The piece of history everyone should experience: The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Tour with Dachau Concentration Camp pictures and touring tips.
Munich Day 1: Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Tour
We also did this very first to make sure it happened, but if I could do it all over again, I’d visit the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism first to learn more of the political side of the war and then do Dachau the next day.
The Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Tour
I’ve always been one to spend my time reading historical fiction and non-fiction to soak up the stories of civilizations, countries, and people. As hard as it is to read WWII literature, it’s something I’ve always been drawn to both as a teacher and as the granddaughter of two WWII vets with very different stories.
One grandfather was a sharpshooter who was part of a platoon that shot locks off concentration camps. I wish we knew more, but it’s something he only talked about in the last year of his life. The talking he did was very limited. It was just too difficult to describe what liberating a camp was like and what he had seen. He was the toughest man I know, and my dad claims it brought him to tears to open up even a little about his experiences.
Between my family history and my years teaching WWII literature as a high school English teacher, I have always had visiting a concentration camp on my bucket list. I just needed to see this ugly part of history with my own eyes in person.
Visiting Dachau Concentration Camp
Dachau is one of the easiest camps to visit, due to proximity to Munich and easy transportation. It’s also one of the best preserved since it was liberated at the end of the war, and near the Nazi capital. It was the first used. And it had different purposes throughout the war, and it was one that was kept mostly intact for history. All these make it a great place to visit, even if it’s not the most noted in historical fiction.
It’s best to start inside the museum area and to read the historical timelines and history of those who suffered through Dachau. It starts with the processing and documentation when prisoners enter. You are designed to walk through the gates as you would have had you been a prisoner, and go through the experience they would have.
We could have spent many more hours here and felt a bit rushed. I also think it’s worth it to book a professional tour guide in your language. The audio guide was excellent, but we found ourselves pulling off our headphones and listening in on English tours when they would come and share additional information.
Dachau was originally used for a place to threaten Germans who opposed the Nazi party. Even through its evolution, it always had a political tone that makes time spent reading the different purposes and stories of people so worth the time. I only wish we weren’t feeling rushed and I could have soaked in even more than I did!
From the museum, you continue the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial tour by existing to the tower where roll call and prisoner inspection happened. You face the bunkers in front of you and you have the museum/processing center behind you.
We stood for a long while in the lineup area. I thought a lot about the people who faced roll call and brutality every day in this location. It’s one of the most beautiful landscapes with robust trees and forest on the outskirts. It’s truly amazing to find such an ugly place housed inside with barbed wire locking one in on every side.
We then headed to the bunkers to sit and listen to stories of the disease, the abuse, the personal stories of the bunkers. We definitely weren’t smiles at this place. It just all felt so heavy and so overwhelming to think of so many individual lives and experiences. Taking a smiling picture or even attempting to pull ourselves out of the emotions just felt so wrong.
After the bunkers, your Dachau tour will guide takes you down the long walk to the death centers. This was originally lined with bunkers, but only a few restored bunkers remain. We thought of the death march one must feel from one location to the next as we silently and soberly walked this long walk among the trees.
Dachau Death Camp
The end of this walk lead to some very sobering signs. There are memorial places for different religions to come honor those who were lost in their own way. We sat outside for a minute and decided to honor these people by the unnamed markers and memorial stones for the unknown.
From there it was time for the part that I just don’t think you can fully be braced for, the crematorium, gas showers, and pistol range for execution. Oh, the stories you hear! But seeing these places in real life is just something so emotionally overwhelming.
An Emotional Experience at Dachau
The showers really got me. I thought of the people who innocently entered here thinking they would take a shower and who never came out. I thought of those who had heard rumors and knew their fate.
My mother heart thought of the children who were brought here and weren’t considered old enough to work. It was one of the heaviest moments of my life. I kept thinking of individuals stories and situations. The realization hit me how much I’ve clumped the suffering together in my mind because it’s just too overwhelming to think of the magnitude otherwise.
I let myself feel today, I let myself cry, I let my mother heart just ache, and I think that’s precisely what one should do. A few hours in this location will change you. It’s something every human should see and experience.
An Experience That Will Change You
We both left the Dachau Concentration Camp Tour pretty teary. We both left pretty overwhelmed. And we both left more ready to see our baby boy and give him hugs. We gave more thanks to God for him than ever before.
It’s a place I think everyone should visit in their lifetime if given the chance. Dachau is a place that will change you. As hard as it is to experience this place in real life, it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I better understand history and to have more compassion and awareness for the struggle of those who were sent here.
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