Dachau Concentration Camp, GermanyAfter the Reichstag fire and the National Socialist (Nazi) party winning the chancellorship and taking over a large part of the government, Dachau was created in March 1933 from an old Munitions plant. Using the fire as an excuse to basically declare a dictatorship, the camp was built to hold anyone who didn't toe the line of the Nazi regime. Political dissidents , educational proponents, religious figures, anyone who said something against the Nazis were targets and potentially the latest prisoners of the new compound. The newspapers would proudly boast of enemies of the State being shipped off to Dachau.
The SS took control in April, and things got significantly worse for the prisoners. People who were referred to as "Undesirables" were cremated by the hundreds of thousands over the 12 years the camp was in operation. In the early days, many were worked in the factories, but after 1938, it was almost a guaranteed death sentence to be at Dachau. As the war progressed, it moved more to an extermination camp focusing on Jewish and Russian communists in addition to the previous political and religious leaders. It was a very harsh place indeed.
The ArrivalDriving up from Munich, I missed the turn to the parking and drove by the open fence that allows you to see into the camp, just like you could during its operation. People were forced to put on a show of "being rehabilitated" for those passing by to see. The well-kept grounds were a bit strange to see. It was too nice, but I guess that was the plan to make it look civilized to people out side of the walls. After two years, word got out and people all over Germany knew to keep their mouths shut to avoid it.
I turned around and drove back to park at the lot for the camp. You walk across a town road, then down a path to a guide center. It all seems rather innocuous and disarming, until you come to a T intersection, with an old train platform and a section of railroad tracks. This was the original offloading point, and a straight shot to the east for the camp's main entrance. It's a little more imposing and prison-like here, but given our distance from the events, and the beautiful summer day, didn't impose a sense of foreboding.
We walked down to the entrance, through the main gates, and onto the grounds.
The GroundsThe main grounds were for the storage and display of prisoners. They had to maintain the gardens and grounds in pristine condition, be out at 6am every day, and generally appear in good spirits while being forced to work in the attached munitions factories, reeducated, or killed.
The Darkest PartAt the north end are many more memorials to different populations targeted and eliminated here. It's also the entrance to the crematoriums. No escaping the reality of what went on here.
SummaryThere is no sugarcoating it, this place is dark. Built for evil, control and fear. Historically very important, and it has a lot of information you are probably not aware of on the breadth of the concentration system and practices.
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." -George Santayana