Haunting. Eerie. Life-changing. These are just some of the words that can be used to describe the Dachau Concentration Camp.
Dachau is only 30 kilometres away from the humdrum of Munich, but it seems like a different world. An idyllic town, it is nestled deep within the Bavarian countryside, with the Alps looming in the background.
But it has a sinister secret – Dachau is the site of the world’s first Nazi Concentration Camp.
It might sound strange to you, but we could feel the ominous history of the place as we entered the Camp courtyard. I don’t know if it was the minimalist architecture of the building or the skeletal sculptures dedicated to the prisoners of the Camp, but the eeriness of the site was tangible.
We took our time exploring the exterior of the buildings. As we ran our fingertips across the walls of the Prisoners’ Barracks, we realised there was no hiding from its appalling history. That’s when it struck us – the complex is eerie not because of the architecture or the sculptures but the pin-drop silence – this, despite hundreds (if not thousands) of people in the compound.
Everywhere around us tourists seemed to be dumbstruck by this shocking reminder of one of the most audacious crimes of the twentieth century. No one seemed to be talking
The Dachau Concentration Camp Complex
An installation to commemorate the skeletal bodies of people at the Dachau Concentration Camp
Dachau Concentration Camp is said to have held thousands of ‘enemies of the state’ – Jews, Communists, Socialists, homo-sexuals, and political prisoners from Poland, Yugoslavia and a number of other countries. The leaflet we were handed at the entrance informed us that over 42,000 prisoners died at Dachau due to overwork, malnutrition, and poor hygiene.
I will not lie- we stepped inside the building with heavy hearts. The extensive exhibit on the inside introduced us to the history of the Dachau Concentration Camp. All information was corroborated with bleak visuals, ones that made us want to shield our eyes.
Exhibit at the Dachau Concentration Camp
The exhibit ended. We walked through the main building, crematorium, showers, chapels, and memorials trying to absorb everything.
Then, we turned into the East Wing of the Camp Prison – that little corridor which lies untouched by time. We took tentative steps towards the cells, and saw prisoners’ sinks, toilets, and doors telling tales of torture and violence. In the East Wing of the Camp Prison time stands still – this menacing corridor haunted us for the rest of our day, long after we had left the complex.
East Wing of the Camp Prison
As we made our way out, a little placard reminded us that the foundation that maintains the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial wants it to be “a site of remembrance of the victims’ suffering and a site of learning for future generations”. That is why we recommend visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp. It will give everyone food for thought – looking at the unbelievable sufferings of prisoners at this Nazi Concentration Camp makes one realise the futility of a State trying to fit all impulses under one homogenous umbrella.
We came away more determined than ever to QUESTION CONFORMITY and CELEBRATE DIFFERENCE.
- Entry to the Dachau Concentration Camp is free
- Parking costs €3
- The Concentration Camp is easily reachable by public transport. Take the S2 train from Munich towards Petershausen. The train takes 20 minutes to reach Dachau Station. Once you’re there, take bus 726 towards Saubachsiedlung. The bus will drop you right in front of the Concentration Camp Memorial. More information here
- Keep aside at least 4-5 hours to explore the Concentration Camp
- Make sure you watch the short documentary which is played on loop, in various languages, in the exhibition area. It will send chills down your spine.