Concentration camps are not fun places to visit while on vacation.Â They are interesting.Â They are educational.Â They are depressing.Â They are not fun.Â And I have now visited two of them since moving to Europe.Â Gross-Rosen in Poland, and now Dachau in Germany.
I was prepared this time.Â I was prepared for the â€œARBEIT MACHT FREIâ€ sign on the entrance.Â For the quiet.Â For the grey openness of the camp.Â I was not prepared for the solemnity of the museum or the cramped quarters of the barracks and the terrible images they evoked.
Housed in what used to be the maintenance building, the museum gives a descriptive history of the museum that is emotionally draining.Â The amount of information, pictures, first-hand accounts, letters, historical descriptions, and statistics is overwhelming.
Despite being used as a model propaganda camp, tens of thousands of people died at Dachau.Â Many due to disease brought about by the terrible and cramped living quarters.Â Today there is a model barrack demonstrating just how cramped the living situation was.Â In rooms meant for about 250 people, over a thousand people were forced to live as best they could.Â It is a disturbing thought and a vivid display of the horror of Dachau.
Entry is free, although I suggest getting an audio guide.Â It will only set you back â‚¬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.Â Vacations tend to be an opportunity to get away, to enjoy yourself and relax.Â 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.Â Take a day to visit Dachau.
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).