Friday, May 28, 2010

Dachau Concentration Camp, Dachau, Germany

Famous inscription at the entrance gate to the concentration camp.

Long hallway in the prison cells. In some of these cells, 70 people were made to stand in a room built for 20 for days on end. A hot meal was given once every fourth day.

Execution wall. This was sobering for me to see.

Bronze statue depicting some of the suffering.

I was amazed at the size of this concentration camp. It is said that some 216,000 were imprisoned here during the years of 1933 until May 1, 1945. At least 31,000 were recorded as having died here. At the beginning and end of each and every day throughout those years, mandatory roll call was taken in this big, open area. They were made to stand here for an hour or more. Often fellow prisoners carried out those who were too weak to walk any longer for this inhumane exercise. The guards would make "examples" of those that were near death.

Sculpture representing men mixed with barbed wire.

Those who could work in the factories on the property (making ammunition, clothing, porcelain, etc.) lived in housing. There were at least 58 very long barracks. This is the typical bed arrangement - 3 levels high, perhaps 12 to 15 beds long in one of the "bedrooms." The eating area was very basic, as were the rooms with toilets and washing troughs. For meals, one was lucky to get a plateful of nearly clear soup, and then expected to work 12 or more hours that day. They became people of thin skin stretched over bones. Many died when disease took over due to filthy living conditions. There are three large monuments honoring many who died there: a Jewish, a Catholic, and a Lutheran.

One day they might be led to what they believed to be a room with showers, but was actually a gas chamber. After they were gassed to death, their bodies may be put in one of these crematoriums. Many hundreds of others were loaded onto carts and buried in deep pits out in the country.

Hans and I chose to do the self-guided tour, since many of the areas had English descriptions. We also watched a 20 minute movie in English, which showed footage of Hitler when he came into power, of actual prisoners and many aspects of the concentration camp, including the time when the prisoners were set free in 1945. The movie made quite an impact on me.

On my way to Dachau, and while we were there at the concentration camp, my mind kept going to Corrie ten Boom of The Netherlands, who was imprisoned at Ravensbruck, Germany, for commiting the "crime" of hiding Jews in her home in 1944. Her story is told in the book and movie The Hiding Place. She and her sister Betsie were taken there in a cattle car, separated from their father and brother, both of whom they never saw again. Betsie would later die in the camp. One of the lines I remember Corrie saying is, "No pit is so deep, that God's love is not deeper still." Corrie survived that camp, and later in her life, she went on to forgive one of the guards that came into contact with her after she moved to the United States.
I've been privileged to have visited Germany on six occasions. I could have passed up seeing anything so depressing and sad as this, but I felt the need to witness part of the history that took place here. Thank you for taking time to drive me to Dachau today, Hans.

No comments: