Dacau

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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dacau was the first concentration camp set up by the Nazis. It was to be the model for all other camps. the first thing that struck me was how big it was. It was designed to house 6000 men but at the end it had 60000 captives.

The second thing that struck me was the clear efficient logistics that had been applied to mass murder. I suppose if you are to kill millions of people ou have to have some sort of system for both murder and disposal.

The third thought I had was how do you staff a place like Dacau. Ho do you get to beat and humiliate the prisoners? Where do you find the people you have such hatred for Jews or communists or russians? Each of the prisoners were clearly labelled sowing which group they belonged to. It should have been difficult to find guards but the SS seemed to have no problem. Guards were actively rewarded for killing a prisoner, but that does not explain it. Are we really just animals with a very thin veneer of civilization? I can't believe this.

The prisoners were told that when they entered the gates three things were taken from them - their possessions, their rights and their humanity. The first two can be taken but the third must be surrendered. Many stories attest to prisoner solidarity and a refusal to deny their humanity. The only ones who lost their humanity at Dacau were the SS and the guards.

The memorials are present. There is a catholic memorial. The previous pope was Bavarian and he made sure there was a memorial. He also placed an order of Carmelite nuns next door. Their main activity is to pray. In this place of great evil I think that is important. Any survivor who returns has a bed in the convent.

The three men who are responsible for the setting up and running of the sight are survivors of Dacau. One of the men (now over 90) regularly comes to the sight. He always visits the nuns and they laugh and joke together. The sight of an elderly Jewish man flirting and laughing with the nuns at this sight is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

The fourth thing I learnt was how aware the German people were of what was happening in the camp. Everyone would have known. Maybe not the extent but certainly what was happening. The prisoners were put to work in many locations around the camp.....factories, construction........and so it was obvious to anyone with eyes what was happening. To be German and have the holocaust in your history is bad enough but to know that your grandfather and uncles knew it was happening and did nothing would be a harder truth to come to terms with. The damage continues today.

The fifth thing I relearnt was how closely economic conditions contribute to conflict. How could Hitler's party go from 2.5% of the vote to 36% of the vote in 4 years. Pauline Hansen only got a tiny amount of the vote, but if conditions were different was it possible that One Nation could have the balance of power? Horrible thought. Why does the politics of hate always find such fertile soil?

In Dacau there are the ashes of an unknown prisoner. By German law this makes the site a cemetery. By German law a cemetery cannot be rezoned........ it is consecrated for ever. Dacau will remain to remind us 'never again'.
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