Dachau

Trip Start Feb 26, 2009
1
7
15
Trip End Mar 13, 2009


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Flag of Germany  , Bavaria,
Thursday, March 5, 2009

   We got up for some more breakfast, which was good but we were still full from the Hofbraeuhaus last night!  We decided yesterday that we would visit the Concentration Camp Memorial at Dachau, which is only 30 minutes north of Munich.  Dachau is the only concentration camp that was open the entire duration of the Third Reich, from 1933-1945.  Hitler and the Nazis started it soon after they came to power to intern political opponents and other vagrants.  Later it was used for more extermination.  Fittingly, it was cold, gray, and rainy.  We found out that every school student in Germany is required to visit two concentration camps during their school years.  It would be interesting if every student in America was required to see a Native American reservation.  
   You walk into the camp through a door that says "Albeit Macht Frei" - basically translated to "Work Will Set You Free".  The only thing you hear once the gate creaks open is the crunch of footsteps on the ground.  There is a hushed quiet around the whole camp, which is expansive in size.  We walked over to the Barracks first, where special prisoners were held and tortured.  There were certain cells where the Nazis built what were called "standing cells", which were so small that the prisoners were forced to stand for days at a time.  There was not enough room for them to sit or lay down.  We walked back through the Interrogation Room which has double-layered sealed doors to prevent the screams and sounds of torture from leaking out into the rest of the prisoners.
   After that, we walked into the Museum, which had so much information - it would take someone three or four hours to walk through and read all of the signs and information.  It shows the progression from World War I and how Germany got to the point where Hitler came into power, and then it proceeded through the Third Reich and the concentration camp's history.  It was very sobering.  I think we ended up spending two or three hours walking through.
  From there we walked out to the main grounds of the camp - there was a Memorial outside of the museum, and then we went to one of the prisoners' quarters.  There were the bunk beds, the toilets, and the lockers that they had to keep perfectly clean to avoid more punishment.  Once outside, we walked down the main road through the camp.  There were markers for each one of the living quarters, and they went on for about a quarter of a mile.  There ended up being a spot for 30 of the buildings, which when overfilled during World War II held up to over 600 prisoners each.  At the end of the road, there were three memorial churches, one Protestant, one Jewish, one Catholic.  We continued on to the Crematorium, which is one of the last remaining intact in the world.  As you approach you see the chimney dominating the tree line.  You enter in past the delousing stations, where the Nazis told the prisoners they were being deloused before they took a shower.  The shower was a big room where instead of water coming out, poison gas came out.  You walk directly through the gas chamber, and for a time both doors are closed.
   Outside of the gas chamber is the furnace room.  There were five large furnaces with what looked like a stretcher in each one - the dead prisoners would be put on the stretcher and slid into the furnace to be cremated.  We left and walked back towards the gate.  We finally exited the camp, and walked back to the car.  After that tour, it was good to get back into the warmth of the car and we headed on home to Paderborn.  It was a long, long drive (poor Claudia) and right as we approached Paderborn we ran into a very thick fog that lowered the visibility.  We got back around 9, and we decided to go to Melanie and Andy's once more for another barbecue tomorrow!!
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