I arrived in the mid-afternoon and hopped off 726 Dachau Bus to visit the famous concentration camp in Munich Germany. Immediately, I could feel the dark energy emanating the surrounding camp ground as I stepped into the courtyard. The warmth of the hot sun, couldn't outweigh the nervous chill which ran across my body. Death was all around.
The courtyard was large, and seemed endless. To right was the museum but I opted to have a look at the two remaining barracks which housed the prisoners on the left.
Inside, there was an acrid smell of dried wood which permeated the room and made me feel uncomfortable. I could imagine the ghastly stench of disease and male sweat within the walls all 30 plus barracks, must’ve have been strong enough to kill a man. I paused a moment to rest my camera upon the dusty window sill next to me to jot down my thoughts. In mid-sentence, I realized that I had been leaning haphazardly though, comfortably against the wall. I stood at attention moments later out of due respect for the people who were literally crammed to all corners of the rooms. How could I lean with such ease? Instead, I stood motionless to absorb the past, and then allowed myself to emulate what those tortured souls may have felt long ago.
The feeling of terror and agony and the vision of being surrounded by walls and cramped people, punched my stomach, making me cringe with slight depression. Nano-seconds later, and out of sheer anger, I wanted to set fire to the wooden bunk beds. I wanted to cause an inferno to finally set-free of any of the negative emotions which still hangs in the atmosphere.
I could see the emaciated and weak prisoners, with wrinkled skin dangling from their bones. At that physical state, was there any thought of rioting against their boorish, healthy oppressors? Perhaps not, when one is so feeble and thinking only of nourishment…revolt is miles away. Then I wondered if I was to be unwillingly thrown into room such as this, would I stand up and fight then die a quick death, or follow the herd towards severe depression and illness?
After taking a few photos, I walked to the museum and was greeted by the cold, grey walls, laden with its chalky, chipped plaster. In the middle of each room, tidy banners stood tall describing the history of Dachau. These banners displayed war propaganda, documentations and many faces of the dead. I was soon to discover that many prominent, political figures were also victims of Dachau. Status meant nothing to the Nazi regime.
Amongst the many photos, one stuck out the most. After, the US gained control of Dachau, a photo featured a pair of American soldiers sifting through a pile of precious metals found at the camp. The Nazi’s not only stripped their victims of their life’s worth, they also had the audacity to extract precious metals embedded within the prisoner’s teeth. At that point, I left the building truly disgusted and I wanted to leave the camp ground for good, yet curiosity pushed me to continue on.
After a brief visit inside the museum, I was in search of the ‘main attraction’ which immediately made my stomach to churn. To get there, I needed to walk the camp road which runs between where the barracks used to exist.
What remained of the barracks were long, rectangular foundations covered with over-growth trying to bury the past. Soon, I found myself walking towards the barbed wired fence and came upon sign entitled, Krematorium. To my surprize, the building was squat in stature but the long chimney in the back made the crematorium look massive. I walked up the wheelchair ramp towards the doors and instantly froze while examining the 4 ovens. The heavy oven doors were wide open, offering a sordid welcome to the gates of hell. As I stared down the barrel of the tomb shaped, shallow gateway I could see a thick layer of what I hope was dust inside. Many visitors who were beside me staring at the ovens were wiping tear small tears from their cheeks.
The room to the left was a holding cell for corpses waiting to be turned to ashes, but the next room over was the real eye opener. I was told by a friend that Dachau didn’t use gas to execute prisoners, but she was so wrong.
Above the green door was a painted sign which read, ‘Brausbad’ (showers). I guess the Nazi’s felt it was necessary to manipulate the doomed one last time. The gas chamber was less than 6’3” in height and the evidence of the many false shower heads was inches from my face. Just looking at the sprinkler heads was enough to make me gasp for air.
Hundreds were herded into the dank, dark, diminutive room at once. I could only imagine the naked souls screaming in agony, suffocating on the poisoned air as the gas burned their lungs - then the imminent slapping sounds of skin hitting the brick floor, with others collapsing a slow death. There were air vents on the walls which were only installed to allow for the Zyklon B gas to quickly escape once the execution was carried out.
I knelt in a corner envisioning everything which at the point, I promptly left the camp ground wanting to destroy it all.
I took the bus back to the train station and then rolled into the heart of Munich. Along the way, I had no choice but to reflect about what I’d just saw and learned. Yet, I also found myself needing to re-balance my mind so I began to breathe deeply for a few minutes. During my trip back to reality, I could only summarize my experience with this:
“To be a victim, executioner or to be the one to close the door of the flaming oven…God allowed for all of this to happen based upon free-will. Yet, God has provided us with a message that mankind has the cranial capacity and the ability to learn from our past; and that change for a better life is only one decision away. I understand why it is imperative to maintain the prison camp. It provides blatant reminders and lessons which could change ones out-look in life or even perhaps, could save it.”