Visiting Dachau concentration camp was the last tour we made in Munich and the last stop of our road trip through Bavaria, Austria, and the Czech Republic.
We were actually doubting very much if we should go there… It is obviously a place with a heavy history and atmosphere. Not the most fun place to end a holiday. But do you know what? It was a great call to visit the Dachau Concentration Camp memorial site…
Discovering the history, expanding your knowledge or simply understanding a new perspective on something is a big part of traveling. Doing a tour in Dachau memorial site delivered all of this. There are many private companies doing tours in Dachau and some of them are “free” (you are expected to tip, of course), but we opted to do the official one.
Visiting Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
If you are planning on visiting Dachau Concentration Camp, note that more than a tourist attraction, this is a memorial site! Please act accordingly and pay respect to everyone who died and suffered there. Without the tour, visiting Dachau Concentration Camp is free. You only have to pay 3 Euros for parking.
German authorities decided not to make a profit out of it and decided to use it to educate people about the dark past.
Dachau Concentration Camp official tour
Although the memorial site opening hours are from 09:00 to 17:00, there are official tours only at 11:00 and 13:00. The tour takes about 2 and a half hours. Note that this is not a free tour but costs only 3 Euros. You will probably end up tipping the private guide more than this. Furthermore, in the official tour, you will have an experienced German guide, while in the private ones you can’t be that sure. If I’m in Germany, learning about German History, I want to have a German specialist guide!
The official tour “consists of a guided tour through the grounds of the former camp, the historical buildings, and parts of the permanent exhibition. The goal is to provide a basic knowledge of the history of the Dachau Concentration Camp and the memorial site, as well as to examine the question ‘What does this history have to do with us today?’ “
What can you learn by visiting Dachau Concentration Camp
As we stated above going to Dachau is an opportunity to learn. These are some of the things we discovered while visiting Dachau:
- It’s neither the worst nor the biggest concentration camp, it was the first (only 6 weeks after Hitler going to power)!
- Dachau was the model from where all the others were created. It was, in some sense, a school of violence.
- As per the Nazis, it wasn’t a concentration camp, but an “Education Camp” to the opposition.
- There were no executions in Dachau concentration camp, it was used to distribute prisoners to other camps. Nazis avoided having executions on German soil;
- It worked under the Kapo system, where the other prisoners did the “dirty work” to keep the order;
- How the internal hierarchy worked and the badges to identify the prisoners;
- There were Jews but they weren’t the majority of the prisoners in Dachau. Among others, there were Poles, Russians, Gypsies, Handicapped, Nazi opposition, Homosexuals, etc… ;
- At liberation, after seeing what had been done inside the camp, the soldiers started a “take no prisoners campaign“, executing every SS officer in the camp. 50 were killed before they were stopped;
- They were all eventually acquitted in martial court;
- After the war, the camp was used as a prison and then a refugee camp;
Our perspective on visiting the Dachau concentration camp
Visiting Dachau concentration camp was an enriching and enlightening experience. The site has such a dark, historical shadow that we could sense it in the air. What happened there can’t be forgotten or erased. Although the memorial site has now a calm and even serene tone while entering the site we were anxious and uneasy. We couldn’t dismiss from our mind the past of the site.
Overall we are really glad we were able to visit Dachau concentration camp memorial site. Traveling is about fun, beautiful sceneries, cultural experiences, and amazing adventures but it is also a way of getting to know each other better and understand human nature… the good, the bad, and the astonishing evil. With time we tend to forget how awful things can become, and how inhuman we can be.
Dachau and Nazi Germany weren’t a unique phenomenon in Mankind history.