78 years ago

Standing in front of the Death March Memorial, Sara Brunner, American and ARSP volunteer, gave a speech on the liberation day of the Dachau concentration camp.

At around 5:30pm, 78 years ago today, the U.S. Army liberated the Dachau concentration camp. I would like to extend a special welcome to our honored guests from the United States who were part of the liberating army.

(In English): I would like to extend a very special welcome to our honored guests from the United States who were part of the liberating army as well as their families. Thank you for being here today to celebrate Liberation Day with us.

On April 26, 1945, just a few days before the liberation, thousands of prisoners were forcibly evacuated from the camp by the SS on trains, in trucks, and on foot. Most of these prisoners were malnourished and weakened. Today, we remember the people who were forced to march along this route towards the Alps without getting left behind. Those who could not go any further were murdered by the SS men. You told us about this earlier with your moving words as a contemporary witness, dear Mr. Abba Naor. Those who suffered with you, and their families are with us today as guests of honor. I would like to welcome you all once again.

My name is Sara Brunner and I am from the USA. It is a great honor that I am able to speak here today. Although I had traveled to Germany many times before, until last September, I had never been to Dachau. I had no expectations when I came here to begin my volunteer year with Aktion Sühnezeichen Friedensdienste (Action Reconciliation Service for Peace) at the Evangelical Church of Reconciliation in the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. To be honest, I didn't do much research before I arrived, so I was really discovering everything for the first time.

 The first time I visited the concentration camp memorial was overwhelming for me. My eyes kept wandering around, trying to take it all in at once, but also to notice all the small, rather inconspicuous details. In those first moments, however, my thoughts were not really with me, but with the prisoners. I wondered what their first experiences were, what they were thinking when they first entered the camp, how they were feeling.

I've been at the memorial a few days each week for almost eight months now, and I still find my eyes wandering over details each time, sometimes still seeing something new, trying to take it all in. My mind keeps wandering to the history of the place and the people who lived and suffered here.

In order to remember, one must first learn

As an American learning a more in-depth history of Dachau in Dachau, I always had the strange feeling that I should have known, that I should have been taught this part of the history in the US. Everyone else around me in my tour leadership training course already knew the history, already knew what the U.S. Army had done here, what its significance had been. But I, as an American, did not know. I felt out of place, awkward, and ashamed that I didn't know this part of the story, which has come to feel more and more like my own. Of course, in the U.S. we learn about the Holocaust and about Dachau being liberated by the U.S. Army, but we learn more about Anne Frank and Auschwitz, we focus more on that. I was surprised to learn about the influence the U.S. Army had here in Dachau after the war ended. How it set up an internment camp for SS men and Nazi officials in the former concentration camp barracks and tried perpetrators there. For decades, the former SS camp was home to a U.S. Army barracks, just a few meters from here, over there where the Bavarian Riot Police compound is now. 

I am grateful that my volunteer year in Dachau has given me the opportunity to learn this part of history. For a few weeks now, I have even been trusted to share my knowledge with guests from around the world on tours of the concentration camp memorial grounds. Frankly, these tours are a challenge for me, not only because I usually don't give them in my native language, but also because I am always nervous when I speak in front of a group - like today. :)

Now, I accompany young people who are visiting the Dachau concentration camp memorial for the first time.

 This brings me full circle, and I hope that they feel the same way I did eight months ago: That their thoughts for their time at the memorial don't just stay with them, but are shared with others. That what they learn here sparks their curiosity to learn more and to share that knowledge with others. To stand with the oppressed and fight against suffering. In this way, learning and remembering can give rise to the strength to fight against the injustices in the world today.

For this, we have great role models. The people who stood in resistance to the Nazi regime, who even in the Dachau concentration camp tried not to be broken by terror, who retained their humanity and solidarity, even on the death march. And the Allied liberators who defeated Hitler's Germany at the risk of their lives.

We thank you, the survivors and liberators present here today, and we remember the contemporary witnesses who have already passed away.

The experiences and the knowledge which I have gained here in Dachau, I will always carry with me. But perhaps more importantly, I will share this knowledge with others. 

Thank you very much.


ARSP volunteer Sara Brunner gave this speech in German. In the beginning she welcomes the Americans in the English language.  

Here are two newpapers articles in Germany who wrote about this event. Both articles are in German, but you are able to see some photos from the event and a photo of the the survivor Mr. Abba Naor.