Published Categorised as Germany, History, Photography, Popular Posts, Travel 3 Comments on Dachau

On my way back from the Tyrol, I stayed in Munich en route to the airport, and visited the Dachau concen­tra­tion camp museum- it was the first Nazi concen­tra­tion camp and served as a template for many of the others. I think it’s import­ant to visit these places, so it’s not just an abstrac­tion in a history book, and to remind your­self that these things can happen again in “normal” places like the suburbs of a large modern European city. I think it’s espe­cially import­ant in the current polit­ic­al climate too, with the rise of the far right, and popu­list politi­cians creat­ing scape­goats out of groups such as immig­rants.

The museum is free (and compuls­ory for all school­chil­dren in the area to visit), but you can also pay to support it by going on a tour, which I did. These photos are mostly quick snaps which I took in the gaps of the tour.

This is the parade ground where the pris­on­ers were forced to point­lessly line up and be coun­ted for hours in all weath­ers, wear­ing noth­ing but thin pyja­mas.

Each of the thin, unin­su­lated huts was filled with bunkbeds. Origin­ally each bedroom had 50 people crammed in. By 1945 there were 200 per bedroom. Each hut had multiple rooms, so there could be thou­sands of people crammed in there. The SS guards took sadist­ic delight in severely punish­ing the pris­on­ers for minor infrac­tions in bedmak­ing or floor-polish­ing. The managers of the camp of course lived in luxuri­ous mansions nearby- you can still see them from the bus.

Bath­room for those thou­sands of pris­on­ers to share. Typhoid was rife in the camp. Dachau wasn’t offi­cially an exterm­in­a­tion camp- the pris­on­ers there were fit adult men who the Nazis thought they could make money out of first before work­ing them to death. The condi­tions, food and work­load were so bad however that the death rate was extremely high- estim­ated at 200 people per day towards the end.

Endless found­a­tions of the huts.

Very few people ever escaped the camp- however a lot of people killed them­selves by throw­ing them­selves on the elec­tric fence. This sculp­ture by Nandor Glid commem­or­ates them.

Guard towers. The SS fostered an exclus­ive, elite image, but as the guide said, the main thing they wanted from guards was brutal­ity and will­ing­ness to mind­lessly follow orders.

The pris­on at the back of the camp. If the SS put you in here, you were prob­ably never coming out. This is also where brutal medic­al exper­i­ments on the effects of hypo­ther­mia and alti­tude decom­pres­sion were carried out on pris­on­ers.

Monu­ment to the differ­ent coloured triangles pris­on­ers were forced to wear to categor­ise them. Iron­ic­ally the pink triangle for homo­sexu­al­ity is absent, because homo­sexu­al­ity was still a crime in West Germany when the monu­ment was erec­ted.

Grave of the unknown pris­on­er.

This is the origin­al gate- the one now stand­ing is a replica. The origin­al gate was there until it was stolen a few years back. It later turned up in Norway and is now in a locked cabin­et. I don’t even under­stand who would want to steal a concen­tra­tion camp gate.

Every­one in my tour group was very respect­ful and appro­pri­ate. The same can’t be said for every­one there that day. Two women were taking grin­ning and laugh­ing selfies point­ing at a video of starving pris­on­ers and stacks of bodies, and ignor­ing every­one giving them dirty looks. They tried to rope in a stranger to take photos of them, and she shoved the phone back at them in disgust. I don’t know where they were from.

People had also scratched their names and phrases like “Long Island” into the crem­at­ori­um chim­ney. Yes, the actu­al chim­ney of a concen­tra­tion camp chim­ney. Some­times it’s hard to have any faith in human­ity.



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  1. Thanks for this post Emma. I’ve been think­ing about this a lot lately. It’s import­ant to talk about these crimes I think, espe­cially now as the Holo­coaust begins to pass from living memory and some people start to believe that it is not some­thing they need to think about. Do you know about project Stolp­er­steine? this is the offi­cial site http://www.stolpersteine.eu/en/ I think it is a really construct­ive and useful memori­al.

    1. I think I’ve seen some of these in Germany and Austria.

      You can’t really go anywhere in Vienna without seeing plaques on build­ings that such-and-such a writer, musi­cian or artist lived in this build­ing until they were killed by the Nazis or best-case-scen­ario had to flee abroad, espe­cially as so many prom­in­ent Austri­ans at the time were Jewish.

      1. That’s a big theme in the early parts of ‘The Rest is Noise’ – a book by Alex Ross about 20th century clas­sic­al music. Vienna is the main focus in the begin­ning because the most influ­en­tial composers of the era were all there and a high propor­tion were Jewish and so were chased out or, ulti­mately, murdered.

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