Scrapbookpages Blog

January 8, 2013

Grandson of Dachau survivors takes a tour of the former camp

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:07 am

There has been some recent discussion in the comments on my blog about the Dachau gas chamber and what visitors are currently being told by their tour guides.  I decided to do a search to learn what other bloggers are saying about their recent visits to Dachau.  I found this blog post which you can read in full here.

This quote is from the blog cited above:

Then we came to the spot I had been dreading. The showers. I had heard the stories before. In college, I took a Holocaust history class, where everything was explained in graphic detail. Prisoners were told to take off their clothes and enter the showers to clean themselves off.

The next part refers to what he was taught in “Holocaust history class” as it does not describe the gas chamber at Dachau:

Once they got inside, the doors were slammed shut, and a gas bomb was slid though a sliding door. When people realized what was going on, they would claw and fight there way to the top, gasping for air. Eventually, they would lose control of their bowels, before they would finally succumb.

To get back to the beginning, this quote is from the start of the blog post:

On a recent trip to Germany, I met my in-laws and discovered the rustic beauty of Bavaria. […]  …hidden just miles from these beautiful sites, is a place that holds a much darker story — a history that many people would like to forget.

This is Dachau…The first Nazi Concentration Camp. And, a place both of my grandparents barely escaped with their lives. This is not another lesson in the horrors of the Holocaust. There are plenty of those. This is just my personal story…The story of a descendent of Jewish survivors…The story of my first experience visiting the site where they were robbed of their childhoods.

In the above quote, the writer reveals that he is Jewish; both of his grandparents were survivors of Dachau.  His grandparents were robbed of their childhoods, which means that they were young children when they were in Dachau. Or were they?  It sounds suspicious to me.

There were a few young boys in the Dachau camp when it was liberated, but I have never seen any photos of young girls in the camp.

Young boys at the Dachau camp when it was liberated

Young boys at the Dachau camp when it was liberated

Women at Dachau when he camp was liberated

Women at Dachau when the camp was liberated

Dachau was mainly a camp for adult men, but there were a few children there according to Paul Berben who was a member of the International Committee at Dachau, which controlled the camp near the end. He wrote the following in his book entitled Dachau: 1933 – 1945: The Official History:

As has already been mentioned, there were times when even children were imprisoned in Dachau. The International Committee saw to it that they were not abandoned. A school was organized for Russian children under a Yugoslavian teacher, and the older ones were placed in Kommandos [subsidiary work camps of Dachau] where they were looked after by prisoners who tried not only to keep them in good health but to teach them the rudiments of a trade as well.

This quote continues the story of the blogger’s visit to Dachau:

As we walked, arm and arm, down the long winding path to the camp, my wife and I were very nervous. She had been here many times in the past. But this time was different. There is a sense of guilt felt by many Germans that anyone else simply cannot understand. Her family had no involvement with the Nazi party. And, even though her parents were babies when my grandparents were here, they still apologized to me. My father-in-law told me he was embarrassed to be a German.   […]

I tried to fit everything nicely into the puzzle in my head. “Oh, there’s a barrick!, and there’s a guard tower” I nudged my wife. “This is the big open square where they marched everybody out to sounds of classical music.” She nodded. I got upset. “No, no. Don’t you understand how important this is? My grandparents stood here. This is where people were lined up, and murdered.”

Prisoners at Dachau, on their way to work, are marching to music

Prisoners at Dachau, on their way to work, are marching to music

I felt myself trying to convince her of the gravity of it all. We entered a barrick (sic) and overheard an English tour. “After the war, the rest of the barricks were burned down to kill the rampant disease. This is the only one that still stands. It was a model unit used by the SS to give visitors a false impression that inmates were treated humanely.”

“The real units had no toilets. Inmates would urinate and defecate on the ground.” “Did you hear that,” I elbowed my wife. “Yes,” she looked at me somewhat annoyed. […]

Wait a minute!  The barracks were “burned down”?  Where did the German “war criminals” live when the camp was turned into a prison for Germans after the war?  You can read about War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 on my website here.

After the American Military Tribunal trials were completed, the barracks at Dachau were used, for 17 years, to house the German expellees who had been evicted from their homes in the former Czechoslovakia and from their homes in Poland and other countries.  You can read about the ethnic Germans who were expelled here.

The expellees were kicked out of the barracks at Dachau when it was decided to make the former camp into a Memorial site in 1960.  It was at that time that the barracks were torn down.

The barracks that visitors now see at Dachau are reconstructions, built when the camp was turned into a Memorial Site.  The SS did NOT build a “model unit” to show to visitors.  When visitors came to tour the camp, while it was a concentration camp, they were shown the barracks of the Jehovah’s Witness prisoners because these prisoners kept their barracks very clean.  The original barracks had toilets, unlike the barracks in the internment camps in America, which had toilets in a separate building.

The prisoners were originally housed in old factory buildings; the grounds of the Dachau camp originally housed a munitions factory during World War I.  The factory had to be abandoned because the Germans were not allowed to have weapons, according to the Treaty of Versailles, which was imposed on the Germans at the end of World War I.

In 1938, new barracks buildings were built at Dachau.  The photo below shows the barracks that were used for the Dachau prisoners from 1938 to 1945.

barrack1

The description of Dachau from the blog post continues:

We walked up to a rather strange structure. It looked like a jumble of metal with no real purpose. We both commented on how ugly it was. Then we overheard some passersby discussing the site.

It had actually been created by an artist to depict a common occurrence at the camp. Prisoners who had given up on survival, starved and depressed, would simply walk into the electrified fence. If the voltage didn’t kill them, shots from the guard tower would. […]

My 2007 photo of the International Monument at Dachau

My 2007 photo of the International Monument at Dachau

You can read about the International Monument and see more photos of it on my website here.

The blogger who visited Dachau continues with this quote:

We stood inside the gas chamber and I felt sick. I thought I was going to throw up. I didn’t think about what happened there. I couldn’t. I just felt the raw emotions.

Looking at the way the building was set up, you could see how systematic and well organized everything was. There were two separate entrances. The prisoners would enter a waiting room with instructions and benches to hold their clothes.

Blueprint of Baracke X building at Dachau

Blueprint of Baracke X building at Dachau

The building might have been set up to be systematic and well organized, but was it originally set up as a gas chamber? The photo above shows a blueprint of the Baracke X building where the gas chamber (or shower room) is located in the space that is numbered 5.  This space was called the Brausebad (shower) on the original blueprint.

The blogger didn’t mention how the gas entered the room. However, he did take a photo inside the gas chamber — an artistic photo of someone’s legs and feet, beside one of the drain holes.

Wait a minute! Why was there a drain hole in a gas chamber?  Wouldn’t the gas have gone down the drain and poisoned everyone in the whole camp?  Of course, the six drain holes are now closed up, but if the Germans were going to close the drain holes, why put them there in the first place?  The drain holes indicate that the gas chamber was originally a shower room, which was modified to make it into a gas chamber.  I previously blogged about the floor drains in the gas chamber here.

One of six drain holes in the Dachau gas chamber

One of six drain holes in the Dachau gas chamber

This quote is from the blogger’s description of the gas chamber:

On the other side of the “shower” room was the crematorium, with a separate entrance for the SS. The bodies were literally taken out of the gas chamber and shoveled right into the ovens to be cremated.

Not quite.  The bodies were first put into the morgue room, which was right next to the gas chamber room. From there the bodies were carried to the ovens, a few at a time.  There was, in fact, an outside entrance into the oven room, as well as an entrance from the morgue room.

Why would there be a shower room in a crematorium.  I previously blogged about this here.

This is the second blog post that I have read, which was written by a blogger, who did not do any research before visiting Dachau.  Visitors should find out the facts before they go to Dachau, so they can be prepared to challenge tour guides who tell them that the barracks at Dachau had no toilets, and other lies about the former camp.