how people managed to survive there! There is no word for such kind of bravery, for this strong will and inner power, which led them to live through illnesses, poverty, hunger, exhausting work, through the fear and desperation.
If we want a better future to come, we need to remember the past
It was extremely important for me to see it, to visit this place and to discover everything for myself. I'm grateful to the leaders of this organization, who hold on to remembering every detail, every story, every fact. We had a chance to ask our guide about her work and its importance to her - and I'm deeply, deeply thankful for her attitude to this topic.
There's no other way to build a bright and stable future, than remembering all things which happened in our past.
After the guided tour, I asked our guide, Mariana Angerter, what makes her jobs special and important to her and what shocked her the most within her work.