Saturday, 13 April 2013

Dachau Concentration Camp, Germany - April 2013

Driving from Austria to Munch, my family and I visited Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, about 10 miles NW of Munich, Germany.  It was a very chilly April day and was an extraordinary experience.
"Arbeit Macht Frei" - "Work makes you free"

First, a little background.  Dachau was established in 1933 by the Nazi government as the first concentration camp, for political prisoners.  It became the model for all their other concentration camps.  It was built for up to 5000 prisoners and interned German communists, politial dissidents, Romas (gypsies), homosexuals and by 1938, 10,000 Jews.

There were 32 barracks and in 1942 a crematorium was built to dispose of the corpses more efficiently. 

Dachau barracks

Only 2 of the 32 Dachau barracks remain

Although the camp was built to hold a maximum of 5000 prisoners, by 1942 it held 12,000 and at the time of liberation, it held 30,000 people, most of whom were Polish.

It is estimated that between 32,000 and 50,000 people died there, as a result of SS policies of starvation, forced labour, medical experiments and murder, as well as typhoid and suicide; some people 'tried' to escape so that they would be shot and escape only their suffering.  At the time of liberation, the death rate was 200 per day.

So, to our visit; extremely educational and poignant.  The place iteself was stark and pure, without embellishments.  The organisations that have co-operated to create the site have produced something exceptional.  The information is presented without bias or emotional adjectives.  This seems so apt.  The truth is all you need.  There is almost a void of regular emotion, I suppose because it is 'off-the-scale'.

The Gateway at Dachau

Silver birches belie the deadly camp fence

Dachau disinfection chamber

Dachau gas chamber

The Dachau International Monument Sculpture, by Nandor Glid 1968

Everyone should visit a site such as this.  Without remembering, how do we stop if happening again?

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