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Many prisoners were not so 'lucky' as to even take a train, they had to march into the camp from Dachau the city.

Many prisoners were not so ‘lucky’ as to even take a train, they had to march into the camp from Dachau the city.

 

December 17th, 2012.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out, for I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trades unionists, and I did not speak out, for I was not a trades unionist. Then they came for the gypsies, and I did not speak out, for I was not a gypsy. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out, for I was not Jewish. Then they came for me. And there was no-one left to speak out for me.”

~Martin Niemoller, Dachau Survivor and Lutheran Pastor

This quote really says it all. Everything that truly needs saying about all the related and complicated issues around Dachau and other concentration camps during the 1930’s and 1940’s is embodied in this now famous poem. As a human-race we all need to know and remember what happened behind The Walls. All of them.

When Dachau ‘work’ encampment [read: prison] opened in March of 1933 the local towns people were led by propaganda to believe that this place would be there “for their protection from the types of people” who would be admitted. For the first five years of operation from 1933 to 1938 the SS encouraged tours of the property to ‘demonstrate’ that the prisoners were involved in rigorous work detail, living in clean surroundings, and show that the location was involved in a certain amount of ‘do-gooding’. Even so, the conditions declined substantially, and beginning in 1939 -and the commencement of World War II – no more outside visitations were allowed, for obvious reasons one might deduce.

But I’m not here to provide you with an historic account of the place. There is way too much, that is something that can be researched on your own should you find yourself interested.

In only a day I can say that I got my fill of the place, the energy, the sentiment. If one hadn’t known what was there, and went to the grounds and asked to feel the energy and take some guesses, my opinion is that it would not be difficult to deduce this was a place where bad things happened to people.

The energy is drab, life-less, still. The area is expansive, empty, and void. Knowing what went on here compounds the already desperate feelings that were brewing inside me. How could this have happened? Why didn’t anyone stop it? Couldn’t the soldiers see what they were doing? How horrible for all those innocent people.

During the course of the day some responses-though not resolutions or excuses- came into view. The issues were complex. The people were misinformed at first, and then once the situation became obvious, or at least more clear, then it was also clear that dissidents would be added to the mix behind The Walls. The soldiers, too, were brainwashed and conditioned to believe that what they were doing was not wrong. It is amazing to me, but comprehensible, that people can be entirely conditioned towards or against certain beliefs. It’s all so horrible and inappropriate and inconsolable, really. The mistreatment, the abuse, torture, experiments, rape, malnourishment, maltreatment, all of it is inexcusable. And yet, to see what remains of it is necessary1. We need to remember in honor of those thousands who were killed. In addition the holocaust needs remembering so that we never forget, lest something so horrific occur again.

In an effort to demonstrate the starkness of the experience I began looking at things from varying perspectives. Reflections were everywhere, both visible and otherwise. I started noticing the reflections in the puddles of melt-water from a recent snow. The clouds moving across puddles as we meandered outside seemed to represent the souls and spirits of those whose lives were taken in this very same area years ago. The reflections of bare-limbed trees expressed the solemness as well. In looking down at the ground I could imagine the faces and perspectives of the prisoners as they were not allowed to make eye-contact with guards during their time here.

It didn’t feel ‘right’ to take photos in moments, so finding the reflections eased the discomfort. I had to remind myself that “we need to remember, in order that we don’t forget.”

1According to our guide, all students in Germany are required/expected to visit a concentration camp memorial during -or after- their 8th grade year of school.

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Welcome to Dachau

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This is the entrance through which so many thousands walked in, but never lived to walk out.

Aerial view of the Dachau Concentration Camp, with an SS training facility adjacent to the North.

Aerial view of the Dachau Concentration Camp, with an SS training facility adjacent to the North.

Notice the tracks here? Possibly for cargo.

Notice the tracks here? Possibly for cargo. Near the entrance.

The main entrance at Dachau.

The main entrance at Dachau.

Not all who entered were able to leave the same way.

Not all who entered could leave alive.

Captivating stream, the last bit of freedom they were able to imagine before entering the compound.

Captivating stream, the last bit of freedom they were able to imagine before entering the compound.

Thanks to all who had a hand in disbanding this nightmare.

Thanks to all who had a hand in disbanding this nightmare.

Translation: "Work will set you free". [The gross propaganda of the time, meant to disillusion the visitors and prisoners alike".]

Translation: “Work will set you free”. [The gross propaganda of the time, meant to disillusion the visitors and prisoners alike”.]

Desolate. Depressing. Barren.

Desolate. Depressing. Barren.

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Art in Honor of those lost

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Close up

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The tour group… it’s clear even looking at everyone’s feet how we felt about this.

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The yard where many people were abused, beaten, and otherwise mistreated. That’s the prison within the camp.

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A rusty light between two windows with bars. Somehow ironic.

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The electric box in the SS officer’s main office.

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Entrance to the prison.

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Looking through a guard’s peephole in a prison door. Sad to imagine the men there in the past.

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How many men suffered behind these bars? More than I can even imagine.

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It’s no wonder the paint is peeling in this prison cell. So many men tortured in here it is so sad.

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The long hallway within the prison. So many doors behind which sadness and despair must have resided for so many years.

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A well-worn door in the prison hallway.

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The portable altar used for the priests who were in this prison, if they were ‘good’… Used by the man whose quote began this post.

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Barren roll-call yard. Imagine being out here inappropriately dressed, sans shoes, sans jacket. It’s inhuman.

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These cement foundations mark where dozens of barracks were for the people in here.

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Old barracks, from appx 1933. 55 bunks per room. This was the case in the first few years when visitors were encouraged to come.

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100 bunks per room, about five years after opening… Still not ‘too bad’, considering… But really… the hygienic conditions made it so much worse!

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500 bunks per room. This began in appx 1939, after WWII began, after which visitations were ceased due to obvious reasons, including the situation was deteriorating for the prisoners.

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This photo was taken by US troops shortly after they liberated the camp.

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This was the bathing area, which really rarely got used by the inhabitants.

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…and here is the toilet room. Equally sad, especially considering they didn’t really get to use this much, either. As if it were really nice.

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The long promenade towards the cremation area.

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A flood light beyond barbed wire.

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Hundreds of crosses in the barbed wire fence, and still no one around to save thousands of the people within.

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Plenty of razor-wire on the shore of this otherwise tranquil stream.

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The crematorium… the chimney in reflection. I couldn’t even get myself to take a photo directly of it.

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The sculptor made this image of ‘every inmate’ in a posture that was forbidden during encampment, casual with head up. Great idea.

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Too sad for words. The first {old} cremation ovens.

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Where they ‘cleaned’ the old clothes of the deceased.

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The waiting room for the “showers” where prisoners hoped to get clean. Really sad.

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Through this door many walked, but out the doors, none.

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This image captivated me. This silhouette to represent all the souls who could not walk out of their own accord.

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The room where many were likely poisoned [suffocated] to death after hoping they would be showering. The SS put in fake shower heads on the low ceiling to ‘fake them out’. Sad.

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The newer crematorium, built in appx 1941. They also allegedly hung people from those beams, and then were able to lower their lifeless bodies directly to the ovens. Horrible.

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A view out the dead-room window to a Jewish Memorial. Many never got the opportunity to look out this window.

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Through this door is the dead-room, where many bodies lay waiting to be cremated. Also the first door through which local townspeople were able to view the ghastly sights of what had been occurring.

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I wonder what the prisoners would have done if this sign were up while they still lived here. Could they have banded together somehow? Even in the face of such graveness?

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Winter branches of tree reflected in muddy puddle. Sentiment of the day.

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Muddy runoff trickle creating sound that drew my attention. Solemn place.

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Reflections of Dachau.

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The oversized Catholic Memorial in Dachau.

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Halo of Thorns on Catholic Memorial

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Iron and sad Jesus in Catholic Memorial.

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Dead and dried up leaves in puddle, representing so many dead before.

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Star of David on Jewish Memorial in Dachau.

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Jewish Memorial in Dachau. Starkness seems to reign here. Understandably.

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We are merely a reflection fleeting through this place.

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Long and barren space within the walls and towers around the encampment.

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One of many towers surrounding the area.

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The reflection is ruined only by the newness of the windows.

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Sketch by a prisoner.

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Another sketch by prisoner. I can only imagine how hard it might have been to secure paper and pencil.

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Never Again. We can only hope.

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In front of the huge sculpture in the main roll-call area.

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This sculpture says so much.

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