Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial SiteOctober 15, 2017 in Germany
A sombre day...
We have spent a reasonable amount of time on this holiday doing things associated with either WWI or WWII. It only makes sense whilst in Germany to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site just outside Munich, the site of the first concentration camp established by the Nazis in 1933 and liberated by the Allies in 1945.
This camp served as the blueprint for all 80 or so concentration camps which followed. The main administration building, which is now a large museum through which you linearly travel through the 12 years of Dachau's history, was formerly the receiving and processing stations, including the place where prisoners personal details were registered, stripped, shaved, showered and provided their uniforms. It also included the kitchens.
There is a recommendation that children under 12 do not enter the museum, so Kate stayed out with Craig whilst Finn and I went through.
Behind this building is the "Bunker" with the corridor between the two buildings forming the execution area for special prisoners, as well as the place various tortures were performed. Within the Bunker, the special prisoners were housed and included isolation cells and standing cells - 70cm x 70cm cubicles with no light where prisoners could neither lie nor sit and were submitted to this torture for up to 3 days at a time.
Between the main admin building and the first of the dormitories was the parade ground where roll call was made twice a day. Even in winter with temperatures of -12C, prisoners had to stand there for a minimum of 1 hour each time. Longer if the guards felt like it. The area held approx 40,000 prisoners.
The barracks were all destroyed after liberation, with two having been reconstructed to demonstrate the cramped living conditions for prisoners. What is left of the barracks that stood there previously is now marked by the footings of each building, along the poplar-lined main walk. At the end was the SS quarters, now converted into a convent for the Carmelite order.
To the left was the old and new crematoriums, and the gas chambers, which at Dachau were reportedly only used a few times for a few small groups or individuals and experimentally. I could not bring myself to take a photo of these buildings. I had always imagined them to be large processing plants. In fact they were quite small, and in the new crematorium which was built because they couldn't keep up with the demand for use by the smaller crematorium, there were only 4 ovens, which would usually be used for 2-3 bodies at a time. Mass graves were in fact only employed after there became a coal shortage, so the crematoriums could no longer be used.
I am not quite sure how to process the actual experience of today. Of course I have read novels and seems documentaries, but being physically here is still quite different. The memorial site is so peaceful and quiet. It certainly defies any comprehension of how men could commit the atrocities witnessed here on fellow human beings. One would like to hope that the sentiment on one of the pieces of art work outside the main administration building is true - Never Again.Read more