On this trip there were several things that I wanted to experience and one of them was a concentration camp. I did not want to see it because I thought it would be cool or exciting, Good God NO! , but I wanted to see it because I knew I needed to. Does that make sense? I needed to try to sympathize with the horrible plight these innocent individuals suffered. I needed to be in the place that long ago held that horror. I needed to experience that in the form of a memorial.
Dachau was the first concentration camp. It was built by prisoners in 1933 and over the years eventually became a work camp where the Nazi’s sent the Jews, Homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, POW’S and even Catholic Priests. It was built to hold 6,000 people but towards the end of the war was holding over 30,000. It was a place where those that entered never left. (Despite the sign word on the front gate that translated into “Work Brings Freedom”). Being sent to Dachau meant suffering until you died. It meant being starved and beaten and being forced to live and work in horrid disease infested surroundings. It was literally hell on earth.
As if seeing the Barracks, the Maintainence building (where everyone was processed) and the documentary film were not enough, words can’t express the sorrow and rage I felt when standing ouside the Crematorium (Barrack X). It was all very systematic so as to not instill fear. The first room was the undressing room and this then lead to the “Showers/ Brausebad in German” (the gas chamber). The room next to that was where they hauled the dead in preparation for taking them to the nest room which was where the incinerators were. There were four large incinerators and all could burn 2-3 corpses at once. They said that the gas chamber was never used at Dachau, for unknown reasons, and that most individulas were shot or worked to death. The poor individuals that were to be sent to the “showers” were sent to other camps known as extermination camps (i.e. Auschwitz/Birkennau in Poland).
My mood was somber today, and actually a bit bitchy. I did not know that Dachau would move me as much as it did. I wish that we as individuls could learn from our mistakes, try to move on, and do everything we could so this never happened again. But as I write this, I am reminded that these human atrocities of genocide still go on (i.e. Rwanda, Cambodia, etc.), and for that I am truly ashamed.