"... 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.
dachau is a quiet village twelve miles northwest of munich. because of the horrible excesses of the third reich this village will always be remembered for the concentration camp that bears it's name. dachau was one of three concentration camps set up in 1933. the other two camps were buchenwald in central germany and sachsenhausen in northern germany. pictured is the main gate to dachau with it's infamous sign "work makes you free". originally, dachau was set up to house political prisoners and "asocials", meaning homosexuals, jehovah's withnesses, gypsies, and jews. an interesting book on this subject is "death dealer", the memoirs of rudolph hoss. da capo press. hoss was a block leader at dachau before his transfer as the kommandant of auschwitz. dachau is a disturbing place to visit but historically significant. an important site to visit for the student of 20th century history.
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.
pictured is the crematorium and gas chamber building in dachau concentration camp. the gas chamber was experimental and very few prisoners were gassed there. due to an influx of russian prisoners of war after the invasion of the soviet union the sanitary conditions of the camp became deplorable and thousands of prisoners died of tyhus. this epidemic kept the ovens of the crematorium in constant use. to see before and after pictures of dachau visit www.thirdreichruins.com
pictured is the jourhaus, (guard house) at the entrance to dachau concentration camp. over 200,000 people entered this camp and over 25,000 died there. a disturbing place to visit but a historically significant site.
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.
Visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp was definitely a humbling experience for me. The whole camp is actually pretty large, but we went through it in a half-day. Getting an audio tour and reading all the information, however, can easily take the whole day. Possibly the most disturbing part was the Krematorium, where they burned the bodies of the dead.
The picture I've posted says, "Arbeit Macht Frei". This is a replica of the original gate, but it means, "Work Sets One Free".
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 .
Another aspect of the sadder side of Munich's history is the Dachau Concentration Camp, the first of its kind in Germany and a template for the camps that sprouted up all over Nazi Europe during their reign. It wasn't a death camp, however, although thousands of people died there as a result of their internment. It also wasn't a camp designed specifically to hold Jewish prisoners, although plenty of Jewish people passed through its infamous gate, inscribed with the words that have passed down through history: "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Freedom through Labour).
The Dachau prison camp was home to an eclectic bunch of prisoners from all over Europe. There were, among others, Polish priests, Austrian politicians, German resistance fighters, Ukrainian writers and Greek communists. Many thousands did not survive the experience, and their bodies were disposed of in the notorious cremation ovens. The original crematorium proved inadequate for the job, and so a larger more productive version was built to burn the bodies like an assembly line.
A visit to Dachau isn't fun, and can be distressing at times, but is still very rewarding and informative. The excellent museum provides an encompassing view of life in the camp, through the stories of the victims, the kind of conditions they had to suffer, letters they wrote home, and many other gripping articles of the camp's history. Less than an hour wouldn't do the museum justice. It is a haunting experience, though, and my friend Luciano (of Jewish ancestry) couldn't bring himself to visit.
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