A volunteer reports on his time at the Dachau Memorial Site

Freiwillige der Gedenkstätte mit dem Zeitzeugen Abba Naor
von links: Sebastian Schäfer (FSJ-Kultur), Abba Naor (Zeitzeuge) und Paul Pichler (Gedenkdiener aus Österreich)

Each year young persons perform their year of voluntary social service in the area of culture at the Dachau Memorial Site. Sebastian Schäfer reports about his voluntary year:

At present there are three volunteers at the Memorial Site who began working on September 1, 2012. Michelle Ortlieb (20) and Sebastian Schäfer (19) are both completing a voluntary year in culture. Paul Pichler (20) from Austria is working as a holocaust memorial servant, an alternative term of service to serving in the Austrian Army.

The tasks given to volunteers are so diverse that no working day is alike. One of the main tasks given to Sebastian Schäfer and Paul Pichler is to accompany the Dachau concentration camp survivor Abba Noar when he visits schools to take part in contemporary witness talks. These visits need to be prepared: first, the volunteers contact the schools and coordinate the appointments with Mr. Noar, no easy task because they are very much in demand. The volunteers pick up Mr. Noar from his hotel and accompany him to the schools. Once there, Paul and Sebastian hear his moving life story in turns. It’s not always easy to come to terms with and grasp what we hear. At the same time, we are very lucky to be allowed to accompany Mr. Naor. Not least because our relationship to him has become increasingly close and we find out details which he cannot fit into the brief two hours at a school.

The volunteers also step in for staff at the info desk in the Visitor’s Center when they take their lunch break. Here contact with foreign visitors is particularly interesting.

The volunteers gain insight into the workings of the Memorial Site departments as well. At present Michelle Ortlieb is working in the administrative office, Paul Pichler in education, and Sebastian Schäfer in research and the archive.

Here the volunteers have to perform a variety of tasks. For example, they learn to use the archive databank and can thus assist the archivist Mr. Knoll in answering inquiries about former prisoners. In research and education there is also the possibility to take on smaller tasks on their own for the various special exhibitions. In the office working on the telephone service enables us to establish first contact between the visitors and the Memorial Site, while also seeing firsthand just how many things need to be done in the office.

All three volunteers have passed the training course for tour guides and may work as guides at the Memorial Site once their service ends on August 31, 2013. Overall, the volunteers have learnt a great deal for the future from the year.