After so many visits to Munich, finally today I was able to screw up some courage and visited this academy of violence and terror. Not far from the city, it takes less than 20 minutes from Ostbahnhof to reach Dachau.
Documented facts tell us that it all started on March 22, 1933, a few weeks after Adolf Hitler was appointed as a Chancellor of Germany, the first Nazi concentration camp for political prisoners was set up in Dachau. Located just outside Munich in southern Germany this camp received its first group of detainees which were few socialists & communists. The very first commandant for this camp was Hilmar Wäckerle an official in the “Schutzstaffel” (a Nazi paramilitary organization commonly known as the SS)
Main camp gate
Record shows that since the beginning, camp detainees were subjected to very harsh treatment. Prisoners were executed by streaming lethal gasses from showerheads and were forced to end their lives. The immense pain they suffered could be felt even now when you see the nail marks on the walls of the room where they were executed. It eventually evolved into a death camp where thousands of Jews died from malnutrition, disease and overwork or were tortured to death. In addition to Jews, the camp’s prisoners included members of other groups Hitler considered unfit for the new Germany, including artists, intellectuals, the physically and mentally handicapped and homosexuals.
The gas chamber used to murder individual prisoners & small groups using poison gas.
An old sketch by one of the prisoner showing how at midday an entire chain of destroyed individuals returned lying unconscious on wheelbarrows. they were the ones who broke down from hunger, agony & cold.
Whipping trestle with bull whip
There was no way to stop it at that time as an official order was issued stating that Dachau and all other concentration camps were not to be subjected to German law as it applied to other German citizens. SS administrators alone would run the camps and decide punishments as they find suitable.
In June 1933, Theodor Eicke replaced Wäckerle as Dachau’s second commandant. Eicke immediately released a set of regulations for the camp’s daily operation. Prisoners found guilty of rule breaking were to be brutally beaten. Those who planned to escape or support any kind of political views were to be executed on the spot. Prisoners would not be allowed to defend themselves or protest this treatment. His regulations served as a master plan for all the concentration camps in Germany.
With the beginning of World War II, some able-bodied Dachau prisoners were used as labor to manufacture weapons and other materials for Germany’s war efforts. Additionally, some Dachau prisoners were subjected to brutal medical experiments by German physicians, which included high-altitude experiments using a decompression chamber, malaria and tuberculosis experiments, hypothermia experiments, and experiments testing new medications. Hundreds of prisoners died or were permanently disabled as a result of these experiments. In the twelve years of its existence over 200.000 people from all over Europe were imprisoned here and in the various other subsidiary camps. Also, figures prove that around 45,000 were murdered.
Mosquito bites were one of the methods used to infect prisoners with malaria. for this purpose a cage holding mosquitos was attached to the body of the test subjects.
On April 29 1945, American troops liberated the survivors. Just prior to the liberation of Dachau by the forces, the SS ordered approximately 7,000 prisoners to embark on a six-day-long death march to Tegernsee, located to the south. Those unable to maintain a steady marching pace were shot by SS guards. Other marchers died from starvation or physical exhaustion. When the United States military entered Dachau, they found thousands of mostly skeleton looking, undernourished prisoners. The U.S. soldiers also discovered several dozen train cars loaded with rotting corpses.
A memorial site was created on the grounds of the former Dachau concentration camp in 1965. Today, visitors can tour some of the camp’s historic buildings and access a library and special exhibitions containing materials related to Dachau’s history.
Although it was a sad place, it was definitely a good place to see. Those people had a lust for cruelty. My tour guide told me that the numbers of people who died there were inaccurate, because Jews, Gypsies and old or weak prisoners were not counted in the death toll because they were not considered people.
Baracks – living and sleeping quarters 1944
Also, the killing was done for sport. Guards could invent any excuse to shoot someone. The most sickening thing was when a guard would take a prisoner to the camp boundary and throw their hat over the border. Should the prisoner fetch, they would be shot dead. Should they not fetch, they would be beaten either until dead, or until they would crawl over the border hoping to be shot dead.
For me it was a day full of emotions!!