Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Dachau Concentration Camp...

We visited Dachau Concentration Camp on our recent European trip. It's not too far from Munich and admission is free. It was the first camp to open in 1933 and was intended to hold political prisoners but soon grew into a 100 sub camp system that held Jews, Clergy, Artists, writers, Russian POWs and many forced laborers. For you rock music fans the Father of Rush bass player Getty Lee was held here. There were 32,000 documented deaths and many more that were undocumented. 

People asked me what I felt at Dachau. I think one of the spookiest things was this gate that translated reads "Work Will Set You Free." It's not the original gate. The original was stolen in 2014. It has not been recovered. A similar gate to Auschwitz Concentration Camp was also stolen by a group with right wing ties but was recovered and the men arrested. 

A fine tree lined avenue provided shade for the barracks, the foundations of which can still be seen. In the distance is the induction center where new arrivals were booked. The trees were an attempt to make the place look decent. Actually after the liberation by American troops in 1945 the camp stayed in use first for Nazi SS troops awaiting trial and then as a place to hold ethnic German refugees expelled from Eastern Europe who were awaiting resettlement. It was closed for good in 1960. I think it's a little hard to wrap your head around the fact that WW2 was such an upheaval that folks were still trying to get home 15 years later.    

Nice shady trail. 

Thousands of Russian POWS executed here. 

Mass graves. 


The ovens. 

These are the newer ones. There is an original crematorium next door but it could not keep up with the pace. I got a second hand story about a friend who visited in the mid 60s.  You could smell the burnt bodies and the shoes of victims were still piled outside the door. 

The bunker where torture cells were located. 

Men and women died behind these doors. 

The fence with quite a few guard towers still standing. I recently met a 97 year old vet who told me that the Chaplin of his unit came and got him in a jeep and said "I want you to see this." They drove to a camp where prisoners had been machine gunned trying to escape and they still hung in the wire. Individual bodies lay all about with single bullet wounds to the head. The old vet's memory has faded and he does not remember the name of the camp but he remembers what he saw there.   

The gas chamber. 

A terrible war was fought and these camps were liberated. Bad thing is that evil men still carry on their horrible business in other places. What have we learned? 

Each of these pleasant colorful symbols in this monument represents what was pinned to your clothes to identify your group.. A Catholic, a Jew, a gay person, an immigrant, a writer, any person that the Nazis felt was an undesirable. Which one would you wear on your clothes? 




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