On March 8, 2015, our group went to Dachau Concentration Camp. This camp was the first of the Nazi Concentration camps opened in Germany in 1933. The purpose of this camp was to hold political prisoners to be used for forced labor. It was clear that the concentration camp was divided into two parts, the camp area and the crematorium. In the past, the camp area had a large open area where the prisoners lined up for attendance before the work day and then again in the evening. The tour guide explained that this was not only for attendance, but also to examine the prisoners to see which of them had made it through this hectic day. Most of the tasks were to build up a pile of rocks and then break down the pile of rocks each day. The original camp consisted of 32 barracks, but today there was only one barrack left standing. A simple ground framework marked the other barracks with numbers on them and there was also barracks for the clergy who were imprisoned for opposing the Nazi regime.
When we first entered the camp, it was relatively empty, which was not normal. The tour guide explained that many of the German school children are brought there to witness the past of their country. Also another surprising thing was that the sign from the door that used to read, “Arbeit macht frei”, or “Work will make you free.” I was very disappointed to hear this because it was an original part of the camp’s history that was stolen. The tour guide thought perhaps it was part of a Halloween prank. However, I felt it was important for our group to visit even more because none of us know just how long that these historical sites will last, so the pictures all guests take and their memories of the sites are incredibly important in my opinion. The sign reflected and supported Nazi propaganda that the prisoners’ work would in fact lead to their release. However, this was not the case and the forced labor was being used as torture.
While inside the remaining barrack, our tour guide explained to use the classification system of the prisoners. It was broken down by the nature of the crime for which each prisoner was accused. For example, political prisoners who were arrested by the Gestapo wore a red badge. The tour guide also informed us that no mass killings were done at Dachau, but that the crematorium was built to do just that. We were able to walk through the rooms just as though the prisoners, if they had been subjected to such. It was very confining and completely believable if I had been imprisoned and not heard the rumors of what was to come from being detained at Dachau or any other concentration camp. One part that hit me really hard was the photos of the prisoners. Not only were the prisoners in a devastating state, but also none of the pictures had the prisoner’s names.