Dachau Concentration Camp

“The Holocaust is a central event in many people’s lives, but it also has become a metaphor for our century. There cannot be an end to speaking and writing about it. Besides, in Israel, everyone carries a biography deep inside him.” – Aharon Appelfeld

For many years I couldn´t speak about my visit to the Dachau Concentration Camp or what I have seen there. When I heard that the theme for the Magnificent Monday over at Jim´s Blog is about “Remembrance” I decided to pluck up the courage and write my story. If you are participating in the event, please leave your link in the comment section and I will pop in to have a look.

We had to stop and ask for directions. There were no signs. An elderly man reluctantly gave us directions. I am saying reluctantly because you could see on his face that he would rather guide us to the nearest supermarket than Dachau.

Some young people on our Contiki tour were upset that a visit to the camp was included. They thought it was silly and a waste of time. I couldn´t disagree more. Many, many things have been written about the Holocaust and maybe people are tired of listening to it all. I remember my history classes very well and what we have been taught. In my mind I had to go.

I noticed two things when we arrived at Dachau: The fences and the huge white buildings. This is a God-forsaken place and the only thing I could hear was the sound of the gravel underneath my feet.

Dachau Concentration Camp
Entrance to Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site

I made my way to the middle of the courtyard where I had a view of the buildings on both sides. I could hear the cry of a bird. I did not want to be part of a group. This part of the journey I wanted to walk alone.

The main building with the memorial plaque in the front

I entered the first building which was filled with photos and inscriptions. The photos in front of me came alive as I started to read each story. The people looked me straight in the eyes and I had no where to hide.

Posters tell the story of the camp

One day I was on my way to one of the corners in the courtyard,prepared to dig out even worms if I couldn´t find any grass, I passed by a window. I was suddenly startled..an old shrivelled up lady stared out at me from her deep set eyes – a bony phantom..I hastily looked around to see who this figure was, the head on a stalk that sent more fear through me than anything that I had ever seen in my life. “That´s me I realized”. This Ghost is me….

The ghost is me….

I moved on. I read what was happening to the people who were unfit for work. I shuddered. I entered through another door that led me to the cells.

I went inside and closed the door. I was alone.

I looked around and saw how tiny this place was. It is hard to imagine that 20 people were bundled into this room. I peeked out through the small window. In front of me I could see concrete poles with metal hooks at the end. People were hanged on these hooks, facing the windows of the cells. Imagine seeing a family member or friend hanging there.

I broke down and cried.

Raw sobs were tearing through my body. I cried for all the people who lost their lives in this this concentration camp. I cried for the people who have lost their lives during the war. I sat there for a couple of minutes and then the walls started to squeeze the breath out of me. I had to get out of there. I didn´t care if people saw me crying. I knew they would understand.The place was filled with silence.

I remember passing people from my group but we didn´t stop to talk. I made my way back to the courtyard. There I stood looking at the building in front of me. It was quite a walk to this building. I never walked that mile. The reason: It was the gas chamber. I couldn´t. I had seen enough.

A big plaque against a wall drew my attention. I went over there.

May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defence of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.

We left Dachau a little while later. Over the years I came to realize that I have left Dachau but Dachau has never left me.

Date: April 2004
Where: Dachau,Germany

Address of the Dachau Memorial Site

Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
Alte Römerstrasse 75
D – 85221 Dachau
Deutschland
Telefon: +49(0)8131-66 99 70
Telefax: +49(0)8131-2235

Opening Hours Museum and Memorial Site

The Memorial Site is open Tuesday to Sunday and on Bavarian bank holidays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. On Mondays and on December 24th the Memorial Site is closed.

If you want to read more about similar posts click here Munich Tourist Attractions

I have been fortunate to have done quite a bit of travelling over the last 10 years. By heart I am an adventurer and I love exploring new places, cultures and food. Travelling can become stressful and expensive. Over the years I have learnt to travel as cost effective as possible, simply by travelling more clever. Nelmitravel.com is a Adventure and Budget Travel site where I review Airlines, Accommodation, Transport, Restaurants and give helpful travel information.

48 Comments

  1. A raw read Nelieta. Like you we have been through Mauthausen on a Contiki tour way back in the 70's, and it's not something I have wanted to write about…until I become a better writer. You've written it the way I would because it also affected us in same way.Brave and well written.

  2. I went to Dachau on one of the coldest days in February several years ago now. Our oldest son was almost 2 at the time. Of course he was completely oblivious to the somber mood and couldn't help running up and down the length of the museum as it was too cold to take him outside. I was so self conscious and tried to shush him. I expected scowling glares from the museum goers, but what I got instead was the most heartfelt smiles and compassion. It was one of the most powerful experiences I've ever had.

  3. I understand you so well. My brother and I chose to visit Dachau together and honestly, after the experience was over, we literally couldn't speak to one another.until the next day. It was so overwhelmingly sad but I believe too that these things need to be seen, to be remembered. One thing I will never forget is after the video showing actual footage, we cam out stunned into the sunlight and one of the women in the tour actually complained that it wasn't "graphic enough". Beautifully written."Never again."

  4. What a sad, sad place to visit. I can't imagine the profound revelations you must have experienced while traveling down the hallways and grounds of a place that met so many with so much pain and grief. I'm not sure I could have done it, but I did find this post touching and informative. ~blessings 🙂

  5. I really love your writing!! The ghost is me was chilling to think that it was written by someone trying to live through this madness is so sad. I understand your feelings .. when we as people take the high road and live together and stop hurting and killing each other. I stumbled thishttp://jpweddingphotograpy.blogspot.com/2011/09/faces-of-ground-zero.html

  6. Like many of your readers… I too visited and was left speechless but filled with such heavy emotions. I can still re collect that moment. A beautiful post Nelieta

  7. Wow, powerful read. Sad and a reminder of the cruelty of man. I haven't been there but you have made it possible for me to experience it with you. Thank you!

  8. Spent a snowy day visiting Dachau, have many vivid haunting memories of the place. I recommend everyone visit it to learn about mankind at its worse. Erin stayed in the car and I periodically checked in on her 🙂

  9. Hi Jim, thank you for the comment. It took some courage to write this but I have been hanging on to my feelings for such a long time. I didn´t have the words to describe how I felt that day. I guess Blogging gave me more courage 🙂

  10. Hi Marie, thank you fo sharing your experience with us. While I was reading this I couldn´t help to notice the contrast between your young and active son against the sombre mood there. I am sure the people saw that…it is very touching 🙂 This was one of the most powerful experiences that I have ever had in my life.

  11. Hi Jim, thank you so much! I write from the heart and what I feel. That paragraph sent shivers through my spine when I read it for the first time. Human pain is such a difficult thing to understand and yet we all feel it but we still inflict it on ourselves and others. Such a sad world that we live in.

  12. Hi Colleen, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. I felt this way another time and that was when I saw ´The Passion of the Christ´. I couldn´t speak to my partner until the next morning…so I know exactly what you are talking about. I was in Poland a couple of years ago and wanted to visit Auschwitz but in a way I am glad I didn´t go. Dachau was enough.

  13. Hi Jessica, yes it is! My husband refuses to visit a place like this. In fact he didn´t even want to read my post because so many Russians were killed in WWII and this is a reminder of that. I can understand and respect that..Blessings Jessica 🙂

  14. Hi Sukanya, thnak you for your comment. I had an opportunity in Poland to visit Auschwitz but I never went. I think Dachau was enough but who knows maybe I decide to go there if I am in Poland again…but I doubt it.

  15. Holocaust, one event in history that I am fascinated with. I have it on bucket list to visit Auschwitz. Hope i can make it someday. Thank you for sharing your experience. The horrors and torture people experienced is just unfamthomable.

  16. Thank you for sharing your experience. I understand why the visit affected you so profoundly. I'm sure that I would also find it intense and chilling to be in that very place where so many people suffered and died. But I do want to visit Dachau or other concentration camp someday. I've long felt that it's just something I need to witness myself as difficult as it may be.

  17. I have read so much about the holocaust but somehow every time I read something about it I feel this sense of deep sadness. I can well imagine what it must have felt like visiting that place. I am sure the walls have so much to tell of the evil that took place there. Thank you for sharing this with us Neleita. It just goes to show how sensitive a person you are

  18. However much we read about these terrible events there is always something new – I had no idea about the hooks and the hangings – every account makes it more real and ensures we do not forget. I've never been to any of the concentration camps – mainly as we have not been to these areas at all – but my husband's idea of touring the First World War battlefields and cemeteries in Northern France – rows and rows of white crosses with no names – was horrific enough. Thank you for sharing this.My own remembrance post is athttp://www.notanottinghillmum.co.uk/2011/09/remembering-911-despite-the-birthday-party/Thank you for your commentsIt is very hard to verbalise these dreadful events – impossible to do them "justice" perhaps less is more

  19. I have had the privilege of knowing a few survivors from Auschwitz concentration camp. They have gone on to rebuild their lives, but of course never forget the nightmare they lived through. My daughter recently visited Yad Vashem The Holocaust Museum in Israel. She had of course heard so much about it but this visit really brought to her a whole new understanding. It is good to read this post, because its important that we never forget.

  20. Yes Sheril it is! I did not even think to take a photo of the cell. I was too overcome by emotions. Yes the Auschwitz concentration camp is in Poland. I had an opportunity to go there but this one was enough and the memories still too vivid and raw.

  21. Hi Cathy, thank you for your comment. Yes I do believe each person should visit a place like this or a war memorial. Some war memorials that I have visited were peaceful but others like the Dachau concentration camp touched me deeply and I couldn´t speak about it for years. If you get the opportunity – go.

  22. Thank you so much for your comment. The one thing we should never do is to forget. Places like these should always remind us of the cruelty of mankind and also that generations to come should learn from this and not repeat it. The question is do we? Thank you for your contribution to remembrance..I paid you a visit 🙂

  23. Thank you for sharing with us Larry! How privileged your daughter have been to visit a Holocaust Museum in Israel. I am sure it had been a life changing experience for her just like it was for me. Meeting survivors from Auschwitz, wow, now there are stories of hope and survival! Please give them a hug from me if you see them again.

  24. Hi Reiza, thank you for sharing your link. I will read about it later. I understand your feelings of anger, depression and weakness, It feels like your whole body has been drained from all energy. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  25. i was there last month. I could feel the souls of every one who passed there. i fell sick after half the tour and couldnt even walk towards the bus. That was the place that changed something in me… but i totally relate to what u say about u leaving dachau but dachau didnt leave u.

  26. Hi Sameerah, thank you for sharing your experience with us. It is one of the most difficult places that I have ever visited and it definitely leaves its mark on your soul. Thank you for visiting my blog.

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