The pictures posted in this entry aren’t meant to be strikingly beautiful and motivating.
No one chooses to go to a concentration camp for entertainment but more for the need to experience history. Or at least that is how we looked at it. We were seriously lucky with our tour guide, his name was Marcin Wright, and he owns a local Munich tour agency. Check him out here! We had no idea ahead of time that we were getting a personal tour, but when we showed up at 10:30am he was still advertising in the middle of Marienplatz for more customers. Ultimately no one else showed.
Getting an uplanned personal tour though? We totally scored on that, it absolutely made a world of difference and so much more personal.
From Marienplatz, Marcin, our guide, just had us hop on the metro for a 20 minute ride to Dachau. Again with it just being us, we got to snack on the train and basically start our tour there. He would point out important places on the ride which set the stage for when we arrived at Dachau.
Marcin was very thorough. He was patient with us when we wanted to pause. You could tell by the way he spoke that he really enjoyed what he was doing and took great care in teaching us.
We start with walking down the side of the property. We take a grass way, unlike the paved ways that I would assume most take. Marcin wanted us to get the real feel of going into the camp like the prisoners did.
On our left was the above white building, an original SS training building including an office for Heinrich Himmler.
Today the building is still a topic of debate as the police and military own and operate it…. I personally would never set foot in there.
Then as you turn right, away from that white building you come up to the main gate.
These camps continue to have problems with Nazi Extremists and the like because stealing things is so very common. Take that gate for example, it’s famous for what words are formed into it. Marcin told us as we were coming up to it that just recently the original gate was stolen. How does that happen with security these days?? So the gate in my photos is actually a replica.
“Work sets you free”
The message was instilled in the men to make it as though the harder they worked the higher the chances they would be released. Lies.
As you walk thru the gates, to your left you look down the property line and see the guard tower. They still line the entire property.
As you look right from entering there’s a very long three winged building. Today it is the museum.
This direction is straight from the gate. A large stone yard where prisoners were counted twice a day. Right is the current museum, used to be where prisoners were stripped of their clothes, belongings, and basically their human rights. The one story white buildings on the left are the prisoners’ barracks. Today there are two replicas because the originals were torn down some time after the liberation of the camp. The tall trees line the long aisle between the barracks. The trees for the most part are original. They were planted for visual propaganda of greenery on the property. Note that back then they must have been about 5-6 ft tall…
We unintentionally visited just days after the annual ceremony put on to memorialize the liberation of Dachau, April 29, 1945. Each wreath represents a group of people. Marcin told us that the order of the wreaths is important because it shows which groups were recognized first. I don’t remember what most mean, but I know a lot represented by their flags, so above the first and third from the right are German wreaths. Below you see some blue and white ones, that is the color of the Bavaria flag of Germany.
Usually at the way end is the below wreath, pink. The pink wreath represents the LGBT. This year it was fourth from the end. Progress.
Directly opposite from the memorial are the barracks that go down to the end of the property. Today there are only 2 standing barracks, the remaining 28 buildings are memorialized with a numbered stone and outline with gravel. I felt like I had a boulder in my stomach walking those grounds.
The above picture is from the back of the property looking back toward the standing two barracks.
We did go through the museum, I was pretty emotional and very interested in what Marcin had to say to us so my camera was an afterthought.
Below is a sample of the original fence. Notice the barb wire fence, then the barb wire ground cover on a hill, then a trench, then grass.
There is a photograph in the museum of man who died with his hand through the fence but he was caught in the barb wire. That is an extraordinary feat and accomplishment so close to freedom. Not only from those obstacles that a skin and bone man achieved, but even just that a prisoner stepping on the Grass was enough to be murdered.
At the back corner of the property where I’m standing in that above photo is a pathway that led to the crematoriums. This is what Marcin had to say when we got there…
“I do this tour several times a week and have been doing it for 7 years now. I have been through this building once, and I will only ever go through that building once. Never again. I fully recommend you to experience it and make your way through, but I will remain outside here. Take as much time as you wish, I will meet you out at the end of it.”
Again, I took that chance to experience it. Going through is bone chilling. Jon took a couple photos inside, I did not. I will not be posting interior photos on my site. I do agree that it is something everyone should see as it is part of our history. It is a time I will never forget as messed up of a reality as it was.
We ended our tour with stopping at a memorial statue right outside the crematorium.
“To Honor the Dead, to Warn the Living”
The importance of that statue is the position of the prisoner. Yes, he’s frail and looks weak but look how he’s wearing a coat and his hands are in his pockets. Coats were rare, and hands in pockets were absolutely not allowed. The man is also looking straight out and away with his head held confidently. Prisoners were always told to look down at the ground because they were dirt. Beautiful piece. Ideal location as it’s placed right outside crematorium and near the now grassy tree covered mounds of unknown ashes of all who lost their lives in that building.
I could write and write and write about how important it felt I visited there. Photos don’t do it justice, taking photos shouldn’t even be the focus as it wasn’t for me.
Go visit. Learn our history. Be moved. Be emotional. And if you do? Find Marcin Wright, you will thank me.
I leave you with me leaving Dachau. Note: I have been told the quality of the video viewed on phones is not great.