Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site

Adolf Hitler had just come into power in January of 1933, and already by March political prisoners had begun to arrive at the first concentration camp of the Nazi regime in Dachau, Germany.

In its early years, the "detention center," an old munitions factory, housed prisoners in the former munitions workers' quarters. As the Nazi regime continued its fury, so expanded the camp. Eventually, captors forced the prisoners to build 34 new barracks, which included an "infirmary" (more for medical experiments than aid for the sick).

Today, just two barracks remain -- the rest were demolished in the 1960s when survivors established the grounds as a memorial site, leaving only the concrete foundations as a memory of what once was overcrowded sleeping arrangements. Poplars that line Camp Road, the path down the middle of the two rows of barracks, offer a splash of green amongst a palette of grays.

Surveying the open square once used for roll call, I am overwhelmed in so many ways. A force greater than gravity plants my feet to the ground, a mix of dirt, blood, sweat, and tears. Just decades ago, in the very place I stand now, prisoners once stood here awaiting their fate. This was no ordinary roll-call. It was here that humans decided the fate of other humans. The frail, the sick, the weak, and the strong standing together, not knowing if they would see sundown, let alone tomorrow.

I have come here today to honor those who perished and those who lived to tell their story. I am here to remember so I won't forget -- not that I have forgotten about the terror of those years I learned about in history books, but how quickly I forget that terror of such proportions still happens today! The survivors established this memorial not to glorify themselves, but to urge us not to turn a blind eye. Their message to us: Never again.

I am learning more about the events that unfolded here and at thousands of other camps of the Nazi regime. In fact, I am still attempting to digest all the information presented in the museum, which is in the building once used for the camp's administrative purposes -- so much truth that I never knew about. It's bigger and worse than I ever imagined.

Although I can never begin to imagine the suffering that the prisoners endured here, I can however take my first glimpse of the grounds as they would have, thanks to survivors' wishes that finally came true in 2005. Adding to the impact of the overall experience, visitors to the memorial site now enter the camp by passing through the same lying gate that prisoners were forced to encounter. "Work sets one free."

The Maintenance Building, now an exhibition space, as seen from the roll-call area

Poplars lining Camp Road and the stone-covered remnants of prisoner barracks

For your information:
KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau * Alte Römerstrasse 74 * 85221 Dachau
10 miles northwest of Munich
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 9 am - 5pm, entrance gratis
Audio Guide Rental €3,00 (I highly recommend this as you can go at your own pace and read all the displays that you wish.)

Please note: A self-guided tour through the memorial site can easily take up an entire day. I advise you to bring snacks and allow at least three hours to view the site. We spent nearly four hours touring the grounds and museum and I still didn't get to read/see everything...

Additional Links:Genocide Watch
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


  1. What a haunting memorial. I'm so glad it's there to remind us of horrible history that was not that long ago. Are there a lot of people that visit?

  2. Yes, so many people (but not crowded since the grounds are so huge). The site attracts visitors from all over the world. I heard tours going on in English, German, and Spanish. Plus, the audio guides are available in at least 10 major languages.

  3. Very well written. I visited this place 2 months ago and while reading and listening through everything, it just grew on me.
    Your article brings back the whole experience.

  4. Thanks, Reisender. It was really difficult to write this piece - the experience is hard to put into words. I am so glad my husband and I went there (it was his second visit).

    I'm also glad you stopped by my blog...

  5. Nice post. Yes, there's a lot to take in at this memorial. I was there on a day when you couldn't see three feet in front of you thanks to the fog, which only added to the creepiness.


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