• Tue
  • Sep 23, 2014
  • Updated: 12:32am

'UNTERWEGS'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 June, 2006, 12:00am

ON TOUR


'Never Again,' says the monument inscribed in English, French, Yiddish, German and Russian, just outside the main exhibition hall at the Dachau Concentration Camp.


If football is the true global language, then this World Cup should be the harbinger of world peace. This is what the organisers pray for, and hope for. Whether it will materialise, is another question.


On the outskirts of Munich lies the town of Dachau. It is a picturesque market town, but its name will forever be synonymous with extermination of human beings. On the eve of the World Cup, I decided to make a trip to this concentration camp, where between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 43,000 people died during the Nazi reign of terror.


Also on the eve of this World Cup, in a joint message welcoming the opening of the tournament, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Fifa president Sepp Blatter made an appeal for peace, tolerance and development.


'Football is a global language,' said Annan and Blatter. 'It can bridge social, cultural and religious divides. It enhances personal development and growth, teaches us teamwork and fair play, builds self-esteem and opens doors to new opportunities. This, in turn, can contribute to the well-being of whole communities and countries.'


They added: 'Over the next few weeks, as billions of people worldwide focus on the Fifa World Cup, we appeal to players and fans everywhere to support us in our mission. Let us harness the magic of football in our quest for development and peace.'


These are glorious words. But take a walk through depressing Dachau and you somehow come out downtrodden in spirit, thinking despite all the words from the people who matter, life continues to mock one in its face.


'This is history's warning to the world,' says our guide, Steve Whitehorn, an Englishman from Brighton. 'These buildings are a proof of how nationalistic feelings can inflame racism and division. It shows the heights human intolerance can reach.'


A former art director in a leading advertising company, Whitehorn gave up his life of contentment, split up with his millionaire wife and came to Germany where he earns a pittance guiding English-speaking tours through the horrors of Himmler's solution to exterminate Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, Poles, Catholics and other 'asocial' types.


In my party of gawking tourists is Costa Rican Jose Juan Sanchez. A real estate lawyer, Jose has left his 11,000 countrymen partying in Munich to take a deep breath of reality.


'Football is good, but it is not the be all and end all of everything. When you come to a place like this, then you realise there is more to life than just football. This puts everything into perspective,' said Sanchez.


'I studied for six years in the former Soviet Union, in Kiev, where I first heard of Dachau,' he added. 'I always wanted to come here, and now I'm here to see my team play, I decided to make my journey and pay homage to all those people who died here during the second world war,' he added.


So while we celebrate football passions over the next month, let's remember it's just a game to be enjoyed.


Number of the Day: 43,000.


A rough official count of the people who died in Dachau. Annan and Blatter would have spent their time better visiting this town than issuing hollow communiques. A dose of reality is always good to keep your feet grounded.


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