An Inside Look at Dachau – Germany’s First Nazi Concentration Camp

“Arbeit Macht Frei”

An Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration Camp

It’s been almost four years since I stepped foot inside the gates of Dachau, the first Nazi concentration camp in Germany, and I can still remember it like it was yesterday. It’s one of those experiences that you’ll never forget- to be submersed in such a heinous yet important part of history. It’s an eerie feeling walking into a place that holds so much history, suffering, and sadness. It’s hard to put a visit to Dachau in words (but I’ll try), and hopefully my pictures will help convey the message (after all, a picture is worth a thousand words).

An Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration Camp

The entrance gate used by prisoners displays the phrase “Arbeit macht frei” which translates to “work shall set you free.” I stood there staring at the phrase, remembering the thousands of prisoners that walked through those gates and never walked back out.

An Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration Camp

Prisoner Barracks

After passing through the entrance gate, the buildings on the right hold a museum that visitors can walk through and learn more about Dachau and the history that’s bottled up inside the gates. I turned my attention to the left because I wanted to explore the grounds before heading into the museum. I found myself facing the prisoner barracks which were rebuilt as part of the memorial site since all the original barracks were torn down after the war.

An Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration Camp

Stepping inside the barracks gave me an idea of the ghastly living situation that was forced upon the prisoners. In the later years of the war, multiple prisoners were forced to sleep on the same bunk- the barracks were overcrowded due to a huge increase of incoming prisoners and no additional barracks ever being built.

An Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration Camp
An Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration CampAn Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration Camp

It’s truly humbling to witness another person reflecting on the history and events that took place here. Even though all of the barracks were demolished after Dachau closed, the rows and rows of foundation that held those thirty barracks still remains. Most of my time in Dachau was spent walking in thoughtful silence, observing, and reflecting on the events that took place exactly where I stood some seventy to eighty years ago.

An Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration Camp

If you head down the path away from the museum you will come across the crematorium at the back of the grounds, outside the prison compound. The memorial stone shown above translates to “Crematorium – think about how we died here.” If you thought seeing the prisoner barracks was heart wrenching, walking through the crematorium and gas chambers is indescribable. 

An Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration Camp

Visitors can enter the crematorium and see the ovens and gas chambers that were used to kill and dispose of the prisoners.

An Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration Camp

An Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration Camp

Gas Chambers

After walking through the crematorium, I headed back along what used to be rows of barracks toward the museum. Behind the museum (opposite the barracks), is where the bunker (camp prison) was located and was used to incarcerate high-level “enemies of the state.”

An Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration Camp

Bunker (Camp Prison)

Visitors can’t go inside of the individual bunker cells but a few of them have open doors so you’re able to see inside.

An Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration Camp

Near the museum is a memorial to those who were imprisoned within Dachau. The message is displayed in different languages and reads “May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 – 1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.”

An Inside Look at Dachau - Germany's First Nazi Concentration Camp

Exploring and learning more about Dachau and the events that took place here and throughout Germany was such a sobering and moving experience. It’s one thing to sit in History class studying the Holocaust and learning of the atrocities that have taken place throughout history, but to actually stand on the same ground in which these atrocities happened is humbling and unforgettable. Dachau is an emotional and genuine portrayal of the horrors that these prisoners faced- not only at Dachau, but at countless other concentration camps as well. If you get the chance to travel to Munich, you should definitely make the trip to Dachau to witness this significant part of history.

Have you ever been to a concentration camp? Would you ever go? I would love to hear what you think- leave your thoughts in the comments below. If you enjoyed this post, please share it!

Advertisements

15 thoughts on “An Inside Look at Dachau – Germany’s First Nazi Concentration Camp

  1. I would be very much interested to visit such a place. However, I believe that before going there you have to be “ready”. It must be a very intense and powerful place to “travel history”. I do hope to go there someday.

    Giulia

    Like

    • It’s a really unique experience, unlike many other travel experiences, but you’re right, you definitely have to mentally prepare yourself for what you are about to see. It’s a very powerful, humbling experience that I recommend everyone visit at least once. It’s so different learning about historical events in a textbook and actually experiencing them first hand. I hope you get to go and experience this important part of history, thanks for reading, Giulia! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post Kate and a chilling insight into a concentration camp. I would love to visit such a place but as both yourself and Giulia said, it’s something I would want to ready myself for. Although having studied Criminology over the last few years (as well as delving into the world of serial killers and the like), I’d like to think I was somewhat prepared – although it must still be a surreal feeling to walk in the footsteps as opposed to reading about it from a great distance away!

    Like

    • It’s certainly surreal to walk where so many were held 70 years ago. I think you will be well prepared considering you studied Criminology! Thanks for reading, Mike, I’m looking forward to following along with your travels!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hello Kate. I admire you for visiting this sad and evil place…something I’m afraid I could never do, I’d get too angry and it would bring out the worst in me. It is so important however, that the story of what happened there and at other camps, such as Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, is preserved and retold truthfully to future generations. I am heartened that young people such as yourself are engaging with this part of history. The world, I fear, has still not learnt the full lessons of those dark days and I wonder if mankind ever will? It is up to your generation to carry the flame forward. Best wishes on your journey fellow traveller! 🙂 Dookes

    Like

  4. There’s a line: “The fact that six million Jews died should never be reduced to a statistic.” I heard it years and years ago and haven’t forgotten it.

    I went to the National Holocaust Museum when I was in Washington. I have no idea how I would react seeing an actual place where so many atrocities took place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s so important to preserve the memory and truth about what happened to these people and continue to pass it on to future generations. I’ve been to the Holocaust Museum as well and it’s definitely a chilling place but standing on the same ground as the prisoners is something you’ll never forget!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: My First Year – Travel Far, Eat Well | Travel Far, Eat Well

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s