Dear future traveler,
I do not ask a lot from you, just understand that arriving at the Dachau Concentration Camp brings you as close to Hell as you can get on Earth. History books will never do it justice and walking the memorial may only provided a fleeting glimpse at what people experienced at Dachau. After all, how can you experience something so dreadful if an equivalent does not exist today? How can people who live in a country that puts great value in protecting individual rights know what it’s like to have them stripped away along with your personal identity? Life without inalienable rights is incomprehensible.
When you arrive, take the audio tour alone and allow your thoughts to be loud. Allow yourself to feel something. 21st century people try to put on a mask and inhibit their natural emotional response. Tear down those walls and allow your heart to be completely vulnerable and raw. Read all the information you can bear, but above all listen to the first-person accounts. Those accounts are as close as you can come to reliving the events that transpired between 1933-1945.
Before you enter those gates, you have this intrinsic feeling that you should sprint out of there as fast as you can. As you approach the gate, you will see “Arbeit macht frei” written on the gate, a phrase that mocked all those who entered. It means “work sets you free,” but that was never the case at Dachau. The gate is one example of the many psychological tortures prisoners faced. Friends watched friends get executes, screams crept from the bunker, it was a living nightmare.
As your feet trudge along the same spots where people collapsed and died, kicking up dust and rocks, realize that on this ground people were brutally murdered and lived in fear each and every day. Millennials, Dachau is not Instagram worthy, but the memory of those who died demands respect. Everyone who visits owes it to both the survivors and the deceased to do everything in their power to prevent something like this from happening again.
Out of curtesy, please refrain from taking pictures of every item as if it were Disneyland. Why large groups of people want a picture of a ditch where executions took place is beyond me. Personally, everything about Dachau is incredibly memorable because it is so dark and evil that you do not need a camera. You want to be able to not remember it, but you cannot remove those images from your mind.
Dachau is memorable because, as camp liberator George Tievsky stated, “It feels like it is on another planet”. Earth has no need for 6 ovens for cremation within a few hundred square feet of one another. People on Earth do not kill one another using cement mixers. Doctors on Earth do not infect healthy people with fatal diseases as a “control”. The atrocities committed at Dachau are so incredibly disturbing that they remind you of the true evil people are capable of. Dachau also serves as a reminder of the unwillingness of the townspeople to stand up to tyranny. According to United States Army surveys, very few residents of the city of Dachau admitted that they had know despite living down wind of the ashes from the crematorium.
Please visit Dachau, and please never insult the memory of the people who died and were imprisoned there.
A kid with a hurting heart