Several weeks ago my coworkers and I had the opportunity to visit Dachau - the location of the first Concentration camp built by the Nazis in 1933. It was a very moving experience. One I will treasure, learn from, and carry with me the rest of my life. Here are the photos from our journey.
Before we left I had decided to shoot entirely in Black and White. But as it turns out it wouldn't have mattered. The whole place was pretty much devoid of all color, outside of the trees and what little grass was on the property. Also when we left the place we were staying it was a beautiful fall day - blue sunny skies etc. By the time we were in the camp the sky had gone gray and overcast - and right as we were leaving it starting raining.
The first view of the Camp. It's so weird because on the other side of the street is a shopping center. We also saw people jogging along this sidewalk - I don't think I could just LIVE normal life - walk my dog etc. - along that wall without thinking about what happened....
As we walked up the walkway to the entrance of the camp.
This is the actual road that the prisoners walked from the train station to the entrance of the Camp...
The entrance. The words on the gate mean - Work is Freedom. The false promise of the camps. The phrase was all over the place - in the beginning it helped get the prisoners to work harder - but it soon became away to lower their hope. All the early camps had this phrase all over as most of the Concentration Camps were modeled after this one - Dachau being the first.
This is the main "parade" grounds. To the left is the main building which was where prisoners were - processed when they arrived and where the kitchens and officer offices were located. To the right are the barracks. This is the area were the prisoners would have to stand for role call twice a day - sometimes for hours and hours in all kinds of weather.
One of the two Barracks that are still standing.
The cement "curbs" represent the location of the Barracks. The buildings themselves were torn down not long after the war - but each curbed area represents one of the 32 barracks. The first four were used for interrogation, as solitary confinement, and as a "museum" for the visitors who were "honored" enough to be invited to the camp.
This represents how LONG one of the Barracks was. The front of the picture is the beginning of the 'curb' and it ends right before the tree. Each Barrack was built to house 250 people. When the US Army liberated the camp in April of 1945 they found nearly 1600 people living in one barrack.
Barracks 1,3,and 5 were the "medical" buildings. Not a lot of helpful medicine was preformed in these buildings however. If you were a strong worker who got hurt or sick enough so you were not able to work they might fix you up enough to get you back out working again. But if you were weak or useful you went to those buildings to die. Also a lot of hideous medical experiments were preformed to further help the Nazi war efforts. Many, many people died at the hands of doctors in these buildings.
The walk way here was the main road between the rows of Barracks. This was the area where the prisoners could spend what little free time they were given. They could contact people from other barracks and exchange any news they may have learned. They called this area "The Spirit of Dachau" The trees along this road make the most beautiful whispering noise when the wind blows....it was almost like the whispers of the prisoners.... the words of hope, the words of comfort and encouragement and the words of death that were whispered along this road.
This is the Catholic Memorial on the Camp Grounds.
As the sign says MANY polish clergy were killed here in Dachau. In the beginning of the camp it was used primarily for political and religious prisoners. The very interesting thing to me is that the Priests were put in separate barracks from other kinds of prisoners and were forbidden to speak to other prisoners and if they were caught praying they were shot on site. The Nazi's wanted all chance of hope removed from the prisoners and this included anything religious. To take hope away makes people less human - gives them no reason to fight for their humanity.
The Jewish Memorial
From the ramp into the memorial
Inside the protestant church. The church is an active congregation - on the camp groups - having services on Sundays and everything.
On the way to the other side of the camp
The Russian Orthodox Memorial
I took this picture in color because I so loved the picture above the Alter and you couldn't see the details as well in Black and White.
Crematorium: Remember how we died here.
The black areas are where ashes of unknown dead are buried.
This is the older of the two crematoriums - this was the first one built and they built the second, larger one when this one couldn't keep up with the amount of people dying. This was the first time I actually cried on the journey. There are still ashes in the oven.
This is the room where people waited to "take showers" I really wish I had taken this picture in Color because outside the window everything was so beautiful and green - a stark contrast to the grey inside - and the death.
Translates to :Showers
Inside the Gas Chamber. While there are no OFFICAL records of this particular chamber being used at all - there are many reports from survivors of the gas chamber being used for larger punishment executions.
On the other side of this grate is a small - window - that they would use to drop the gas into from the outside and then seal until the people were dead.
This is the floor and the door of the room where the bodies would be put before they were cremated.
The main cremation room. Many times prisoners would be hung on the wooden beams right in front of the ovens.
Outside the building
Another place where ashes are buried.
And another. I think there were a total of 10 different places that ashes of the unknown dead were given proper burials - different religions giving the proper rites in different areas. This is one of the first areas that memorials were erected - days after the Liberation of the Camp survivors and US Army alike started setting up memorials to honor those who died.
At this point my camera batteries decided to try to die on me - so I was only able to squeeze a few more pictures out - and only in color....
This is the main building and the large memorial for the dead.
This is another art piece in memorial. I really like this one. When a prisoner was brought to the camp they were given a classification - why they were but in the camp - each classification was identified by a different colored triangle - and of course the Jewish people having the star of David.
So - that is Dachau. It was an very moving and powerful experience. If any of you want to know more about it - just let me know - I really love sharing what I got out of going there.