Scrapbookpages Blog

May 20, 2013

Tour guide tells students about a “man-made hill” that was put into place at Dachau

On May 19, I blogged about tour guides at Dachau who tell lies about the history of the camp.

Now it has come to my attention that another tour guide at Dachau is telling some very dubious stories about the camp.  You can read about what a Dachau tour guide told a 20 year old British tourist here:

This quote is from this student’s blog post about her trip to Dachau:

We stopped at a map for a quick briefing before the tour, but I was pretty eager to get moving. Here he explained that Dachau was home to the first concentration camp. That being said, it’s a little different to visit. During the time of the camp, the town turned a blind eye to what was going on right under their nose – and this happened everywhere. This is how the Nazis got away with so much. So naturally, after the camp was liberated, the people were embarrassed. As a result, they tried to hide the camp. Most of the barracks were destroyed, a man made hill was put into place, and trees were planted to enclose what was the most shameful part of the small city. In later years, though, the city decided to embrace its culture rather than turning their backs on history. Thus, the memorial was built and it became a place for people to visit and to learn and understand. […]

First of all, the people in the town of Dachau did not try to hide the camp.  The people in the town were cowering in fear of the former Jewish prisoners who were brought to the town and allowed to live in the homes of the residents, who were forced out with nothing but a fine-toothed comb.

The barracks in the Dachau concentration camp were not destroyed.  The camp was turned into a camp for alleged German war criminals.  You can read about “War Crimes Enclosure No. 1” on my website here.

From 1965 to 2003, the Dachau Memorial Site had nothing about the 30,000 “German war criminals” who were held in the Dachau concentration camp barracks from June 1945 to August 1948. In May 2003, I visited the new museum, that had just opened at Dachau. There was one small display board about the prison camp for Germans at Dachau and also one small display board about the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau.

German prisoners line up outside the gate into War Crimes Enclosure No. I in the Dachau camp

German prisoners line up outside  “War Crimes Enclosure No. I” in the former Dachau concentration camp

What about the “man made hill” at Dachau?  Why was a hill constructed outside the camp?

The photo below shows what looks like two “man-made” hills on either side of the entrance to the Dachau Memorial Site.

Grass covered mounds on both sides of the entrance to Dachau Memorial Site

Grass covered mounds on both sides of the entrance to Dachau Memorial Site

On the left side of the photo above, you can see clearly that there is a small grass-covered hill.  On the right side of the photo, there is another grass-covered mound in the shadows of the trees.  Are these the trees that the tour guide said were planted to “enclose the most shameful part of the small city” of Dachau?

My photo below shows the line of trees that hide the Memorial Site today.

Door into Dachau gate house

Door into Dachau gate house with a line of trees on the left side of the photo

The fence that is shown in my 2005 photo above was not there when Dachau was a concentration camp.  The fence was added when the entrance to the Dachau Memorial Site was changed so that tourists can now enter the Memorial Site the same way that the prisoners did — through the Arbeit Macht Frei gate.

The trees in the photo above are not the original trees that were there when Dachau was a concentration camp.  The old photo below shows that a line of poplar trees originally hid the camp from view.  The reason that these trees were planted was to hide the concentration camp from the SS garrison which was right next to the camp.

Old photo  of the Dachau gatehouse shows a line old poplar trees on the left

Old photo of the Dachau gatehouse shows a line of poplar trees on the left

Note the Würm river canal and the barbed wire fence around the concentration camp in the photo above.  The tower in the background is Tower B, which was torn down, but has been reconstructed.

Let’s get back to the “man made hill” that the guide pointed out to the tourists; the two mounds on either side of the gatehouse are covering the ruins of the factories that were located just outside the camp. The factory, shown on the right side of the photo below, was torn down when the camp was turned into a refugee camp.  Ethnic Germans, who had been expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II, lived in the former Dachau barracks for 17 years.

A factory that was just outside the Dachau gatehouse

A factory that was just outside the Dachau gatehouse

In the photo above, the Dachau concentration camp is shown on the left side.  Note the lone poplar tree that is all that is left of the former line of poplar trees that hid the  Dachau concentration camp from the SS garrison, which is behind the camera.

The old photo below shows the Würm river canal and the line of poplar trees that separated the camp from the SS garrison.

Dachau concentration camp with moat and poplar trees

Dachau concentration camp with moat and poplar trees

Getting back to what the tour guide told the tourists, this quote is from the blog of the 20-year-old British student:

The tour was the hardest towards the end when we went to the gas chamber. Dachau’s gas chamber is still standing. We learned that people who were killed in the gas chambers commonly came from other camps. They simply thought they were being shaved and showered just like any other camp. I had never considered this before, but I suppose it makes it seem less depressing than them knowing that they were going to die. The chambers were used a lot more towards the end of the camp because of disease and over-population. Thousands of people were killed in the chambers. The original ovens used to cremate the bodies were still there as well as the upgraded ones they used later on. I was standing outside the building, listening to our guide explain, and I saw the picture posted right there.

Bodies piled up outside the Dachau crematorium

Bodies piled up outside the Dachau crematorium

The photo above shows dead bodies piled up outside Baracke X.  Near the end of the war, the Dachau camp had run out of coal to burn the bodies.  After the camp was liberated, these bodies were taken by the Dachau residents to Leitenberg, a hill where bodies were buried in mass graves.  But first, the bodies were left there for weeks, so that American soldiers could be brought to the camp and told that Dachau prisoners had been gassed in the building that is shown behind the bodies.

“The [gas] chambers were used a lot more towards the end of the camp because of disease and over-population”? (quote from the student’s blog)

Did the tour guide really say that?  It is true that there was a typhus epidemic in the camp, and the camp was over-populated because prisoners had been brought to the main camp from the sub-camps, so that they could be turned over to the Allies.  But did the Nazis try to stop disease and over-crowding by gassing the prisoners?

The blogger did not give the name of the tour guide, but this quote describes him:

The tour met outside the train station in Munich, where we caught a train and then a bus to the concentration camp. Dachau Concentration Camp was the first concentration camp. We were in for a big taste of history. Our tour guide was a self-made tour guide who started his work with Dachau and (from what I understand) studied art in college and was now a teacher of some sort. He was a born and bred Irish Catholic turned Atheist who, at times, seemed incredibly biased in his descriptions. (I found this amusing because he was hell bent on pushing the acknowledgement of equality of those affected by the camps.) He was entertaining, though. Since he was sort of cynical and dark-humored, it made the tour more lighthearted.

Note that the blogger wrote that the tour guide “seemed incredibly biased” and she “found this amusing.”

I interpret the statement “he was hell bent on pushing the acknowledgement of equality of those affected by the camps” to mean that he wanted to include the homosexual prisoners, the Gypsies, and the Catholic priests in the suffering at Dachau, and not just talk about the Jews.  In the future, maybe he could include the German “war criminals” who were imprisoned at Dachau, and the ethnic Germans who lived there for 17 years.  For example, he might mention that the ethnic German refugees were kicked out of the barracks at Dachau in 1965 so a Memorial Site could be built to replace their only home.

The photo below shows a restaurant, in a former disinfection hut, where the German refugees could gather and socialize, before it was torn down in 1965 to make room for a Memorial Site.  The location of the restaurant is where the Jewish Memorial now stands.

Former "disinfection hut" at Dachau was turned into a restaurant for ethnic German refugees

Former “disinfection hut” at Dachau was turned into a restaurant for ethnic German refugees