Feeling kind of down…

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I finished the book on the Nazi concentration camp for women, Ravensbruck.  The thing is something like 700 pages, and I have about 5 minutes a day to read, so I’ve been reading it for a while.  Sometimes comparing what others endure, can put our own suffering into perspective.  I’ve come away from the book with a lot of thoughts, negative thoughts about humanity.  Sometimes I think God should stamp on the lot of us, like the original King Kong in the uncut version.  

One thing that I have come across in the book is the way the Germans were, I’m German on both sides, so that makes me feel a bit icky.  That so many young women could come from the little towns and take up positions as guards and beat starving, frail women, and if nothing else stand by while others killed them.  My grandmother came from Austria-Hungary in 1912.  There was a section on the Hungarians.  I did not realize that they were basically allies to Germany.  That kind of sucked too.  My Hungarian Grandmother never believed the atrocities happened over there.  She was a Christian Scientist, and they do not really believe in evil.  But even so.   My other grandmother, maiden name Ampsberg, she knew a survivor of one of the concentration camps.  She was German, but also Jewish, though never practicing, she was a Jehovah’s Witness.  For that matter the person she knew may have been in there for being a JW.  Lots of them were in the camp.  The idea that we could be arrested and starved and beaten and killed for our religion, kind of blows my mind.  Her husband, my mother’s father was Dutch.  He was the scum of the earth but at least the Dutch didn’t hold hands with Hitler and pat his back.  Corrie Ten Boom and her sister were Dutch, and they were in Ravensbrook as political prisoners, for hiding and helping Jews.  My college professor, the head of the Mechanical Engineering department was Dutch, and in Holland when the Germans came in.  He was 14.  He told us of how they made him work a lathe in a munitions factory, and how he did stuff to the parts to foil  them.  Even my dogs are German Shepherds, and the book refers to them mostly as Asatians, but they were used to attack the women.  

And, who were these women.  Some were prostitutes, gypsies, homeless, what they called A-socials.  Some Jews, lots of Poles, it started with just resistance workers, but they added many people, just citizens and certainly educated citizens: doctors, and teachers, and such.  Then the French resistance.  So many nationalities.  A bunch of women from the Red Army (Russia), who should have been treated as prisoners of war, but weren’t.  Communists.  Women who aborted German babies.  Women who had slept with Jews.  Mentally challenged people.  Anyone the regime thought was a threat or a useless mouth.  

The idea was to use them for slave labor, starve them, kill them.  At first there were few children, and babies were aborted, or killed when born.  But the gypsies had children, and some Jews from nations friendly to Germany whose Jews were rounded up, and taken to the camp, but not killed outright.  Then they started allowing babies to be born, but by then the women were so malnourished they had nothing for the babies to eat and they were dying anyway.  

It bothers me that companies like Siemens that is still doing business today, built factories near these camps and used these women, and abused them as much as the guards.  And then sent them back when they were to weak to work to be killed.  

I don’t judge the prisoners themselves.  If they stole, or helped the Nazis in anyway to survive, or lied about who they were related to to get better treatment, they were trying to survive.  I don’t like that some of the Kapos — prisoner guards were and vicious and violent toward other prisoners as their German counterparts, but that is a phenomenon in humans.  I wasn’t there and I did not experience that whole scene, and have no business judging them.  

But the SS doctors, and the guards, and the lack of compassion for people.   It blows my mind.  So of course I have to relate it to our country.  We have a good thing going here with freedoms that we rarely consider.  But there are extremists on both sides who are itching for some sort of war.  At 50, I don’t stand a prayer at surviving what these women managed.  Corrie Ten Boom was 50 I think when she and her sister were arrested, and she actually survived the ordeal.  Her sister did not.  Nor did her father.  That alone would kill me.  But we could become a place where our statements could get us arrested and thrown into a place like this.  Standing up for someone who is being bullied or mistreated could get us arrested.  It’s scary to think about how careful we would have to be around everyone, so as not to be arrested.  

I am not worried about nationalism, we should be proud and loyal to our country, no problem with that.  But what scares me is the socialism that people seem to think is so wonderful.  That is what these Nazis were.  And anyone who didn’t like what they were doing, would land in the camps.  And their were so many of them, and sub camps of the bigger camps.  Before this book, I had heard of Auchwitz, Buchenwald, Treblinka, Dachau, and maybe a few others, but they were everywhere.  So many of them.  

I think it is important to read and remember this sort of thing because there is the danger of repeating history.  I dunno, but all the monster movies my mom watches don’t hold a candle to this stuff in the level of scary, partly because it happened, and partly because it could happen again.  It almost makes me relieved that I’ll be lucky to have another 20 years on this earth.  A lot can happen in 20 years though.    I’m going to take the book on Dachau back to the library unread though.  I don’t want my head in the sand, but I can only take so much of this sort of thing.  

Join the Conversation


  1. mkyuellig

    Hi Solongago,
    It is good to hear from you, and thanks for updating us. It can certainly be draining to read about the holocaust, as well as many other non-fiction topics. While, I think it is important to be aware of history and the experience of other cultures, I also think you should practice self-care when choosing your reading. For instance, I’m studying social work, and I’ve found that a lot of my required reading is a little depressing. That’s why I try to make sure that I read something up-beat or fictional in my free time in addition to the non-fiction that I love. If you are feeling overwhelmed by sadness, it might be nice to escape for a few minutes with a fantasy or science fiction novel.

    There’s nothing like reading about the holocaust to remind us of how terrible humans can be. It evokes a very similar feeling to trying to understand the motivations behind sexual violence. It can be really frustrating for us logical people, because the actions aren’t logical. I hope you have some time to be with your animals and experience some of the more beautiful things in life, to balance things out.

    Stay strong and be gentle with yourself,

  2. eagle206 Volunteer

    Hi Solongago,

    It is always good to see that you have come back to update us. I am glad to hear that you finished your book! Finishing a book always gives me such a nice feeling of accomplishment, no matter how short the book is. I am partially German as well and I know how you feel. However, I went to Berlin this summer and realized that despite some of the horrible things that have happened in the past there are also plenty of reasons to be proud to be german. Past actions don’t define us, especially if they were by ancestors. There were a lot of really sad things that happened during the War and before it. It is definitely important to learn from the past so we don’t make the same mistakes. That’s why Germany has so many memorials and museums about the Holocaust. They are determined to make sure we never forget and learn from the past horrible mistakes.


  3. Brianna W Volunteer Volunteer


    That book definitely sounds like a difficult read especially with your heritage, but it sounds like you took a lot away from it. Thank you for sharing this with us. It’s great to always hear from you, please continue to come back and share.


  4. Alyssa Day Captain

    Hi Solongago,
    I’m happy you finished the book. You are right that we need to know about our history and learn from those mistakes. There were a lot of concentration camps. There were too many. Thank you for sharing what it was about. It sounds really interesting.

  5. music2799 Day Captain

    Hi Solongago,
    Thank you for sharing your insights about the book. I agree with you – I think it is important to see what we did in history and figure out how to change our future actions so that history doesn’t repeat itself. It’s definitely not easy to do that and/or to hear about the inhumane injustices that people have gone through. However, it is important, and we can’t ignore it. I really hope that nothing like this happens again.
    I understand why you returned the other book. Again, it’s not easy to read about these things, and you can take this at a pace you’re comfortable with. I would recommend keeping yourself and your mental state in mind as you read about these difficult subject matters.
    Thank you for updating us, and I hope you’re doing well.

  6. Bluebell13 Volunteer

    Dear Solongago,
    Thank you for sharing this book with us. It is important that we don’t look away from things that make us uncomfortable. When we make it a habit of not letting it affect us, we begin to become complacent and immune. In some ways, being a part of this community is like that…we don’t look away. We hold space for others and let them know that they are not alone. Some are inspired by their experiences to make a difference, be it small or extravagant, and that is how we become the change we want to see in the world. It is also important to recognize when you need to step back and take care of yourself (not following this heavy book with another similar book).
    Sending you love and strength,

  7. Deanna Volunteer

    Hi there-

    When my younger brother was in middle school a survivor came to talk to his school. She was one of Mengele’s twins, her sister didn’t survive. She was one of the twins subjected to among other hideous procedures, they also changed her eye color to blue. I’ve seen a documentary on her, what a woman. You’re right, it does put things into perspective.

    I think that the German woman were much like the prisoners. Well some of them, the common folk, they had to do what they did in order to survive. My dad was in Vietnam, he’s not proud of what he had to do but he was following orders.

    I don’t know, I’ve read about wives of the SS and how terrible they were. The officers weren’t just following orders but I think at least some of the people were afraid and trying to survive. Flailing to survive does something to one’s perspective.

    Thanks for sharing about the book and your heritage. My paternal grandfather was in the Navy for WWII. He was part of the crew that saved George H W Bush when he was shot down in the Pacific. My dad said that he always thought he was blowing smoke but his buddies managed to authenticate it. I often think about how different this country would have been had that ship not been there.

    Anyway, I hope you’re having a good night.


  8. Brianna W Volunteer Volunteer


    That book definitely sounds like a difficult read especially with your heritage, but it sounds like you took a lot away from it. Thank you for sharing this with us. It’s great to always hear from you, please continue to come back and share.


  9. Lizzi G

    Hi Solongago,
    Thank you for sharing about that interesting book. It must have been hard to read, especially with your German heritage. I think people often look back on that horrible time and say “I don’t know how something like that could happen” but because of that, I guess it is possible that it could happen again. Those doctors and guards followed blindly and did what they were told, maybe because they lacked compassion or maybe they were afraid to stand up for themselves and their beliefs. Regardless, I hope that we would never let something like that happen again.


  10. Northlane1991 Volunteer

    Hey there. That book would be a difficult book to read but also very informal to learn about our past mistakes. Learning about our history is also important because it can shape us on how much life was different back then.

  11. candyappleb Volunteer


    Hi there. That book does sound like it would be a difficult read. Looking back at history and how humans have treated one another can be very disheartening, especially when it’s an event so many people are connected to like the atrocities of World War II. Don’t feel bad about returning the other book unread. You aren’t sticking your head in the sand. You’re practicing self care and that’s important. Take care,


  12. CarmenR Volunteer

    Hi there,

    I am sorry that the content of this book was difficult for you at times. It sounds like you gained some insight that is valuable to you, however, which is great! Stay strong!


  13. Erin O'Callaghan Day Captain

    I am sorry the book you read was hard for you-it’s tough sometimes when we read heavy things, even if not related to our own trauma. Hope it helped to vent about it here.