Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dachau Concentration Camp

We headed towards Munich to visit the Dachau Memorial Site. I have been asked numerous times if we took our children....the answer is yes. I know that some people would disagree with our decision, but we couldn't have them miss out on this learning opportunity. With that said, here is our experience at the Memorial.

The railroad tracks that led to the front gate of Dachau.
They eventually ran right through the gate and into the Camp.

The front gate....

We have read books, watched videos, and talked about the Holocaust and none of them came close to the 4 hours we spent at Dachau. Through these gates is a piece of history that was inhumane, appalling, sad, and just plain difficult to believe ever happened. This was the first Concentration Camp and the one which all others were modeled after.

Work sets you free....on the entrance gate

We rented the little audio tour guide so we could have more explanation in English. What is great about this guide is it not only plays descriptions of given places, but it also has a survivor of the camp talk about each location. The children were very interested in hearing what the survivors had to say about different area in the camp. They said, "we learned more about what happened there from the real people." I recommend renting the audio tour....I'd also get one for everyone!! We made the mistake of only renting one which caused a few disagreements since each of the kids wanted to hold it while it was playing! They are super cheap (3,50 Euro) so spring for a few extras!

The area when you enter the gates was known as Roll-call Square. There were some buildings to the right that we went to next. Ironically, there was a prison inside the camp. The prison was the first building we toured. Lauren is standing in front of one of the "standing cells." The cells were modified to make 4 small connected compartments which were each 12"x12" (I don't remember how high they were). You can see a diagram of how this small cell held 4 people.

Here is a glimpse at the forbidden area....the grass.
Prisoners were shot if they touched the grass.
Sometimes they intentionally entered this zone to put an end to their misery.

One of the watchtowers...

There were 34 prisoner barracks that were built to hold 6,000. By the end of 1934, there were over 30,000 prisoners in these barracks. The barracks were demolished after the liberation. There are numbered stones representing the location of each building.

There are 2 reconstructed barracks that visitors can tour.

The prisoner bath area was in the building that housed most of the artifacts. This area became an additional site for punishing the prisoners. Pole hangings happened in the bath area between 1941 and 1942. Remnants of the hooks can still be seen on the pillars that divide the room.

You can see the floor of the bath under this table that was used for another form of punishment.

The museum is quite large and houses the movie theater. We opted not to watch the video since we had the kids with us (too graphic). One of the things that I didn't realize the extent of was the experimental testing that was conducted on prisoners. These include high pressure testing, cold water survival, and numerous medical procedures/testing. There are pictures and many artifacts on the prisoners made, clothing, eating utensils, shaving kits, etc...

We left the museum and walked the grounds. This brought us around to one corner where there was a small bridge. The crematory was located on the other side and was very much hidden away from the prisoner area.

Here is an "illegal" picture of the crematory that was able to be recovered.....

Here it is today....

Have you ever seen the movie "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?"
If so, the crematory is set up just like in the movie.
This was the entrance to the gas chamber.

There are a couple of rooms that led to the crematory...

Our day was coming to an end as we headed back to the Visitor Center. We saw this dedication on the wall just on the other side of the gate.

I can say that we all learned something today.
The kids did have some questions:
"Why did people listen to Hitler?"
"Why didn't they just not listen? "
"Why would people do such mean things?"

1 comment:

Pam said...

Glad you took the kids - I would have too! What an amazing experience - you are certainly taking good advantage of your time in Europe.