We flew into Munich for a short stay with Patricia and Geert (relations of Tina) they had generously invited us to stay with them while we were in town. Geert picked us from the airport and we went with him back to their apartment. It is in a great spot, very close to the center of Munich and walking distance to the bus stop and underground train system.
The weather is great, actually quite hot. Maltre, their son was home from university so he offered to take us on a walk around town and show us where to catch the trains and buses. We went through a park area and along a river towards Nymphenburg Castle.
A river running through the park.
Large fish were swimming around everywhere.
Nymphenburg Castle is a large building that was built by one of the royals as a holiday house. The river or canal ran right into the front garden and also through the rear garden. We walked through the gardens enjoying the great weather then continued on again.
Front garden of the castle.
Rear garden at the castle.
Maltre had to go somewhere for the afternoon so he showed us to the station and where buses and trams ran to town and back. He left us there to have a look around Munich for the rest of the afternoon.
Patricia and Geert took us out to a typical German beer garden that evening which was a great experience. Some really good Bavarian food and of course beer by the liter. The Germans really do know how to eat and drink well and generally have a great time.
Enjoying some great Bavarian food.
Tina and Neil.
The next day we went got a train to Dachau to have a look around the concentration camp memorial. We knew this would be an uneasy experience, however it is part of our history and the memorial is setup to remember those who were murdered or perished in other ways at the camp before and during the 2nd world war.
The front gates that many prisoners never came back out of.
We walked around with our audio guides through the actual camp. The old road and railway that would bring prisoners to the camp has only recently been uncovered and leads up to the main gates. The first area inside is the roll call area where prisoners would have to line up twice a day in all weather conditions. If the numbers did not match the roll call (maybe an escape or something) they would be made to stand at attention for hours or even days until it was rectified.
The main building that used to be like admin and where new prisoners would be checked in and stripped of all their possessions when arriving is now setup as a museum. A walk through the museum gives an insight to what live would have been like in the camps. There were a lot of photos and information about what went on inside especially through the war years. It also described how Hitler got into power.
The main building and roll call area.
Outside again, there were 2 bunkers, which were setup as prisoner housing exactly as they would have been when the camp was in operation. The rules for the sleeping quarters were unbelievable. The beds must be made perfectly with square edges on the pillows and bed edges, all sheets must be folded exactly the same, the dishes could not have a single mark on them, the floors were to be kept spotless. These standards were issued directly from Berlin and enforced by the SS with severe punishment if even the littlest detail was not correct.
The old bed frames inside the sleeping quarters.
Behind these 2 bunkers were the remains of the other bunkers. Only the concrete footings remain today with a number in each one, they stretch the entire length of the remaining prison yard. Dachau was expanded once the war began to accommodate around 6000 prisoners, however there was more than double that in it during the war years.
The remains of the other bunkers.
At the end behind the bunkers were religious monuments built by different groups from around the world to honor and remember the members of their religion who had died or spent time at Dachau.
Off to the side through another set of gates we found the crematorium. This is when it hit home what the NAZI’s actually did here. There was firstly a smaller crematorium which quickly became insufficient for the amount of bodies they were burning so another large one was built.
The small crematorium.
Inside this building was a series of rooms, firstly a set of ovens. They had benches on rollers so the bodies could be pushed in. The roof above was of timber construction with large exposed beams – from these they would hang the noose. Prisoners would be marched in to stand in front of the oven they were about to be put in – then they would be hoisted up and left hanging until suffocated before being taken down and burnt.
2 ovens inside the building.
Along a bit further was a gas chamber disguised as a shower room. Groups of prisoners would be taken to the room before it where they would be briefed on how to used the so called showers, then they would be ordered to strip off all items of clothing and sent in. Once inside the door would be locked, all vents closed and poisonous gas tablets pushed into the room. There were peepholes for the SS soldiers to watch through.
The gas chamber.
There were so many bodies put through the crematoriums that they had large holes and trenches dug to empty the ashes in when cleaning out the ovens. These days there are gardens and religious monuments around these areas in memory of the prisoners who were murdered there.
There is no confirmation of mass extermination in the gas chambers at Dachau, however it has never been proven to not have happened either. The NAZI’s tried to cover a lot of what happened up just before the U.S forces liberated the camp in 1945. However it would seem that Dachau was basically a blue print for the much larger Auschwitz 1 & 2 in Poland where roughly 1.3 million people were exterminated.
An aerial shot from not long before the end of the war.
This was unbelievable to see the worst side of the human race, however it is good to educate people and remember those who died there to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.
We got back to Munich and were sitting outside having dinner not far from Patricia and Geert’s apartment – when all of a sudden huge hail stones started dropping from the sky then thunder and lightning, we jumped undercover just as it poured down with rain. It went for about 5 minutes then backed off so we ran for it and made it home without getting too wet.