Friday, 15 June 2012

Dachau Concentration Camp, Germany- A very emotional and confronting place

Hello Everyone,
Front gate into Dachau (German for 'Work will set you free')
This blog is about our visit to Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial and is a lot more serious then any of my previous blogs. I will be showing you some graphic photographs and writing about some confronting facts about the history of the Holocaust and the happenings of Dachau Concentration Camp. Here are my memories from this day.....

Upon arriving at Dachau I had never heard of it and had no idea what a concentration camp even was. I asked a few people on the coach about it and they explained a lot of what I learnt that day and after Mia's talk I was a little more informed before walking into Dachau. Dachau-The very first Nazi concentration camp and was built in 1933. Jews, political prisoners, homosexuals and any others deemed undesirable were imprisoned into the camp between 1993-1945. More than 200, 000 people were sent here, more than 30, 000 people died inside Dachau and countless others died after being transferred to other death camps.  

Entering Dachau Concentration Camp

Memorial in many languages saying-'May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defence of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.'

Adolf Hitler was a politician and at the time a very charismatic man. He hated Jews and had a tiered system of other nationalities he hated listed in order. There were hundreds of concentration camps set up in the period he was Reich Chancellor (the National Socialist dictator) however Dachau was the first and longest standing concentration camp. The men that were sent here had to work or they would be killed. They suffered horrific living and working conditions that no human should ever have to suffer at the hands of the in humane SS (Schutzstaffel Schutzstaffel/ Protection) guards.

After Mia's talk I still wasn't prepared for walking into entering this eerie and confronting place. As soon as I walked through the gates I started getting emotional thinking of all of the people who were imprisoned and died in the very site I was standing not all too many years ago. Our Contiki group hadn't been this quite or shocked throughout the whole trip and we all had a huge amount of respect for where we were and for the people that suffered and died during the holocaust. Everyone broke off individually once entering Dachau which was a change from us hanging around in groups. That day was a time we all needed to be alone whilst walking through the camp I think. As soon as I saw images and stories of what the prisoners had to endure I immediately started to cry. I put my glasses on and continued to read the chilling recounts from ex prisoners who had survived through the horror at Dachau and lived to tell their stories. I had never been so moved and confronted in my whole entire life whilst walking around the museum I couldn't help but feel emotional.

I could have read and walked around the museum (which actually used to be where prisoners were held and tortured) for hours but we didn't have long at the camp so I read exhibitions that I found the most interesting. There was so much to read and take in that day it was overwhelming but something I want to find out more about thats for sure. After walking out of the museum I was feeling pretty down and took some time to look at and pay my respects to the memorial which had been set up to honour the people who died here. I then walked through the area where prisoners used to line up for roll call and stand for hours while they were beaten and tortured for stepping a foot out of line. In the museum it said that even if another prisoner fell over after standing in the one position with no food and water from exhaustion and starvation the remaining men were not to move any part of their body to acknowledge them or they would be beaten and tortured.

 I walked through areas where prisoners worked and slaved away all day until they were so skinny, dehydrated and exhausted they physically could not handle it anymore and many died. I saw the SS guard towers where the guards used to stand and watch over all of the prisoners to make sure they were working and conforming to the rules of the concentration camp. The most chilling and confronting place during my visit to Dachau was undoubtedly walking into the gas chamber and crematorium.  I saw where prisoners were thrown into piles like they never existed and were burnt to ashes after dying at the camp. The museum told stories of the guards tricking the prisoners into thinking they were being moved to other concentration camps but were actually being sent to end their lives in the gas chambers of Dachau.


Dead bodies of those prisoners who had died at Dachau

An example of some of the information I read in the exhibitions

Me taking time to remember those who died at the memorial site

Roll Call at Dachau

Dead men who died of starvation here at Dachau


Hitler's Nazi flag hung years ago on the very site I had visited only the day before...

Grounds where the prisoners used to work

Prisoners being tortured
I haven't seen the move called 'The boy in the striped pyjamas before but that movie is based on Dachau. Since visiting the concentration camp I have purchased the book of the same title and have only just began reading it. At the end of my time at Dachau I purchased a book which has all of the information from each exhibition and section of the museum along with photographs to explain more about the history of this chilling place. I thought dad would like it and be interested in reading it so since visiting this memorial site I have sent it back to Australia for him to read. I never expected to be moved the way I was that day and the images I saw and the information I read will stay in my mind forever.


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