About 20 kilometres outside of Munich lies the famous Dachau Concentration Camp, a location of interest to those with a penchant for 20-century European history, and a solemn, moving experience for anyone who enters through its imposing main gates. Established in 1933, Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp that saw a startling total of 200,000 inmates pass through its doors, with a chilling 32,000 documented on-site deaths, and thousands more undocumented. Today, it is a sad monument to a horrific event in history, and although worth a visit, it should be noted that some people may find some aspects of Dachau too disturbing.
A well-equipped visitor’s centre will be your first port of call. This comprehensive introduction to the Dachau experience features a bookshop, the chance to book tours of the complex and audio guides. At the southern end of Dachau there is a museum containing a cinema, photographic displays and exhibitions. Some of the most remarkable remnants of Dachau can be found here, including uniforms, everyday objects from the time, a whipping block and significant documents.
Among the notable points of the compound itself must be the large slogan on the iron gates at the Jourhouse, reading ‘Arbeit macht frei’, or ‘Work will make you free’. The former roll-call square is a large open space, and it is here that perhaps the focal point of Dachau is found. The International Monument is made up of several components, including the haunting ‘skeletal’ sculpture by Nandor Glid. There is also a sculpture of triangles reflecting the triangles worn on the uniforms of prisoners.
Perhaps the saddest part of site is the Never Again wall. It is a wall with the words “Never Again” written in five languages. In front of the wall sits a box of ashes from the unknown victims of the concentration camp, placed there in 1967. Other points of interest include the shunt room, the prisoner bathhouse, barracks and crematorium. The route that visitors take through the compound is the same that prisoners would have taken, making the experience truly authentic, enlightening and sombre all at once.