Dachau Concentration Camp.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A German word meaning "coming to terms with the past" This word describes the attempt to analyze, digest and learn to live with the past, in particularly concerning the Holocaust

Well, this isn't going to be the most uplifting or picture-heavy post. While in Munich, Rach and I agreed that even though we felt a bit squeamish at the idea  - visiting a concentration camp memorial site was a once in a lifetime opportunity that was too important to pass on. I didn't know anything specifically about Dachau before visiting, and honestly I'm glad I saved the YouTube searching for when I returned home, because I don't know if I could have stomached it otherwise. 

Taking the S2 train from Munich Hauptbahnhof in the direction of Dachau/Petershausen brings you into the town in about 25 minutes. The 726 bus from the train station is clearly marked as the transport to the site and it drops you directly at the foot of the memorial in 15 mins.

The entrance includes the usual visitor's centre type of building along with a cafe and gift shop, mostly full of history books and other things for sale in order to keep the preservation of the memorial going. 

You walk along a while-dirt road and there are modest signs dotted along the edges before reaching the gates.

"Arbeit macht frei" meaning "Work makes you free" was the slogan placed at a number of concentration camps, including Auschwitz.

In 1933, Dachau was the first of the concentration camps established by the Nazis and set the precedent for those that followed. Originally set up as a work camp for political prisoners for forced labour, it grew as the location for imprisonment, extermination, and conducting medial experiments. The majority of the prisoners were men, as women weren't moved into Dachau until August 1944. 

On the 14th of April 1945, Heinrich Himmler knowing defeat was inevitable, ordered the destruction of evidence of the camps including the extermination of remaining prisoners, saying "No prisoners shall be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy alive". The days that followed saw the deaths of thousands of prisoners from disease, starvation, and exhaustion during death marches that occurred during the evacuation. Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945 by American forces. In early May of 1945 they also liberated the prisoners sent on the death march, although they found over 30 train carriages full of deceased prisoners. 

There are over 32,000 documented deaths recorded at Dachau. Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, emigrants, and many more are included in those numbers. With thousands of undocumented deaths, we will never really know the number of people murdered at Dachau.

I didn't take many photos at the memorial because it just felt really...odd to do so. There were of course a handful of people taking selfies and even photos of the ovens and gas chambers - it made me feel sick to even go inside the building so it really blows my mind that people thought it was appropriate to take photos. Like...what? Stupid fellow tourist behaviour aside, Dachau is a well-done memorial and a humbling reminder of our history. It's by no means a "fun" place to visit, but an important one. 

"Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana

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