Dachau Concentration Camp, Dachau, Germany
My recent trip to The Miami Holocaust Monument inspired me to re visit my trip to Dachau Concentration Camp in Dachau, Bavaria, Germany. So a long post on Soulful Sunday. My visit to Dachau enriched my life, and became a part of my story.
Dachau was the longest operating camp from 1933-1945. Located near Munich, Germany, where Hitler came to power and the S.S. Headquarters were held. It became a classroom for The Nazi S.S. Other concentration camps were modeled after Dachau.
Ekhart Tolle, New Age Philosopher, taught me a “Collective Madness.” principle that has helped me to better understand our Mad Mad World. The Nazi era is a perfect example of how an idea can make sense to one person, the idea catches fire and is carried forward by a group of people and the momentum/madness seems to make sense and grows.
On the path from The Visitor Center, there are helpful boards that explain the areas of the camp. Walking up to this famous gate was truly humbling.
A close up of the entrance gate. “Arbeit Macht Frei-Work Will Set You Free” This philosophy took the camp from work to horror, and under this premise helped to hide the madness happening inside of these walls. Welcome to Hell on Earth.
This area held the main office of the S.S. camp personnel. It was the gate for entrance and exits to and from Dachau.
After passing through the gate, I walked into a large courtyard that is called “International Memorial;” Each part of this visitor experience is so very well thought out and full of symbolism.
Taking the same path that the prisoners once walked is pretty humbling.
Written in many languages; “May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 and 1945 because of their fight against National Socialism unite the living in their defense of peace and freedom and in reverence of human dignity.”
The granite courtyard s sloped downward to signify the hard labor of the prisoners in the quarries. The downward slope signifies death and suffering. At this low point there is a place for memorial wreaths. Very interesting to read the ribbons on the wreaths.
While walking on the path, this next sculpture gets larger. I literally felt a certain heaviness.
The sculpture shows barbed wire, posts and a ditch, a symbol of the perimeter security. Human skeletons symbolize prisoners who jumped on the fence to commit suicide.
At the lowest point of this walk, a new sculpture unfolds.
This sculpture is of triangles that are attached to a chain. The chain showing the connectedness of the prisoners. This part of the monument recalls the triangle badges that marked every prisoner as of 1937. Political prisoners including the likes of Catholic Priests. Royalty form Bavaria, Russia and Prussia wore the red badge, professional criminals the green, emigrants the blue badge, race polluters had a black outline. the yellow badge was for Jewish prisoners.
This memorial does not show the long and mad list of prisoners called “The forgotten one’s.” Some examples of these folks are; emigrants, Jehovah’s Witnesses wearing purple, moving on to German and Polish Jewish, Roma and Sinta. Black badges were for people who were called asocial or “work shy; alcoholics, prostitutes, pacifists, anarchists, writers and scientists. And pink badges for homosexuals.
“Never Again” written in five languages; Yiddish using Hebrew letters, and in French, English, German and Russian. An urn with the ashes of the unknown concentration camp prisoner lies before it. On the side of the monument; “This monument was erected in honor of the tens of thousands of martyrs, who died here as victims of National Socialist tyranny and was dedicated on September 8, 1968 by the Comité International de Dachau.”
In the permanent exhibit building, I felt the prisoners/people personified. I saw their story through personal belongings,biographies, family photos and letters. I followed the path from how they came to be at the camp, admission process and their ultimate journey to horror,death or liberation.
The exhibit does a fantastic job showing the progression of the madness. Broken down into three chapters.
- 1933-1945 shows the movement of holding terror over people, from political opposers into the work camp.
- 1939-1941 work camp to killing fields. those no longer able to work were killed, executions, and medical experimentation.
- 1942-1945 with liberation at the end.
Back outside there is a site next to this building where the often long roll call happened in the outdoor elements.
There were once 34 barracks meant to hold 6500 prisoners. At the time of liberation, there were 30,000 people in the camp. Gestapo Chief Heinrich Himmler ordered “No prisoners shall be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy alive. Just before liberation on April 27, 1945, with the prisoners on the inside, the buildings were nailed shut and set on fire.
Two barracks have been reconstructed for a glimpse of how this camp looked.
I did feel a bit trapped, and stepping outside I walked along the road which had the 34 barracks. The stone footings for the buildings are still in place. Each building was numbered to show it’s former purpose.
Surrounded by the towers that housed that guards. I remember thinking how could such horror take place in this peaceful and beautiful place?
At the end of this long field, there is are religious memorials and to the left there is a path to the Crematorium area.
The Mortal Agony of Christ Chapel
Polish priests who survived the camp, dedicated a plaque on the back of the chapel to remember the suffering of Polish prisoners in the concentration camp. there were fresh flowers hung on the day that I visited.
The Jewish Memorial is made of a black volcanic stone and stands out against the other white buildings.
Full of symbolism, slopes downward and a noticeable light shines through from the ceiling.
There is a working Carmelite Convent (above) and a Protestant Church of Reconciliation.
As I walked toward the Crematorium area, I was able to get a good view of ‘No Man’s Land.” Suicide happened by people jumping on the fence or being shot by the Guards.
Walking towards the Crematorium, I stopped for a moment to catch my breath.
This accidental snap made me remember that I felt very heavy hearted and needed to put my boots on the ground so to speak.
Walking along the camp road, I was curious about the spires of an Orthodox Church
After I crossed over the small bridge, the Russian-Orthodox Church came into focus. There was a service taking place when I visited and I respectfully stayed back. Apparently, there is an icon showing Christ leading the prisoners out of camp.
Before entering The Crematorium area, I took in this statue.
This statue is called “The Unknown Prisoner” and the inscription reads; “To Honor The Death, To Warn the Living.”
Nothing can prepare you for entering into a human oven. In April, 1945, American soldiers found countless corpses piled up at the 24/7 busy crematorium. The photographs of this scene went around the world and showed the scale of Nazi horror, persecution and extermination.
Because there were so many bodies being burned, another Crematorium had to be built. This is the older one of the two.
41,500 deaths were documented. It is known that thousands more died here. But the total murdered will never be known. (This number thanks to The Visitors Guide from The Bavarian Memorial Foundation)
In the beautiful woods nearby, you are able to stroll down a path. I was jolted at the stops by how violence could have taken place in beauty.
There is the grave of thousands of unknown.
Execution Range with blood drainage ditch.
MEGASTARS ***** I give Dachau 5 MEGASTARS This place is FREE minus the 3€ parking fee. This amazing experience reminds me of why I travel.
1. Yes, Dachau is a depressing, sad, haunting, horrible place. However, everything about how Dachau shows itself to this strange side of our Universe is extremely well done. Honorable, Powerful, Tasteful and mind bending. VISIT.
2. It is our responsibility to (ensure) that collective madness will STOP. NEVER FORGET. Practice PEACE, work towards PEACE and IMAGINE!. Start within yourself. Realize that we are all the same species. It is simple.
3. See further photos on my Instagram https://instagram.com/kickingthebucketlistwithmeg/
4. There is a fantastic Visitor Center at the site. A cafeteria is on sight.
5. Eating a lot of Bavarian food and beer? Check out the 45 minute walk along path from train station to Dachau. Educational signs highlight important points.
6 .Miami, Florida, U.S.A. has had the largest population of Holocaust Survivors. The Holocaust Memorial located on South Beach, Miami is a good stop.