In the photo above, the white building on the left is part of the Dachau bunker, where some of the prisoners were housed. Between the bunker and the house is a patch of grass where the prisoners could exercise. Behind the grass is the wall around the Dachau camp. A row of houses has been built right next to this wall.
In the photo above, the iron fence goes across the Würm river canal which runs through the former Dachau camp. The houses in the background are right next to the wall around the camp.
My photo above shows the side of the gatehouse that faces the camp. On the other side of the gatehouse, the Würm river canal runs in front of the gatehouse.
For years, visitors to the Dachau Memorial Site have complained about people living in houses so close to the former concentration camp, which is sacred ground because so many people died there.
I have often wondered about the people who live in these houses, which are on Pater-Roth Strasse, the street that goes past the camp. Father Roth was the priest who stayed on at Dachau to administer to the German “war criminals” who were imprisoned at Dachau, beginning in June 1945, just after the last prisoners had left the camp when Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945.
I finally learned from this blog about a man who lives in one of the houses next to the camp wall. This quote is from the blog:
Our guide told us about the house standing adjacent to the wall of the camp. An old grumpy man lives there now and he peers out of the windows and watches the visitors every so often. He lives there because Dachau is the only home he remembers. He was brought to the camp as a 12 year old and was 25 when he left. Homeless, having lost his parents to the camp, he lived on the streets for two years. He returned when Dachau was turned into a refugee camp. He met his wife there, fell in love there, and had his kids there. He doesn’t remember life before Dachau and so he will die there.
I had assumed that members of the Dachau Memorial staff live in these houses, but I was wrong.
The story told by the Dachau guide is a colorful account, but I have my doubts about the truth of it.
Dachau was opened on March 22, 1933 and closed in June 1945 when it became War Crimes Camp No. 1 for German prisoners. If this grumpy old man was 12 years old when he was brought to Dachau, and 25 when he left, that means that he was a prisoner in the camp for 13 years, one year longer than Dachau was a concentration camp.
Dachau was primarily a camp for adult men, not a camp for families. Yet the grumpy old man, who lives in one of these houses now, was brought to Dachau along with his parents, who were killed in the camp, according to the story told by the tour guide.
Dachau was originally a camp for Communists, Social Democrats, trade union leaders, religious dissidents, common criminals, Gypsy men, homosexuals, asocials, spies, resistance fighters, and others whom the Nazis considered “enemies of the state.” Dachau was not a “death camp” for the genocide of the Jews, although there were some Jews in the camp from the very beginning.
The grumpy old man lived on the streets for two years, according to the tour guide. Why didn’t he go to the Displaced Persons Camp that was set up near the town of Dachau?
According to the Dachau tour guide, the grumpy old man came back to the Dachau camp when it was turned into a refugee camp.
After the Dachau War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 was closed in 1948, the barracks were renovated and 5,000 refugees from Czechoslovakia, who were among the 12 to 18 million ethnic Germans that were expelled from their homes after the war, lived in the Dachau camp until 1964.
In 1964, an organization of Communist survivors of Dachau began demanding that the refugees be moved out so that a Memorial could be built in honor of the former concentration camp political prisoners. The remaining 2,000 German refugees were moved in 1964 to Dachau East, a new suburb which was created for them.
The expellees from Czechoslovakia had come to Dachau because they had no place else to go, since there was a shortage of housing in Germany after the war. Some of the expellees were living on the streets of Germany for many years after the war, begging for food and cigarette butts.
Former prisoners at Dachau were able to emigrate to America or Canada or the UK after 1948. But apparently, the grumpy old man sneaked in among the expellees and lived in poverty at Dachau until 1964.
Where did the grumpy old man live after that? The row of houses next to the Dachau wall were not built until the 1990s, according to what I was told on my first visit to Dachau in 1997.
After being a prisoner at Dachau for 13 years, and living with the expellees for even more years, why is the name of this grumpy old man not a household word? Especially since he was a prisoner in the War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 for German war criminals for one year, following his 12 years as a prisoner in the Dachau concentration camp.
Ernst Kroll, a Communist prisoner, who had been an inmate at Dachau since it first opened on Mar. 22, 1933, was quoted by Nerin E. Gun, a journalist who was a Dachau prisoner, in a book entitled “The Day of the Americans.” Why didn’t Nerin E. Gunn mention the 12-year-old boy who was a prisoner at Dachau until he was 25 years old?
Here is another quote from the same blog:
This statue outside the gas chamber [shown in my photo above] was rife with defiance and meaning. It shows a prisoner with a casual stance. Prisoners were not allowed to be at ease at any time, they were always expected to stand at attention. It shows him hand in pocket, which was punishable with a shot to the back of the head. It shows him wearing covered shoes and a big, thick coat. Both forbidden at Dachau. The inscription on the bottom urges the viewer to remember the dead and warn the living. The patch of land the statue looks over contains one of Europe’s largest mass graves. The beautiful trees growing there now were fed off the ashes of those sent to the crematoriums.
The “patch of land the statue looks over” is located only a few feet from Baracke X, the gas chamber building. My photo below shows the grave of ashes for the Jews who died at Dachau.
Update Oct. 20, 2012:
It has occurred to me that some readers might think that the grumpy old man in the house next to the wall around Dachau might be Martin Zaidenstadt, the pan-handler who used to demand money from American visitors to the Memorial Site. If given less than $20, he would get very grumpy. A house next to the wall would have been a convenient place for him to live, but for a man as rich as Zaidenstadt, that would not have been an option.
Martin Zaidenstadt stopped coming to the Dachau Memorial Site to beg for money in 2001. I was told by someone on the Dachau staff that he was too ill to come to the camp anymore. Martin was born in 1911, so if he is still alive, he is 101 years old. I was told by someone in the town of Dachau that he lives in the luxurious house in the photo below, which is just off the main street in the town.