Today’s blog post is about a topic much more serious and sadder than the others, and that is the Holocaust. This morning, we visited the concentration camp memorial site at Dachau, which is a suburb of Munich. Reflecting on this experience, it’s very hard to find the right words to say and to think about it, so this post might be shorter than the rest.
Once we arrived, we met our tour guide and she introduced us to a brief history of Dachau and overview of its layout. At this point, we were outside of the visitor’s center, so I had not seen anything yet and expected to hear every piece of information that I did. However, when we walked through the gates into the central area, I began to feel overwhelmed. Here, I saw a massive, open gravel area that we were told was where the prisoners were forced to line up for role calls. In this area, there were also two replica barracks representing the real ones where the prisoners slept and ate. The rest had to be demolished due to their structures being highly unstable, but their foundations still remain. Also, the old maintenance building is situated on the other side of the gravel area and now serves as the memorial museum.
While walking along the side of the central area, we saw the watchtowers, trenches, and tall fences with lots of barbed wire that the Nazis used to prevent prisoners from escaping. After this, we made our way out of the central area to the old and new crematoriums. Walking throughout the new crematorium was by far the hardest part of this visit for me. There are certain details that I read on signs but do not want to share. Also, there are certain sites that were hard to see, including the incinerators themselves and a gas chamber. I’m not really sure what else to say on the topic.
We then made our way back into the central area and entered the replica barracks that the prisoners were forced to sleep in. Inside these barracks, there were three levels of beds in each room, and all beds were tiny and squished together. On the second and third levels, to get into a bed in the middle, prisoners would have to crawl over each other. These barracks also exhibited the bathrooms that the prisoners used during their time at Dachau. There was absolutely no cleanliness or privacy, and we were told that the SS soldiers used this opportunity to humiliate prisoners in front of each other.
After the end of the tour, we walked through the memorial museum. This museum and the Holocaust Museum in Washington are by far the most depressing museums I have ever visited. However, I feel that those museums and Dachau itself (or any concentration camp) are experiences that everyone needs to have at some point in their life. While you are never going to understand the true despair and pain of the Holocaust if you didn’t experience it, you cannot put your best effort at understanding without seeing the camps in person. It’s truly devastating to be in the place where thousands upon thousands of innocent people were brutally abused and killed, but we owe it to history and to the world to try to understand and to safeguard the future from any similar situation.