Having both read biographies and historical recounts about the Holocaust and life in the concentration camps, we wanted to see a camp in person. It was a chance to put together some facts and details and attempt comprehension. Initially we had wanted to see Auschwitz but since it is actually in Poland (not Germany as we initially assumed), this was the next best option.
We spent a few hours reflecting on the atrocities committed at camps like this, and the sheer scale of it all.
This was the first concentration camp built and the only one which remained during the entire Nazi regime (12 years). It was a prison to 200,000 people and where 40,000 were murdered. This is but a small fraction of the victims who were held in concentration camps or who died as a result of this during the second world war. The survivors of the Dachau camp were liberated by American troops in April, 1945.
The first thing we did was go into the museum where there was a comprehensive collection of artifacts, images and information. Some things were ones we’d seen in Berlin, and many images were horrible and graphic. After an hour it was too much to take in, we felt fatigued and “numb.”
So we left the confines of the museum (the building prisoners were first brought to for processing) and walked the grounds.
It was chilling and strange, but the feeling of comprehension never came.
Perhaps it was the dozens of school groups being marched around, spoken at (while most students barely listened) and walked through the gas chamber like it was just another thing to tick off.
Or maybe it was the information overload, the exposure to numerous Jewish memorial sites before this one and the bright, sunny day.
Whatever it was, our minds and feelings seemed disconnected.
Note: there are images below that may be confronting.
Crematorium flanked by “body storage rooms”
The Gas chamber
Barracks – the only one left standing