By: Nicholas Erni May 12th
Today began like any other day. Wake up eat breakfast and leave @ 8:00 am. Just like every other day it was rainy, but today was colder than the others, quite fitting for our upcoming visit. We were visiting Dachau.
Dachau is one of the concentration camps that was set up by the Nazis in 1932 when they staged a take over of Germany with Hitler as the dictator. Hitler felt as if he wanted Germany to represent the ideal race, which was the so called “Arian Race”. Any person that did not fit his mold and or fought against him in any manner was executed. The main form of execution in this time was the concentration camps that were scattered across Germany and Poland. Dachau was one of the main camps in Germany.
When we got to Dachau we were greeted by our tour guide. We walked outside up to the gates were the entirety of the group felt the shivers not only due to the cold but also due to the strong emotions one could feel as they could only try to imagine what it would feel like walking into the camp as an actual prisoner. Over 200,000 prisoners came through the gates we walked through and saw the sign which read, “work will set you free”. In reality this was untrue, the camp was designed to work you to death, the only true way of getting out was to work until you died and your soul “became free”. 40,000 people never made it out of the camp, and many others were shipped around the region where they likely lost their lives like 17 million others did throughout the course of world war 2.
The tour lasted around two hours. Our group went through nearly every type of building they had on the premise. The first was the registration room, this is where the prisoners first came when they entered the camp. Dehumanization truly started here when they were given a number they would most likely go by for the rest of their lives in the camp. They were stripped of their belongings and clothes here, given haircuts and showered. From here they were sent to the barracks where they slept. Seeing these in person was a shock. 4 people were kept in a tiny bed with one blanket and one pillow, that was only the beginning of the mistreatment. We then went and looked at the chapel that was built for those who wished to pray on the site.
From the chapel we went to the security zone. Our guide stated that there was 7 watch towers that were constantly armed with 2 men and machine guns. That was only the first layer. After that was a ditch, electrical barb wire, dogs, a river and then the wall. Over the 12 years the camp was operating, only one man escaped and that was in 1933. That showed this camp was nearly unescapable.
We then walked through the security zone and to the saddest part of the tour, the gas chamber and crematorium. This is where the bodies were primarily taken to be disposed of once people died due to the fact the nazis didn’t want to leave a trace behind. I don’t have much more to say on Dachau I believe the short descriptions I have should speak for themselves. I also felt taking pictures would have been disrespectful as the site is regarded as a large cemetery, so please excuse that as well.
Overall Dachau was a very sad but educational trip. It definitely put the group and myself in a mellow mood for the rest of the day, as I am just in my room writing this @ 5:50pm and not doing anything else.
As I don’t think I will be doing much more tonight other than going to Mcdonalds for dinner, I thought it would be a good time to do some reflecting over my first week and one day in Germany. I honestly feel that I have learned an incredible amount about the culture. One thing that has began to stick out to me is how up front everyone is. No one will hold back on their honest opinions of something and they often let you know if your doing something incorrectly. I find this different from American culture because people often times keep things to themselves in order to not hurt other’s feelings or things along those lines. Americans just don’t enjoy conflict too much I guess. Also I’ve seen how educated Germans are on world topics. They know an extremely large amount about U.S. politics and government which really impressed me because I don’t know much about German politics or politics in general. But most importantly, I’ve noticed how the Germans students are like us. They all enjoy the same shows, humor, and activities we do and we live thousands of miles away.
These first 8 days have been amazing, I will most definitely make the most of the upcoming 6 days and take as much as possible away from the trip.