Sunday, 7 June 2009

Deutschland Tag Vier: KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau (Germany Day 4: Nazi Concentration Camp Site, Dachau)

I believe we’ve all read about what happened in the concentration camps and might have even watched documentaries on them so I will keep it short.

“Arbeit macht frei” means “Work Brings Freedom”. This is the gate through which the prisoners captured by the Secret Service under Hilter’s rule entered. Behind this gate, the prisoners had to give up their property, their rights and any basic human dignity. Behind this gate, each prisoner became a mere number. Today, it’s the entrance into the memorial, what used to be the first Nazi concentration camp site after which the rest of the sites were modeled.

After an arduous journey, the prisoners were herded through the gates and sent to disrobing rooms where they were striped, shaven and given striped pyjamas. Shown below is the sleeping quarters. Inside each barrack are rooms in which were packed 54 beds each (2 x 9 x 3).

Washing area and toilet. Two rooms shared one washing area and toilet.

Each prisoner was assigned a locker and stool. The only “possession” they had were their striped clothes.

The inscription reads: “May the example of those who have been exterminated here between 1933 – 1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defence of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.”

Gas chambers. These gas chambers in Dachau were built but never used. Gas chambers in other regions such as Auschwitz were used instead. You can see the holes in the ceiling where the gas pipes used to be.

The original crematorium. As the number of corpses increased drastically, more furnaces had to be built to cremate the dead prisoners. Each furnace could cremate two prisoners at one go.

Some prisoners were executed by hanging then burnt immediately.

This sculpture reminds us of the heaps of malnourished human corpse in the camps.

Behind each of these trees was a barrack. The entire camp housed thousands of prisoners from 1933 – 1945.

Heavily guarded, escape was virtually impossible. German soldiers in these watch-towers opened fire at any prisoner who ventured into the forbidden zone near the barbed wires. Some prisoners deliberately went into the region in order to end their suffering.

Never again