The Dachau Concentration Camp is just a stop on a normal bus route. It’s awful. It’s awful for the people who live here, who I saw going home with their groceries, retrieving their children from daycare or going out for a beer at a nearby pub. It’s a constant blow to be the host of this memory.
The residents on the bus don’t appear to notice the swarm of tourists. Their faces are blank as if all of this were a part of their routine. Has it ceased to annoy them? At some point you have to build a dam in the mind, I thought. Otherwise, how could anyone live here? But if you do live here, how can you ignore the significance of this place?
Suddenly I see myself and the other tourists. We are craning our necks to get a better look out of the windows, wondering if we were there yet.
Iron gates open wide to take in the throngs of visitors brandishing cameras, jostling with an energy that seems ill fitting considering that we are in a concentration camp. A large visitors’ center houses a cafeteria and an information room where the most cordial English-speaking Germans will explain anything you ask about.
We walk down a pebbled path, hopscotch over the puddles and then we pass thorough a large gate, the prison gate. A barren field stretches before us, too great for my eyes to take in at once. I turn to my right. A row of first floor houses that look beach cabins.
I walk into the first building next to the gate. This is where the visitors had their first look-over. Here they were dispossessed of their belongings and given their uniforms. This row of buildings has been converted into a museum with black and white pictures
and glass cases holding brushes, uniforms, random objects left here after American soldiers liberated the camp.
A panel explains that the hooks in some of the ceilings were used to hang people. I am mortified. Did I really need to come here? What am I learning here? On my way to the prisoners´ sleeping barracks, I see Nandor Glid’s International Monument. What a sinister thing, good God. It looks like a rubber band ball that has snapped, the individual bands are people so emaciated it’s hard to tell which is a knee and which is a torso.
I visit the other barracks, the sleeping rooms where people prayed for the oblivion of sleep for a respite from these horrors. But, my mind keeps going to the people on the bus…
Related: Berlin Travelogue. Exhuberant Grafitti. Elegant Architecture. Good Food & A Quiet Place to Get Lost.