As you may have seen over the last few weeks, we spent part of the month of May in Europe. One of the areas we stayed in the most was Munich, Germany. While there, we felt like we had to go and visit Dachau Concentration Camp. We had heard so much about it in history class, and in the media, but had to see what it was all about. Of course, we also planned a visit to Hofbrauhuas knowing we would need a happier evening. We were definitely right on that assessment.
I don’t think I will say much on the history of the camp and what happened there during WWII. I think most everyone knows at least some of the basics. If not, here is a link to a website with some history. I mostly want to focus on what we saw while there and what we thought.
When we first got to Dachau, the first thing I noticed was the large wall all around the camp. It was large, but still a little smaller than I thought it would be. We made it inside and stopped into the visitors' center. They suggested we go into the main building and watch a short film on the history of the camp. It was a good suggestion, but I couldn’t help feeling like I was back in school, lol.
After the film was over we walked around the large building checking out the many displays and exhibits. I learned a lot that I did not know or learn in school. It was much more than sad. It was sickening. I can't think of another word for it. I couldn't stop thinking about what I would have felt if one of those "prisoners" was someone I loved.
We left the main building and made our way to the other end of the complex. This is where they had several memorials and chapels. The biggest ones were the Protestant Church of Reconciliation, the Jewish Memorial, and the Catholic Mortal Agony of Christ Chapel. I stood there for a long time thinking about all those poor people and prayed that they found some peace.
On the way back toward the main building is the roll call area and the barracks. They are reconstructions, but give you a sense of their confinement. Dachau was initially planned to hold 6,000 prisoners, but more than 30,000 were imprisoned before the camp was eventually liberated by American troops on April 29, 1945.
One other note about the camps that you probably didn’t learn in school was the liberation of inmates from sub-camps by the 522 Field Artillery Battalion. What made this interesting was that this was that my husband Gene’s dad’s unit. Crazy huh? We found out there is a memorial to the unit about 50 kilometers south of Munich. One day on our way to Salzburg, we found it and took a few pictures of Gene with the memorial. It was a nice way to remember our trip, which made the memories a little less depressing.
I can't say I enjoyed our visit to Dachau, because I didn't. It made me sad, sick and confused, but it also put things in perspective. It made all the little petty things, just that. I can say that I am happy to have been there to have a better understanding then what I did from just reading it in books and watching film strips in school. If you would like more information regarding hours and such, please check out their website. It is free, but there is a small charge for parking.
I will end by restating what I said earlier, I pray that all those affected found peace one way or the other. No one should ever have been treated that way. May we never forgot what happened there so that history will NEVER repeat itself.