at Buchenwald still containing the bones of anti-German women as
a reminder that what you do in life, echoes in eternity.
Dachau concentration camp (German: Konzentrationslager (KZ)) was the first of the Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany, intended to hold political prisoners. It is located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory northeast of the medieval town of Dachau, about 16 km (10 mi) northwest of Munich in the state of Bavaria, in southern Germany.
Opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler, its purpose was enlarged to include forced labor, and eventually, the imprisonment of Jews, German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded. The Dachau camp system grew to include nearly 100 sub-camps, which were mostly work camps or Arbeitskommandos, and were located throughout southern
Germany and Austria. The camps were liberated by U.S. forces on 29 April 1945.
Prisoners lived in constant fear of brutal treatment and terror detention including standing cells, floggings, the so-called tree or pole hanging, and standing at attention for extremely long periods. There were 32,000 documented deaths at the camp, and thousands that are undocumented.
Approximately 10,000 of the 30,000 prisoners were sick at the time of liberation.
In the postwar years the Dachau facility served to hold SS soldiers awaiting trial. After 1948, it held ethnic Germans who had been expelled from eastern Europe and were awaiting resettlement, and also was used for a time as a United States military base during the occupation. It was finally closed in 1960.
There are several religious memorials within the Memorial Site, which is open to the public.
The prisoners of Dachau concentration camp originally were to serve as forced labor for a munition factory, and to expand the camp. It was used as a training center for SS guards and was a model for other concentration camps. The camp was about 300 m × 600 m (1,000 ft × 2,000 ft) in rectangular shape. The prisoners' entrance was secured by an iron gate with the motto “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work will make you free”). This reflected Nazi propaganda, which trivialized concentration camps as labor and re-education camps, when in fact forced labor was used as a method of torture.
Over 4,000 Soviet prisoners of war were murdered by the Dachau commandant's guard at the SS shooting range located two kilometers from the main camp in the years 1942/1943. These murders were a clear violation of the provisions laid down in the Geneva Convention for prisoners of war. The SS used the cynical term "special treatment" for these criminal executions. The first executions of the Soviet prisoners of war at the Hebertshausen shooting range took place on 25 November 1941.
After 1942, the number of prisoners regularly held at the camp continued to exceed 12,000. Dachau originally held Communists, leading Socialists and other “enemies of the state” in 1933, but over time the Nazis began to send German Jews to the camp. In the early years of imprisonment, Jews were offered permission to emigrate overseas if they “voluntarily” gave their property to enhance Hitler’s public treasury. Once
Austria was annexed and Czechoslovakia was defeated, the citizens of both countries became the next prisoners at Dachau. In 1940, Dachau became filled with Polish prisoners, who constituted the majority of the prisoner population until Dachau was officially liberated.
As late as 19 April 1945, prisoners were sent to KZ Dachau; on that date a freight train from Buchenwald with nearly 4,500 was diverted to Nammering. SS troops and police confiscated food and water, which local townspeople tried to give to the prisoners. Nearly three hundred dead bodies were ordered removed from the train and carried to a ravine over 400 metres (.25 mi) away. The 524 prisoners who had been forced to carry the dead to this site were then shot by the guards, and buried along with those who had died on the train. Nearly 800 bodies went into this mass grave. The train continued on to KZ Dachau.
During April 1945 as U.S. troops drove deeper into Bavaria, the commander of KZ Dachau suggested to Gestapo Chief Heinrich Himmler that the camp be turned over to the Allies. Himmler, in signed correspondence, prohibited such a move, adding that "No prisoners shall be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy alive."
On 24 April 1945, just days before the U.S. troops arrived at the camp, the commandant and a strong guard forced between 6,000 and 7,000 surviving inmates — on a death march from Dachau south to Eurasburg, then eastwards towards the Tegernsee. Any prisoners who could not keep up on the six-day march were shot. Many others died of exhaustion, hunger and exposure. Months later a mass grave containing 1,071 prisoners was found along the route.
Hundreds of prisoners suffered and died, or were executed in medical experiments conducted at KZ Dachau, for which Sigmund Rascher was in charge. Hypothermia experiments involved exposure to vats of icy water or being strapped down naked outdoors in freezing temperatures. Attempts at reviving the subjects included scalding baths, and forcing naked women to copulate with the unconscious victim. Nearly 100 prisoners died during these experiments. The original records of the experiments were destroyed "in an attempt to conceal the atrocities".
Extensive communication between the investigators and Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, documents the experiments.
During 1942 high altitude experiments were conducted. Victims were subjected to rapid decompression to pressures found at 4,300 metres (14,100 ft) and experienced spasmodic convulsions, agonal breathing, and eventual death.
Dachau served as a prototype and model for the other Nazi concentration camps that followed. Almost every community in Germany had members taken away to these camps. Newspapers continually reported "the removal of the enemies of the Reich to concentration camps." As early as 1935, a jingle went around: "Dear God, make me dumb, That I may not to Dachau come" ("Lieber Herr Gott, mach mich stumm, Das ich nicht nach Dachau
Buchenwald concentration camp (German: Konzentrationslager
(KZ) Buchenwald, in English: beech forest) was a German Nazi concentration camp established on Ettersberg hill near Weimar, Germany, in July 1937, one of the first and the largest of the concentration camps on German soil, following Dachau's opening just over four years earlier.
Today the remains of Buchenwald serve as a memorial and permanent exhibition and
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