In August 2017 I spent one week at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp just north of Berlin.
Below is an excerpt from writing I did that week, and below that is a very brief video of a selection of clips taken that week. Below that is the visual journal that spilled forth within weeks of my return home to Texas.
Ravensbrück Day One ::: Heart in my throat, I bicycled quickly down the cobbled road to Ravensbrück, mindful that the cobbles had been laid by tired, bleeding female fingers. It was my second time on this road, the second time the sun poured over me while my heart and throat mingled in a symbiotic strangle of sorts. Last here in June for a few hours, I felt haunted, hunted even, after leaving. Constantly pursued by thoughts of returning, of learning more about the women imprisoned and murdered here, and witnessing their stories. So, here I am. And here I will be for the next week. Bicycling back and forth through the forest, over the cobbles, weaving between the ghosts of bent-backed women.
Heart open and cracking, head high in spite of my own remarkably inappropriate terrors, and hellbent on breaking through this fog in my head that asks me repeatedly what the hell I am doing here. Here's what I'm doing here: I'm showing up for *them*. For their lives. For their remarkably appropriate terrors. To somehow funnel and articulate this gruesome historical climax of hatred, self-righteousness, greed, black and white thinking, and rigid adherence to propaganda.
I'm not really sure how this is gonna go down, if I'm honest with you. But I am here, with great respect for the stories to be witnessed. I am here, humbly, because my body is well-fed and wearing warm clothes. I have slept. I know where my daughter is. My family is alive, safe and well. They know where I am. My heart beats. My veins pulse to the rhythm of freedom. My skin is bruise and blister free. I have not been beaten. I am not witnessing brutality every minute of the day.
Approaching these stories feels frightening. Like, how dare I even? But. There is a large, hovering pull by someone, something, to do just that. So I will bear witness.
130,000 women survived and died in this enclosure, surrounded by high walls and barbed wire. Many of them perished without a trace, stories unknown. All worthy of being known. All undeserving of their fate. All with heartbeats, lungs pushing out breath in the most harrowing of circumstances, and holding on to the spark of their one precious life, until their very end.