Friday, August 16, 2013

Part V: Dachau Concentration Camp

It was our very last day of vacation and we were tired, but, we really wanted to see the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial before we headed home.  A concentration camp is a morbid place to "want" to see, but the Holocaust is a large, terrible, horrific part of Germany's history and I wanted to pay my respects.  And I have a morbid curiosity.

Isabelle knows almost nothing about the Holocaust.  I'm sure she'll learn about it in school at some point, but I thought it might be good for her to watch Schindler's List before we went to the memorial.  There is no way around the horror of a concentration camp and I don't see the point in trying to go around it anyway.  I worried that she wouldn't grasp the heart break and valuable lessons learned at Dachau without a little background information.  We never found the time to watch Schindler's List though, and I was right, she didn't grasp the significance.  Hopefully someday she'll understand and remember that she was there.

At the beginning of the tour we walked down the same exact road that the prisoners would have been forced down towards camp; Same cobble stones and all.

Arbeit Macht Frei (work makes you free)

Where the barracks used to be.

The yard where sick and malnourished prisoners would be made to stand at attention for hours, in all types of weather without appropriate clothing.

I'm not sure what I expected the camp to be like, or how I would feel while touring the camp.  No,  actually, I do know... I expected to feel pure evil, sadness, and an overwhelming eeriness.  I didn't feel or sense any of that.

But, I did have an odd experience when I was touring the brausebad ("bath").....    

.....This is the door to the showers where prisoners would be taken and told that they were getting a shower, but instead would be gassed.  Eric had gone to the rest room in another part of the building so Isabelle and I were the only two people in here, we were wandering around and I was taking pictures.  When we approached the brausebad I all of a sudden physically could not go in- very literally it felt like someone was standing in front of me not letting me go past the door.  I sensed more than one person in there and I sensed that they didn't want me to go in, not in a "haunted" way, more like a protective way.  I can't explain it.  It was a very physical sensation though.  Maybe it was all in my head, I don't know.  But I wasn't going to argue, so I stood in the doorway, snapped a few pictures, and high-tailed it out of there.

Besides that bizarre 3 second experience, the entire camp was peaceful.  It didn't feel evil at all.  Even at the sadder exhibits like the crematoriums...  

...and the place where Nazi soldiers would line prisoners along a wall and execute them... was peaceful.  I can't imagine what it was like 70 years ago... the horror of the Holocaust goes beyond any comprehension my brain could ever reach, but now, I felt like the camp was at peace.

During all of our trips I take a lot of pictures from a gazillion different angles!  Or the same picture a gazillion different times.  Eric and Isabelle know that if my face is in my camera and I'm a ways behind them I'll eventually catch up.  Which is what I was doing when I was taking these pictures....

...I went to catch up with Eric and Isabelle and I saw them standing together.  When I turned my camera on them they knew something was up and started laughing...

...They were patiently waiting for me, standing side-by-side, in the exact same way!  SO CUTE!  

We spent the morning at the concentration camp and we were now ready to get home!  It had been a long, fun, incredible week, but it was time to get home.  I've always thought that a sign of a perfect vacation was being ready to go home.

It's taken me a while to finish all of the posts about our week long trip because I've been lazy.  And it's been fantastic!  But now we're getting antsy to see things again and we've got trips in the planning stages. { Next week we're going to Rothenburg ob der Tauber!  I'm excited!}

Thanks for reading about our vacation!  And letting me be slow and lazy about blogging.  


  1. Will you come to visit the "Bavarian Sea"Chiemsee?

  2. I so commend you for having the courage to tour a camp. I have never been to Dachau, but I did go to Mauthausen in Austria and I did end up having the evil sensation you described surprise in missing from was a deeply emotional experience. I literally felt horror all around me, rendering myself and my companions speechless for the entire experience. It's not a fun experience, and it's a bit of a haul to get to, but it's a rather...complete camp. Additionally, many countries around the world sent memorials, physical memorials, to Mauthausen. So, after you walk around the area and literally want to break down and cry from the sadness and terror there, you enter this beautiful area filled with love and support from countries around the world. A very powerful experience, if you have any interest in the Holocaust. Highly recommended.

    You are a terrific travel writer! I always look forward to updates...I'm keeping a mental list of all the places in Europe I want to see, and your writing is a great resource for that!

    1. Thank you so much for reading! I am really enjoying writing this blog, but I'm enjoying the traveling more!!

      I hope to see the Sachsenhausen camp and Auschwitz while we're here. Thank you for the recommendation, I'll have to add Mauthausen to our list. We want to experience as much of Europe that we can and are loving Germany so much!

    2. Awesome! I would so love to hear your impression of Mauthausen if you make it out there!