Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, Dachau, Germany

Entrance into the Dachau Concentration Camp

Entrance into the Dachau Concentration Camp

A lot of people avoid visiting German concentration camps because the very thought of being in a place where such misery, torture and murder took place is unpleasant. Even so, 700,000 people still visit this camp every year, walking around the grounds with audio guide and map.

Dachau Camp will give you a deeper understanding of what Hitler’s Fascist state was all about. The inhuman depths the Nazis went to in order to control the population become clear here.

Visitors will walk through the iron gates where the infamous “Arbeicht Macht Frei” sign still stands to enter the large museum. A comprehensive, chronologically sequenced series of hundreds of reader boards, signed in German and English, tell the history of the camp. Dachau was the first such camp in Germany and therefore became a model for the dozens that followed.

Other reader boards give prisoner’s biographies, the terror and resistance, death in the camps, slave labor for the armaments industry, experiments on humans (shocking, so be forewarned), the liberation of the camp by American forces and the post-war trials. An excellent 22-minute film alternating in English and German tells this history of the camp.

Next to the main museum building is “the bunker” where special prisoners were kept, tortured and interrogated; executions were carried out in the courtyard. Outside at the barracks, reconstructed bunks show where the prisoners were crowded three to a single berth. The tour continues along the center of the camp past the foundations of the barracks to the religious memorials.

The Torture sculpture near the main entrance symbolizes the depravation and deaths that occured at Dachau.

The Torture sculpture near the main entrance symbolizes the depravation and deaths that occured at Dachau.

The Christian and Jewish religious memorials are deeply emotive. The crematorium, still in original condition, is the next stop. Looking up at the long wooden beam that stands in front of the cremation ovens are rope eyelets for the hanging ropes. Exiting the crematorium grounds, visitors will see a Russian Orthodox Church near the bridge.

It’s a wonder how all this could be allowed to happen.

Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site (KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau, Alte Römerstraße 75, D – 85221 Dachau; phone +49 (0) 8131 / 66 99 70; www.kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de) can be reached by car or public transportation (20 minutes by train ride from Munich to the Dachau station plus 10 minutes by bus to the memorial site).

The site is open daily, except for Mondays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the site, the film showings and the various exhibitions on the grounds are free of charge. Allow at least two hours.