Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dachau Trip Continued

Outside the crematoriums. My translation-"To those killed, we bid you  farewell and you will be remembered."
My tour led me to "The Bunker" which was maybe the scariest place I have ever visited in my life. This was the prison inside the concentration camp,if you can imagine such a thing. Again, I would refer you to the above mentioned Dachau Memorial web site for interior photos and the history. I could not bring myself to take photos in this building and the vibes were extremely powerful. I don't think the nun's prayers have totally reached this place yet. This is where the various clergy were housed and the political and "special" prisoners- no sunlight for days-food every fourth day-torture-daily executions in the courtyard where the student groups are now standing-mostly Russian POW's. 300 feet long at least. Each cell was about 8x8. My footsteps echoed down the very long hall between the cells and I could imagine this same sound being heard from within the cells over and over again, day and night. It was dreadful.

The Bunker

One of the rows of Camp factory buildings now used by the German Riot Police

This hill and tree planting was done with torn down Camp buildings outside the Memorial. The Riot Police used this pile to screen their facility from tourists visiting the Camp. There appears to be some tension here between the Memorial and the neighbors.

This is a bird's eye view of the factory and SS and German troop quarters adjoining the Camp taken in the 40's. The ones remaining today are not part of the Memorial  but are still in use by the German Rapid Response (Riot) Police. I heard actual troop training on the old troop parade ground  while I was there. It was eerie.

This is the end of the rail line into the Camp, uncovered only a few years ago. The rail line from the Town of Dachau is a "rail trail" with the same historical guide signs as the Camp site. One can walk from town along the same rail route used in the 30's and 40's to bring in the prisoners. The building in the back to the right housed the SS. The building to the left was a factory for prison labor.

An original painting of a Bavarian Scene by an inmate uncovered during a renovation inside the Main building.

Former  SS headquarters-now part of the Rapid Response Group.

The Path of Remembrance

As I was finishing up the tour, I went down the Path of Remembrance which runs alongside the factory buildings where the slave labor toiled and many ultimately survived because their labor was so vital to the German war effort.As I walked the path alone, I felt distinctly that I was being watched and as I turned, sure enough, one of the riot police was watching me very closely from behind the fence. In addition to this little episode, it should be mentioned that the whole Memorial site completely stank of manure(?) being spread on a neighboring farm which added to the whole effect. I'm sure it stank much worse when in full swing.

I said a prayer and left-it was quiet and somber on the way out. I avoided the cafeteria where full meals and espresso could be ordered up-even wine and beer- but not the replicated prison "soup" which I think should be on the menu. Still, it was a very very moving experience and one I would recommend to anyone visiting Germany.


  1. Michael -- your visit to Dachau sounds haunting ... how could those horrors have happened? Send me an e-mail with your new e-mail address, as I'd like to continue to be in your 'loop'. I hope your experience in Germany is mostly a good one ... are you playing? xo

  2. You had some visit Michael. Thanks for sharing.

    When you enter through the tar-black wrought-iron gates, plain and eerily dull, you are immediately slapped with these simple and sinister words: Arbeit Macht Frei, a German phrase that means: "Work brings Freedom". Nothing can be further from the truth -- what a cruel and conniving statement fabricated by the unscrupulous and sinister Nazi. These words will always reverberate in my mind.

    I was completely horrified by the way that the Jews and other discriminated and displaced persons were imprisoned, tortured, dehumanized, many, many put to death.

    When I departed the pattern, I was so grateful to have seized the opportunity to pay visit and pay homage -- this side tour would be the most memorable and impactful part of my trip, and I knew it would stay with me for a very long time, if not for the rest of eternity.