Although most of our trip was centered around Oktoberfest and beer culture, I really wanted to also explore other parts of German history and on this visit we decided to also see Dachau, the first Concentration Camp, created for the impressment and extinction of enemies of the state and eventually a World War II prison camp. Although I was not alive during World War II, nor did I have any family that was directly involved, I’ve always thought it was important to learn about the history of this world event, tragic war and massacre.
Dachau is only 20 minutes by Ubahn from the central train station of Munich, and then a quick 10 minute bus ride from the Dachau Hauptbahnhopft. It cost about $10 roundtrip, and was very easy to get too. Once we got there we had the option of renting an audio tour for 3.50 Euros, or just wandering around, otherwise the visit is free for everyone.
The facility originally consisted of two barracks that was used to imprison about 400 people in the mid to late 30’s and a central processing building, but then as the war escalated they added another 34 barracks, built by the prisoners. At the end of the war the facility reportedly held over 30,000 prisoners when the full capacity was to only be 6,000. Today there are two barracks that were rebuild for our viewing and for preservation of the history of Dachau, otherwise the cement foundations for the other 34 units still exist. As well as the main processing center, the gas chambers and crematoriums. It’s hard to imagine that these relatively small living quarters 30×100 meters(27,000 square feet approx.) could house so many prisoners. I can only imagine how deplorable the living conditions must have been.
Visiting the site was a pretty sobering experience. They have done a great job preserving the integrity of the place and keep lots of artifacts, propaganda and history of what tragic events occurred here. Helping us see and understand what happened here and get an idea of the atrocities that were committed here and through Eastern Europe by the Nazis. I walked away from visiting Dachau with an even greater respect for what Allied troops and any other freedom fighters did during WW II to save so many people and save our world. I’ve been lucky enough, if you can say that to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, and although it was also a very sobering experience and does an excellent job of showing us what happened during the war, physically being on the site of such a tragic time in our history was way more moving.
Remnants of the railroad tracks that brought in the prisoners
The Main Gate “Work makes you free”
One barrack, built for 200 people but at times held over 2000
The other aspect of the visit that was so polarizing was looking at the map of Germany and Eastern Europe and all of the dots that represented concentration camps, extermination facilities, ghettos, transfer stations and facilities that were created to basically eliminate Jews and any other person, race or culture that was deemed by the Nazi’s as enemies of the state. I had no idea how many cites and places were involved in these events. The other part was looking at the guard tower, culvert, razor wire fence and cement wall that if you were brave enough to attempt to escape was your obstacle to freedom. I have no idea how someone could have ever even made it to freedom, let alone know that beyond the prison was a forbidding country with all of its additional obstacles to get through.
The breakdown of where all the prisoners came from
The badge classification
Prisoners uniform and their single food tin
The border of the camp no mans land
Foundations of the old barracks
Sinks and toilets for 200 but at times up to 2000
Crematorium and Gas Chambers
I was really glad I had an opportunity to visit Dachau, and see some of the history of our world. Visits like this remind me how lucky I am to be alive and live in these times, yes there are tragedies around us every day and people are fighting for their lives still. I just am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had thought my 39+ years on this rock. Sure I’ve had some tough times, but not as tough as others out there. And visits like this remind me to be thankful for the freedom we all enjoy. If you’re ever in Germany I recommend visiting Dachau or any other site like this to gain perspective on our world and to see what tens of thousands of brave men and women fought for to preserve freedom.