Extreme European Adventure: Dachau, Germany (June 20, 2014)

Friday, June 20, 2014
Kris has taken to checking the weather which seriously worked in our favor today. We found it would be raining most of the day, so we changed our original plans and decided to spend the afternoon in Dachau (only 30 minutes from Munich). We figured a bit of misty rain would work with the atmosphere of the place.

After a lazy morning of grocery shopping at the Tengelmann grocery next to the hotel and photo editing/blogging, we headed out to the Munich main station to head to the Dachau Concentration Camp and Memorial. We bought things to make sandwiches and brought sandwiches and apples with us on our journey.
Kris takes pleasure in the little things.

Getting to Dachau...
Instructions for getting to the Dachau Concentration Camp and Memorial are on their website http://www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de/directions.html and pretty easy to follow. We were able to take the S train using our Eurail pass, and then bought a bus ticket for 1.30 Euro per person each way. No special tour is needed.

Admission into the Dachau Concentration Camp and Memorial is free. We got the self-guided audio tour for 3.5 Euros each (a price I found worthwhile).

Talk about a somber experience! The introductory video they show is filled with graphic and matter-of-fact information. The photos and video clips - horrifying! It really puts the words and stories we've learned in school into a level of realism that took me aback. I had a lot of trouble holding it together. I did a moderate job of just having a few tears tumble without getting into sniveling. I still cannot fathom how people could have done this to others. Humans can be so kind and generous...and then there are some who are just plain monsters.

While the intro film gives you enough detail that you could honestly walk the grounds understanding what you are seeing, the audio guide had recollections of survivors. To hear them speak the horrors they experienced...I can't explain how deeply it makes you feel.

After the video, Kris and I went back to the entrance gate to truly try to take it all in. We felt we owed the victims the respect of this gesture.

"Arbeit Macht Frei" is written on the entrance...work will set you free. How far from the truth!

One of the guard towers and the fence.

Seeing the living conditions at Dachau and gaining the knowledge that it was the "model" for all other concentration camps just makes me sick. The barracks were abysmally small holding over 450 people per block and intended for only 50. Over the years of existence, conditions got worse and worse.
One row of example barracks.

Photo of barracks at the beginning of Dachau...before it got bad.

Bunk beds

Bunk beds

Storage lockers

Toilets - note no showers
The infirmary was basically a death sentence, lice and bugs ate away at people until wounds festered, and illness and starvation was prevalent. Some people would tire of the torture and try to make a break for the perimeter fence hoping to be shot to end their life.
Guard tower

This person couldn't take it anymore and was shot near the tower.

As a special treat for some of the imprisoned, a brothel was located on site. Women from another concentration camp were sent to Dachau and forced to serve at the brothel as part of their "sentence".

Demented doctors performed cruel experiments on some of the interred - malaria, hypothermia, and other special forms of torture took the lives of many.

The crematorium was used too often. Toward Dachau's end, they couldn't keep up with the demand and just piled bodies to be buried in mass graves. Entire train cars filled with dead, or nearly dead, emaciated bodies would arrive in Dachau from other camps.

The gas chamber was a special form of cruelty. They would make the victims believe they were finally going to get a much needed shower and even went so far as to put shower heads in the room, but they would fill the room with noxious gas instead. They say the gas chamber was never used for mass execution at the Dachau Concentration Camp, but it was likely used in some regard.
Smoking forbidden near the gas chamber.

Entry door to gas chamber holding room.
Gas chamber holding room 
Gas chamber

Death by hanging, shooting, starvation, overworking, and/or torture were commonplace. Victims were beaten or punished for not following crazy and unreasonable rules placed on them by soldiers...one such example was the impossible expectation for how the beds must be made in the crowded barracks.

I don't know how many survived Dachau. It was open from 1933 to 1945 before some survivors were liberated. I can't imagine anyone lasted the full 12 years of operation.

I'm impressed that the survivors insisted on turning Dachau into a memorial so nobody could forget. It's illegal in Germany to say the Holocaust never happened, and they are not hiding the atrocities of the event. Some churches and monuments have been erected on the site in remembrance and tribute.
Camp Memorial - art created by former victim

Camp Memorial

Camp Memorial

Camp Memorial

Jewish Memorial

Jewish Memorial

Jewish Memorial

Jewish Memorial

Entrance to convent

Christian Memorial

Christian Memorial
A certain type of reverence is needed to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp and Memorial. You won't find any photos of Kris and I smiling and posing during this visit. It was not, in our opinion, appropriate of the location.

After heading back to our hotel, we started some laundry.  Kris got creative with our one pot and spatula, and made spinach ricotta tortellini in spinach florentine sauce. We ate it out of a coffee mug with a spoon. Quite tasty in truth...however unorthodox.
Kris's one pot masterpiece.  It's amazing what you can do with one pot, a spatula, two spoons, and two mugs.

Yes - that is me sitting cross-legged on the bed in my raincoat eating dinner out of a mug.  Don't you do that too?

2 Responses
  1. B Says:

    I'm pretty sure I'd have been bawling my eyes out. The way you edited and shot your pix almost is enough to make you feel like you're there.

  2. Seth Wright Says:

    It's been fifteen years since I visited Dachau. I was in Germany for a year as a foreign exchange student, and we took a class trip to Munich. A bunch of rowdy, rambunctious teenage boys went through the gate at Dachau, and a quiet, somber group left. I don't think we said much of anything on the ride back to our hotel. I've seen those bunks; been in the crematorium; stood in the claustrophobic "shower" rooms. I will never forget that experience as long as I live. Seeing your photos was enough to bring my own memories back. And even now, fifteen years later, I wasn't able to view them without tears.

    In related (but happier) news, I'm enjoying the photos Kris is posting on Facebook about your vacation!