Day 8: Dachau

I got out of bed at 8:40 am to “Never Gonna Give You Up”, went to breakfast and waited for everyone to get ready. We hopped on a bus and headed to Dachau not fully knowing what to expect. It was a rainy morning which added to the already somber mood as we arrived at Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp . We were given a tour and learned of facts that set the tone for the entire journey. Dachau was the first concentration camp opened in 1933, and accumulated over 200,000 prisoners in the 12 year span it was open. In 1945, the population peaked at a little over 30,000. There was not much variety in terms of the prisoners there: 25% Jewish, 50% political personal, then another 25% Jehovah Witness. These were people who didn’t work, human rights activists, and troublesome kids in school. In prison you were just a number, and that’s it. You did not have a name, there was no privilege of being unique. If you didn’t know your number, you were quickly punished. If you didn’t know German, you quickly learned 

The beds are small, the buildings are cold and the rules/punishment are harsh and unfair. If you’re standing in line and you moved a little or disobeyed a direct order, the punishment you would get would be absurdly extreme for no reason. Some examples are standing for hours on end, 25 lashes on your body with you counting each one out loud, and having your hands tied behind your back and hanging from a tree. Your shoulder would give out and dislocate itself, causing you to be hanging from your ligaments.

We saw the beds they used to sleep in and how 4 people would have to cram into 1 bed each night. The average weight for a prisoner was 80 lbs or 40 kg which is disturbing to hear how beat up someone could become. Photos showing what the prisoners looked like showed emaciated skeletons looking broken after all the torment they have been through. We learned about a man whose button fell off his uniform, and he tried to hide it by putting it in his pocket. He was hoping no one would see it, but of course someone did. He was punished for two things. One was not having a proper uniform, and the second was having something in his pocket. His arms were chained behind his back and hung over metal barrels for one hour.

This is a story of a guard grabbing a prisoner’s cap and throwing it into a pit near the wall. The guard tells the prisoner to grab the hat. If the prisoner decides not to grab the hat, it is directly disobeying the guard’s orders, and the prisoner is killed on site. On the other hand, if he decides to grab the cap, that is viewed as trying to break out, and the prisoner is immediately killed by the snipers up in their towers. The guards did this just to amuse themselves, toying with the lives of innocent people.

The heads of new prisoners were shaved so the guards knew who to antagonize to show who’s boss. If people in the cities didn’t like their neighbors, they could find a secret “polize” man and tell them their neighbors hate Nazis. The next day, their neighbors would be nowhere to be seen for the foreseeable future. We saw the symbols given to each prisoner to designate who they were. This meant if they were Jewish, political affiliation, how long they have been there, etc. Sometimes there were big black dots as a part of the symbols that were used as target to aim at. The symbols would be right above or on your heart.

When you arrived to Dachau, if you were above the age of 50, were a mother of young children, were disabled, or anything remotely impairing, you were sent immediately to extermination upon arrival. They had gas chambers disguised as showers ready for your demise. They did not like people of high status, or those who were Intelligent, such as doctors or lawyers. They enjoyed giving the more knowledgeable people the hardest jobs. You were better off with lying about your occupation when arriving into Dachau. 

Overall, around 42,000 people were killed in Dachau, 179 tried to escape, and only one succeeded. Today Dachau is a still open for those to see and learn a small portion of what happened during those cruel years. It has over 1,000 employees and between 800,000-1,000,000 visitors come every year. It is used as a reminder to show what can happen if we lose control or if a devilish person is in command. We need to reflect on this terrible moment in history, and make sure this never happens again. I am in awe of what everyone of those poor prisoners had to go through. My condolences go out to anyone who lost a family member and experienced this awful discrimination. If you ever have an opportunity, I strongly recommend seeing this for yourself

I did not feel that it was appropriate to post any photos due to the somber nature of the visit.

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