Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lest We Forget.... Dachau Concentration Camp, July 12, 2009

If we forget history... It will be repeated.

Note: Much of the information here comes from the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. I highly recommend it.

Dachau Concentration Camp was the first established by Hitler, shortly after his appointment as Reich Chancellor in 1933. It served as a model for all later concentration camps and a training ground for SS men.

In the twelve years of its existence, over 200,000 persons from all over Europe were imprisoned there and in the numerous subsidiary camps. 41,500 were murdered. On April 29, 1945, American troops liberated the survivors.

The main entrance and exit to the camp for prisoners was the Jourhaus. Prisoners passed through an iron rod gate with the inscription "Work Makes You Free"

The motto reflected the Nazi propaganda meant to trivialize the concentration camp for outsiders as a "labor and re-education" camp.

The building now houses a model of the camp:

Prisoners were stripped (literally) of all their belongings and issued prison clothes and numbers. They were referred to only as their numbers, stripping them of all individuality. They were then sent off to the prison baths, which were also used as a punishment chamber. Hooks can be seen on the pillars that divide the room. These were used for pole hangings - to punish prisoners.

Prisoners built the barracks where they also lived. There were 34 barrack buildings, housing more than 30,000 people by the time the camp was liberated. The camp was originally built to hold 6,000, but was overfilled from the onset.

Prisoners slept in rows of bunk beds.

Behind me, you can see the foundations of the barracks buildings (the ones we toured had been reconstructed). They were not that big. It's mind-boggling to think they housed more than 30,000 people.

And finally, the crematorium - the original building still stands. This area served as an execution site as well as the crematorium.

As my friend comments, I am smiling because the Nazis lost. Light triumphed over darkness. Evil will never win.

Visitors to the camp will see a memorial that was designed by one of the survivors of the camp. On the memorial is inscribed:

"May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 and 1945 because of their fight against National Socialism unite the living in their defense of peace and freedom and in reverence of human dignity."

We live in a world that wants to re-write history, forget the past, pretend that humans are basically good. If we forget, if we buy in to the sanitized version of our past, we will repeat it. We must not let that happen. We need to teach our children, and our children's children what happened here and why.

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