The term holocaust is an ancient word derived from the Greek language—"holos" (whole) and "kaustos" (burned)—but following the conclusion of World War II the term took on an entirely new meaning. The murder of 6 million Jews in killing centers controlled by Nazi Germany in the name of racial purity revealed the cruel lengths to which humans could go employing modern technologies, systems, and killing tools.
They did this in many different locations in Germany, Poland, and elsewhere but Dachau was the first concentration camp to open in March of 1933. I am still trying to decide whether it was a good thing that it was closed on the day that I was there. The gates were open so I was able to wander throughout the camp but was not able to enter any of the buildings. It was a cool, misty day and my memories of what I had heard, read, and seen about the "Holocaust" gave me nearly an entire to think, reflect, and pray about what had happened here. I want to go back when all facilities are open but I am glad that I had this day of revery.
Heinrich Himmler, in his capacity as police president of Munich, officially described the camp as "the first concentration camp for political prisoners." It was located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near the northeastern part of the town of Dachau, about 10 miles northwest of Munich in southern Germany.
During the first year, the camp held about 4,800 prisoners. Initially the internees consisted primarily of German Communists, Social Democrats, trade unionists, and other political opponents of the Nazi regime. Over time, other groups were also interned at Dachau, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, as well as "asocials" and repeat criminal offenders. During the early years relatively few Jews were interned in Dachau and then usually because they belonged to one of the above groups or had completed prison sentences after being convicted for violating the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.
The number of Jewish prisoners at Dachau rose with the increased persecution of Jews and on November 10-11, 1938, in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, more than 10,000 Jewish men were interned there. (Most of men in this group were released after incarceration of a few weeks to a few months, many after proving they had made arrangements to emigrate from Germany.)
The Dachau camp was a training center for SS concentration camp guards, and the camp's organization and routine became the model for all Nazi concentration camps. The camp was divided into two sections--the camp area and the crematoria area. The camp area consisted of 32 barracks, including one for clergy imprisoned for opposing the Nazi regime and one reserved for medical experiments.
On April 26, 1945, as American forces approached, there were 67,665 registered prisoners in Dachau and its subcamps; more than half of this number were in the main camp. Of these, 43,350 were categorized as political prisoners, while 22,100 were Jews, with the remainder falling into various other categories. Starting that day, the Germans forced more than 7,000 prisoners, mostly Jews, on a death march from Dachau to Tegernsee far to the south. During the death march, the Germans shot anyone who could no longer continue; many also died of hunger, cold, or exhaustion. On April 29, 1945, my father's 24th birthday, American forces liberated Dachau. As they neared the camp, they found more than 30 railroad cars filled with bodies brought to Dachau, all in an advanced state of decomposition. In early May 1945, American forces liberated the prisoners who had been sent on the death march. (My dad was in Germany at the time and was involved in liberation of one or more concentration camp but he would never give anyone any details.)
"... so ich nicht nach Dachau komm." (Dear God, make me mute, so I don't get sent to Dachau). So went a common child's prayer during Nazi times. You dared not say anything remotely controversial, because you didn't know which of your neighbors were Gestapo informers. Get denounced by an informer, and you won "Enemy of the State" status, and an all-expenses-paid, indefinite vacation to Dachau.
It's important to note that Dachau was primarily a concentration camp, as opposed to a death camp like Auschwitz or Mauthausen. While many people died here, Dachau's purpose was not to exterminate Jews, but to stand as a tool of terror to keep ordinary Germans in line.
Admission to the grounds and museum is free (though it costs EUR 3 to park a car). A trip here is certainly not enjoyable, but I strongly recommend you visit here once to get a taste of what a police state is really like.
A final note for those overly-political folks who bandy about terms like "Nazi" and "Communist" to paint their political opponents: bear in mind that, if your opponents really were as horrible as your rhetoric paints them, you would probably be living in a place like this.
It may not be the cheeriest thing to do as a tourist in sunny, inviting Munich and environs, but it is a deeply moving experience. One cannot and should not ever forget what happened at Dachua. If you can spare the time on your southern Germany trip, include the sojourn to Dachau. It is sure to be a sobering and meaningful time that should only take a couple of hours with travel time. Sometimes we travel to see fun and exciting sites. Sometimes we travel to discover and learn about life's tradgedies. If you are mature enough, (this place is really not for kids or the faint of heart) do go.
Dachau Concentration Camp, which was the first of it's kind to be set up during Nazi era, still evokes horror in the minds of many people. Even today, amidst the marvellous and prosperous city of Munich, it stands as a symbol of inhumanity. It was Heinrich Himmler, who was the Chief Of Munich Police then and one of Hitler's close Lieutenants, who announced the opening of this camp on 30 March, 1933.
During the twelve years of Nazi regime, the camp has witnessed one of the most barbaric atrocities on fellow human beings which was not known to the outside world till the liberation of the camp by allied forces on 29 April' 1945.
This international monument for the remembrance of the past dark era was created in 1968 in the original camp site. The exhibits include many orignal items and pictures of the actual camp.
Tourists visiting Germany should include this monument as a part of their itenary to get a real glimpses into the dark era of human history. The munument is open from 9 to 5. Entry is free. Audio guide costs Euro 3/- per person. Guided tours in English are available on payment .
A little outside Munich is Dachau, the prototype Nazi concentration camp.
Of the 200,000 prisoners held here, there are 30,000 documented prisoner deaths during the camp operation with a few thousand more after liberation.
The camp memorial is a striking and sobering place to visit.
The original train tracks and platform that the prisoners arrived on have been located and are now the main entrance to visitors as they were to the prisoners of the camp.
The Administration Building information museum has been redesigned in 2003 to provide a more comprehensive experience to the visitor of what it was like to be a prisoner of the camp and guides the visitor from arrival and processing all the way through the camp history.
The Barrick X site is where the ovens are located near the SS shooting wall. You can visit the gas chambers disguised as showers and the oven buildings.
There is a reconstructed barrick building across the main plaza from the Administration Building which provides a glimpse of what living conditions were like for the prisoners.
Dachau is a very sobering and emotional place to visit but should be a must to see for everyone.
Arbeit Macht Frei - Work makes you free.
These words can be found at the gates of a place where one of the greatest crimes of humanity started off.
On March 21 1933, Heinrich Himmler ordered that a concentration camp be erected at Dachau. This was one of the first of the camps that would serve the Nazi's vicious campaign of genocide.
Of the more than 200,000 prisoners who passed through the concentration camp until 1945, 32,000 died officially. Thousands of prisoners who were not registered lost their life at the Dachau concentration camp as well. They died of starvation, disease, exhaustion, degradation, from blows, and by torture; they were shot, hung, and killed by injections.
In the course of the war, the Dachau concentration camp increasingly became a site of mass murder: from October 1941 many thousands of Soviet prisoners of war were brought to Dachau and shot. Other prisoners, condemned for execution on Gestapo orders, were transported to Dachau and executed.
A large number of prisoners were abused by SS doctors for medical experiments; an unknown number of prisoners suffered agonizing deaths in the course of atmospheric pressure, hypothermia, malaria and many other experiments.
Beginning in January 1942, more than 3,000 prisoners were sent to the mental home at Hartheim Castle near Linz on the so-called invalid transports and murdered with poison gas.
The horror finally ended on April 29, 1945 when the US Army rolled into town and liberated the prisoners.
Very moving. It is actually compulsory for German schoolkids to go to a concentration camp memorial during their education, and I can see why.
I would recommend taking the long guided tour. These are in English every day (except Monday, when the memorial is closed) at 11:00 and additionally at 12:00 at weekends. It's only €3. You will get a lot of information that you won't get at the museum, plus the opportunity to ask questions. TIP: LOTS OF WALKING!!! (take comfortable trainers, not flip flops...)
I arrived at 11:00, had a bit of a wander around, and watched the introduction video at 11:30. Did the English guided tour at 12:00, which lasted about 2 hours, and then spent another 3 hours wandering around. There is a LOT to see here.
to recommend in Germany a concentration camp for visitation only is horrible idea!
who created this?
I cannot understand the motive behind such an idea, but would agree with that if
that visit to Dachau would be one of several other sightseeing issues inside this country.
DON'T miss this opportunity. If you are in Munich, Dachau is so close that you shouldn't miss visiting it. It will take you about 40 minutes to get there from Haptbahnhof. We spent much more time there than expected. You can take the S-Bahn from Haptbahnhof train station (leaves every 20 minutes) S2 line direction Peter-Hausen. Get off at Dachau then hit the bus (number 724 or 726) that is right outside the train station, and ask the bus driver to tell you when to get off for Dachau Concentration Camp. There were a lot of school kids on the bus because we hit it in the afternoon. It is about 4 or 5 stops to the camp entrance. You will see a sign across the street when you get off the bus.
The camp is free. We spent a lot of time in the museum reading about WWII and how something so astonishing could happen. I alloted 2 hrs there, but we ended up being rushed. The incinerators are the most sobering and they will be down one of the dirt roads to your left after entering the camp. The museum is to the right.
pictured are concrete poles in front of the main admistration building of dachau concentration camp. these poles were used to publicly hang personers that broke camp rules. yet another example of the excesses of the nazi regime. to learn more about this infamous camp visit my dachau pages for a more complete history of the camp and the people that were interned and worked there.
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