Thursday, August 28, 2014

A short solo trip and history lesson

Before coming to Spain, Laura and I had been reading about Munich and cities near by to try and come up with a general plan of things to do and experience. In my readings about Munich and places near by, I realized that the city of Dachau and it's memorial for the concentration camp that stood on the edge of the city was just outside the center of Munich. I had heard about concentration camps throughout my schooling and wanted to take this opportunity to be in the place of such a huge moment in our world's history. Laura, having been to Berlin and some concentration camps nearby, decided it was too much of a trip for her, so we decided to spend the day apart and to meet up between three and five. Our plan was for Laura to wait for me at Marienplatz by the bell tower at the start of each hour between three and five and to wait fifteen minutes before leaving to shop before the next hour. If I didn't show up by six, she would call the police or something along those lines. Seems like not a great emergency plan but at least we had a time at which to be worried and take action, right?

I left earlyish in the morning since I wanted to go by the information center and see if my train pass for the week would cover the trip and to make sure I knew how to get from the bus to the train. Turns out I needed another pass so I bought that, validated it (almost forgot that part! That'd be a 40 euro fine) and hopped on the train for a 20 minute ride to Dachau. From there I grabbed a train to the concentration camp memorial. On the bus I met two guys who were part of a big tour group with their family. One was from Texas and his cousin was from South Africa. They were really nice and we chatted until we got to the memorial. They said I could just join their tour group since it was really big already and the guide was speaking English. I felt badly not paying for the guide so I ended up paying for a tour with a guide from the memorial.  In my tour group there were please from outside Burlington and they knew if Elon! They also had an adorable two year old. 

Being in the concentration camp was surreal as it was hard to imagine such atrocities occurring in the places where I stood. I learned that Dachau was a camp for men and started with political figures arrested after the nazi party took over.  It eventually housed men from over 30 different countries. Apparently, Hitler had issued a law that no Jews could be in German concentration camps which was followed until around 1944 when he sent Jewish people to the German camps. Women were also sent to Dachau around this time. 

The daily life of a prisoner was to get up and have role call around five where each of the thousands of prisoners were called by name then work for almost twelve or more hours of hard labor and have another role call around six. They were fed around 600 calories worth of food a day. The SS were in the camps until six and wouldn't allow the prisoners to talk to help each other. After the second role call, the SS would leave and the prisoners would walk between the barracks and help each other with learning German (a skill that would save a prisoner from punishment and pain), passing information about the outside world or sharing some of their food if one prisoner had a higher ranking which meant that they got more food. 

Within the prison, there was another prison for punishment which was where the SS tortured prisoners for crimes. One example was a man confined to standing in a 70cm by 70cm space for ten days as punishment for bringing in a newspaper after doing labor in houses that had been destroyed. There were also rooms without windows where the prisoner might stay for up to eight months.

After the Americans liberated the camp, they made the citizens of Dachau walk through the camps and see the atrocities. They people were horrified and the soldiers recorded some of their responses. The guide had them written down and asked if someone else would read them since he was not a native English speaker. After I moment I said I would. One of the quoted ladies said that if Hitler knew of the horrors he would stop them from happening. Another said he could believe this of the Soviet Union but not of Germany.

While this was a somber start to my day, I found it interesting to learn more about our worlds past history and find hope that we as a global community will forever be horrified by what transpired and strive to not let ourselves allow these events to be repeated.

After this I took the train back to Marienplatz to wait for Laura. When she arrived we looked at a few stores, got a gift or two, and then bought food from the market. Afterward we bought our travel tickets for the next three days since we are taking day trips. Then we went home and made dinner-mashed potatoes and something like bratwursts. It was super yummy :) afterward we tried to watch a movie on my phone and when that didn't work we watched some Spanish comedians and tried to rap along with some songs. All in all a great end to the day. Tomorrow we leave for Ulm!