51. Dachau

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Dachau, Germany

The front gate of Dachau Concentration Camp with the haunting inscription “Arbeit Macht Frei”. This loosely translates to work will set you free. The morning I went to the concentration it was lightly drizzling and a dreary gray outside. To get to the concentration camp you took a train that took you about 30 minutes outside of Munich and then a bus to the location of the camp and memorial grounds. On the bus ride to Dachau I ran into a fellow student who I had studied with in Vienna. We caught up for a while and then the horror of the situation dawned on us: we’re on a bus to a concentration camp.

For most of my time in Dachau the thought to take photos never crossed my mind. The horror of the experiences there. Countless people killed in absolute pain and isolation. I found the gas chamber to be particularly disturbing. Although never used in the same fashion like the gas chambers at Auschwitz or Treblinka the Dachau Gas Chambers were made in the same style. Outside the door to the Gas Chamber the german word for shower was prominently displayed on the wall. Guards would tell their victims to remember where they put their clothes because they would have to pick them up after they were finished with their showers. Once everyone was inside the Gas Chamber the clothes were promptly incinerated and gas pellets were inserted through slots located outside the chamber. Inside the Gas Chamber there were fake shower heads that furthered the illusion. Once the people inside were dead, guards were look through peep holes to make sure everyone had died and then enter the Gas Chamber with gas masks to move the bodies to the ovens where they were incinerated. I walked through the gas chamber, through the rooms where bodies were stacked too high to be incinerated fast enough, past the mass graves where thousands of ashes of burned bodies were dumped.

After seeing this I knew I had to take photos. I wanted to show my friends and family what I had seen. I wanted proof that I had been there and saw what humanity was capable of. Thats what I think the lesson of Dachau is, the perpetrators weren’t inhuman, they were horrifyingly human. Convinced that they were doing the right thing, the guards at Dachau murdered thousands of innocent people in cold blood. After spending the morning and early afternoon there I could not take any more of it. I took this photo of the gate as I left the camp. The thought crossed my mind of the millions of people who entered gates like this and never left. When I met back up with my mother in the city of Munich she asked me how it was at Dachau. I looked at her and said “Mom, how can I trust humanity again?”

Photo taken on: May 24th, 2016 12:11 PM

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