Both Brian and I have read quite a bit about World War II and the horrors that happened in these work camps. Jews, Catholics, Homosexuals, Slavs, Prisoners of War, Danes, Men, Women, Children- all killed and dehumanized in the theory of a superior race.
So many people's stories end here in Dachau- the Nazi's oldest concentration camp, established in March 1933. And during those 12 years, over 200,000 people were incarcerated here, and 43,000 died.
This was also the main stop for all trains before heading to other concentration camps.
This would be the view the prisoners would first see as they exited their train cars.
As they would enter they would see on the gate: "Arbeit Macht Frei", which means "Work will make you free".
On the opposite side of the main entrance was the Nazi staff headquarters who ran the concentration camp.
After the prisoners entered the main gate, they were escorted to a large building where they would be stripped from their clothes and all personal items. Essentially they arrived as individuals and left as subhumans. Below you can see the area where the prisoners were first washed off at. It also included pictures and diaries from prisoners, and the tools they handled during their time here- library books, homemade chess set, a wheelbarrow used for the garden and the dead, medical equipment for experimentation, etc...
This main building was used to store all the data, documentations, exhibits, etc... The amount of plaques and informational signs was insane. It had a lot of content over the details of the camp and I think Brian and I spent at LEAST 1 hour trying to read everything. But even we skipped a few of them because the sun was starting to set and we'd only seen the inside of the building.
Today the art work found on sight is a memorial to the many who died or worked here. It was beautiful in the way that it honored the monstrosities that happened. It seemed to give back the humanity the prisoners had lost. Yes, it was gruesome. Yes it was terrible. But it was nice to see something put together to honor those individuals.
Outside, was the main square area, where prisoners were forced every day to line up for attendence. They would stay standing no mattter the weather, until every prisoner was accounted for. Those who often did not show up, were lying dead somewhere in the camp, possibly the bunkhouse.
Two bunkhouses remained on sight, both erected after the Allies had liberated the camp. You can see the bunkbeds rebuilt to the exact dimensions of the ones during the Nazi reign. As well as the bathroom.
The remaining bunkhouses were destroyed after the prisoners were freed. Some left the area, but others remained inside the city of Dachau not having any place to go.
Across the stream, was the crematorium and gas chambers. Unlike many of the other concentration camps, the gas chambers were not often used. They were used... but not consistently.
One room was used for people enter and strip off their clothes like they were getting a shower.
Next was where the gas would pump through the vents until all were dead.
The next room was where their bodies were placed. Teeth might be removed or could just be a holding place until someone came to take the bodies to the furnaces.
For some their death would be classified of a suicide, even if it was really murder. The common method was hanging and one of the main areas this was done on the rafters inside the crematorium.
It was an experience to witness this area and be here to remember the lives lost.
Chauffeur’s Corner (Brian)
So after seeing the coolness of Salzburg, we drive a couple hours and drive through a small town on the northern outskirts of Munich, where we are suddenly greeted by tall white walls with barbed wire at the top. Even from the road the site is menacing.
We have both seen history around WW2, including the Nazi Olympics display that came to the Kansas Sports Museum and History Channel documentaries. So I knew I wouldn’t be shocked per se, but I still learned and experienced a lot…even more than I can remember at this point.
The exhibits throughout are incredible. I am the one that likes to read about 90% of every sign at a place. At Dachau, the history was presented with such rich detail, that it sucks you in and then you are repulsed at the gravity of it. The curators/staff have done an excellent job with the exhibits, making it all very tangible, engaging and thought-provoking.
It was a cool, overcast day, which was very fitting for the site.