Scrapbookpages Blog

November 17, 2013

Visitor’s center at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 11:39 am

The first time that I visited Dachau in 1997, there was no place to eat, and bringing food inside the camp was forbidden.  At that time, there was a McDonald’s restaurant about a mile from the camp, and there was severe criticism of a sign, fairly close to the Memorial Site, advertising McDonald’s.  It was considered very disrespectful to even think of food, while visiting a place where Jews had been killed.

I visited Dachau several times after that.  On my visits, the entrance into the camp was not through the Arbeit macht Frei gate, but though a hole in the fence on the opposite side of the camp.  I have not been back to the Dachau Memorial Site since 2007.

Tourist entrance into Dachau many years ago

Tourist entrance into Dachau years ago

When I visited the camp in 2007, construction had just begun on a new visitor’s center at the new entrance on the opposite side of the camp.

Entrance path into Dachau memorial site in 2007

Entrance path into Dachau memorial site in 2007

Construction of new Dachau visitor's center began in 2007

Construction of new Dachau visitor’s center began in 2007

The photo above shows the beginning of the construction of a visitor’s center, which includes a bookstore and a cafeteria.  The building in the background is located in the former SS garrison and training camp that is right next to the former concentration camp.

Today, visitors to the Dachau Memorial Site are told by tour guides that the SS garrison was a place where the SS soldiers were trained in torture and abuse of the prisoners next door.

This quote is from another blogger:

Much of the [Dachau] camp (and the part we couldn’t see) was used to train the Nazis in the art of torture. Most of those Nazis worked closely with Hitler and many went on to run Auschwitz. Now the buildings are privately owned and used for the Bavarian Riot Police Academy. (Or something like that. Kind of alarming.) It really bothered me that it was a school for Nazis. Literally. And in the old shower room there are many displays and signs explaining what went on. The most disturbing sign talked about how many different languages were spoken, but said that the only language needed to communicate was that of fear.

Since 2007, visitors to Dachau have been able to see some of the buildings inside the former SS garrison, where Nazis were trained to torture the prisoners in the camp, according to the tour guides.

Looking into the former SS camp, next door to the Dachau concentration camp

Looking into the former SS camp, next door to the Dachau Memorial Site

Dachau ntrance sign put up in 2009

Dachau entrance sign put up in 2009

Visitor's Center at Dachau was opened in 2009

Visitor’s Center at Dachau was opened in 2009

Entrance into Dachau visitor's center

Entrance into Dachau visitor’s center

If Hitler had a grave, he would be turning over in it, at the thought of the construction shown in the photo above.  Hitler was an artist, who had once thought of becoming an architect. The first thing that tour guides at Dachau should explain to tourists is that this building is an example of why Hitler wanted the Jews out of Germany.

Dachau visitor's center has opening in the roof

Dachau visitor’s center has opening in the roof

This quote is from the blogger who took a tour of Dachau after the new visitor’s center was built:

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 [of the dead bodies outside the gas chamber] posted right there.

So it seems that the tour guides at Dachau are telling students at least part of the story.  The people who were killed in the gas chambers at Dachau did in fact come from other camps.  But why?

Were prisoners brought from other camps to Dachau because the “other camps” didn’t have a gas chamber?  No, they were brought to the main Dachau camp to take a shower and have their clothes disinfected before going on to a sub-camp of Dachau. These people had originally been in Auschwitz, but were brought back to Germany when the Auschwitz camp was abandoned in January 1945.  The “gas chamber” at Dachau is the former shower room, which was changed into a gas chamber by the American liberators of the camp.

I wrote about the newly constructed gas chamber at Dachau that was shown in a film at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal at

Why do tour guides at Dachau tell visitors about the “Dachau gas chamber” at all?  It is because young students want to get their money’s worth when they pay for a tour to the camp.  They don’t want to hear that Dachau was mostly a camp for political prisoners and that there was no gas chamber.  They certainly don’t want to hear that the “gas chamber” was constructed by the American liberators.  In Germany, that would be a crime, punishable by 5 years in prison.