A Humbling Experience at Dachau (Day 9)

May 12th, 2019

Today was a heavy day. We woke up to cold, rainy weather for our trip to Dachau. I had a small breakfast and made sure to pack a snack for after the tour.

The bus ride lasted about an hour. I am still in awe of the scenes we are seeing from the bus on our trips. I think I was closer to a wind turbine today than I ever have been before. You don’t really appreciate their size until you get close to them.

Cool Wind Turbine from the Ride this Morning

We arrived at the Dachau concentration camp around 10:00. The welcome center was rather simple with none of the commercialism we saw in Munich yesterday, which I suppose is appropriate for the topic for today.

We began our tour with a general overview of the Dachau concentration camp. Over 250,000 people spent time imprisoned at Dachau. We saw the famous gate with the saying “Arbeit Macht Frei”, which translates to “work will set you free”. We learned that this was not the case for most imprisoned at Dachau, as less than 5% of those imprisoned at Dachau were freed. 

The first stop on the tour was the main building where the prisoners showered, and frequently were tortured. We heard several disturbing stories about cases of prisoner torture for the most miniscule infractions. We saw artifacts that prisoners were relieved of when they were first imprisoned. Outside of the building, a line of trees bordered the barracks and the walkway between them, giving the area an almost pretty aesthetic, had we not been aware of the suffering that occurred here years ago.

Our tour then continued to a reconstruction of two of the barracks that the prisoners lived in. The other barracks had long since been demolished. This experience was eye-opening. The cold and rainy weather meant that the barracks were freezing, even with our jeans and hoodies. I could not fathom how the starved and emaciated prisoners at Dachau could survive these conditions while basically wearing a bedsheet for weeks at a time in all types of weather conditions.

Reconstruction of Barracks at Dachau

We then saw the most horrifying part of the camp, the crematorium and gas chamber. Along the way, we learned about the security at Dachau. Over its twelve years of operation, only one man escaped. After arriving at the crematorium, we learned that the gas chamber at Dachau was never used, but so many prisoners died and were cremated regardless. I was reluctant to, but I entered the gas chamber so that I could experience what it would have been like at the time. It was a truly humbling experience, because had I been in the same place at a different time, I likely would have lost my life as nearly 12 million others did during World War 2.

Memorial Outside of the Administration Building at Dachau

After this, we returned to the main building at the camp to conclude our tour. After exploring for ten minutes more, our group boarded the bus and departed back to the hotel. We were all freezing cold, but the faculty generously provided us with sandwiches and pretzels, which really hit the spot. On the way home, I saw the car of the day, an orange Lamborghini Huracan, which unfortunately is not pictured because I could not get a picture of it as it flew down the autobahn.

When we returned, we had a good talk as a group about the WWII time period and the German perception and attitude toward that portion of their history. Even though the experience was very sobering, I think it was very important that our group visit Dachau to understand the suffering that those in the concentration camps endured.

Tomorrow, we will visit SGL, a manufacturer of carbon fiber. That will be really cool to see since it is used in so many sports cars and components of sports cars.

Leave a Reply