#Dachau – let me tell you about my visit. Please note I have also just been to Auschwitz and Birkenau, where even worse atrocities were committed, and to countless Jewish ghettos all over Eastern Europe, so I am tired….and sad. However, I also feel compelled to share what I have just seen while it’s all very raw.
Just over 70 years ago, innocent people entered Dachau through the SS training camp after marching through the town for all to see, thinking that they were going someplace safe as that is what they had been told. But they left registration naked, bald and stripped of their name before starting hard days of painful labor. Work was used as a method of killing people…Jews, handicapped people, gay people, gypsies. All minorities….. all part of Hitler’s Final Solution.
Many died of starvation or disease, but thousands died in the gas chamber and were cremated by their own. Yes, prisoners did everything at Dachau, including performing the horrible task of execution. If they said no, they were also killed. There was no way out.
The entrance sign reads “Arbeit macho fre” meaning work will set you free. This was clearly not the case in a concentration camp. Prisoners were mocked at the gate and everywhere they stepped until the end of their lives. They were treated like rodents, scapegoats for something the world will never understand.
The camp existed for 12 years. It was one of the first to be built, and one of the last to be liberated. 41,000 people died between 1939-1945. The 500 prior were political prisoners before religion became a bigger issue. Mass executions were performed at places like Auschwitz but death was everywhere.
The hardest thing about Dachau, and man, is it hard, is that it’s close to Munich in a town where residents knew what was happening. They saw the prisoners marching to the entrance, led by Nazi troops, they smelt death shooting from the ovens into the sky. They were somehow convinced that what they were seeing was a lie. Propaganda out of the camp showed photos of innocent lives portrayed as criminals and citizens were told the prisoners were corrupting their country so they believed it.
Walking through the bunker where people were placed in solitary confinement, forced to endure medical experiments, hung or told to commit suicide and then that act was concealed is beyond description. Many people chose death and touched the electrical fence to avoid their inevitable fate.
Standing inside the waiting room where people were told they would get a shower. Knowing they believed it. Seeing the crematorium that vacuumed multiple bodies at a time. It’s a terrible feeling to have all these years later knowing that it really wasn’t that long ago.
This is the end of my trip. I’m going home tomorrow. What do I take from all this as I enter a changed world back home?
Fear. This happened in our parents’ lifetime. We can’t let it happen in ours. #neverforget