Monday, March 28, 2011

Dachau Concentration Camp

Dachau Concentration Camp. 
Prototype for other prison camps here in Germany.
Opened March 22, 1937-liberated April 29, 1945

 A blog I have been putting off.
Normally, Mac and I are very happy to share our adventures with you.
As we were driving to Dachau near Munich for the tour of the camp, we realized that this blog would pull on our heart strings. Once inside it became quite emotional.

It hit close to home when I started to think about the members of my family who would have been incarcerated if they had lived in Germany during this time.
Any minister or priest who stood up and denounced the Nazi regime was imprisoned here.

Would my Father who is a minister have been put in prison?
My sister is married to a Jewish man and became Jewish so her children could be considered Jews under the Jewish law.  Her entire family would have been sent to a prison camp.
Upon review of my husband's family history, they feel strongly he is of German Jew descent.
My husband most probably would have not escaped confinement here.
If you were handicapped you were sent here, my Aunt would have been placed in a camp.
Also imprisoned here were homosexuals, Jehovah's witnesses and gypsies.
My head began to spin when I realized how many of my immediate family would have been imprisoned
if we had lived in Europe during this time.

How many prisoners walked through this gate after getting off the hot, crowded stench-filled railway cars?
It's estimated there were close to 200,000 people incarcerated  here in the 12 years the camp exsisted.

Welded into the gate was the German phrase
"Arbeit macht frei"
Translated, "Work makes you free"
As this door swung shut on these people, I wondered if they had any idea the horrors that awaited them here. No matter how hard they worked, work was not going to set them free!
It's estimated 43,000 people died in Dachau but, we may never know the real number since often many Jews weren't counted.

As we entered the gates we were immediately in the Roll call  area.

The roll call field.
Here the prisoners were forced to line up mornings and evenings to be counted. They were expected to remain motionless while they were counted. If a prisoner was missing, they endured hours standing, waiting until he was found.  Sometimes public executions were  held here to set examples for the other prisoners.
I could not stop the tears from flowing as I stood there.

Each prisoner was issued a uniform with triangles sewn on.
Each triangle helped a guard to immediately identify why the prisoner was being held.
Pink-for homosexuals
red-political prisoners (like priests and ministers)
green- german habitual criminals
purple -Jehovah's witnesses
blue-foreign forced labor
black-mentally retarded or handicapped people
Inverted yellow triangles behind any of these colors meant that they were also Jewish.
Especially disgusting to the Germans were the Aryan's who'd denigrate the Aryan race by sleeping with a Jew.
A black triangle above a yellow one meant that you were an Aryan man who had relations with a Jewish woman 
 A yellow triangle on top of a black triangle meant that you were a Aryan woman who had sex with a Jewish man.
They would then be assigned to a barracks after they were stripped of the clothing and possessions, showered, some beaten for sport. They didn't even have time to choose a uniform that fit because the guards would set onto them with vicious blows for taking their time.

They had many barracks to choose from.
Here in the barrack a man quietly explains the horrendous conditions to some other tourists.
Crowded conditons and not enough room prevailed in
these barracks.
Each barracks was built to house approximately 200 prisoners. Soon each barrack held around 600 people. Finally toward the end they say each barrack held around 2,000 people. 

The only wash room.

These were all the toilets available in each barracks to prisoners.
The conditions deplorable and the floors were smeared with feces and urine.
Medical experiments were conducted here on humans.
Especially biochemical and decompression chamber experiments.

Mac and I headed to the other part of the camp that was the cremetoria.
I noticed many of the other tourists with silent tears streaming down their cheeks as we toured were now openly emotional when we came to this area.

Thousands of people executed.

 The Protestant memorial, called the Church of Reconciliation.

All aspects of the church are rounded.  It's said that prisoners were held in ordered boxes, stood in straight lines and this church is meant to reflect soft corners, no rigid lines,
a place a prisoner would not be boxed in or feel as if he was being held captive.

Wouldn't it be smug to sit back and say this could never happen again?
I heard a lady exclaim while we were there, "Why did God do this?"
God didn't do this, he made us creatures of free-will.  We did this with our pettiness and our superior attitudes toward people who are different or choose to believe differently than we do.

Aren't we all guilty of harboring some of these attitudes today?
Some people dislike homosexuals.
Some dislike Jews.
Some hate Muslims.
Some hate Americans.
Some hate their own brothers and sisters and will do nothing to restore peace in their own families.
Edmund Burke once said,
"All that is necessary for the trimph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
Let that never be me, is my prayer.


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