Munich Day 3
After yesterday's manic but fabulous day out in the Alps we opted for a later start today. We werent flying out until 9.25pm so we planned to leave our cases at reception, go off for the day and collect them at about 6pm. now when I say later, my two teens didnt think it was late enough. I set the alarm for 7.15am but they were absolutely cream crackered after yesterday's exploits. I finally extracted them from their pits and by 8.15 we had deposited our cases and headed into breakfast. I could barely watch Michael as he loaded his rye bread with salmon, cooked meats and God knows what else. I went for the rye bread, fruit and coffee and Kathryn had something similar. We then said our goodbyes to this lovely little hotel and were off.
It was to be a much more sobering experience today as we were visiting Dachau concentration camp which is near the town of Dachau and just outside Munich. It was an easy ride from Laim station and in 20 minutes we were there. At the railway station the bus stop for Dachau was easy to find. There was a sign that simply said 'Concentration Camp'. We had decided that it was so easy to get there ourselves that it wasnt worth paying the 21 euros each for a guided tour. As we had a ticket that covered all rail and bus travel it didnt cost us any more.
We arrived at Dachau and went straight to the reception area where we paid 3 euros each for the audio guides. They were simple to operate and at various points along the way we simply pressed a number and the information was available. I thought that the layout of the reception area was tastefully built. It is modern but fairly stark. The only things available to buy are books on WW11 and on the horrors of the Nazi era. Until recently you couldnt even buy a drink here, but now there is a small cafe with flowers on every table. It is just enough for it not to look like a commercial operation.
With our audio guides and maps in hand we headed off (in the wrong direction!). A few minutes later Kathryn said 'Mum, where are you going?'. I am totally hopeless at reading maps, but I should have guessed that following the rest of the visitors was a good idea. As we walked towards the entrance to the camp it was almost like a black mood descended. No one spoke and on the gate ahead we could see the infamous sign 'Arbeit Macht Frei' (Freedom through work) on the gate.
There were signs to the side of the gate to mark the liberation of the camp by the allies.
As we walked through the gates we could see the vast area ahead where the roll call took place each morning.
After the war, the huts housing the prisoners were pulled down and now there are only two left. These have been reconstructed and are exactly as they were in the war years.
The whole area was so bleak and stark and even on a beautiful day like today had an air of menace about it. However, it was something we felt we had to do and we are glad we did. We started with the museum to our right, which is a tribute to the brave people who were imprisoned and mostly died here. The pictures on the displays were horrific and I just couldnt post them here. At this stage I became a little panicky because I realised I had lost Michael and Kathryn. The place is so vast I decided to just keep going and hope that I would bump into them somewhere along the way. It took about an hour and a half to make my way through the museum and even at that, I didnt get to read half the displays or look at all the exhibits. The one that seemed to stand out was this bench, which the prisoners were tied to and lashed should they be guilty of the slightest misdemeanour (or even none).
I could only imagine the suffering. Another exhibit was this tiny bowl that the prisoners used for their food. The photo doesnt do it justice but the area that contained the food was about the size of a fist.
The whole experience was sobering and not once did I hear a noise as I made my way around. Just as I was finishing Michael caught up with me. We then headed back through the museum and found Kathryn. We were so shattered by all the displays and exhibits that we had to sit down. We went outside and sat in front of the memorial to the dead and collected our thoughts for about 20 minutes.
We then made our way over towards the two reconstructed huts. En route we saw the long path where prisoners were marched down each morning towards the roll call area
The huts were far too clinically clean so we only had to imagine what it would have been like in the foul, crowded conditions almost 70 years ago. These were what the beds were like. They were short and you can only imagine how horrific it must have been
It was all absolutely horrible but it was sobering in the extreme for us all.
Ahead we could see the are where there was once a line of huts