Seriously? Many visitors from foreign ask me, why I refuse to visit the Dachau concentration camp. Here is my position about it. Why spend your vacation time surrounded by pain, disgrace and a past that none is proud about? Do you visit this place for fun?
There are lots of fun cities and places you can visit in your time there, but is a Concentration Camp something for your Bucket-List?
There is the Englischer Garten Park in Munich, the Wurzburg Residenz in Wurzburg, fascinating sights in Salzburg, etc. However, the Nazi concentration camp in Dachau is in my opinion, not a vacation place.
Typically, a vacation location should be a happy place. You worked a full year for that. A place where you can play around and take selfies with your loved ones. A place that will remind you of beautiful memories in the years to come. This place should definitely not be a graveyard from victims a horrible chapter in German history.
Some people just want to tour a concentration camp for the renown around it. During all the years I accompanied guests in Munich, I observed that some want to visit because of how the history sounds like a far fiction tale, like the burning of witches.
This shouldn’t be so. As a matter of fact, because of its history, this is totally against the morals of visiting the concentration camp just to spend vacation time.
Dachau concentration camp is like a reality check. It is there to reminds us of how evil and dangerous humans can be. Even though all of these happened many years ago, we still experience segregation and inhumanity in our world today. There is so much to learn from Dachau’s history.
Some Background about Dachau Concentration Camp
Many concentration camps were opened during the Third Reich. The one in Dachau was the first-ever, and many others were modeled after it. The camp was opened three months after Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, there were about 42.500 Camps and Ghettos
Initially, the camp of Dachau was built for the detention of political oppositions and prisoners. Homosexuals are counted to the first brought in such camps for reeducation since 1933.
However, after some years, things went out of hand. Hitler started using the camp to imprison various people from different walks of life.
Prisoners in Nazi Concentration Camp
Prior to the start of world war II, Adolf Hitler was desperate to eradicate all Minorities in Germany. With this, he and his fellows came to the solution that any minorities must be imprisoned as they are not fit to live in new Germany.
What Hitler referred to as “Jews Problem” encapsulated various groups of people such as the religionists, free thinkers, ideologists and every similar group that doesn’t support the Nazis. Individuals were also not left out, this included disabled people, homosexuals, etc.
When the world war began in 1939, prisoners were moved to other concentration camps. Dachau camp then served as a training ground for the SS soldiers.
In 1940, the prisoners were returned to the concentration camp in Dachau. The camp became overcrowded and situations got worse. Sub camps were built, where prisoners were made to work day and night to designs weapons and infrastructures for World War II.
Two months after opening the Dachau concentration camp, one prisoner named Sebastian was severely beaten death. Waffen-SS, the responsible group camp came out with a false claim that the victim committed suicide.
This did not sit well with lawmakers in Munich and they demanded an autopsy. The autopsy revealed that Sebastian died as a result of strangulation. With this new finding, the prosecutors charged Wackerle, the head of Waffen-SS, for murder.
Unfortunately, the verdict was overturned by Hitler. Furthermore, Hitler gave a ruling that going forward, the activities of all concentration camps would be overseen by the Waffen-SS. He also stated that all concentration camps would be void of any German law.
With all authority now vested on Waffen-SS, they went rogue. To start with, they release rules and regulations to oversee the camp’s daily activities. Any prisoner found wanting in one way or another would be subjected to severe beating and punishment.
The rule book also stated that prisoners that planned to escape, and those that tried to voice out their political views would be killed immediately. These rules and regulations from the Dachau concentration camp became the playbook of all other Nazi concentration camps in the country.
Many ways to Death
Prisoners died due to many reasons. Some worked till they died as a result of exhaustion. Some were killed by health complications and diseases. Hunger killed some, and a few thousand were executed for breaking camp rules and regulations.
When the death toll was getting too high, a crematorium was built. It had 4 large ovens from which bodies were cremated and easily disposed of.
In 1942, Hitler came up with another strategy to remove uncomfortable minorities. This was called the “Final Solution”. With this, about ten thousand prisoners from Dachau were taken to concentration camps in Poland where they were killed in gas chambers. Mainly jews, but not exclusively.
Some of the prisoners were used to scientific researches and experiments. One popular one was prisoners being used as test animals in absurd experiments like to determine how long a human can survive in cold temperatures. The process involved putting them in fully iced water tanks for a period of time. Many prisoners lost their lives during this or similar experiments.
Towards the end of World War II, about seven thousand prisoners were lined up for a death trekking journey to Tegernsee, 6 days away from Dachau, by the Waffen-SS. During this journey, some prisoners died due to tiredness, starvation or shot by the Waffen-SS soldiers.
Liberation at Last
At the end of World War II in 1945, the US Army came into Dachau. They saw gaunt prisoners and a lot of vehicles filled with decayed dead bodies. Survivors from the Tegernsee journey were set free and the camp was completely liberated.
The Dachau Concentration camp is there for you to visit and understand the hell these people went through. They were just normal human that had done no wrong like you, so maybe it teaches you morals of how lucky you are.
Yet, we shouldn’t feel lucky enough because the segregation of about 87 years ago still exists. Today, there are still racists and homophobes, even holocaust still occurs. The concentration camp is there to remind us of how much damage this can cause to humanity.
It brings out the feeling of empathy, the purest human traits that we should have regardless of faiths and beliefs. The concentration camp is simply more than a vacation place
Options for your vacation
As an alternative, you can visit the Documentation Center and Munich’s third Reich Tour on your vacation tour.
The Documentation Center is located in the area used by the Nazis for some of their festivities in those days. It also has a museum and you will definitely enjoy your time there.
Munich’s third Reich Tour will take you through the whole Nazi history, including their rise and fall. You will also see their buildings and some other memorials.
Now, these are perfect vacation places where you can have some fun time.