Friday, September 25, 2015


Yesterday (Thursday) we toured the Dachau concentration camp memorial. Dachau is one of the few camps most everybody has heard of, however it wasn't an "extermination" camp that existed simply to kill people. It was a prison camp providing workers for various factories and construction all over the area. There were many sub-camps that were all part of the Dachau system. It was also the FIRST of the concentration camps and served as a model for the other camps. It opened in 1933, and back then the prisoners were actually Germans that Hitler had decided needed to be gotten rid of (his opposition to power). There had been a "terrorist" act in the German Parliament building (it burned down, no-one ever found out who did it) and due to this terrible act of crime, as Chancellor he was given the unconditional powers to arrest and hold anyone without any need of proof and no requirement for giving them a trial. His SS could knock down your door at any time of the day or night and take you away, where you'd likely never be seen again. In the early years Dachau was chock-full of political prisoners as Hitler got rid of any and all as he consolidated and increased his power.

Later as the war loomed/progressed and his conquest of Poland and other neighboring countries started to provide LOTS of new prisoners the camp grew and became the Dachau of these pictures, containing pretty much anybody who was a threat to his Nazi regime: Jews, Gypsies, intellectuals/scholars/professors, Jehovah Witnesses, priests, gays, and many more 'groups' of people he deemed a threat. Torture and beatings were daily occurrences, yet somehow the people who survived this evil place (and all the other camps) were able to physically and mentally rise above all that. I can't imagine how ANYBODY could have survived here. Food was a minimum, clothes were the bare essentials, and if you became sick and weren't able to work AND attend the twice-daily roll calls you were sent to the infirmary (which was likely a death-sentence as there was very little to no medical care for the prisoners, and your already unbelievably meager food rations were halved as you weren't working).

Our tour guide Eric outside the camp giving us the area layout. This black and white photo was taken days before the camps liberation in 1945. If you look around the top center and arcing around to the right you can see bomb craters. The Allies knew there was a camp of some sort here, but until they got here they really didn't know it's scope and purpose. Many prisoners throughout Germany were killed during allied bombings as they were slave labor at the factories keeping the German war-machine going.

 This is a blown-up portion of the above photo. The area inside A and B are the parts we toured. Inside area A is the 40 acres of the Dachau concentration camp...the 2 long rows of buildings were the infirmary and barracks buildings. Area B is the crematorium.  Above area A was an SS training camp where guards were trained for camps all over German occupied territory.

And speaking of camps and occupied territory, these next 2 shots show all the camps. Highlighted in black is the primary camp, and all the others are subsidiary camps. Dachau is just to the right of the lower center.

Most of the "extermination" camps were far to the east (such as Auschwitz).

This shot is blown up from the above picture, and you can clearly see the staggering number of camps associated with Dachau. Almost all of these were associated with factories and construction. Prisoners were moved in and out of the primary camp all the time to staff all the jobs that needed doing.

As a newly arriving prisoner, this is the view you'd see after getting off your train: 
the main entrance to Dachau.

Passing thru this iron gate takes you inside the camp to what would have been hell on earth.
The words Arbeit Macht Frei translates to "work makes you free" which was what they wanted you to believe. But it really meant work makes you dead, as does everything else here.

Walking along the edge of what was the upper row of barracks (as seen in the picture above), you can see the fence separating the prison camp from the SS training camp on the left. All of the original barracks buildings were torn down due to the sad state they were in back in the 60's. Only a few were re-constructed. You can still see all the original foundations for the barracks buildings.

Looking back the way we walked along the fence-line from the main entrance. You can clearly see the guard tower where guards sat trained to kill (and rewarded for doing so) with their machine guns. If you gathered in a group greater than 3 you could be shot without warning. If you stepped onto the grass you were obviously attempting to escape and would be killed. If they wanted to execute you they had to submit paper-work, but nobody ever questioned if a prisoner was killed trying to escape. Closer to the tower there is no ditch, but further away the dry ditch was maintained to slow you down giving the guards greater opportunity to kill you. If one of the guards didn't like you, he would take your cap and toss it onto the grass or in the ditch. You then had the choice to live without it (and freeze) or pray the guard isn't looking for a few moments as you hoped to retrieve it. Human life here had no meaning.

Here you can clearly see the dry ditch (it's about 4' deep).  Above the dry ditch in the gravel (hard to see) there are rows and coils of barbed wire on the ground extending about 8 feet or so away from the fence towards the ditch that you'd have to get thru before you ever got to the fence. Then the fence itself was electrified with 10,000 volts. Over the fence is a small river, and beyond that is the SS camp. There was no hope in this direction.

This black and white photo on the left shows the infirmary buildings, and also the human experimentation buildings. The Nazi's experimented on the prisoners here in many horrible ways. If you blow up the picture you can read the paragraph detailing what the areas were.

 Here is a reconstruction of a barracks room meant to hold 72 prisoners (that's how many 'bunks' there were). Typically there'd be over 200 men living in a room like this. The prisoners were required to maintain their barracks in a military "spotless" cleanliness. If there was a spot on the floor, somebody will get beat for it (25 lashes...remember this as I'll discuss it later). The next room had a small row of lockers which contained all your possessions (a bowl, cup, spoon, possibly an extra uniform or jacket and that's about it). During morning and evening roll call the SS would go thru the barracks inspecting it. If your coffee cup had a spot on it, you'd be beaten. Your bed (straw filled  mattress) and blanket had to be rolled/ folded and perfect. If anything was amiss you'd be beaten (25 lashes). You could be beaten for not standing just-right at roll call (feet together, hands at your side, head down NOT looking at the SS guards). You could be beaten for ANYTHING whatsoever. And keep in mind these people were not in prime physical condition. They were withered starving brutalized yet somehow still alive corpses, and somehow beyond my ability to fathom, they still had hope.

This is a picture of one of the barracks rooms after liberation (if you blow up the picture you can see an Allied soldiers helmet as he walks thru the barracks). The barracks were all horrifically overcrowded and if work details, starvation, beatings and cold didn't kill you, disease likely would.

I didn't include a few shots that I took, specifically the crematoriums and  oven, as it's just too grim to look at. Originally there were only 2 ovens at Dachu, but as the war progressed they weren't nearly enough to keep up with the dead so an entire new building was created that had 6 large ovens that could each hold 3 bodies at a time. Nor did I take pictures of the "extermination chamber" (gas room) where it is thought they didn't actually use here at Dachu (but no one can say with a certainty that they didn't).

Another thing Eric the tour guide brought up (that none of us thought to ask) was "where were all the women"? Dachu was strictly for men. Most of the Concentration camps were for men, and the vast majority of women (pretty much all those with children, and also the elderly) were sent straight to the extermination camps as they 'weren't needed'.

This photo (which is really quite disturbing) I chose to show you because of it's importance. It was designed and built by a survivor, and it represents the electrified fence around the camp, and what happens to humans when they come into contact with 10,000 volts (if you made it that far and weren't shot). Apparently it was a daily occurrence for people to commit suicide by running to the fence to end their suffering.

I also didn't take any pictures of where prisoners were tortured. There was a kind of table where they'd make you bend over on top of, where they'd beat you with "25 strikes" from a vicious cane made from bull-hide. Later on the Nazi's decided to have two SS men beat you with their canes at the same time, so the 50 hits were still considered only 25. When you arrived here, to have any chance at survival you'd first have to speak German. As they beat you for ANY infraction you would have to count out loud (in German) the number of the hits. If you messed up or didn't know the numbers in German they'd keep going and likely beat you to death right there. There was also some wooden beams up high that they would bind your hands behind your back and then hoist you up into the air by them, which would ultimately result in both your shoulders becoming dislocated as your body weight forces your arms around behind you and finally above your head. After they'd finally let you down (if you can imagine the sheer pain of that torture) you'd be sent on your way, but if you couldn't attend roll call and work the next day you'd be beaten or sent to the infirmary. 

I leave you from this very sad place with a picture of the "remains" of the unknown prisoner (much like our "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery). There is a law in Germany that any location that has been a cemetery (officially holding human remains) shall remain so in perpetuity. The remains of one of the untold thousands of prisoners who perished here are in this rectangular container, and by that means this place shall always be untouchable ground. Behind that on the wall written in the 5 most common languages of the prisoners held here is the inscription which is the purpose of maintaining this memorial camp (so that future generations won't forget what happened here). There's nothing more I can add to this picture.

Sunday, September 20, 2015


We are alive and well here in Munich. We're staying at the Munich East Marriot, and HERE is a picture of Jeannie with my newest BESTEST FRIEND in the entire world: a SUPER DUPER HOOPER SNOOPER COFFEE MACHINE!!!!

You put your cup under the awesome spout, hit a button and FRESH GROUND coffee, espresso, or CAPPUCCINO comes streaming out! Stir it up, hit it again and MORE comes streaming out in a little brown stream of GOODNESS!! Here Jeannie is showing how an American does a DOUBLE DOUBLE cappaccunio! (I had the same fact, as of my typing, I've had about 8 of these little liquid morsels of DELICIOUSNESS).

And with that, we need breakfast, MORE coffee and then to go find us a power converter so I can charge/plug in US based devices. Have a wonderful Monday and I will update pics and story as the days go by. And btw: dinner last night was a wicked tasty plate of pork cutlets and a two weisse beers that were flat out incredible!!! Asta la vista BABY!!