Published on October 1st, 2013 | by Rachel Budke3
Dachau Concentration Camp
On Sunday during my trip to Munich, I visited Dachau concentration camp. Before I went, I had this idea in my head that visiting Dachau help me understand that the Holocaust. I have learned about the Holocaust for many years in school, and I even took a college course on the Holocaust during my sophomore year. After visiting Dachau, I finally understood the fact that no one will ever be able to understand. I still even find it hard to believe that I physically saw where such horrible things happened. I want to share with you a little bit about Dachau and what I saw on that Sunday. I know that it is a very emotional subject to discuss on the internet, but I want to share it for anyone who will not be able to visit Dachau, or other concentration camps, themselves.
Dachau was the very first concentration camp that existed. It was open from March 22, 1933-April 29, 1945. During that time, 41,500 prisoners were murdered. Below is a map of the camp, which I found on the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial website.
To enter Dachau, you walk through a gate that says “Arbeit macht frei” which means “Work will set you free”. It is marked as #2 on the map above. The gate is attached to the Jourhaus, which was the main office of the camp SS personnel. When you first walk in, there is a large open space that was the roll-call area. It is marked as #4 on the map. Prisoners had to assemble here every morning and evening to be counted. If the number of prisoners at role call did not match the number of prisoners documented, they would be punished. During roll call, prisoners would have to stand motionless at attention for up to an hour. Many weak and sick prisoners collapsed and died during roll call.
When I first walked into the camp, I went to the permanent exhibition museum. It is located on your left when you first walk in, and is marked as A-G on the map. This is where prisoners first arrived and had their belongings taken away from them. This was also where new prisoners had their heads shaved and were disinfected. Those already imprisoned took their showers here. Today, this building is full of information and videos about the history of the Holocaust and Dachau. It also houses artifacts the once belonged to prisoners.
Across from the roll call area are two reconstructed barracks, they can be found as #7 on the map. There were two rows of barracks, giving a total of 34 barracks. Today, all but the 2 of the barracks are reconstructed as only foundations. In 1945, almost 1,000 prisoners lived in each barrack. In between the rows was the camp road. This was where prisoners could meet with friends in their few free hours each day. The “spirit of the camp road” was the symbol of solidarity amongst the prisoners.
At the end of the camp road, there are different religious memorials that were built after the liberation of the camp. The memorials are listed as #11-15 on the map. These memorials include: The Mortal Agony of Christ Chapel, Carmelite Convent, Protestant Church of Reconciliation, the Jewish Memorial, and the Russian-Orthodox Chapel. While the camp was in operation, this area housed the disinfection barracks, hutches for rabbit breeding, and the camp nursery.
To the left of these memorials is the crematorium area. In order to get to the crematorium area, you have to pass a perimeter fence. This fence was designed to make escape impossible. Guards kept watch over the camp from seven different watchtowers. The instant a prisoner enter the prohibited zone, he was fired upon. The perimeter fence included: an electric wire fence, barbed-wire obstacle, and a ditch. Just past the perimeter fence is the crematorium area. The first crematorium was built in 1940. There was a second larger crematorium built in 1942 and 1943. The second crematorium also contains gas chambers.
Near the crematorium area, there is a cemetery and place of remembrance.
“… in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”
– Anne Frank