About Dachau Concentration Camp
Dachau Concentration Camp (KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau) was one of the first of many concentration camps set up by the Nazis to imprison and murder certain groups as part of their campaign of genocide.
History of Dachau Concentration Camp
Founded on 22 March 1933, a mere few weeks after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Dachau Concentration Camp was seen as an example for the SS as to how to run other such camps throughout Europe. It was initially intended for political prisoners, and did so until roughly 1938, when the camp expanded rapidly in size following Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) and became a camp for prisoners – enemies of the Reich – in all forms.
Overall, Dachau Concentration Camp is believed to have housed over 200,000 prisoners, which included Jews, homosexuals, communists and other groups considered to be inferior or subversive by the National Socialists. These prisoners were kept in dire conditions and subjected to ongoing atrocities including forced labour and medical experimentation. The camp was badly hit by typhus in 1944 and 1945, further weakening the already fragile inmates and killing approximately 15,000. In total, around 41,500 people were murdered at Dachau, many of whom were incinerated in the crematorium in Barrack X.
Following the Allied invasion of Europe in 1944, prisoners from camps on the western edge of Nazi Europe were transported inwards: thousands arrived at Dachau, and unable to keep up with the influx of new bodies, conditions deteriorated extremely quickly. These new, already weakened prisoners further aided the spread of typhus. In late April, up to 7000 prisoners were forced on a death march – excavations later found a mass grave containing over 1000 bodies. The camp was one of the first to be liberated by American forces, who did so on 29 April 1945.
Dachau Concentration Camp today
Today, the site of Dachau Concentration Camp houses a memorial to those who suffered and perished under the Nazis: expect to spend at least half a day here to take everything in and digest it. It’s not really suitable for children or some young teenagers – use your discretion and remember it’s a site of peace and remembrance today.
Visitors can tour the grounds and the remains of the camp, either self-guided, with audio guides (small extra cost) or as part of a 2.5 hour guided tour: these run at 11am and 1pm, with an additional slot at 12:15pm in the summer months.
A short documentary runs in English at 10am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 2pm and 3pm daily, which provides a good overview and uses fascinating and horrifying postliberation footage: you can find this in the camp’s museum.
Look out for the detailed exhibition space on Catholics – and particularly Catholic priests – at Dachau. It’s thought 2/3rds of the prisoners held here were not Jewish, but political or ideological enemies of the Reich.
Getting to Dachau Memorial
Dachau is just outside Munich: allow 40-45 minutes if you’re driving. The best option is to hop onto a train – either the S2 line or one of the Regional Trains (RB) which stop here – you can then either catch Bus 726 to the memorial itself or walk the last 3km. The bus runs every 20 minutes.
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