#253: Visit a Concentration Camp

Looking out the kitchen

Looking out the kitchen

LOCATION: Dachau Concentration Camp. Dachau, Germany

This item is part of my Contiki Trip Series.

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We got up early to leave Munich and head to Austria. Jac mentioned that we had a little extra time and she wanted to give us a real historical treat. She decided to take us to the Dachau Concentration Camp.

I first learned about the Holocaust when I was in 4th grade. My teacher at the time had showed us some very inappropriate footage for our ages and it is something I’ve always remembered since. I remember telling my mom how scared I was after seeing the documentary. The screams from the showers were horrifying to anyone, but more so to an 8 year old. Throughout the rest of my school life, I learned everything there is to know about the subject, but it never really sank in until I got to the actual location and could see it myself.

While on Contiki, I stayed with my group of friends that I had made from the start of the trip. We did all the activities together, however for some reason, we all decided to venture off in the camp alone. It felt like it needed to be done that way.

Dachau was the first of the concentration camps to open in Germany and was used as a concentration camp from 1933 to 1945. It was estimated that 31,951  prisoners died in this camp. As you walk into the camp, you pass the old, rusted train tracks that carried the people into the area. From there, you pass the iron gate with the phrase “Arbeit macht frei” which means, “work makes free.”

Entrance to Dachau. Says "Labor makes you free"

Entrance to Dachau. Says “Labor makes you free”

Once entering the quarters, the space was pretty open. There were bunker houses on all sides, but a large open area. The entire camp was fenced in with guard stations. Walking into the bunker area and bathhouse, they had memorialized photos and info replacing the beds. It was sad to see just how bad it really got in the camps and the many deaths that ensued from it. The other side of the bunkers across the way still kept the bunk beds and toilets in it. The beds were preserved very well and it was eerie how they were made to live. Seeing pictures and documentaries doesn’t do it justice to see this in person. I immediately felt sad. This was a very humbling experience. After leaving the bunkers, I made my way towards the back of the camp area. There, there were the crematoriums and the “showers.” I must have made it to this area before others did, because I found myself alone. I decided to sit quietly in the showers by myself and was in there for about 15 minutes.

The "showers"

The “showers”

During this time that I sat, I felt like there was something weighted on my back pushing me forward. As scared as I was, I let it happened and continued to sit there and think about all the tragic things that happened here. So much destruction, and this was just one of the camps. Finally, someone else ventured in the room and I decided to leave.

Barbed fencing at Dachau

Barbed fencing at Dachau

This experience was eye opening, shocking and truly a life changer. I’m not into museums because I don’t enjoy reading history; I’d rather have the story be told. This memorial told the story to me very well and it is something that I will never forget.

WOULD I DO IT AGAIN?: Yes, This was truly eye opening and amazing.

Contiki Travel is HIGHLY recommended. I would do this all over again a million times. www.contiki.com

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