Europe 2012- Day 5, Dachau, Munich, Zurich and back to Busingen

The morning of day 5 we took a train and then a bus from Munich to the Dachau Concentration Camp in Dachau, Germany. According to the official website “On March 22, 1933, a few weeks after Adolf Hitler had been appointed Reich Chancellor, a concentration camp for political prisoners was set up in Dachau. This camp served as a model for all later concentration camps and as a “school of violence” for the SS men under whose command it stood. In the twelve years of its existence over 200.000 persons from all over Europe were imprisoned here and in the numerous subsidary camps. 41.500 were murdered. On April 29 1945, American troops liberated the survivors.” The troops found approximately 32,000 prisoners squeezed into 20 barracks designed to hold 250 people each. Today it is a memorial site where we were able to tour much of the grounds and buildings using an audio guide.

It was not an easy day but it’s not meant to be. We all study about the concentration camps in school and think it’s awful but then the bell rings and we go on talking about cute boys and pimples. Actually standing where these atrocities were committed – where these individual men and women stood, lived and died, gives one a whole new perspective. It makes history alive.

We entered through the gate that the prisoners entered through. The words on the gate mean ‘Work makes/sets you free’. Not true- more like ‘We’ll work you to death.’

Off to the left of this sign was the Assembly Square. The prisoners were made to do roll call here twice a day. They all had to stay there until everyone was accounted for. Several times everyone was made to stand there in the elements overnight while the guards searched for a single missing prisoner:

The entrance:

“May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.”:

This memorial was designed by one of the ex-prisoners that was liberated from the camp:

The ashes of an unknown prisoner, and the words ‘Never Again’ which was meant as both a reminder and a condemnation:

The museum holds lots of information and a model of the camp. We were able to see basically everything in the large rectangle on the left and where it merges into the creamatorium on the left top. The building on the lower left of the rectangle is where we entered the camp:

“Delousing” sketch by Vlastimir Kopac, one of the prisoners. He sketched this while in the camp of prisoners arriving at the camp. They were issued rags and had to wait in whatever the weather happened to be:

From the title- Jewish women from Hungary with their babies in the Dachau concentration camp after liberation. ‘Some women were already pregnant when they were deported in 1944. The SS forced them to abort. Only in the final months did they allow women to give birth to their children”:

The gaurds used the camp as a way to test out the limits of human bodies. There are many instances, but this one is one of the less graphic. They used this cage for infecting people with malaria. The mosquitos would be kept in the cage and the cage would be attached to a prisoner’s arm or leg:

One of the guard towers:

These three pictures show how the beds changed over the years as the camp became more overcrowded:

A restroom:

The creamatorium:

The camp was fully functional with their gas chamber and the anti-rooms nessesary for the undressing and storing of bodies. There is no evidence of the ‘shower room’ ever being used for mass killing with gas however. It seems to be more of a test to see if it would work at other camps:

The creamatorium- this is where they burned bodies of those who had died or where killed, and also where many executions took place:

View of where the housing used to be from the creamatorium. The strip of grass was called no-man’s land and was where the guards would shoot at any prisoner there for no reason other than they were where they were not supposed to be. There are stories of the guards taking inmate’s hats and tossing them onto the strip of grass and making them collect it- both knowing full well that it would lead to the prisoner’s death:

View looking back at where the housing used to stand. They were all torn down in the 60’s- not sure exactly why. The foundations are still there though. The ones with the beds, etc. were rebuilt as examples:

In 1960 a Catholic memorial called the Church of the Mortal Agony of Christ was completed and dedicated at the end of the main camp row lined with poplar trees. Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, the Catholic Bishop of Munich, who was a “special prisoner” in the camp bunker suggested that a Jewish memorial and a Protestant memorial be added on each side of the Catholic church:

Construction began in September 1964 on the Jewish memorial and it was dedicated on May 7, 1967. Like the Catholic memorial it is open to the elements. I went down to see the interior of this memorial. There is a beautiful shaft of light that strikes right down into the heart of it:

The Protestant church, called the Church of Reconciliation was dedicated on April 30, 1967 at a ceremony at which a speech was made by the Rev. Martin Niemöller, one of the most famous prisoners in the Dachau camp. The Rev. Niemöller was one of the founders of the Confessional Church which defied Hitler’s orders that united all Protestant denominations into one church with himself (Hitler) as the head. Niemöller was put on trial and convicted of treason:

The Russian Orthodox church is the most recent memorial to be built at Dachau and was dedicated on April 29, 1995 in honor of the Soviet Prisoners of War who were imprisoned at Dachau. There were 3,900 Russian prisoners at Dachau when the camp was liberated, the second largest ethnic group in the camp:

It was interesting to see how instrumental some of the ex-prisoners were in helping out with the memorial. I’m sure it must mean a lot to them, and likely helped in the healing process. It was a sad morning, but I’m very glad we were able to go.

That afternoon we went back to Munich and had just an hour to grab lunch and explore what we could in their city center. It was a major culture shock after the concentration camp. This is the city hall building:

Mural on a building:

Searching for somewhere to eat we found a few German men with awesome hats:

Part of my cobbled together lunch. This pastry was so good:

We waited at 3pm to hear the bells chime and see the clock move. I found out from a very sweet local who spoke English that it only moves at 5pm. Darn.:

Dinner at the Zurich train station. It was a hotdog that they stuck in a piece of bread that he squirted ketchup into. Suprisingly tasty:

We checked up on the Volvo Art Session. We found an artist working on the car that made it look like a dinosaur or reptile in a jungle. I later found out that they regularly have these sessions and at this one were showcasing different Chinese artists, giving insight into the contemporary art of today in China:

This is a link to a very short video of the Volvo Art Session that I took right before my camera batteries died: http://youtu.be/Onwku0mTctI

This is the video of the specific car we saw painted posted by Volvo. It shows the entire process the artist went through: http://youtu.be/RQvLTkndjiI You can see what other artists painted and their ‘opening event’ on their YouTube channel also. I highly recommend it, it’s very interesting!

For more info: Official Dachau Concentration Camp website: http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/index-e.html (You can also YouTube videos of the camp, but I would suggest that only for the ones who think that they can handle it. The videos are very sad and graphic.)

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4 responses to “Europe 2012- Day 5, Dachau, Munich, Zurich and back to Busingen

  1. Found your description of the Dachau experience to be a very good one. I was a GI in Dachau in 1945-46. The camp otday is dolled up to look more like a boy scout camp than the death factory it really was back then.
    For a full description of what it was like for the first American GIs who liberated Dachau, get a copy of The Day the Thunderbird Cried.
    http://www.thunderbirdcried.com
    Check out the comments on Amazon to get a full description of what Dachau was like on April 29, 1945, the day of liberation.
    david l. israel

  2. David, thank you for commenting. I’m so glad you thought my description was good, I put a lot of effort into trying to be accurate and sensitive to the subject. Also, thank you so much for your service. I can’t imagine what it must have been like, and I can’t thank you enough.
    The site looked like it was rather pristine- like a camp as you said. I will check out your book, it looks like it would be a very captivating read. I appreciate it!
    Kelly

  3. Pingback: 2012 Manifesto End of Year Wrap up! | thegreentreeischirping

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