I was fortunate enough to visit Dachau when I went to Germany during the summer of 2002. It was the most interesting part of my vacation, in my opinion, and I was able to travel all over south Germany. Dachau was the first concentration camp opened in Germany by the Nazi Party. It was opened on March 22 1933 in the medieval town of Dachau which is around 10 miles from Munich. Kommandant Theodor Eicke was the architect for Dachau and used Dachau as his prototype for all future camps. The basic layout of the camp consisted of a separate secure camp near the command center. The command center contained living spaces, an administration office, and army camps. The entrance door of the camp has words that Hitler had spoken which meant through hard work one will be free. Unfortunately these words were just there to motivate to prisoners since the only thing that could free them was death.
Dachau was in use from 1933 until 1960. For the first twelve years, Dachau was used for German nationals detained for political reasons. In 1938, a significant amount of Jewish Germans were added as well as other ‘problematic’ groups. From 1945 through 1948 the camp was used as a prison for SS officers awaiting trial. Irony at its best! After 1948 it was used as housing for various groups. It was closed down in 1960 and memorials started to be constructed.
It is unsure how many prisoners were actually camped at Dachau but the estimate is over 200,000 prisoners. Two thirds were political prisoners and one third was Jewish prisoners. Over 25,000 were said to have died in the camp and over 10,000 at sub camps. A crematorium was constructed to dispose of the deceased. The camp was divided into two sections: the crematorium and the camp area. The camp consisted of 32 barracks, including one reserved for medical experiments. The camp stands now as a memorial/museum of sorts. This is what I visited when I went there. I was able to walk into the gas chambers, barracks, and throughout basically the whole camp. Not all of the barracks are still standing but the ones that are have displays with all the information on the concentration camp. It truly is an amazing sight to see and I was in tears reading the displays. It makes you eternally grateful for the life you live now. No one should ever have to go through something so vile and terrible. If you are ever able to visit Dachau I recommend it; it might not be a happy experience but it is a good experience.