visiting dachau

This isn’t a happy travel story like the many other posts on my blog — it’s quite the opposite actually. But it’s something that I wanted to share on my website because although most tourists are interested in Oktoberfest and the Marienplatz while in Munich, I believe it’s just as crucial to visit the not-so-fun-and-happy sites like the Nazi concentration camps. The experience is heavy and sobering, and although it’s difficult to comprehend that something as horrific as this actually occurred, it’s important to pay our respects. People need to first handedly learn about the good, the bad, and the ugly stuff that happens in our world instead of just reading about it in a textbook, and that’s why I think everyone should visit a concentration camp. It was part of my high school choir group’s agenda and then I went again with my husband years later.

Visiting Dachau Nazi Concentration Camp

We decided that visiting Dachau Concentration Camp was something we needed to do while abroad, and because I have family in Germany and we were visiting them at the time, it was a very touchy subject. Since my husband and I know very little German (we can both say “good day”, “thank you” and I can count), and only two of my relatives know broken English, we couldn’t figure out if they were offended, embarrassed, or  angry that we had plans to tour the camp. Although it’s part of their country’s history, they obviously didn’t support the genocide and I have a feeling that it’s sometimes difficult to cope with the past. Nonetheless, we hopped on a train from Munich to Dachau and spent the entire day there.

Work Makes You Free

“Work makes (you) free”

As we entered the concentration camp’s gates I remember the sun shining and the birds chirping and for some reason, that made me uncomfortable. You’d expect dark and gloomy weather when visiting a place like this and that wasn’t the case. I also realized that the massive trees lining the gravel paths had been there since the concentration camp opened its doors. It was eerie to think that they had “seen” everything.

Dachau Concentration CampDachau Nazi Camp

From the memorial: “May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933 and 1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow men.”

Dachau TripDachauGerman Concentration CampConcentration CampsDachau HolocaustDachau Memorial

What did I take away from this visit? Remember the atrocities humans are capable of so that they never happen again.

Dachau Memorial SiteDachau Liberators

       
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Filed Under: Germany, Travel41 Comments
  • http://www.freedom-of-excess.blogspot.com/ Darci Miller

    Great post. I visited Dachau when I was in Munich two years ago. Seeing a concentration camp was very much a bucket list item for me, and didn’t disappoint in its poignancy. I’m Jewish, so to walk into a gas chamber and be able to walk out the other side was just… indescribable. I still get goosebumps when I think about it.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      I’m not Jewish so I can’t even begin to imagine how you must have felt during the visit. The gas chamber area was definitely the most emotional part for me. Such a haunting place.

  • http://movebyyourself.com Kelley @ Move By Yourself

    I also visited Dachau when I traveled to Germany. It is a very unique experience but one everyone should take part in.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Completely agree.

  • http://www.deletingtheadjectives.com/ Rachel Brandt Fisher

    It’s so incredibly sad to see this but yet it is so important and people keep going to keep the memory of this awful reality in our minds and to honor those whose lives were stolen.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Exactly!

  • Claire Badenhorst

    I visited Dachau two years ago and I got the exact same feeling. It is incredibly eerie, almost because it seems so peaceful now, like you’d expect from a large cemetery. I think it is extremely important to remember the past and I think anyone can benefit from this experience, no matter what your creed.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      That was definitely the weirdest part… the camp was peaceful, it was a gorgeous day, and the birds were chirping.

  • http://www.lammtothelaughter.com/ Brianne

    I visited Dachau on my honeymoon, of all times, and was completely sobered. It did rain while we were there for us, making it even more sad. One thing that really irked me, though, was that there were a number of people taking pictures in the worst ways. One man jumped into the gas chamber and smiled while his dad took a photo of him. It just seemed so… wrong. Did you encounter people like that?

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Luckily we didn’t experience people being inappropriate. I would have slapped someone! Can’t believe he actually did that! Ugh.

  • http://liveitinerantly.com/ Quyen Nguyen

    I also visited Dachau and it was such at sobering, emotional and powerful experience. I definitely recommend everyone that visits Germany to visit a concentration camp. It is a powerful, unforgettable experience.

    http://liveitinerantly.com/

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Completely agree!

  • Grace from Amble.travelblog

    I visited Auschwitz as part of a British government program and am an ambassador for holocaust education. I attended a talk by a holocaust survivor (who was part of the polish resistance) in one of the old accommodation blocks – words fail me, such a brave man to go back there and educate others in the place he was tortured for so long. I wrote an article for Holocaust Memorial Day over on my blog about my visit, if you’d be interested to read. Thanks for sharing – its so important for people to read about things like this!
    Grace xXx
    (http://theartofwandering.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-lessons-i-learnt-from-auschwitz.html)

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Thanks for sharing your experience and blog post, Grace! I will definitely check it out!

  • http://guntersabroad.blogspot.com/ Jamie @ Gunters Abroad

    I just recently returned from Amsterdam and took a holocaust tour through the city. We learn about these things in school, but it doesn’t hit home until you are standing in front of a house where a young married couple and their 5 month old child used to live and you know that they were arrested and sent to the camps. And of course the mother and child were immediately gassed. Thanks for sharing, I hope to visit Dachau soon.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      I feel the same way, Jamie! We obviously learned about the Holocaust in school, but seeing the concentration camp in person was just so emotional.

  • http://bluehairinbelgium.blogspot.be/ Kerri Heritage

    Even these pictures give me chills. I’ve never been but will one day. You have to see the world for what it is and what it was to really appreciate the opposite and it’s beauty.
    Not on the same scale as this but two months ago my bf and I went to visit the commonwealth cemeteries in Ypres, Belgium, from the world war and we stood under the memorial gate with all the names inscribed on the walls and it’s amazing. In the most sobering and harrowing way, all these people who have died and there they are on a wall and that’s it now.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      I know! It’s difficult to look back on the photos because they’re so… horrible. Ugh. I was telling my husband that I was almost in tears writing this post.

  • http://themovetoamerica.wordpress.com/ Molly @ The Move to America

    Very moving and a worthwhile experience as, as you said, there needs to be education about this atrocity so that it never happens again.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Exactly!

  • http://pleasurablepursuits.blogspot.com/ Tracy O’Neill

    Visiting this site is one of the items on my travel list. Most people say, why would you want to go there? The most obvious answer is that I’m a history major, but even more we shouldn’t ignore bad things that happen because it’s sad or uncomfortable to think about. Plus, although it happened in another place and in a different time, there are still lessons to be learned and the victims deserve to be honored. I think this is a very touching post and I hope I make it there someday.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      That’s exactly why we went!

  • http://www.erikafromamerica.com/ Erika

    You know… your thoughts pretty much summed up a lot of what I felt visiting Dachau and also Auschwitz. I still haven’t been able to share about either visit because… oh man, words just don’t… explain it. One day I want to share but your post captured so much of it. Thank you for sharing this, Rachel.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Exactly, Erika! I finally shared this post almost 2 1/2 years after visiting the camp. It’s definitely hard to put the experience down in words.

    • http://www.buissonfamily.blogspot.com/ Debbie @ Buisson International

      Erika, I understand your struggle. It took me about 7 months to write about Sachsenhausen. I finally decided to write it based on facts rather than off ofmy emotions. That helped but I still need to write about Auschwitz-Birkenau.

  • Kelly

    I visited Dachau on a college choir trip. It’s a tough experience, but an important one, like you said.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Yep. Definitely a tough experience.

  • thediynurse

    I think you really summed it up well with “sobering.”

    We’ve only gone to the DC holocaust museum but that’s enough to impact you in such a way. Humans really can be horrific at times. I wish there were museums that celebrated small and large acts of kindness as well

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      I’ve been to the DC holocaust museum a few times and wow… such a sad place.

  • http://www.twentysomethingintoronto.com/ Shanondoah Nicholson

    I went a few years ago and I think it’s important for these sites to remain and be visited because if we don’t remember the past we risk repeating it.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Exactly!

  • http://www.toothbrushtravels.com/ Amy @ ToothbrushTravels

    It’s a tricky subject, but i think sites like this need to remain to educate people about our past. We need to learn about where we’ve been in order to understand who we are and hopefully that helps in ensuring that history never repeats itself x

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      I completely agree, Amy!

  • Casey

    Wow! Intense! When we were in Boston this weekend we saw the small Holocaust memorial and its just such a haunting part of history.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      That’s exactly how I feel when we visit the Holocaust museum in DC!

  • http://www.delightadventure.com/ stacey k

    i have yet to visit a concentration camp, but i did visit Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. yes, it was sad, and sobering, and haunting, but visiting it was also life-changing for me. where there are stories of devastation, there are often more powerful stories of hope. stories of the ‘righteous among the nations’, for example, are inspiring. one quote that i read at Yad Vashem that i will never forget was from a holocaust victim’s journals: ‘you have made my life so rich, oh God, an uninterrupted dialogue with You.’

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      What an incredible experience, Stacey! Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.EnzieShahmiri.com/ Enzie Shahmiri Portrait Artist

    I have not been to Dachau yet and enjoyed your photos of the place. I think it is important to write about history, so that horrors like this don’t are not repeated. Thank you for sharing.

    • http://www.postcardsfromrachel.com/ Postcards from Rachel

      Exactly!

  • http://becominglola.blogspot.com Letitia Elizabeth

    Sobering indeed. This is the type of tourist I am regardless. I’ve somehow grown out of the festival stalking and become a history buff over time. This will definitely be a place on my list to experience in person. Thanks for posting the roads less traveled.

  • Brittny McLeod

    My husband and I are planning to visit Dachau when his family visits in September. Living in Germany definitely gives us an interesting perspective- especially living in Nürnberg. And yes- they are very sensitive about their past. We visited the Nazi rally grounds museum a month or so ago, and it really drives home the line from Captian America “So many people forget that the first country the Nazis invaded was their own.” There are several memorials, little statues and plaques, all over the city to the soliders and those persecuted, who were killed in the war.

    Brittny
    http://www.awrittenjourney.com