Saturday, November 13, 2010



A couple of weekends ago, we met up with my girls from Vilseck in Munich to go visit Dochau concentration camp. The entire experience was at the very least incredibly sad. We went on a tour that took us from Munich to Dochau. One of the very many things that shocked me about this place was that Dochau is a city. It's an actual place people live and do things in. Weird. Even more weird, it was a city a long time before there was a concentration camp there. I feel like it's really odd that it still is a town. The concentration camp site is probably about a mile and a half from the city center.

Our tour guide was extremely informative and knew a lot about the history of the place. Dochau was the very first concentration camp to be opened under Nazi rule. All the other concentration camps were modeled after Dochau. It was so sad to see all the ways that the gestapo de-humanized the people that came into any concentration camp. It was unreal.To hear these stories and actually physically see things that killed and tortured people seemed unimaginable. One of my girls that came with had 2 grandparents that survived 3 separate concentration camps {including Auschwitz} during the Holocaust. With all the knowledge and stories she's had from her grandparents, this day trip was especially hard for her. It was interesting to realize how little we were all talking to anybody. We're usually a chatty bunch of "loud" American girls. But walking around anywhere on the site I think we were all just shocked. It was eerie to think that where I was standing, or walking someone may have died not too long ago.Especially walking through the crematory. A few pictures of my experience here:

This is the 'new' crematory. This one had 5 working ovens to dispose of bodies. Originially, Dochau was equipped with the 'old' crematory that had 2 ovens. The gestapo was unsatisfied with their death quota per month, they wanted a bigger crematory so their numbers could be higher. The new one was called: Barrack X because the people would walk through the rooms in the crematory in a path resembling an x. They would first undress, then go into 'shower' rooms, before their bodies were burned.
This is the front gate of Dochau where the prisoners would enter. On the front of the gate it says: Arbeit macht frei. This literally translates to 'work makes free' or in a way that makes more sense in English: 'work will set you free'. It was pressed upon the prisoners that the harder they worked, the sooner they would be released back into society. Funny thing was, the harder they really worked, the weaker they were physically. Which made them more of a target to be murdered.
As soon as the prisoner's entered Dochau, the first stage of de-humanizing them was 'renaming' them. They literally took away their names and gave them numbers instead. Anything and everything that they came in with was seized. Absolutely everything. Birth certificates, clothes, jewelery, wedding bands, family photos. This is part of what was taken away from people.
This is part of the prisoner's barracks. They went through 4 stages {I think...} and this was the final stage of what the 'beds' looked like. Practically a big wooden box that was meant to fit 250 people. With the people being as skinny as they were, they could fit more than 2,000 people in them.
This is about 1/2 of the cells where the prisoners who got 'specialized treatments' were. These prisoners were ones who were being punished even more or they were part of the church or even the government opposing the Nazi rule. Two of the most incredibly unreal things I learned they did here. One: They would put people in pitch black rooms for months at a time, getting a meal every fourth day. When the were released back with the rest of the prisoners, they were simply thrown in midday in the middle of the camp to find their own way. Obviously they could not see a thing. And I thought it was hard turning on my bedroom light on in the morning. Two: They had a room people would go in for FOUR days. All they would do is stand. The room was so small they couldn't do anything else. No food, sitting, or bathroom.
Sometimes people would jump on the electric fence surrounding the camp to kill themselves or they'd be thrown on there. The guards would not remove them them for a few days as a constant reminder to the other prisoners. This is a statue/memorial of those lives.

United States troops liberated Dochau in 1945. This is a photo of the celebrating people in the camp after seeing United States troops take over Gestapo posts. Yay USA :)
Although I am incredibly grateful for this experience and I learned a great deal; I do not plan on visiting a site like this again. I hated the feeling I had while walking around and being there. It was eye-opening, but I don't think I could handle it again. It is unimaginable what people did {thinking they were right and protecting German culture} and what people went through during the Nazi rule.


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