The countdown for the best of Munich continues...
#9. Visit Dachau:
I’m always hesitant to recommend a visit to Dachau as a stop on any tourist trip to Munich, but the truth is, the remnants of Germany’s first concentration camp are important to see.
For many, including a large percentage of North Americans, it is the only way to fully grasp the atrocities that took place during a very dark period in German history.
The reason I hesitate in recommending this as a “must-see” for tourists is my empathy for the German people who have come so far in putting the horrors of World War Two behind them.
That in mind, a trip to Dachau can be a sobering experience well worth the visit.
Greeted at the doors by the famous sign reading Arbeit Macht Frei (work makes freedom), visitors can sign up for a guided walk around the camp, or you can take a slower tour at your own pace. Whether or not to sign up for a tour is really up to you.
For me personally, I needed to take my time wandering through the camp in order to come to terms with the emotions rising every time I took another step.
The incredible sadness that overwhelmed me when I set foot in the camp brought tears to my eyes more than once and I couldn’t stop thinking how lucky I was to live in a country that has never experienced this type of anguish, on either side of the gun.
Having visited the camp more than once, I have also experienced the guided tour and will definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a detailed explanation of a day in the life of a camp prisoner.
Fortunately, Dachau plays a short documentary at various intervals (and in various languages) throughout the day, so even if you miss the tour, you can get a feel for the timeline and a sense of the impact the camp had within the community itself. For example, during the liberation of the camp, neighbours were forced by English and American troops to enter the premises and witness the devastation that had got unpunished for so long. Nobody went untouched by the reign of the Nazi regime, including German citizens frightened for the lives of those they loved.
According to the camp website, in the twelve years between when the camp opened in 1933 and liberation by British and American forces, 41,500 (of the 200 000 who were imprisoned) were murdered.
When you walk around the camp, you will see bunkers and toilets used by former prisoners. You will also walk into rooms where people were systematically killed, tortured or hung until ready to enter the crematorium. Finally, you will see the barb wire fence that encircles the camp, the graves beyond the crematorium that mark the resting place of unknown victims and the wall where people were executed at close range.
Like I said, a trip to Dachau isn’t a heart lifting or happy experience and shouldn’t be portrayed as such. It is a place to go to pay your respects and learn from the mistakes of a shared history.
The camp is easy to get to by S-Bahn. Once you arrive at Dachau, a bus running frequently will take you straight to the camp.
Travel tip shared by thefriendlygiraffe