About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dachau Concentration Camp

We woke up today, got ready and had a great breakfast in the lobby.

Our plan for this morning was to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site.

To get there we had to catch an SBahn train out to the suburb of Dachau on the edge of the city. It is so nice to have passenger trains that are easy to catch and run efficiently.

Once in Dachau, we had to catch a city bus that would take us to the memorial site.

The Memorial Site on the grounds of the former concentration camp was established in 1965 on the initiative of and in accordance with the plans of the surviving prisoners who had joined together to form the Comite' International de Dachau. The Bavarian state government provided financial support. Between 1996 and 2003 a new exhibition on the history of the Dachau concentration camp was created, following the leitmotif of the "Path of Prisoners".

On March 22 1933, a few weeks after Adolf Hitler had been appointed Reich Chancellor, a concentration camp for political prisoners was set up in Dachau. This camp served as the model for all later concentration camps and as a 'school of violence' for the SS men under whose command it stood. In the twelve years of its existence over 200,000 persons from all over Europe were imprisoned here and in numerous subsidiary camps. More than 43,000 of them died. On April 29 1945, American troops liberated the survivors.

2005 marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of most Nazi concentration camps in the closing months of WWII. All over an exhausted Europe, advancing Allied soldiers set free desperate survivors of camp after camp. The diseased, the starving, the barely alive emerged to tell a shocked and disbelieving world of the full horror of a network of systematized murder, torture, degradation and exploitation that had first been conceived and set in motion 12 years earlier in this sleepy little town.

The Jourhaus was the only entrance to the prisoner camp.

Arbeit macht frie - Freedom through work

The maintainance building, where the kitchen, clothing store, workshops and baths were located. On the roof of the building, written in large letters was: There is one path to freedom. Its milestones are: Obedience, honesty, cleanliness, sobriety, diligence, orderliness, sacrifice, truthfulness, love of the fatherland.

A reconstructed barrack building meant to accomodate 200 prisoners. By the time of the Allied forces freed the camp, there were as many as 2000 in each barrack. There were 34 total barracks.

Inside the barracks.

One of 8 guard towers. The grass was the 'buffer' zone between the prisoners and the fence. They were not allowed in the grass. If they entered the grass they would be shot with no warning.

While each camp was responsible for its own particular form of barbarism, waht distinguished Dachau is that almost everything that happened in the system as a whole happened at some level in Dachau. There, humun medical experiments were conducted. There, mass executions of Soviet prisoners were conducted. From there, Jewish prisoners were transported to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Almost every category of victim passed through its infamous "Arbeit macht frei' (Freedom through work) gate: German dissidents, anti-socials, Sinti and Roma gypsies, outspoken clergymen, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, Jews, Polish civilians - all in all the citizens of 34 countries.

It is a place of memory, of pilgrimage and education. To visit it can be a challenge but also a deeply moving and memorable experience.

Memorial in front of the maintenance building.

Jewish Memorial. There was also a Catholic and a Protestant memorial.

This morning was both interesting and mentally overwhelming. I'm glad we visited and I'm glad Brandon was able to see and understand some of the aweful things our world has dealt with. Maybe he and his generation can learn from our mistakes and move forward.

As we have done with most of the important places we have visited, we bought a book to remember and read more about the history.

We caught the bus back to the SBahn station and rode the the train back into Munich. We found a bier garten on the map that was only a few blocks from the train station. It was located in the Alter Botanischer Garten.

Giant soft pretzels.

Fountain in the park.

Once there, Brandon also spotted a playground. We promised him a long play time after we had some lunch. I love the bier gartens! Mugs of cold beer, or a Radler in Katrina's case. Giant pretzels. Brauts and saurkraut. All served in a family atmostphere of picnic tables. Children, no problem. They don't have the "you must be 18 or older to enter" rules. In fact, you can bring a picnic lunch as long as you buy a beer. The only tables where you must order the food are the ones with tablecloths, and there are only a few of those. The other thing that is fun and interesting is that everyone sits whereever. Big picnic tables mean that you share with others.

After lunch, Katrina took Brandon to the playground. She read and he played. I went in search of a model shop in the old town.

To make a long story short, I didn't take the map. I became, briefly, totally lost. I backtracked and was able to find familiar landmarks again. I found a tourist information office and picked up a map. I turns out that I walked within a block of the model shop. I walked back in the direction of the model shop with map in hand and missed it again. Backtracking, I finally found it in a small little alcove. It was a great little shop. The first one I have visited with American trains in stock. They also had a model set of the the auto train we rode on in Switzerland a few days ago. Price, e1700!! Ouch.

On the way back to the park I stopped at a market booth and bought some raspberries and blackberries for all of us to munch on. We bought some yesterday and they were very good.

I finally arrived back at the park. Katrina was still reading and Brandon was playing in the sand and water area. We munched on the berries and Brandon played a little more. It was getting late. We were mostly full from lunch, but getting a little hungry, so we went back into the bier garten and bought some pretzels and beer.

This is our last night in Munich. Tomorrow we head to Salzburg, about an 1 1/2 hours east of Munich.

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.