Sunday, June 29, 2014

Never Again

"Work Will Set You Free"  The Ironic Words on the Dachau Concentration Camp Gate

Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, and Auschwitz are words that send chills of horror for anyone of David's and my generation, but evidently that's not true for everyone.

Peter, my incredibly talented hairdresser in Tucson didn't know what I was talking about when I mentioned going to Dachau.  Even in Germany where the atrocities happened, the government requires all high school students to tour a concentration camp lest they forget the horrors that took place once upon a time.
This is the yard where prisoners were required to stand, sometimes for hours, for roll call every morning and night.  Even the dead and dying had to be dragged out to the field.  Any prisoner who helped someone who was ill or lame was shot.

There were  34 barracks housing 6,000 prisoners crowded into a relatively small area.  This is one of the sleeping "bunks" where people slept three stories high in extremely close quarters.  I can't imagine what it must have been like to be the man in the middle on the top tier.
A communal washroom and bathroom were provided for the victims.  Everything that happened at Dachau was designed to strip a man or woman of his or her humanity and dignity.

Thousands died, mostly of starvation at Dachau; this crematorium (There were four in all.) was the method used to dispose of the bodies.  A "shower" gas chamber was part of the camp but it was only used for testing purposes.
One of the purposes at Dachau, the first concentration camp, was to punish political prisoners.  They were sometimes tortured by the "standing cells" where they were forced to stand in a coffin-sized space for 72 hours at a time.

Dachau is also the place where medical experiments were done exposing people to torture in the name of science.  These rooms had double doors to keep the screams contained within the "medical room."

 Sculptures, memorials and small shrines of all faiths give visitors places to sit and remember the many who suffered in this camp. 

The aim of Dachau and the other World War II memorials is to remind us never to let such atrocities happen again.

David and I will never forget....

Practicalities -
Dachau is well organized with a welcome center where audio guides are available for a small fee (€3.50) or, if you arrive early enough, you can sign up for a guided tour (Currently, English tours are given at 11:00 and 1:00).  To Germany's credit, there is no admission charge for the excellent museum and film or your own self-guided tour of the camp.  Every sign and display is in both German and English.

By the way, the residents of the town, who said they had no idea what was going on at the camp, were forced to walk through it after liberation to see the thousands of dead, emaciated bodies.  It's estimated that two thousand died just days after liberation because their skeleton-like bodies could not keep them alive any longer. 

Dachau is eaily reached by public transportation from Munich.  It is an hour and a half drive by autobahn from Fussen, Germany.

This site has all the information you need.

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