The day before our visit to Dachau was spent looking at the beautiful buildings and sights of Munich, that day was spent just a short train ride away from Munich seeing the ugliness of man against man.
Nestled inside a small, beautiful Bavarian village, is a testament to the ugliness that man has inside them and can purposefully inflict on others. Our tour guide Scott gave us insight to the history at Dachau and what lead to it in details that are not taught in school. This may be a good thing and probably part of the reason that children under the age of 14 are not allowed to visit the site; it is a place of nightmares. From hearing about the brutality of the past to the remnants there today, I, for one, am changed by it. Walking into a gas chamber where thousands died, to the crematories where lives were turned to ash and buried together by the thousands, you pray that we have learned by this and never let our society go there again. Your tour starts even before you enter the gates; you see to the left a munitions plant from WW1 that was converted to a training building for the SS , and later served as the first prisoner’s barracks. Continue your journey through the iron gate with Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work Makes You Free”) on the top to the tree lined ’Camp Road’ the camp was said to be one thing by the Nazis but completely different in reality. As a prisoner your life at Dachau began in the square, to the ‘maintenance building’ where you were stripped of all possessions to often ending your stay in the gas chamber. (In respect for the dead, I took no pictures inside the gas chamber and crematory.)
While the daily horror to live is no longer active, as British statesman Winston Churchill wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” That message is also here at Dachau, from the places of worship and remembrance for four religions to the international memorial to the lost sculpture, grave markers, and the statue of a man with his head high, hands in pockets, and warm coat placed next to Barrack X (as the crematory was known).
While this post is a somber one, I hope reminds each of us to be kind to each other and be remembered not for the misery we brought to this life but the joy we can share with others.