Wednesday 25th September
Our morning activity for today was a group tour visit to Dachau Concentration Camp. We met our group at the HBF train station across the road from our hotel at 8:45 am. It was then about a 15 minute train trip out to Dachau station and then about a five minute bus ride out to the memorial site.
Our guide took us around the site and gave an overview of why this site was chosen for the camp, how the camp evolved during WW2 and how the site has been used since it’s sinister war days.
The sun was shining for most of our time at the Dachau camp but the atmosphere would definitely be described as grey and bleak. The buildings were grey, the gravel was grey and so, too, were the inside and outside of most of the buildings.
It is a most effective memorial for offering an understanding of the experiences of the prisoners and the suffering they must have endured. This is aptly summarised in the stone memorial at the centre of the site with the words ‘Never Again’ spelled out in five different languages.
This tour was a good one to follow on from our Third Reich tour from the day before. I’d highly recommend both to anyone visiting Munich and especially, if like me, you had not studied the two world wars in detail at high school.
Some statistics I picked up on the day include:
- Dachau operated as a camp from 1933-1945.
- Dachau held 200,000 prisoners from 41 countries.
- 41,000 Dachau prisoners died at the camp.
- Size of Dachau: 200 hectares which equates to about 2/3 the size of Central Park.
- Dachau was a training camp for the SS Schutzstaffel. These were initially private guards for Hitler but their role expanded to became the elite of the police force.
- Hitler became chancellor of Germany 30 Jan 1933.
- Nazis came to power as Germans became disillusioned with the state of affairs with debt and inflation in Germany following WWI and the Wall Street market crash.
- Nazis soon abused their power to imprison ‘undesirables’. The local prisons soon filled and another place was needed; hence Dachau.
- Dachau opened as proper camp in March 1933.
- Dachau was chosen as it had previously been a munitions site during WW1 and so had necessary infrastructure.
- There were two main sections: The SS Schutzstaffel camp and the Prisoners camp.
- The SS camp became a US base after the war but is now a police training camp.
- The Prisoner camp was in use for 12 years during the war before then became a refugee camp.
- Dachau held prisoners from 34 different countries with most coming from Poland.
- Dachau site became a memorial space in 1965.
- First phase of Dachau prisoner camp was from 1933-1941: Prisoners had to carry stones, make uniform, belts and roads. They also built houses and were cooks and gardeners for SS staff.
- Second phase of camp was from From 1942: SS tried to turn camp into sub camps for helping with the war industry by, for exapmle, making engines for war planes.
- Extermination camps were only in Eastern Europe.
- Other camps: Prisoners died from being worked to death.
- Dachau: housed only males prisoners.
- More than 41,000 prisoners died at Dachau.
- Tattoos: only used on prisoners in Auschwitz.
- Early phase of Dachau was dominated by political prisoners. Then, beggars and ‘asocials’ came in 1933. Jehovah Witness, homosexuals and professionals criminals came in 1935. Then, in 1938, 11,000 Jewish prisoners arrived following Kristallnacht.
- Only 1/4 of Dachau prisoners were Jewish.
- First crematorium 1940. 1500 deaths that year. The second was built in 1941.
- Gas chamber section of crematorium only used on about a dozen people.
- 15,000 died in final months from typhus and lack of food.
- The US liberated Dachau on 29 April 1945.
Our tour group arrived back in Munich by about 3 pm and so we thought we should at least check out Oktoberfest before our departure. We head to Strasbourg early tomorrow morning. Mark had a beer in the Paulaner Tent for 11.70 euro per stein! Our visit didn’t last long as it was really much like the Easter Show but focused on beer. The crowds were pouring in as we left and the most note-worthy comment is how many people attend in traditional dress. Not just tourists but locals, young and old. It is really quite remarkable.