Felix from Youth for Dora

(performed his community service at Mittelbau-Dora Memorial)

Felix performed his community service at the Mittelbau-Dora Memorial and is involved in the Youth for Dora Association.

I came to the Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial through my alternative civilian service. Working in the education department enabled me not only to engage intensively with this site myself, but also to pass on this knowledge to many other people. Working with visitors from all over Germany, all over Europe and sometimes far beyond left a lasting impression on me. Talking with them about their different perspectives on this place was a formative experience. In addition to educational work, it was the encounters with survivors of the camps that I consider one of the most important experiences of my life. In the past years, these encounters took place largely through my activities in the Youth for Dora organisation. The anniversaries of the liberation, which were a very special time for everyone involved, always offered an opportunity to meet with survivors. After all, they now live all over the world, from Australia to Russia and France to the USA. For years I was able to accompany survivors and their families as they visited the sites of their suffering after all this time. It was an experience I will never forget.

But the anniversaries are not just a time for visiting sites and attending events – above all, they are a wonderful time spent together, when you can have in-depth and very personal experiences with many wonderful people. You eat, drink and chat together for hours. These few days in the year are like life in concentrated form. The short period of time could not be more profound. The occasion, the circumstances and the emotions you experience together often create a situation that is incredibly personal – even with people you have only met a few times in your life. These anniversaries are certainly not steeped in sadness. Mourning the dead, celebrating life and fighting for the future – these three things describe it best.

Allow me to illustrate this with an anecdote: At an event in the theatre, I sat next to the former Dutch resistance fighter Leo Fonteijn, whom I had the honour of accompanying for a few years. Shortly before the event started, Leo asked me if I knew why the Nazis hadn’t killed him. I ran through the academic literature in my head and listed the circumstances in the camp that had made it possible, and so on. It felt like I babbled for an eternity. Leo let me speak and then summarized the reason slightly more concise: “Because I’m so funny”. He died in 2014. I will never forget these people and this time. Why is it important to my life? It clearly demonstrated to me what kind of society I want to support and which endeavours I will fight against.