Dachau Concentration Camp

Authored By Brian

Arbeit Macht Frei

The entrance to Dachau is guarded by a saying, “work shall make you free”

The almost park-like setting with tourists wandering all over doesn’t belie the horrific nature this property once served. Although not an Auschwitz, Dachau was an extremely efficient exterminator. Tens of thousands of soviet soldiers, political dissidents and Jews lost their lives here mostly due to disease, starvation, mistreatment and execution by Nazi solidiers.

Although I visited this place on July 13th of 2004, I’m writing this entry October 15th, 2005. It’s been well over a year since I visited but every time I see the picture of the gates above, it sends a shiver down my spine. The former concentration camp is now a series of razed buildings in the original layout but only the foundations remain as a memorial to those that died here. There are several religious structures as a result of the clergy contingent also imprisoned in Dachau. It included mostly Polish Catholic priests but some 3000 religious persons were imprisoned at Dachau over its history.

Upon arriving, we opted for the 3 euro audio tour which is a must-have. There are numerous stations around the complex with information you can read but the audio version is infinitely more emotional and thought-provoking. We visited pretty much the entire complex including the crematory, the faux-showers-gas-chambers (generally considered to have been built for execution but never used beyond some speculated testing) and the recently-constructed on-site museum.

There isn’t much to say about this wretched place beyond what comes to you initially when hearing about such crimes. Take for example the pretty wooded area in this picture… in reality, it was a depression in the ground along the wall furthest from the camp where people were executed and the blood would pool. Soviet prisoners-of-war are reported to have been executed there among others. I looked at the concrete wall directly behind this patch and it’s hard to say today, but it certainly looked like chips and cracks from bullets could be seen in the wall. It’s not hard to imagine it.

The feeling I most felt while actually on-site however was despair. The despair of such a place. Of such horrid living conditions and continual death. It was a place without hope. Even today as you look up at the guard towers or the barbed wire fence or the gas spigots disguised as shower nozzles, it’s impossible to not feel the heavy weight of despair. We were fortunate in that our despair was for the human race rather than our own lives.

Although not a checkmark in the “fun” column of our trip, it’s immediate proximity to Munich makes this a must-visit place. Our soldiers were so overwhelmed when they liberated the camp that they executed every German soldier in the camp; another dark mark on the history of Dachau.

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