Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dachau Concentration Camp, outside Munich, Germany

One of the first things my just-reunited-mother-and-I did in Munich was to leave Munich to visit Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp outside of the city. At the end of WWII when the U.S. discovered Dachau as a concentration camp, the abandoned barracks served as a refugee camp for the German homeless since so many of their homes had been bombed and destroyed. Afterwards, all of the barracks (there were over 30) were torn down by the Germans to remove the reminder of the Holocaust, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that the camp was turned into a memorial museum. As a result, the camp had a vast, desolate feeling to it. A huge, empty, grassless space enclosed by barbed wire fences and looming watchtowers. Each torn-down barrack was marked as a symbolic mass gravesite by the number of the barrack.

The most disturbing part of the experience for me was learning how the Nazi’s valuing of efficiency and orderliness dominated Dachau in every way. Out of all the concentration camps, it was specifically reputed for its cleanliness. And the gas chambers were a testament to their obsession with efficiency to the most inhumane extreme: a systematic killing factory.

1 comment:

Generose Bogler said...

The 5,000 refugees who lived in the barracks at Dachau were ethnic Germans who were expelled from the Sudetenland, in what is now the Czech Republic, after the war. They were forced to move out when the camp was turned into a Memorial Site in 1965.

The barracks were not torn down by the Germans to remove the reminder of the Holocaust. The Germans were living under the American occupation and they had no say in what was done with the Dachau camp. The barracks were torn down at the request of the International Committee of Dachau, which was an organization of the former prisoners.