Monday, November 21, 2016


The primary posts for this trip are here and here. This one I wanted to address separately.

When my friend Teri mentioned that Dachau was close to Munich, I was hesitant to commit to visiting. I had one day in Stuttgart and one day in Munich for sight seeing, and I didn't know if I wanted to give up a good part of that time.

But you simply have to go to places like Gettysburg, or Yad Vashem, or Dachau. Our shared humanity obligates us to do so.

So after attending Mass and eating brunch, I hopped on the S-Bahn toward Dachau. The ride was pleasant enough. I sat across from another U.S. citizen, whom I later saw at the site. I walked the distance from the Dachau train station to the camp. What struck me was just how ordinary the town is. It's not that easy to find information about the town prior to the 1930s. Almost everything I can access starts with the concentration camp, but it was a town hard hit by the concessions of World War I. Dachau was led primarily by the Bavarian People's Party (Bayerische Volkspartei or BVP).

All of this backstory I got while at Dachau. Now, trying to find anything on the city from a simple search is rather difficult. The Jewish Virtual Library does give some idea of how Dachau went from a blue-collar town with a WWI munitions factory to a concentration camp.

Dachau is a charming town. The normalcy of the here and now is part of what challenges me.

Anyway, I walked about 2 kilometers through a German suburb, and came here.

It doesn't exactly look like the gates of hell. Even the gate itself doesn't look like its equals at Auschwitz and elsewhere. It was a work camp. A model.

Arbeit macht Frei. Work brings freedom. For the people who passed through this gate, work brought death, and in death, they had freedom. So in a sense, it was true. Like so many of Satan's lies, there is a kernel of truth... wrapped up in a tremendous lie.

This is a view from the parade grounds, just after the entrance.

There's a monument as you enter, which is easy enough to read when you're there, but difficult to capture by photograph.

It says, "May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 - 1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unify the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow man."

Never forget.

This is the maintenance building, and the reception area for incoming detainees. They would record their information on note cards, using ink for permanent information and pencil for anything that might change. That little detail struck me.

The maintenance building had details about the how the various political parties, the BVD included, were suppressed. Eventually the National Socialists took control. The concentration camp is their work.

I had limited time, so I skimmed a lot of the exhibits. I wanted to hear the docent's explanation of the badges. Apparently, Jehovah's Witnesses were commonly held and persecuted, and they took pride in it and resisted. They wore a purple triangle. This exhibit below displays the clothing of a polish priest. It bore a red triangle. You can read more about it in this memoir.

This is the entrance of the baths. Prisoners were shaved here.

This monument is outside the maintenance building and displays the various badges.

I took this image with my phone, but it doesn't really do justice to the artwork.

Here's a better shot.

Never again.

A shot of the barracks.

This is the Catholic memorial on this site.

It looks as though they celebrate Mass here.

Next door is the Jewish memorial.

This is the entrance to a Carmelite convent that has been at this location since 1963.

This is one of the crematoriums at Dachau.

Crematorium ovens at Dachau.

This is a gas chamber at Dachau. Thank God, it was never used, but it's mere existence is foreboding.

This final image is the Eastern Orthodox memorial at Dachau.

Dachau was a work camp, and the mass slaughter of the Shoah wasn't part of this camp's history. But it was the model camp, the example of the others. It was the beginning of the horrors that followed, and it certainly had its own horrible legacy.

And now we face our own demons in the U.S. While some would like to think that the election of Trump is the new thing, the new and surprising fascist movement in our political marketplace, this movement has been long in the coming, as Jonah Goldberg pointed out in Liberal Fascism,

This is not a Democrat thing or a Republican thing. Both parties are party to it because both have lost the notion of service and have embraced the lure of power. So long as we allow ourselves to be seduced by power, we will be prey to the forces that inflict these monstrosities on us.

Unless we say... unless we demand.. never again.

Never again.
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