Sunday, April 12, 2009


Thursday we went to Dachau. We walked to the Munich train station and bought a ticket for around 12 Euros ($15) that the 4 of us could use the entire day on any bus, commuter train, subway or tram. We then took a commuter train to the town of Dachau. From the Dachau train station we took a city bus to the Dachau Concentration Camp. We stopped at the visitors' center and picked up an audioguide.

We first saw where the SS lived, and then turned 180 degrees to see the main gate into Dachau with the "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate. When you enter through the gate, you stand in the roll call area, where the prisoners would have to stand and be counted a few times each day. Sometimes this took hours. The workhouse was on the right and the barracks area was on the left. There are a couple of reconstructed barracks, one of which we could enter. The conditions in the early years weren't so horrific. In the mid 1930s, the prisoners (mostly political prisoners from Munich, some priests and Jews) had their own designated space in the long bunk bed with a small wooden divider and a little shelf above each space for personal items. The was a space to hang one's towel and colorful bedding. In the later '30s the barracks were divided into a sleeping room and a room with individual lockers and tables and chairs. No longer were there individual sleeping areas in the long bunk. Then by the 1940s the living conditions resembled those that one commonly thinks of when imagining a concentration camp. 30,000 people crowded into space built for 6000.

We then walked down the lane between the two sets of barracks (now only the foundations survive) to the religious memorials. From left to right there is a Protestant chapel, Catholic memorial, Jewish memorial. A Russian Orthodox chapel is elsewhere in the camp.

We then had a look at the deterrents to escape. First there was a grassy area between the walkway on the perimeter of the barracks and a concrete trench. Then there was an area of trip-wire followed by a fence. Next came a gravel area with a watch tower, then a wall. On the other side of this wall there was a stream/river, followed by another wall. I'm guessing not too many people escaped this way.

We crossed a small bridge to the west and looked at the crematorum and gas chambers. Officially no one was gassed at Dachau, but there is some evidence to the contrary. Of those who were executed, most were killed with a bullet to the neck. Many, many Russian POWs were executed without being processed (therefore not officially counted) after the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.

We then watched a documentary film about Dachau, and toured through the workhouse which is now an interesting museum. I think we spent about 3 1/2 hours at Dachau. It was worth the trip, but needs some money put into it, as many of the outdoor display boards were faded to the point of not being able to see them. They are building a new visitors' center that will be a great improvement over the one that exists now.

We took the bus back to the train station and ate sandwiches and salad at a small cafe across the street. We were on an express train back to Munich and arrived in about 15 minutes. We had planned on a "Third Reich Walking Tour" but got back too late from Dachau, so we went to Olympiapark instead. This is where the Olympics were held in 1972. It is now a lovely park. You can swim in the Olympic swimming pool where Mark Spitz won his 7 gold medals, go up the communications tower for a look around Munich or eat in the revolving restaurant. There is ice skating, a place to go to concerts, a beautiful's a very pleasant place. The village where the athletes lived during the Olympics are now apartments.

We spent a couple of hours in the Sea Life aquarium at Olympiapark. It was well done with nice exhibits, but overpriced.

We then took the subway back to Marienplatz and ate dinner at Riva Bar Pizza. We each had our own pizzas, and they were very different and very good. We ate outside in view of the Isar Tor, one of the gates of the old city. After this exhausting day we walked back to Marienplatz and took the subway 2 stops to Theresienwiese, the stop closest to our hotel.

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