The concentration camp that started it all…Dachau

***Warning: This is depressing.***

Dachau was a concentration camp set up in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler for political prisoners (journalists, Communists, Socialists and anyone against the Nazi party). In 1938 the camp became the first of many concentration camps used during WWII and was liberated by American forces in 1945.

Heinrich Himmler was the Chief of Police in Munich and a very high ranking member of the Nazi party. When Hitler rose to power, Heinrich and the SS rose with him and transformed from the SA (brown shirts) to the SS. Dachau became the training ground for how to run the other concentration camps around the occupied countries and today, it is a training ground for the riot police.

The camp had 34 barracks meant to hold 200 prisoners each. During the height of the war, the barracks held over 2,000 prisoners each. Every morning there was a 5:00am roll call on the main square. Prior to his roll call the floors in the barracks had to be polished to a reflective shine. Although this camp was 1/4 Jewish and held prisoners from 34 different countries, they were put in the barracks furthest from the roll call area as an extra punishment from the SS.

Unlike many of the other concentration camps, this was not an execution camp. The idea of this camp was that people would be worked so hard, they would be worked to death. The SS would make people dig a hole and then the very next day tell them to fill the same hole. It was a way to show the power they held over everyone and slowly break them down.

Although this was not an execution camp, all shots fired from the guard towers were kill shots and not shots meant to wound. If you stepped on the grass of the perimeter, you were shot on site. There are not proper records of how many people stepped on the grass on purpose to escape the misery they were being put through because the SS were the ones keeping all the records.

Upon arrival to Dachau, you were completely shaved of all hair and given a uniform regardless of size and had to make it work. There were different symbols on the uniform to classify what type of prisoner you were, but in the end, everyone was treated horrifically. Anyone who was a mixed race was castrated or sterilized to help purify the future races.

There was a crematorium in order to dispose of the bodies, but at the height of the war, the camp couldn’t keep up with the amount of deaths and hired a competing company to build a larger crematorium. This was proceeded by a gas chamber that apparently was used in a few mass executions but nothing like Auschwitz. The prisoners were in charge of keeping the goals stoked and if they lasted more than 4 months working, they were hung on site. This section of the camp was blocked by trees and was apparently a secret to everyone else at the camp.

 The chemical used for the gas chamber was produced by Bayer and they had a special batch that went to the chambers that had no odor. This same chemical is still in production today and used as a pesticide. BMW would go to Dachau and hand pick who they wanted to work in the factory to help produce the engines for the war. They were the only company that allowed people into the concentration camp to pick their workers. There are also rumors that Henry Ford donated money to the Nazi party.

There was one prisoner who escaped from the camp called Hans Beimler and he walked right out the front door by strangling a SS officer and putting on his uniform and acting like he belonged. Many others escaped but were then recaptured and killed.

 I cannot describe the feeling of being at a place like this where so much tragedy occurred. I would suggest that anyone that is in Munich, takes the time to head to Dachau for the day.

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