Visiting the Dachau memorial isn’t fun. There is little happiness to be felt and it is a depressing place to be in, often uncomfortable and at times, even chilling. Its serene and almost surreal atmosphere decades after liberation presenting a macabre contrast to the immeasurable atrocities committed within its walls.
A visit to Dachau is personal and is something that stays with you. Yet, through these heavy-hearted emotions, it is also an important place to visit, to not just bring to reality the horrors one can only ever read about in history textbooks but also to present a message for future generations to never allow such evils to permeate society ever again.
The morning I visited, the entire compound was covered under a ghostly layer of fog, further adding to the already sombre atmosphere of the memorial grounds. It was also cold and near-freezing, with icy droplets of rain lightly pelting down onto the gravel.
Over its twelve years of operation, over 200,000 people walked into the Dachau concentration camp, many of them did not walk out. This longest operating concentration camp also served as the prototype for all future concentration camps to follow. Initially meant to house political prisoners, the imprisonment of Jews, Romani, German and Austrian criminals eventually followed and, finally, with institutionalized racial discrimination, the systematic internment of foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded.
“Arbeit Macht Frei”, or in English, “Work shall set you free”. A massive lie.
Sadly, nothing could set you free here. Even if such a thing was promised to you.
These remains once housed living quarters, medical barracks and also, barracks for human medical experiments. It is all quiet now, with only the sound of the wind, the gentle rustling of the trees and the occasional crunching of gravel from visitors disturbing the unnerving yet peaceful tranquillity of the grounds.
This is what you think it is. And no, no one gets to compare wearing a mask or getting a vaccine to something like this.
Disguised as a “shower bath”, this is the gas chamber. It is almost beyond words how it felt to be inside as visitors from the future trying to have a glimpse into the past of what was a horrific reality to many innocents who had their life taken away from them.
“The crematorium can hardly cope with the heaps of corpses laden stark naked like logs on carts, which resemble dung carts, and driven through the gate to be thrown to the embers without a prayer and chiming bells. Even the barbarians were not guilty of displaying such disrespect to the dead.”
– Contemporary witness account of the conditions prevailing in “barrack X” in January 1945; Karl Adolf Gross, prisoner in the Dachau concentration camp 1940–1945
Between 1933 and 1945, around 41,500 persons died of hunger, exhaustion, and disease, the direct result of being tortured, or were brutally murdered in the Dachau concentration camp and its subcamps.
Never forget and never again should it be allowed to happen.
And with that, I bade Dachau a sad goodbye and quietly made my way back into the City.