Especially in the recent past, I read a couple of ridiculous comparisons between certain people and political groups (which I would definitely agree that they are not on the friendly side of life) and Nazi organisations like the SS. I don’t know how these comparisons really arise, especially from US-American people, but I felt the best way as a travel blogger is to show the people what Nazi and SS cruelty really meant. Thus, I might spam you with some (more) Nazi Germany memorials here on Flyctory.com. After being in Braunau (Hitler’s birthplace) and the Castle Hartheim Killing Center, this posting is about the Concentration Camp Memorial in Dachau near Munich.
Please note that this posting displays massive historic cruelty.
Dachau Concentration Camp – Brief History
Giving you a compact overview about the history of Dachau Concentration Camp is very difficult. Thus, I explicitly refer to the corresponding Wikipedia article.
Dachau Concentration Camp has been founded on 22nd March 1933, just three weeks after Hitler came to power. It has finally been freed by the US Army on 29th April 1945. It is the first continuously operating concentration camp during that time and is thus comparably famous. Initially majorly imprisoning political enemies, people were kept there later for other reasons. Overall, there were 200,000 Dachau prisoners. Roughly 41,500 of them died on the Dachau grounds, however a significant additional proportion of victims were murdered in execution camps or killing centers.
Today: 800,000 visitors per year
Nowadays, the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial is visited by some 800,000 people per year. As I visited Dachau in September 2020 (i.e. during the Covid-19 pandemic), the number of people you see in the pictures may be uncharacteristically low.
Dachau Concentration Camp – Location & Admission
The concentration camp site is located on the East side of Dachau. It is quite a bit away from Dachau station, but regular buses connect between the station and the memorial. If you arrive by car, there is a really major parking lot with a parking fee of 3 Euro. The concentration camp and even some of the remote sites are very well signposted.
Entrance to Dachau Concentration Camp is free. Daily opening times are 9:00 to 17:00 hrs. A minimum age of 12 years is recommended. I highly support it – first of all, there are of course several pictures of severe cruelties, especially in the main exhibition. Secondly, even if you rush through the site, you will easily spent three hours there. I saw a couple of young children which became bored and behaved in a way I would not see as appropriate for a place like that.
Dachau Concentration Camp – Service Center & Gate
As said above, you should at least take three hours to visit the memorial site. If you want to explore certain topics more deeply, you should even not arrive in Dachau before noon in order to avoid issues with the closing times. There are audio guides in multiple languages. Practically, all locations and exhibits are additionally documented with English and German signs.
You enter the concentration camp memorial through the main entrance gate, just as a vast majority of the prisoners did. The gate is likely one of the most well-known places in Dachau, the cynical slogan Arbeit macht frei (“Work sets you free”) made it very famous. The gate is no longer the original one, after it had temporarily been stolen. The original gate has been found thereafter in Norway and is now part of the main exhibition. Before you enter the grounds, you may also visit the rail ramps, which was the main transportation method to Dachau.
Comparably recently, the memorial revealed the original cobblestones, which the prisoners had to walk along. After passing the gate, you are more or less right at the roll call ground, where the prisoners have been counted every morning and evening.
Dachau Concentration Camp – Main Exhibition
The former management building hosts the main exhibition of Dachau Concentration Camp. There are some remains of the former cruelties, but overall the building is just grey and neutral inside. The main exhibition takes you through different ages of Dachau concentration camps, including how life changed (not only by different people held there). The whole exhibition is very illustrative (again, this makes this place unsuitable for young children). It starts at the very early days of the camp, explaining how the Nazi party could become that powerful. It also illustrates the fate of the first prisoners in Dachau.
In this section, you also learn how arriving new prisoners have been registered and how they had to leave all their belongings and especially valuables. The prisoners were de-personalized, e.g. by cutting off their entire hair. The former prisoners’ bath, which has been rarely available to the victims, also illustrates the cruelties by the SS to the imprisoned. There have even been a few trials against these abuses at the beginning, but of course, the Nazis more and more replaced the judges.
Over time, Dachau Concentration Camp became more and more crowded (so that the camp by far exceeded its capacity). Random prisoner murders happened as regularly as well as people simply dying due to the massive workload they had to fullfil. The exhibition splits the history of the camp into two era, 1939 to 1942 and the time thereafter until its liberation. Especially in its later years, diseases became more regular so that there were disinfection troops. Short before the liberation of Dachau, there were riots among the prisoners, as the situation was just unbearable. At the end of these sections, you may also watch the original Dachau concentration entrance gate – which is nowadays highly secured against (a new attempt of) theft.
Towards the end of the main exhibition, there are some references to one of the outposts of Dachau Concentration Camp, Allach – Karlsfeld. You learn about the camp and its importance for the industry, especially for BMW. There are quite a lot of original exhibits. Next door, there is a room of remembrance with memorials for numerous individuals and groups of people.
Dachau Concentration Camp Grounds
You typically visit the main exhibition of Dachau Concentration Camp before you head to the grounds and the other locations of the memorial site. Even though it just represents the core area of the former concentration camp, it is large and requires a lot of walking.
Barracks and Grounds
Like most of the original concentration camp grounds, most of the barracks have been destroyed after liberation of the camp. The location of the original barracks are however marked on the ground, Barrack 1 has been rebuilt in order to illustrate the life of the prisoners. Due to Covid-19, you could unfortunately not get into the barracks. Apart from that, you see the wide area with the walls and watchtowers. If you approached these ones too closely, you were subject of being shot immediately. The impressive installation in front of the main building was in restoration process during my visit (thus, you just see a poster of it on some pictures).
On the pictures below, you see the markings of the original barracks’ locations. The area is really wide and requires quite some walking.
Close to the Northern and of the memorial side, there is an illustration how additional trenches and barb wire has been used to prevent the prisoners from fleeing.
Religious Memorials / Places of Worship
The Northern end of the memorial hosts three places of workshop. On top, you see the protestant Church of Reconciliation (Evangelische Versöhnungskirche), followed by the catholic Agony of Christ Chapel (Todesangst Christi Kapelle). Next to them is the Jewish place of worship. The orthodox place is a bit hidden, closer to the crematories (see below). Former organisational building are nowadays used by Carmelite nuns.
Crematories and Burial Sites
Walking over a small bridge at the edge of the concentration camp memorial grounds, you reach the crematory site. Several monuments remind of the people who died here, like a stone reminding Denket daran wie wir hier starben (“Remind how we died here”) or a statue of a prisoner stating Den Toten zur Ehr, den Lebenden zur Mahnung (“Honoring the dead, urging the living”). On your left, you see the first / historic crematory building with the historic crematory oven.
Opposite to it is the original crematory building. The most impressive part to me was that the building had shafts to enter Zyklon B (Hydrogene Cyanide) capsules into the gas chamber in order to murder prisoners. In fact, this has been very rarely used in historic practise – cyanide was however indeed used to disinfect the clothing of the dead and prisoners sentenced to dead before cremation. After visiting these disinfection rooms, you take the route of a prisoner who would have been sent to the gas here up until the crematory site. Hooks in the roof beams remind that people were also hanged here right in front of the running crematories.
Behind the building, there are several memorial sites. Some of them remind of former execution ranges, other are mass burial sites of corpses buried there during the Nazi era or right after liberation.
Dachau Concentration Camp – Remote Sites
There are multiple still existing historic sites linked to the cruelties of the concentration camp. For example, the former plantage site is still in use. The most important additional memorial is likely the former Herbertshausen shooting range, where thousands of Russian prisoners at war have been murdered. They had to wait in the right shooting lane before they were slaughtered in the left one. There is quite a lot of information about this place available on site. A memorial names all known victims. The former management building is nowadays used for public housing, though. Most places are marked in the map above.
Thereafter I wanted to visit the concentration camp cemetry Leitenberg. Unfortunately, as my car sharing car needed to be opened / closed and activated by a mobile app and the place does not have any internet connection, I had a lot of technical trouble there and could not visit it.
The city center of Dachau also hosts a couple of memorials. There are also a couple of street names reminding of the cruel history of the town, including Straße der KZ-Opfer (“Victims of the Concentration Camp Street”) and Widerstandsplatz (Resistance Square). There is also a walk along a historic routed, which prisoners had to walk to the camp. Close to police barracks, there is also a left piece of the rail tracks to the concentration camp. Not too far away from that place, there is a memorial reminding of the death marches towards the end of WWII.
I also tried to visit the location and memorial of the former Allach-Karlsfeld outpost. However, the site is right in the middle of a comparably run-down living area and quite densely populated, so that I did not even managed to find a parking lot close to it. I could just pass the back of the building, which felt to be in a very inappropriate state.
Dachau Concentration Camp – Services
The visitor center is very friendly and helps with tour suggestions and audio guides. There are toilets on the concentration camp grounds, but there is no food for obvious reasons. The visitor center does offer a snack bar, however. All over the place, there are very friendly and motivated volunteers, who assist you if you have questions. I was impressed by their deep knowledge about the place.
Dachau Concentration Camp – My View
If you are in Greater Munich and somehow can invest three to four hours for a visit, this place will help you massively to understand the cruelties disliked and haunted people had to suffer (and die from) during the saddest part of German history. I feel that the topics discussed in there are still up-to-date, social and racial isolation are still very important topics of our current discussions. You should however be ready to handle the display of death, murder and physical cruelties to visit this place – the unfortunate reality of the history of Dachau Concentration Camp, which is now an outstanding memorial site.
Nazi Germany Memorials
Here are all places memorizing about the cruelties during the German Nazi leadership:
Flyctory.com in Munich
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