We humans are fascinated by disasters. We find it impossible to look away from a car wreck. When a disaster of enormous consequence occurs, our first impulse is to tell someone. Cable news stations are acutely aware of this tendency; they capitalize upon it with round-the-clock coverage of hurricanes, mass shootings, and terrorist attacks. For the most part, I believe it would be healthier not to be quite so fascinated with such events. However, I also believe that some disasters must never be forgotten. Thus, just as I had toured Auschwitz Concentration Camp near Krakow, Poland, and the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I made it a point to visit Dachau Concentration Camp during a recent trip to Munich, Germany.
I took a sobering two-hour English language tour at Dachau. I learned that between 1933 and 1945, more than 200,000 people from all over Europe had been imprisoned in the camp and it’s subsidiary “work” sites. At least 41,000 prisoners were murdered during those years. For those prisoners, work certainly did not make them free, as the Arbeit Macht Frei slogan on the front gate proclaimed. Reading about such statistics cannot even begin to convey the horrors of Dachau Concentration Camp. The numbers of victims seem improbable, even unimaginable. I simply cannot conceive of human beings inflicting such cruelty on their fellow men and women.
Seeing the barracks where people were stacked like logs brought those numbers into stark reality, in a way that reading it could not. Listening to our guide relate stories of prisoners and witnesses made me understand the evil that can dwell in the hearts and minds of men and women who have been infected with hatred. Visits to sites like Dachau or Auschwitz are not comfortable or enjoyable; they are gut-wrenching. But they are essential if we are to ensure that something as horrific as the Holocaust never happens again.
For more information about visiting the Dachau Concentration Camp, visit their Memorial Site website