"In the end, it's not the years in your life that count, it's the life in your years." - Abraham Lincoln

Posted on September 28, 2016 by Sioux under General
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Perhaps fitting for the venue, the weather on my day planned for Dachau was cold and grey. Raincoat on, I headed for the metro and the bus. The Dachau concentration camp was in operation the longest from March 1933 to April 1945; nearly all twelve years of the Nazi regime. It’s close proximity to Munich, where Hitler came to power and where the Nazi Party had its official headquarters, made Dachau a convenient location. It was the first and only Nazi concentration camp in Germany, and was originally intended to hold only political prisoners; and is located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory northeast of the medieval town of Dachau, about 16 km northwest of Munich. 

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Opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler, its purpose was enlarged to include forced labour, and eventually, the imprisonment of Jews, ordinary German and Austrian criminals, as well as foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded. The Dachau camp system grew to include nearly 100 sub-camps, which were mostly work camps or “Arbeitskommandos,” and were located throughout southern Germany and Austria. Dachau served as a prototype and model for the other Nazi concentration camps that followed. Almost every community in Germany had members taken away to these camps. 

Newspapers continually reported “the removal of the enemies of the Reich to concentration camps.” As early as 1935, a jingle went around: “Lieber Herr Gott, mach mich stumm, Das ich nicht nach Dachau komm’.  (“Dear God, make me dumb, That I may not to Dachau come”) 

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The entrance gate used by prisoners carries the phrase “Arbeit macht frei” (literal English translation: “Work makes free” (or “Work makes [one] free” / “Work shall set you free”). This phrase was also used in Terezín, near Prague, and Auschwitz I.  

Prisoners were sent to KZ Dachau as late as 19 April 1945. As U.S. troops drove deeper into Bavaria during April 1945, the commander of KZ Dachau suggested to Gestapo Chief Heinrich Himmler that the camp be turned over to the Allies. Himmler, in signed correspondence, prohibited such a move, adding that “No prisoners shall be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy alive.” Prisoners lived in constant fear of brutal treatment and terror detention including standing cells, floggings, the so-called tree or pole hanging, and standing at attention for extremely long periods. There were 32,000 documented deaths at the camp, and thousands that are undocumented.

The prisoner enclosure at the camp was heavily guarded

to ensure that no prisoners escaped. A 3m wide no-man’s land was the first marker of confinement for prisoners; an area which, upon entry would elicit lethal gunfire from guard towers. Guards are known to have tossed inmates’ caps into this area, resulting in the death of the prisoners when they attempted to retrieve the caps. Despondent prisoners committed suicide by entering the zone. A 1.2 × 2.4 m broad creek, connected with the river Amper, lay on the west side between the “neutral-zone” and the electrically charged, and barbed wire fence which surrounded the entire prisoner enclosure.   

The camps were liberated by U.S. forces on 29 April 1945. In the postwar                                                                        years, the camp continued in use. From 1945 through 1948, the camp was used by the Allies as a prison for SS officers awaiting trial. After 1948,                                                                               when hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans were expelled from eastern Europe, it held Germans from Czechoslovakia until they could be resettled. It also served as a military base for the United States, which maintained forces in the country. Dachau was finally closed for use in 1960. There are several religious memorials within the Memorial Site.

City of Dachau railway station 

Memorial outside the camp 

Memorial to the victims of Dachau

Inside of the Bunker – camp prison

The camp courtyard

Looking into a cell though the keyhole

The guards view into a cell

Inside of a cell

Inmates storage cupboards

Inmates bed bunks

Communal toilets

Communal wash basins. There were no showers

All that’s left of where the infirmary and cell blocks were. Sadly a lot of buildings were destroyed when the Allies liberated the camp

Inmates exercise and ‘free’ meeting area

Crematorium building

Inside the crematorium

 Inside a gas chamber

Memorial sculpture by Nandor Glid erected in 1968

A memorial at the camp with ‘Never again’ written in several languages

Catholic Mortal Agony of Christ chapel

Inside the Catholic Mortal Agony of Christ chapel

Inside the Catholic Mortal Agony of Christ chapel

Orthodox chapel in the memorial

Inside Protestant Church of Reconciliation

Commemorative mass grave dedicated to the unknown dead at Dachau

A memorial at the camp with “Honouring the dead but a warning to the living” engraved on the pillar

All that remains of the original railwaytrack at the entrance to Dachau

 Inside a gas chamber

Inside the death chamber storage room. Used to store corpses awaiting cremation 

Crematorium building

No smoking

 

One response to “Munich – part 3 – the dark side”

  1. Paul says:

    Scary, scary……….scary!!!!!! Let’s hope history never repeats itself??

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