This morning we took a bus to Dachau, a concentration camp from World War II. The visit was quite interesting and rather surreal. To start, the town of Dachau surrounding the POW camp was surprisingly nice. I didn’t realize that concentration camps were located within populated areas; I thought that they were placed in completely barren sites. Inside the grounds of the camp, I saw some of what I was expecting, and some things I didn’t imagine would be there. The area around the barracks and cafeteria were as I expected; gravel roads, and long, uncomfortable living standards. The area around the crematorium and the gas chambers was what took me by surprise. Around these structures were plants and trees that actually made the area somewhat visually appealing. We had the ability to walk through the gas chambers, death rooms, a barrack, and torture structures from the war. Being inside all of these buildings, as well as standing on “death row” was extremely powerful. Dachau was not an extermination camp but the number of deaths there was still astonishing.
A few of my family members were actually imprisoned at Dachau which made this experience all the more realistic. I have a new level of understanding of the conditions that the prisoners suffered. Words and pictures in textbooks explained life in a concentration camp in great detail, but there is no match for the understanding I have now from just stepping foot on the actual grounds. While this experience was surreal and not fun like our other adventures here in Germany, it was invaluable and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to experience it.