Experiencing Dachau

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                 Photo Courtesy of ushmm.org

Today, I visited the Dachau concentration camp. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

I’m not Jewish, and I haven’t studied much of the history of the Holocaust. I have visited the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, I’ve been to the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, and yes, I’ve watched Schindler’s List. That’s the extent of my physical experience with the Holocaust. Some of you know that I’ve been in Munich for the past couple of days. Driving around, I found signs pointing toward the town of Dachau. It didn’t occur to me that this place was so close by. I knew I had to go see it.

Dachau

Established in March 1933, the Dachau concentration camp was the first regular concentration camp established by the Nazis. Today, it is a museum, an archive, a library and most of all, a place of remembrance.

It is hard to describe what I felt as I walked up to this place. Dachau is surrounded by a suburb where people live in two story apartment buildings. When they look outside their kitchen window, they can see over the wall. Some look out and see this.

Tower   

It’s just one of the half a dozen towers where Nazi SS were posted, waiting for camp prisoners to cross a line near the wall. When they did, they were immediately shot. 

KZ Dachau

As I walked into Dachau, I was greeted with these words.

Gate

“Work Makes One Free”. You might recognize this motto as the same one posted at the main gate of Auschwitz.

Auschwitz

Dachau is huge. So much bigger than I had imagined (see the map here). It could easily take a couple of hours to walk around and see everything. I focused on two places. The Crematorium and the maintenance building.

Walking

On my way to the Crematorium building, I couldn’t help but think about all of the people who lived here, worked here, suffered here and died here.

Walking just outside the camp and through a gate, I came upon this building. It looks rather plain actually, but it was nothing ordinary at all. It was here that tens of thousands of people died.

Crematorium

There is only one picture showing the Dachau Crematorium in operation. It was taken illegally by a prisoner, but it survived and is now the single representation of the horrors that occurred here.

Info_krematorium_1

There are two rooms inside this building that are the most difficult to visit in the entire camp. The first is the gas chamber.

Dac_gaschmbr

And the second place is the room containing the ovens.

Ovens

No one talks much in here. There really isn’t a whole lot to say. It’s mostly a place to reflect. A place to remember. A place which must never exist again. 

In the back of the Crematorium, you’ll find this memorial. It was here where the ashes of thousands of those killed at Dachau were dumped by the Nazi SS.

Dachau statue_c

As I mentioned earlier, the Dachau concentration camp covers a very large area. As I walked away from the Crematorium building, I took in this view of the camp road, and the foundations of the 30 bunk houses. These were built to house 200 prisoners, but at the time of the liberation of Dachau, they each held over 2,000 people.

Bunkers

Dachau is filled with memorial plaques. This one is particularly haunting.

Memorial

I exited the camp through the same way I came in. Walking through this gate, I thought about all of those who never got the chance to leave this place as I did. Their memory lives here.

Dac_gate1 

I experienced something of the Holocaust today that no book could describe, no pictures convey, and nothing a Hollywood movie could present. Dachau is a piece of history, a living memorial to the people who died there, but also to the survivors who struggled and suffered, but walked away on their day of liberation.

We must never forget what happened during the Holocaust, and we must take whatever measures necessary to ensure it never happens again. I know one thing. I’ll never forget what I saw today. Dachau won’t let me.

Comments

  1. Chin Music says:

    Dachau

    Bill Nienhaus of Pundit Guy has posted some thoughts and pictures from a tour of Dachau prison – the first of Nazi Germany’s concentration camps and the model for many that followed. I’ve been to both Dachau and Auschwitz-Birkenau and

  2. Dachau

    On a more somber note, Bill Nienhuis recently visited Dachau. He has pictures.

  3. alan malone says:

    I stayd in dachau for about four months while i was working for MAN Trucks in Karlsfeld. most people head for the camp which is only natural, but i found the old town of Dachaue was spot on. The people were friendly and the beer was good

  4. wow this is a very touchin stroy. i hope that one day i can go to visit the dachau memorial site. i am doing a project about the holocoust and i chose this concentration camp out of all the others because i thoguht that it was most interesting. i wish that everyone who does not have feelings for the prisoners, i wish they would spend at least one day in the dachau camp just to see how it was.. ONLY ONE DAY! they probally wouldnt even come out alive by the end of ONE DAY! oh my gosh thank u so much for giving me so much information about this specific camp i reallyt appreciate hopefully one day i can visit it just like u did. even though im not jewish

  5. Hello, i am heading to this concentration camp on an excersion from an EF tour to paris and so forth. I thought it would be something to look forward to seeing, like it would be a taste of reality of the world that we live in everyday- so i decided to reserch it, and came upon this site. I got butterflies in my stomach upon reading the comments and seeing pictures…i dont know how i will make it going to the actual site of where so many suffered and past on after such a painful and horrified life through hitler… may all of those people who suffered rest in peace, i pray for all those sould that rest uneasy, that they may be comforted by my prayers that people really do care about them. God Bless My Friends.

  6. I toured Dachau as a new college grad about 30 years ago. I’m trying to read a book titled The Book Thief. It takes place during the holocaust near Dachau. It’s painful to read. Memories of the concentration camp are so vivid. Nothing on screen or what’s written in books can compare to the horrors I still feel from what I experienced there. I won’t ever read another book about the holocaust. I don’t need to experience it again!

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