A Visit to Dachau - the Town and the Concentration Camp

A Visit to Dachau - the Town and the Concentration Camp

By  Saturday, 10.1.2015, 20:24    Tourist Sites

I wanted to start my reacquaintance with Munich in Dachau, as it was the place which left the most lasting impression when I lived in the city 25 years ago. Having worked in various war zones, including Rwanda immediately after the genocide, I was curious to visit Dachau again to see how the impression would be this time around. I have been to various genocide memorials in the intervening years - Tsitsernakaberd in Armenia, Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and Nyamata church in Rwanda - but one of the strongest memories of all these places was a simple sentence in German on the final display in Dachau:

Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it. 

Dachau the second time round was a very different experience, and I decided to walk to the site, rather than take the bus. It did feel a little strange asking locals the way to the local concentration camp, and I wondered what it must be like coming from a town which is internationally famous for its former evil establishment. There were helpful signs at the station, and as everyone else headed straight into town, I took a right towards the camp.  

It was quite a walk (about 40 minutes) through industrial parks past a selection of international restaurants until finally, the low-level camp came into view on the side of the road.  

And had the barbed wire and watch towers not still been in existence, one could be forgiven for thinking its purpose had been much more benign.  

After the brutal conditions of 70 years ago, it was somewhat ironic to find the modern camp had excellent facilities, including a disabled toilet next to one of the bedrooms which had had hundreds of inmates crammed into it.  

While many of the blocks are no longer there, there is more than enough on display to give visitors an impression of the extremely cramped conditions.  

According to the excellent 22-minute documentary, Dachau was the first ever concentration camp opened by the Nazis in 1933, and it became a prototype for others. More than 200,000 prisoners passed though here, with more than 30,000 perishing. This was something which struck me this time round - the meticulous recording of statistics of the inmates by the SS. Thanks to this, the comprehensive exhibition had extremely detailed information on the numbers and ethnic groups who suffered here.  

The centrepiece monument in the camp is particularly striking, and has become a symbol of Dachau.  

Another thing that caught my eye this time round was this aerial photograph of the camp. The camp itself was much bigger than the small section allocated to the Nazi prisoners, and it included some rather unusual items.  

Like number 78, a wild game park, whose location was all the more grotesque, next to the crematorium. 

There was plenty of poignant art on display.  

And, as I finished my tour, I wondered what it must feel like to live right next to the camp. The camp is away from the town, and today there are a few houses which neighbour it on one side, with a watchtower as the neighbour.  

And a reminder, if a reminder was needed, that the town will always be famous in the eyes of the world for one thing.  

Rather than shy away from its evil past, the Dachau authorities have embraced it (see the Dachau monument on the side of the local bus for example), and what is an extremely difficult and painful topic has been handled intelligently and informatively, resulting in an outstanding and dignified memory of the lessons of the past for future generations.  

I decided to take the bus back and was given the opportunity a couple of times to change buses and visit the old town of Dachau, which I suspect few tourists do after the museum, as the bus goes straight to the S-Bahn. 

It is a pity, as the old town, perched on a hill, is particularly beautiful, compact and multi-coloured with that typical German toytown feeling, a far cry from the one attraction for which Dachau will be eternally renowned. 

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Paul Bradbury

After 12 years living on the most gorgeous island in the world, Hvar in Dalmatia, I have begun to wonder if there is still life beyond its shores. Prior to discovering Paradise in 2002, I was a world traveller, living and working in Japan, Georgia, Somalia, Rwanda, Russia... and Munich.

After 95 countries and some 25 years have passed, the memories of my year in the hotel industry in the Bavarian capital (fired by the Sheraton for losing our pet snake, the first male chambermaid at Hotel Arabella, and a truly eye-watering introduction to five-star living in  my days as a bellboy in luxury Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten) are strong, and the call of Munich has been a constant theme over the last quarter century. 

And so here I am, answering the call some 25 years later. Twelve years of island living have changed me for sure, but also left me curious about life in a big city, and whether or not I could adapt to it after such an insular decade. 

I was surprised to see that for such a magnificent multi-cultural city, English-language blogs and regularly updated information are not that available. Static tourism information, such as that provided by the excellent tourist board website yes, but accounts of daily life delivered daily? Hard to find.

And so I have decided to take a break from my idyllic island and see if I could live in a city again. And what better way to try than to discover modern Munich in all its facets after so many years. It is a journey of discovery which I am relishing, and I hope the site proves to be of interest for Munich residents and its numerous visitors.

About Paul Bradbury

Author of Lebanese Nuns Don't Ski, Lavender, Dormice and a Donkey Named Mercedes and Hvar's first comprehensive guidebook, Hvar: An Insider's Guide to Croatia's Premier Island, as well as co-author of Split: An Insider's Guide with Mila Hvilshoj, I have lived in Dalmatia full time since 2003. In addition to running Total Munich, I also run Total Split (www.croatia-split.com), Total Hvar (www.total-hvar.com) and Total Inland Dalmatia (www.total-inland-dalmatia.com), as well as being an accredited Google News journalist for Digital Journal in Canada.

I also have various blogging clients, including the Central Dalmatia Tourist Board, European Coastal Airlines, Touristar TV and Andro Tomic Wines, and print clients include Qatar Airways inflight magazine, Out! magazine from New York, and Croatian Hotspots. 

In December 2014 I was delighted to receive the Marko Polo 2014 Award from FIJET Croatia (Federation of International Travel Writers and Journalists)  at a ceremony for the Croatian Journalists Society for the best international tourism promotion of Croatia. More here.

Ongoing writing projects:

A History of Hajduk Split, co-author with Frane Grgurevic - in 2015

Around the World in 80 Disasters - out in 2015

Total Hvar in the Media:

Interview of the Month, Croatian Embassy in Washington (May 2013)

Special Feature in Globus Magazine (May 2013)

Featured on Croatian TV show, More (2012) - watch the report here

Interviews in Slobodna Dalmacija, Dalmacijanews, Radio Split

I am available for writing services. Please contact me on [email protected] or visit my main writing website, www.bossandblogger.com 

Website: total-hvar.com Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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