Germany - Dachau Concentration Camp

in travel •  2 months ago

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Lieber Herr Gott, mach mich stumm, Das ich nicht nach Dachau komm.

(Dear God, make me dumb, that I may not to Dachau come.)

Walking through History

Just outside of Munich, Germany is the Dachau Concentration Camp. It was one of the first such camps established in Germany and it served as the model for all the subsequent concentration camps to come. While it was originally a munitions factory, in 1933 it was repurposed by Heinrich Himmler and served to imprison hundreds of thousands of people. Now, with input from survivors, it has been turned into a memorial. Visitors can walk the grounds, learn the history, and try to understand so that this will never again happen.

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On approaching the camp, it appears to be an older building of no unusual importance. The grounds are well kept, everything is clean and clipped and the sun shines brightly on everyone milling about. My heart has been racing in my chest for the last several miles as we got closer to where so many atrocities took place. It feels like the entire area is saturated in fear and panic, even 80 years later.

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Work makes free.

Inside the Compound

As I pass through the gates, I feel compelled to silence. My mouth is practically glued shut as words simply don't feel appropriate in this space. The yard opens up, bright and hot, ringed with low buildings. If I shut my eyes I know I can hear the soldiers barking orders and the suffering of the prisoners. I don't shut my eyes.

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On the request of survivors, all the buildings that housed prisoners have been demolished. In their place are large gravel filled rectangles bearing only the number of the building which once stood there. The building above has been recreated to show visitors what the dorms were like. A steady stream of people step inside, tourists taking selfies and posing in front of the model bunks.

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I step to the barred window overlooking the yard and envision the starving people lined up for role-call, hoping that today is not the day they die, hoping for liberation, hoping for food or even respite from the hot sun. I don't know if they had hope. Such things can be lost along the way.

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The yard is ringed with guard towers. Directly inside the towers is the no-man's land. This is an unassuming span of about 10 feet. Prisoners who entered the area were immediately shot by guards perched in the towers just waiting for a chance. Some prisoners became so desperate that they walked into the area intentionally - suicide by guard - and others were forced in for a 'justified' excuse to shoot them.

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Here the guards would patrol, intent on keeping everyone inside. Guns, soldiers, barbed wire, and fences all were designed to ensure that no one escaped.

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Above are all that remains of the dorms. Each one bears a number. There were 32 dorms at one time, including one specifically for clergy and one for medical experimentation. The simple fact that survivors couldn't bear to let them remain says a great deal about the suffering which took place within.

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Several churches have since built structures on the grounds, each of them a testament and a memory of the people who lived and died at Dachau.

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This structure sits at the end of the walkway which once passed through the center of the dorms. The trees which line the path can be seen as saplings in photographs taken during the 1930's. Today they are tall and strong as if they are the benevolent guardians of the space.

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The architects of this church purposely avoided 90 degree angles in the design as they felt it represented the evil that had happened here.

The Crematorium

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Exiting the section with the dorms brings you to the crematorium. Around the perimeter is a lovely tree-lined walkway. It is peaceful until you realize its darker purpose. Prisoners were walked down this path to be executed. In the dirt, the blood trench is still visible, dug to collect the bodily fluids from the prisoners who were shot to death lined up along the wall on their knees. Bullet holes in the concrete wall bear witness to the many executions which took place.

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Above are the ovens which were used to cremate bodies. At one point, demand was so high that new ovens were built in an adjacent building.

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This was a 'storage room' used for bodies while they were waiting to be incinerated. The line of discoloration on the wall is chilling as it hints to the amount of use the room received. There were 2 such rooms at Dachau. It is believed that more than 25,000 people died here. When US soldiers liberated the camp, it is said they brought the townspeople in and forced them to walk these rooms - to see the bodies - and the grasp the horror that had been committed on their doorstep.

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Also in the crematorium area were the fumigation chambers. These rooms were ostensibly used to rid clothing of lice, fleas, and other diseases. However, given the known history, I shudder to think what other purposes these rooms were used for. They have hooks to hang things by, heavy iron doors which seal tight, and pipes to conduct gas directly into the chamber.

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As I exit Dachau down the center walkway where the dorms used to be, I can only hope that we have had enough of this, that never again will people be led to believe they are doing the right thing by destroying others. I hope that we can learn from the mistakes of our past and make a better future.

To book your own trip to a piece of our history, visit me at http://travellifeservicesllc.com/

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Safe Travels,

Jennifer

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Let's never let it happen again.

That is a very wide concentration camp and really look historic, only of horrible history. The photos are great. I would have admired all those on your photos if I had not read through your article about what is behind every photo.

You are brave to walk into and roam around such concentration camp. I have chills while reading your article especially with the crematorium.

Indeed, may people realize that killing each other is not the solution to any conflict and may this never happen again.

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Thank you for your comment. I'm glad that my words and pictures were able to give you an idea of what it felt like to be there, even so many years later.

Never again.

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You're welcome. 😊

Gotta hand it to Germany for acknowledging their atrocities. That's all I'm gonna say about that. This was a very well written blog thank you for sharing your experience!

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Thank you. And yes, during my time in Germany I noticed multiple ways in which they regularly acknowledged what happened. It's nice to know they aren't pretending it didn't exist.

That place is chilling like no other...as you said I also felt all the atmosphere upon me when crossing the original gate...great choice, for sure it's one of the most interesting places to see around here and one of the most "psychological" in Europe.

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Chilling is a great way to describe it. I was quite surprised at how many people didn't seem to notice the thickness of the atmosphere. I couldn't imagine taking a selfie there, but I saw people primping their hair and smiling for the camera. Bizarre.

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Thank you for sharing this. It is really important to keep this memory alive, particularly as some people in this day and age seek to minimize the atrocities committed during WWII. I am of course under no illusions that the atrocities were all committed by one side in this conflict, but the concentration camps are such concentrated glimpses of the worst manifestations of nationalism and racism that they in particular need to be held up to remind the world - not again. Much love - Carl

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Thank you for commenting. I thought it was quite powerful that the American soldiers brought the local people through and made them see what had taken place within those walls. I've heard that the locals didn't know what was happening. Whether that is true or not, it emphasizes how important it is to be aware of your community and what takes place in it, even if you don't believe it affects you directly.

Hi mattifer,

This post has been upvoted by the Curie community curation project and associated vote trail as exceptional content (human curated and reviewed). Have a great day :)

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I'm honored. Thank you!

Thank you for the tour. I have not been to Dachau, but I've seen Auschwitz. Frightening.

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I would have liked to see several camps, but the itinerary didn't allow time. Can you give me a quick idea of the similarities and differences between the two? This one is purported to be the model for the rest, but Auschwitz is probably the more infamous of the two.

How I wish that will happen, but then cruel acts like these still keep going on (but maybe its on the decrease).

Its sad what these people had to go through, because some people thought they were doing the right thing by being cruel and wicked. I can't imagine the torture these people went through. I must have been hell

The Crematorium looks really nice, a great place to while away time, but after hearing what it was used for, I doubt I will be comfortable enough to spend more than a minute there. The atmosphere around there must still be stuffy. It is sad how they wasted such a nice place..

The churches there are beautiful, I especially love the last one. People worship there?

Just like you, I hope we learn from these mistakes.

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I truly believe that most people who commit wicked acts think in their hearts that they are doing the right thing, or at the least that they have no choice. It's difficult to fathom, and I hope to never be in a place where I believe that committing violence against another is the best course of action. Many people were faced with the choice to protect their families or to protect others...they saw themselves as being unable to do both. It was certainly a hellish time for everyone involved I am sure.

Yes, the last church is still in regular use. I don't know about the other two. They looked like they are used occasionally, due to their being melted candles in the candle holders, but I doubt they hold regular services there.

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Yeah, I agree with you on that. We do have different beliefs and understanding of things and I guess that goes a long way to explain that. Their beliefs might have justified their actions as being right and even the "best" for the people and society. The sad thing is that no matter how hard one tries, it will be nearly impossible to convince someone with such belief to try and look the other way- the path of kindness.

It definitely was hell for those that had no other choice than to act in that manner.
I do hope not to be in such a situation too.

Well, its all over now, and that is just history. I am glad that most people have gotten their lives back and moved on from that sad phase.

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I've read studies that show that the stresses the prisoners were subjected to in those camps can be physically detected in their offspring, even several generations later. The grandchildren of the victims show stronger stress responses, even factoring out environmental factors.

So yes, I'm glad we are moving on, but the effects will still reverberate for generations.

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That's so sad. I had no idea the effect of that traumatic effect could be that bad, how little I know...

Hmm... The scar will be there. I just hope they open up to receiving help when they need to.

Thanks for sharing this jennifer. Its so important to stay in touch with history, both good and bad to ensure that things such as these dont get repeated. Although one can argue if such atrocities are still happening, though in different ways. Would love to go and see the place myself and use your post as a guide. Thanks again.

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Actually being in a place like that is so much more powerful than any amount of reading about it. I was not quite prepared. I remember reading in advance that children under 12 should probably not visit. I thought at first that was a little extreme, but after visiting I understand why. The emotional intensity of the place lingers, even in the surrounding areas. Adults tend to be a little less sensitive to those types of energies than children. I imagine it could be quite difficult for a child to process, particularly if the adult with the child isn't sensitive to the energies.

And yes, atrocities are still being committed around the world on a daily basis. Often, ignorance of the issue is what perpetuates it. In this information age, you'd think we'd know about our world and be able to stop all the evil things, but it simply isn't so. It is overwhelming, and we can only choose to act on those things that we are aware of.

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Very well articulated. I guess, seeing the actual sites can invoke emotions much stronger than reading about it. May be the mind builds a better picture of what may have transpired.

" If I shut my eyes I know I can hear the soldiers barking orders and the suffering of the prisoners. I don't shut my eyes."

That is exactly how i felt as i read that part, and every other part of this write up.. i visualized everything and my heart is aching, i cant imagine what they were subjected too.
May this never happen again.

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I'm glad my words resonated with you. It was such a powerful experience, and I think the world would be a better place if everyone were able to see it for themselves, but sharing in this way is the next best thing.

As I was researching the camp, the facts were largely void of emotions and seemed detached, like mere statistics. I'm glad my words helped the statistics hold emotional weight. Thank you for your comment.

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Hey dear @mattifer , very good post with full of Important informations about this horrible place!

I can’t find the right words for the crime that’s happens in this past times...

... So good idea from you to eternise this memorial into the Blockchain 👍

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Thank you! I wasn't thinking about the permanency of blockchain, but that's a really good point.

Thank you for posting this with the very important message to never forget the atrocities that happened and to learn from our past so we do not repeat it. Let the world heal and may peace and harmony prevail!

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Well said!

Hi @mattifer, it a nice day, I found your post because of upvoted by @curie and my friend @porters featured you in Pay it forward curation contest, it is surely incredible post with a bunch of outstanding photograph. I encourage you to join #pifc curation trail, whenever you have comfortable time

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Thanks! I was honored to be upvoted by Curie. I had no idea about the Pay it forward curation contest. I'll go check that out. I'll look into the curation trail you mentioned too.

A well written post about an awful place. I would tend to agree about the decontamination chambers considering what we know from other camps. Filling the rooms with half-starved people then filling it with gas. It makes me angry and horrified just thinking about it and reading it.

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Thank you. There is still so much that we will never know about the horrors of those camps. The official story and the real story are rarely the same.

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I would agree. Then you have the people who choose to believe that it never happened. It amazes me at the level of stupidity of some people, or the lengths they will go to support their flawed worldview.

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Yeah, holocaust deniers are an interesting phenomenon. I think they are mainly claiming that the numbers are misrepresented, but there are also people that claim it's just plain made up. I don't understand it either.

I came to your post because @porters featured you in the Pay It Forward Curation contest
Congratulations on the curie

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Thank you! I'm glad you found me. I am honored to have selected by Curie and @porters both. :-D

Thank you so much for sharing an ugly part of history that continually needs to be retold!!

I found your post because @porters featured you in her Pay it Forward Curation contest entry. Please consider joining us with an entry of your own next week :)

Congratulations on the curie vote as well!! So exciting when that happens, right??! ! :)

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Thank you! Yes, I'll look into the contest and see if I can get myself together to enter it. It's a great way to share the love. ❤❤❤

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You're welcome @mattifer !

And the contest is weekly, so if you don't get it together for this week, there's always the next!😅

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That's good to know! <3