Dachau Concentration Camp
|Location Dachau, Germany|
|Open to visitors no|
|Need appointment no|
|Handicap accessibility no|
|Geographical Coordinates 48.263,11.4339 |
Dachau concentration camp (German: Konzentrationslager (KZ) Dachau, IPA: [ˈdaxaʊ]) was the first of the Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany, intended to hold political prisoners. It is located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near the medieval town of Dachau, about 16 km (9.9 mi) northwest of Munich in the state of Bavaria, in southern Germany. Opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler, its purpose was enlarged to include forced labor, and eventually, the imprisonment of Jews, ordinary German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries which Germany occupied or invaded. It was finally liberated in 1945.
Prisoners lived in constant fear of brutal treatment and terror detention including standing cells, floggings, the so-called tree or pole hanging, and standing at attention for extremely long periods. There were 32,000 documented deaths at the camp, and thousands that are undocumented.
In the postwar years it served to hold SS soldiers awaiting trial, after 1948, it held ethnic Germans who had been expelled from eastern Europe and were awaiting resettlement, and also was used for a time as a United States military base during the occupation. It was finally closed for use in 1960.
There are several religious memorials within the Memorial Site, and there is no charge to visit.
Dachau concentration camp (German: Konzentrationslager (KZ) Dachau, IPA: [ˈdaxaʊ]) was the first of the Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany. It is located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near the medieval town of Dachau, about 16 km (9.9 mi) northwest of Munich in the state of Bavaria, in southern Germany. Opened 22 March 1933 (51 days after Hitler took power), it was the first regular concentration camp established by the coalition government of the National Socialist Party (Nazi Party) and the German Nationalist People's Party (dissolved on 6 July 1933). Heinrich Himmler, then Chief of Police of Munich, officially described the camp as "the first concentration camp for political prisoners."
Dachau served as a prototype and model for the other Nazi concentration camps that followed. Almost every community in Germany had members taken away to these camps. Newspapers continually reported on "the removal of the enemies of the Reich to concentration camps", and as early as 1935 there were jingles warning: "Dear God, make me dumb, that I may not to Dachau come" ("Lieber Gott, mach mich dumm, damit ich nicht nach Dachau kumm").
The camp's layout and building plans were developed by Kommandant Theodor Eicke and were applied to all later camps. He had a separate secure camp near the command center, which consisted of living quarters, administration, and army camps. Eicke himself became the chief inspector for all concentration camps, responsible for molding the others according to his model.
The entrance gate to this concentration camp carries the phrase "Arbeit macht frei" (English translation: "Work makes you free").
The camp was in use from 1933 to 1960, the first twelve years as an internment center of the Third Reich. From 1933 to 1938, the prisoners were mainly German nationals detained for political reasons. Subsequently, the camp was used for prisoners of all sorts, from every nation occupied by the forces of the Third Reich. From 1945 through 1948, the camp was used as a prison for SS officers awaiting trial. After 1948, the German population expelled from Czechoslovakia were housed there and it was also a base of the United States. It was closed in 1960 and thereafter, at the insistence of ex-prisoners, various memorials began to be constructed there.
Together with the much larger Auschwitz concentration camp, Dachau has come to symbolize the Nazi concentration camps to many people. Konzentrationslager (KZ) Dachau lives in public memory as having been the second camp to be liberated by British or American forces. Accordingly, it was one of the first places where these camps were exposed to the rest of the world through firsthand journalist accounts and through newsreels.
Crematorium in operation
Estimates of the demographic statistics vary but they are in the same general range. History may never know how many people were interned there or died there, due to periods of disruption. One source gives a general estimate of over 200,000 prisoners from more than 30 countries for the Third Reich's years, of whom two-thirds were political prisoners, including many Catholic priests, and nearly one-third were Jews. 25,613 prisoners are believed to have died in the camp and almost another 10,000 in its subcamps, primarily from disease, malnutrition and suicide. In early 1945, there was a typhus epidemic in the camp due to influx from other camps causing overcrowding, followed by an evacuation, in which large numbers of the prisoners died. Toward the end of the war, death marches to and from the camp caused the deaths of large but unknown numbers of prisoners. Even after liberation, prisoners weakened beyond recovery continued to die.
Over its twelve years as a concentration camp, the Dachau administration recorded the intake of 206,206 prisoners and 31,951 deaths. Crematoria were constructed to dispose of the deceased. There is no evidence of mass murder within the camp, though visitors may walk through the buildings and see the ovens used to cremate bodies, which hid the evidence of many deaths. It is claimed that in 1942, more than 3166 prisoners in weakened condition were transported to Hartheim Castle near Linz, and there they were executed by poison gas by reason of their unfitness.