Updated: Apr 6
My husband and I toured Dachau Nazi concentration camp in Germany last fall. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go, only knew I needed to. There was hesitation, even fear. Is it necessary to remember a long ago tragedy that I had no part in? After all, I’ve read several books about the Holocaust. I’ve seen the movies.
Do I need to know more?
We spent three hours there on a gray, chilly day which added to an already somber atmosphere. Scattered throughout the grounds were clusters of older school children. German students are required to visit a concentration camp –a visual history lesson to remind and never repeat.
My husband and I stood under the shower heads that spewed lethal gas, saw the tiny crude bunk beds and imagined hundreds packed into spaces designed for far less. In your mind you picture the crawling lice, the brutal guards, the pitiful rations, the despair and depravity. As we stared at crematorium ovens you could imagine the hideous smells. The museum does an excellent job of chronicling all the horrific aspects of the prisoners’ lives and deaths. There are pictures, lots of facts, and no excuses. Its historical accuracy seems like a national apology.
But as we left I was struck by the houses close to the camp. Dachau wasn’t just the name of an infamous concentration camp, it was also a village.
A village next door to a concentration camp.
Did residents know what was happening so close to them? Did screams and smells go unnoticed? Or was there simply a feeling of powerlessness and paralyzing fear? Museum literature indicates neighbors did not know and were shocked to discover the true nature of the camp. After liberating the camp at the close of WWII, American troops forced local citizens through the gates to see conditions first hand and bury the dead. I can imagine the remorse would have been overwhelming.
Walking out of those same gates, my husband and I wondered if there was something we are closing our eyes to and allowing a subtle tolerance of something that should never be tolerated. It’s easy to become complacent in America where we celebrate our democracy, freedom and justice. But the truth is we, too, can be blinded to the brutal dark corners of our own culture.
Today on another gray, chilly day I took a different journey without leaving my house. I sat down in front of my computer and watched for the first time the documentary Nefarious: Merchants of Souls. This is the movie that launched Wings of Refuge, stirring the passion for survivor restoration in the hearts of its founders. Ever since I became involved with Wings of Refuge, I knew I needed to watch this movie. But like my Dachau visit there was fear and hesitancy. After all, I already knew more about sex trafficking than the average person. I serve on the board of Wings, I’ve met trafficked survivors, I can recite the shocking statistics. I know it happens in my country, my state and my town.
Do I need to know more?
The answer was YES. For the next hour and a half I sat glued to the screen struggling to grasp the scope and human cost of sex trafficking portrayed from Cambodia to Las Vegas. Tears had welled in my eyes at Dachau last fall for the suffering on another continent in another decade. Tears poured from my eyes today for the suffering happening in my lifetime on every continent. The black and white images of skeletons in striped uniforms at Dachau was something I expected. The color picture of blood-stained pajamas of a small girl found during a brothel raid was unexpected and shook me to the core. I felt my heart in my throat as my wet eyes kept glancing at the movie timeline in the corner of the screen. How many minutes left? Can I make it to the end?
Nefarious is not unduly graphic but it doesn’t pull punches. It’s honesty reminded me again of the requirement of German school children to visit a concentration camp where they and other tourists view the unfiltered history of the Holocaust. Both the movie and the camp expose our raw emotions. But there is a difference and it makes all the difference:
This time, we are the village next door.
If you are reading this, you already have some knowledge of sex trafficking. I implore you to expand your understanding and compassion. Begin your own journey today by viewing Nefarious: Merchants of Souls on YouTube. Continuing to dull our senses to what’s happening around us cannot be an option. We need to force ourselves through those gates and see the damaged souls. Not to bury but to offer hope. Persevere to the end of Nefarious and you will make a discovery – stories of redemption! At times we may be fearful in the face of such evil, but we are not powerless.
We, who claim Jesus Christ as Savior, hold the key to unlock the gates of captivity and despair. For trafficked victims, pimps and johns. For all of us, lost and enslaved to something. The key is the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. He swings open the gates of our prisons, breaks the chains, and sets us free with His tender love and grace. God sent His son to help us walk through sin’s prison gates hope-filled and eternally-loved.
A monument with the two words “Never Again” stands on the Dachau camp grounds. It is transcribed in five different languages so no visitor can escape its solemn request. No excuses for the village of humanity next time.
Wings of Refuge exists to share the gate-opening, chain-breaking, grace-filled tenderness of Jesus with women who live next door to someone. Each is someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s neighbor. Please join us through prayer, awareness and financial support in our mission “ to end exploitation for one more girl.” Together our village can offer safety, hope and restoration with no excuses.
To join us on mission simply begin your journey by clicking for ways to pray and get involved.
To learn more about human trafficking go to our “Human Trafficking Education” page.