Munich is known as the heart of the Nazi movement. It is where Hitler became radicalised to their ideals and made his attempted coup. It’s also where he created one of the first concentration camps in Germany.
The concentration camp gets its name from the small town it is in. Which is really a shame for the town. It’s been in existence for longer than America has been a country, but nobody knows it for anything but the terrible 12 years that the Nazis used it.
The premises of what would become the concentration camp were actually erected during the First World War as a munitions factory for the German war effort. Some 8,000 local people were employed here.
It lay empty from the end of the Great War until 1933 when the Nazis decided to use it as a place to send political prisoners to work for the benefit of the state. Originally, they were sent here for a few years and then released. Things changed dramatically when the war began. Foreign Prisoners of War and Jews were suddenly being sent here, with no release date in sight.
They had 2 ovens to burn bodies of prisoners who passed away, most of which were from disease or general ill-health (usually caused by the guards). Unfortunately, the number of dying prisoners became too great for the 2 ovens, and they were forced to build 4 new ovens. To add to the horror of Dachau, the Nazis ran out of coal in 1944. When the camp was liberated in April 1945, they found over 3,000 bodies of people who had died since they had lost the ability to cremate them. This is what brought about the infamous photos and video of American soldiers making local men and women view the dead bodies and come to grips with what was happening in their town.
One of the stories that the tour guide told us which was absolutely incredible to me was of an old woman who was a young child in the town of Dachau. It was well-documented that screams from prisoners being tortured could be heard in the town. She vividly remembers her mother turning the radio up randomly at night. As time passed, she began to realise that her mother had been drowning out the screams.
I paid €22 for a tour with Sandeman’s (who I also used for the free walking tour of Munich). This was 100% worth the cost. To have a guide take us from Marienplatz in the centre of Munich to Dachau, plus to walk us around the camp and give us immense amounts of history was amazing. I would absolutely recommend a visit to Dachau if you go to Munich! This was one of the best tours I’ve taken in a long time. Don’t worry, I haven’t told you nearly half of the information that our wonderful tour guide told us!
Having been to Auschwitz when I was 16, I had thought I would never visit another camp. I’m glad I went to Dachau because it had such a different story than Auschwitz. Also, nearly 10 years later, I’m able to cope with the horror and despair slightly better. I can remember visiting Auschwitz and then having the worst nightmares about it. It was also very difficult to talk about with someone who hadn’t seen it. Dachau wasn’t as traumatising for me, there wasn’t the same discussion of the massive scale of the Holocaust.
Have you been to Dachau? Or a different concentration camp? How were you affected?