HAVERHILL — Caleb Smith had seen the video documentaries. He had seen the photographs in history books of the horrors that Nazi Germany perpetrated on Jews during World War II.
Smith, 20, of Haverhill will never forget what it was like to stand on the soil where countless Jewish people took their last steps in life before the unimaginable happened.
"I didn't think I'd be affected by visiting a concentration camp. It wasn't part of my ancestry or ethnicity," Smith said. "Just standing on the ground where they would line prisoners up and beat and abuse them every day was incredibly moving."
On Feb. 20, Smith and fellow members of the Brandeis University Chorus visited the Dachau concentration camp near Munich, Germany. During their visit they performed during a memorial service inside a synagogue on the camp's grounds. For the last 12 years Smith has also sung with the West Parish Church in Andover.
"Our group wanted to perform internationally, and we wanted to perform in Germany and Austria," Smith said of his college chorus. "Since we were going to be in the Munich area, we decided to stop in Dachau, where visitors gather."
His chorus presented a program of traditional religious Hebrew music. They sang "Elohim Hashivenu" — or "Oh Lord God."
"We'd planned on singing four songs, but we only did the one," he said. "We were all emotionally moved by the experience of being at this camp."
Although he did not take an official tour of the camp, he did walk around on his own and with his fellow students.
"We saw the crematorium, where bodies were burned," he said. "It was a humbling experience for all of us."