The town of Dachau is a small and perhaps purposely beautiful community with impeccable landscaping, floral walkways, and cottage homes. The streets stretch under a large canopy of shade trees and are peppered with cafes, service stores, and boutiques.
From our B&B in München, we took the S2 line toward Peterhausen for approximately twenty minutes. When you exit the station, you can immediately board the free KZ-Gedenkstätte trolley designated specifically for Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. Don’t expect any signs or smiling guides though.
It was well over 95 degrees Fahrenheit when we visited. I had forgotten to bring a water bottle, my stomach was growling, and the process of waiting for other passengers to board the trolley-train was lengthy and tiresome.
Feelings of heat exhaustion, hunger, claustrophobia, impatience, uncertainty, and anxiety began to creep in. Possibly this is part of the tour- could it have been intentional, to put us in the right mindset for what comes next?
The site itself is sterile and devastating. At times I really did not want to continue walking around anymore corners or being confronted by more faces, personal stories, real people, or surreal brutality.
Inside those walls lies an uneasy collection of what was forgotten when the facts, statistics, and summaries that make it all more digestible are compacted in order to fit between the cover of a history books.
To paraphrase such a catastrophic experience is to strip it bare.
I did not take, or even want to take, many photos. The sky was so dark and gloomy over this land in contrast to the bright sunny day we had left a few miles behind.
This is where rows of “clinics” were set up to torture and experiment with prisoners, in addition to labor buildings. I took this through a small opening in the wall.
Visiting a genocide memorial should be a social rite of passage, as it is our civic duty to educate ourselves and to foster empathy and understanding.
However, after visiting a place like this and facing the horrors that humans are capable of, it is difficult to gather my feelings. Harder yet to fully express them.
Ignorance of the Native American genocide/ Holocaust and erasure of the victims has allowed the Armenian, Bosnian, Cambodian / Khmer Rouge, Rwandan, Darfur, and other atrocities to keep happening. And sadly, they will likely continue in one place or another in our world.
Follow me, with a heavy heart, back to München.
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