March Onward

American ARSP volunteer Lynn Williams speaking on the liberation of Dachau concentration camp 69 years ago

ARSP volunteer Lynn Williams

"I believe that I do not have to tell the story again.  We know that 69 years ago, thousands of prisoners from the Dachau Concentration Camp and its subsidiary camps were forced to go on a Death March.  They were sent in the direction of Tirol.  Many died along the way – from hunger, exhaustion or through murder.  Today we are here to honor these people.  We are here to honor not only those who died, but also those who survived.  Many of the survivors have been marching onward.  They want to show the next generation what can happen when racism and hate become the rule of thumb.

I come from the United States.  I worked as a teacher for many years and took early retirement.  I didn’t want to just sit at home, however.  Because of this, I decided to do a year of voluntary service.  Action Reconciliation Service for Peace sent me to Dachau.  My family has no direct connection to that which happened in Dachau, in Germany, and in the Second World War.  We have, however, experienced racism and hate ourselves.

The father of my son is an African-American.  We got married in 1980, and it wasn’t as difficult for us as it was for white/black couples in the years before us.  Despite this, there were people who believed that we had done something wrong.  For example, my own mother did not want to get to know my fiancé.  She told me that he would never be welcomed in her home.  She later changed her opinion and apologized to him.  It was not an easy time for me.

If we had lived in an earlier time, such a marriage would never have been allowed.  In Nazi Germany, relationships between Jews and the so-called Aryans were illegal.  Until 1967, relationships between black and white Americans were also illegal.  Thanks to people like Dr. Martin Luther King, these earlier laws were changed.  He marched to protest injustices like these, like his March on Washington in 1963.  There in his famous speech, he said:

I have a dream that my four little children will one day

live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color

of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream . . .

I still have this dream.  My son is seen as “black” even though he also has a white mother.  My grandchildren must also live with racism.  I often tell this story about Dante, my 14 year old grandson.  He was on vacation with his family.  Outside of the hotel, on the basketball court, he was approached by a group of white boys his age.  They asked him if he wanted to play a game of basketball with them.  When he answered “yes,” one of the boys yelled "I’ll take the black kid on my team.”  His friend asked, “Why?”  The boy’s answer was “Because he’s black.  I’m sure he can play basketball!”

He most likely did not mean this in a bad way, but he also didn’t recognize that what he had said was racist.  It is exactly this which makes it dangerous - when you believe that somebody can do so and so because he is so and so, and don’t recognize it as racism.

Therefore, we must march onward.  In Germany, in the USA, and in many other countries, racism is alive and well.  We can fight against Neo-Nazis and racism.  We can demonstrate for the rights of homosexuals.  We can march onward and work for the eradication of racism and exclusion.  Support through monetary donations and other gifts also helps.  But the main thing is, we must march onward and never lose courage.

I believe that we can best honor the victims of these Death Marches when we fight against the injustices that we still see today.  I invite all of you to join me and march onward!"

Lynn Williams was the American ARSP volunteer at Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial site 2012-2014.