Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dachau Concentration Camp, Friday, August 3, 2012

We picked up a car in Munich Thursday night – A BMW 320 diesel sport model that was a two car upgrade (at least) over what we booked. It is pretty nice and has all the bells and whistles. It took a while just to figure out how to adjust the seat and start it. It has a built in GPS, but it did not find the address for our hotel that was supposed to be close to the airport. We also brought a GPS and fortunately it had the address and we made. We sort of use both and compare notes.

We left Friday morning with an end destination of Salzburg, Austria which is not that far from Munich. We debated trying to catch the Dachau Concentration Camp on our way back, but in the end went straight there and arrive just after the area opened at 9:00 AM. This was a good decision and while I won’t say this was the most enjoyable experience, it will remain one of the most memorable and among the most important. Dachau was the first concentration camp and became the model for all others including design, discipline, sub-camps and so on. The official records show more than 200,000 interred there with 30,000+ deaths beginning in 1933. The deaths were from disease, exposure, starvation, medical experimentation, and random and systematic executions. It was not set up initially as an extermination camp, but in the building of a second crematorium to keep up with the deaths, they built a gas chamber as in Auschwitz and elsewhere. While the war ended before it was systematically put in use, it was used on a small scale.

There were some 34 barracks for the prisoners. Each was designed to hold 200 people. At the height of the war, each had 2,000 people and there were probably about 1,700 in each when liberated, many of whom were too sick to come out and many others who had already died.

It is difficult to describe the experience here. Lest anyone ever wonder if there is good and evil, this site clearly establishes evil. The photos, displays, words and sketches describe that which was horrific. The quotes from the liberators were amazing. The descriptions where those that came in needed time to compose themselves because there was not preparation for what they would see were poignant. Eisenhower got it right when he systematically had troops near any of the concentration camps that were liberated come in so they could see firsthand and be witnesses in case people in the future tried to deny the existence of these atrocities.

When we arrived, there were few people and I was worried that it was becoming forgotten, but as we were leaving, there were throngs coming in. We have posted some pictures, but have left some out. The picture of the outside of crematorium is the same site of where pictures have shown bodies stacked nearly half the length of it and to almost the height of the windows. The liberators were from the US 7th Army. Not only did we see plaques and monuments to the US liberators here, but in other sites as well. It was an amazing work that was done. We were glad to have come and glad to have left.

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