“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.
|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
Address of the Dachau Memorial Site
Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
Alte Römerstrasse 75
D – 85221 Dachau
Telefon: +49(0)8131-66 99 70
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.