Visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp

Concentration camps are not fun places to visit while on vacation.  They are interesting.  They are educational.  They are depressing.  They are not fun.  And I have now visited two of them since moving to Europe.  Gross-Rosen in Poland, and now Dachau in Germany.

I was prepared this time.  I was prepared for the “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” sign on the entrance.  For the quiet.  For the grey openness of the camp.  I was not prepared for the solemnity of the museum or the cramped quarters of the barracks and the terrible images they evoked.

Dachau - Front Gate

Housed in what used to be the maintenance building, the museum gives a descriptive history of the museum that is emotionally draining.  The amount of information, pictures, first-hand accounts, letters, historical descriptions, and statistics is overwhelming.

Dachau - Museum

Despite being used as a model propaganda camp, tens of thousands of people died at Dachau.  Many due to disease brought about by the terrible and cramped living quarters.  Today there is a model barrack demonstrating just how cramped the living situation was.  In rooms meant for about 250 people, over a thousand people were forced to live as best they could.  It is a disturbing thought and a vivid display of the horror of Dachau.

Entry is free, although I suggest getting an audio guide.  It will only set you back €3 and will allow you to go at your own pace all the while listening to a very thorough, and sometimes quite disturbing, history of Dachau.  Vacations tend to be an opportunity to get away, to enjoy yourself and relax.  But visiting Dachau offers insight into a period of history that is still relatively fresh in the minds of some, and fading in the minds of others.  Take a day to visit Dachau.

Dachau - Camp Grounds

For more on visiting concentration camps check out the two different pieces that Amanda Kendle has written for Europe a la Carte on Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dachau (both of which are well worth reading).

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About Marcus Cederstrom

I was born in Sweden and moved to the US just before my 6th birthday. I grew up in the United States eventually graduating from the University of Oregon. After graduation and about 17 years in the US I made the decision to move back to Sweden. I have been living in Stockholm since the summer of 2007. Since graduation I have traveled throughout eastern Australia as well as in Sweden and Europe.