On March 21, 1933, Heinrich Himmler, then Police Commissioner of Munich, announced to the press that the first concentration camp for Communist and Social Democratic functionaries was to be opened the next day in Dachau. Over 200,000 political prisoners came to Dachau in the years 1933 - 1945. After the war refugees and displaced persons were housed in Dachau, some for as long as 18 years, until they were offered adequate housing. Arbeit Macht Frei
When the camp was liberated by the U.S. Army on 29 April 1945, more than 30,000 survivors were found. There were detailed yet incomplete photographic and documentary records of the operation of the camp. These materials together with political records of the Nazi era, were used to create a museum, which was planned by the International Dachau Committee, and constructed by the Bavarian State. It was opened in 1965.
The records documented 31,951 deaths; however, there were undocumented deaths at Dachau, and many of the prisoners at Dachau were transferred to other camps where they met their death.
Dachau was the first of hundreds of Nazi concentration camps in Central Europe. The town is a quiet suburb, perhaps ten miles from downtown Munich. We rode the S-Bahn to the town and then walked a mile or so along a pedestrian and bike path to the camp. The path was lined with walnut and other trees, just turning color for the autumn. It was a quiet morning in a small town, people going about their morning chores. Occasionally, a bike rider would approach or pass, or we'd meet a walker, frequently with dog. Guard tower
The museum, located in the building which contained kitchen, laundry, showers, etc., traces the history of racism in Germany, its growth under Nazism, and then gives a powerful pictorial record of conditions and practices at the camps.
The first exhibit is a diagram of Nazi concentration camps. Next comes signposts with the names, in their own languages, of the 27 countries (including the U.S.) whose citizens were interned at Dachau.
Leaving the museum we crossed the yard in which prisoners were forced to stand for roll call twice a day. A chilling sight is the gate with its slogan Arbeit Macht Frei still attached. We entered a barracks which had been reconstructed after the war; foundations of many more can be seen behind it.
Dachau was not the main camp for extermination of Jews; that was done in Treblinka, Auschwitz, and elsewhere. Many political prisoners were sent to Dachau, including 2700 clergymen, predominantly Catholic.
Conditions at Dachau, as at all the concentration camps, grew worse as the Nazis grew in power and desperation. Ultimately sadistic tortures and School visit executions were carried out, and prisoners were used for inhumane medical experiments.
Thirty-three people were tried as criminals in postwar War Crimes trials.
We lost count of the number of school groups visiting the camp this day - perhaps twenty classes. They were knotted up here and there, in front of one building or another. In each case the teacher was talking and all the students were paying close attention.
We have known that the Germans intend never to let Nazism be repeated. We feel that, almost sixty years after the liberation of Dachau, they are still very intent that the lessons not be forgotten. The presence of school groups in such numbers and with such concentration indicates their commitment.
We're enclosing some of the photos we took at Dachau. If you want us to send two pictures of the atrocities shown in the museum, please send us a request. We also purchased the museum handbook which provides English translations of many of the documents on display. This will be given to the first requestor.