Flapper has handed the reigns of the blog over to me tonight, thinking that humans might be in a better position to talk about human suffering than a dolphin, when talking about a place such as Dachau.
First of all though, we happened by chance across a brochure in the morning that told us about a tour starting at 10.10 from the main train station across the road from where we are that was cheaper than the one we had been planning to go on, so on the way out the door changed our plans. Waiting at the allotted meeting place, along with a few other people we started talking to also waiting for the tour (some from our hostel), we discovered from another tour operator nearby that our guide had only been seen once in the last week. By the time it was about 20 past 10 we concluded he wasn´t coming today either so together we rushed to Marienplatz just in time to catch the tour starting from their at 10.30.
Our guide was from London but living in Germany for the past twenty years, and one of those typical guide types who has the knack of making everything he says sound infinitely interesting and entertaining.
Arriving at Dachau we started at the entrance on the stones where the prisoners got off the train and entered the gates, with words ´Arbeit Macht Frei' (Work Makes you Free). Dachau was one of the first things Hitler did when he came into power and I believe the only concentration camp used for the entire period until the end of the war.
It was first used for political prisoners and other parties, including all the religious people, who voiced opposition to the rule of Hitler and his party.
For some time after the war, it was used as a refugee camp but when the old prisoners of the camp saw the way it was being used they eventually got it turned into a memorial in the 60's or later. In the process the original barracks were torn down, and now reconstructions of two barracks and the foundations of the rest of them give you and idea of what it would have looked like. There are some original buildings however, such as the watch towers on the perimeter.
The large sqaure infront of the barracks, is one of the most provoking (or was for me) sights however. This is where the prisoners were made to do roll call twice a day. They had to stand there in their inadequate clothing, no matter the weather, feet together, arms by the sides and eyes directed to the ground. For punishment they were sometimes made to stand this way for hours - one instance lasting from 6pm one day until 2pm the next afternoon. As I stood there in my scarf and ski jacket, still freezing, I don't think I would have been one of the prisoners able to survive that place.
As time went on the conditions worsened as the camp was overcrowded and things like sleeping conditions went from separate beds and ample living space, to thousands crammed into three teired platforms in barracks designed for just 200.
The crematorium and gas chambers out the back were disturbing too - though not quite as disturbing as the video and images we had seem from Auschwitz at the Einstein museum, as this gas chamber was never used for mass execution. The crematorium was however, and eventually in the mass overcrowding near the end of the war it was not enough for the amount of dead. The bodies were in piles, and the US troops who freed the prisoners were so horrified they made the people in the town of Dachau come and see so they knew what had been really going on under their noses.
It is quite unbelievable to us now how anyone can inflict the things they did on another human beings. But it shows you how much the people believed in what they were doing which is impossible to understand as well.
On a lighter note, we are going out for tea with the people we met on the tour to the Hofbrauhaus, a famous German Beer Hall here in Munich. And tomorrow it`s off to Berlin. Oh and it hailed a fair bit today too - the weather isn´t looking pleasant the next few days.
Flapper will be back to give you all the details of the up coming adventures.