BERLIN, Germany — A short walk from the Berlin Wall, 20 boys and girls surrounded a tour guide at the Holocaust Memorial. They looked like a United Nation of skin colors, but I soon found out they were all from Great Britain.

I walked over to a man sitting on a slab near the youths, and asked if he was part of the group. “Yes,” the man told me. He was their teacher at a private school.

I didn’t nose more. I watched his students and listened, for I was as intrigued as they seemed to be with the concrete, crypt-like structures that formed neat rows, passageways running between each row.

What did the crypts symbolize? What did the sculptor of the Memorial — its proper name is the “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” — hope others would see in the structures?

The tour guide gave an answer: “Whatever you want to see,” she said.

For a Black man from America would see the Memorial in a different light than a youth from England or Jewish woman from America might. The youth and the Jew would see the Belmont Plantation in Natchez, Mississippi, differently than I (or my siblings) would.

Is her vision less meaningful than mine?

Again, I don’t know. In these rows of crypts, what I’d see — and I hope what she’d see in Belmont — was horror, although not the ghoulishness that I remembered from when I went to Auschwitz almost a decade ago.

Even here, at a remembrance, I saw a darkness I’ll never shake. I saw the hate that led men to unspeakable acts against other men … to murder because no one dared to stop them.

On a concrete structure at the perimeter of the memorial, near where the British youth were, I found several people reading the text on it, which credited philosopher Hannah Arendt for her thoughts on Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi colonel obsessed with killing Jews: “… like many, he was … neither perverted nor sadistic, but terribly and terrifyingly normal.”

So I guess I got a glimpse of “normal,” because historians have written thousands of stories about men killing other men. All of these killings must be normal, right?

I don’t see a world where peace reigns. In fact, I doubt if most people know the word. For what is “peace” amid chaos? Do we only face peace when we’re not alive to talk about it?

The Holocaust Memorial brought those thoughts to my mind. Auschwitz did; the Maltz Museum in Beachwood did too. I hope Belmont or the Belle Meade Plantation in Tennessee has similar effects on people who visit it.

All those places, filled with stories of senseless killings and sheer brutality, take us deep into humankind’s soul. We don’t want to be there, because we dislike its darkness.

In 1993, I went to see “Schindler’s List” with a Jewish friend. I couldn’t stand what I saw. Yes, it was a movie, but it shook me in the same way “Roots” did when I first watched it on network TV years earlier.

Both reminded me that we can’t ignore the past; we can’t pretend none of the past happened. For if we do play pretend, we might as well build a high, concrete wall around the Holocaust Memorial and Belmont Plantation so no one can look at them.