Alles Gute zum Geburtstag Drew! In other, less German words, Happy Birthday Drew!! I love you!
After a less than comfortable night in our “apartment,” we grabbed breakfast downstairs in the hotel. There was a huge selection of things to eat, but many of them were odd or scary. I settled for some granola cereal and toast (I know, I know, so not adventurous). After breakfast we headed to the train station to hop on the train that brought us to the bus stop where we got on the bus that brought us to Dachau.
Once there we met up with our tour guide Clara who led us around and gave us a ton of information about the concentration camp. She was around our age, grew up in Germany and was going to university in London. She was a fantastic guide and made the experience even more memorable. Clara explained that what we would be seeing is a memorial and does not look exactly as it did when it was used as a concentration camp. The original camp was much bigger, with most if its space used as a training facility for the SS. We began our tour by walking through the main gate, with the inscription “work will set you free” inlaid in the gate. Clara explained that this was supposed to give the prisoners the false hope that if they behaved and worked hard they would be be able to go home. Next we went through the section of the camp that has been turned into a museum. This was the building where the prisoners were taken when they were first brought to Dachau. Here they lost every trace of their personality, name, clothes, hair, and any personal items. This building also housed the shower room, which was where many prisoners were punished. Now the building holds pictures, documents, and posters giving information about the camp. We were then shown the camp’s prison, which was used to keep “special” prisoners and also for more extreme punishments. Next we were led through the barracks, which were set up to show how progressively awful it was to live in Dachau, with the beds becoming smaller and smaller as the years went on. We then walked by a number of memorials that were built on the grounds, which included Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, and Russian Orthodox memorials.
Clara explained to us just how impossible it was for prisoners to escape the camp. If they put even one foot on the narrow strip of grass that surrounded the camp they were shot on sight and, even if they weren’t, there was a huge ditch they would have had to crawl out of before they could even begin to think about getting over or through the tall electrified barbed wire fence. The last stop on the tour was the crematorium, which was even more somber. While Dachau was not an extermination camp, their crematorium had a small gas chamber that was used in secret to experiment. It’s hard to grasp just how many people died within that camp. Right outside of the crematorium was a small monument with the inscription “to mourn the dead, to warn the living,” which serves as a reminder that people need to made aware of what transpired within concentration camps. Clara told us that whenever anyone asks her why it is still so important for people to know about the camps, she brings them to that monument, emphasizing that knowledge is the best way to keep history from repeating itself.
One of my biggest thoughts throughout our time at the camp is how crazy it was that everyone on the outside pretended that they had no idea what was going on within the camps, when it was blatantly obvious that people were being tortured and killed. I can not get over just how horribly those people were treated, living in terrible conditions, being experimented on, being treated like dogs. I agree with Clara that it is extremely important that everyone is aware of what happened so that it doesn’t ever happen again. While sad, visiting the memorial site was an amazing experience.
When we returned from Dachau we spent some time thinking and relaxing back in the hotel, while watching The Big Bang Theory in German, which was interesting. The hotel did in fact move us to a new room, which is much less sketchy! Although Aaron is still very unenthusiastic about his couch bed. Then a group of six of us set out to explore Marienplatz some more. We eventually found our way to the Hofbrauhaus, which is a huge drinking hall with a great environment. (Fun fact, the Hofbrauhaus is the place that Hitler met to form the Nazi party.) Traditional Bavarian music is played by a live band and the waiters and waitresses dress is traditional costumes. It was crazy busy, but we were able to find a table pretty quickly. My friends ordered beer by the liter but I stuck to apple juice. The waiter was nice enough to put my juice in a mug so I felt like part of the group. I ordered a huge pretzel and we had a blast soaking up some German culture. I managed to get everyone back to the hotel safely (after only one stop at McDonalds!) and we are getting ready for bed.
Tomorrow is a day trip to Salzburg, which should be awesome! Talk to you soon!