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Dachau Concentration Camp

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Lorenzo Peterson Jr.
  • 90th Missile Security Forces Squadron
While stationed overseas, I visited the Dachau Concentration Camp located near Munich. I walked the same grounds where sources estimate that 60,000 Jews were innocently incarcerated. In middle school, I read about the Holocaust, watched films and met survivors. However, this trip left me in awe, as I learned just how real the Holocaust was.

Dachau Camp is one of 14 concentration camps which have been preserved. Established in 1933, Dachau Camp was the first concentration camp in Germany. The National Socialist party opened Dachau Camp 51 days after Adolf Hitler took power. Dachau Camp was the model for all Nazi concentration camps that followed.

As I walked into Dachau Camp, the entrance had "Arbeit Macht Frei," meaning "work liberates," fabricated into the main gate. Thousands of Dachau Camp prisoners were worked to death while building bombs for Germany. If the work did not kill the prisoners, the disease, overcrowding and poor conditions did. The camp housed 32 barracks, but only a few buildings stand today. During the trip I viewed the tight living quarters and bunk beds, which once housed more than 200,000 prisoners. Grungy remains of pinstripe prisoner clothing were on display. I learned that Poles, Russians, French, Yugoslavs, Czechs, Gypsies, Africans and many other foreigners were also held captive. I smelled the mildew from the public showers, toilets, workshops and jail cells. The camp courtyard and the gas chamber, both still remain intact. The courtyard was used as a firing range to execute prisoners. The once electric barbed-wire fence, cement wall, ditch and guard towers still surround the camp. Exhibits are located around the camp to help further visualize and feel what it was like at Dachau. Displays show hundreds of prisoners who died from medical experiments. Thanks to Allied diplomacy, the unjust suffering would not prevail.

On April 29, 1945, the U.S. Army liberated Dachau Camp. The exact number of Jews who died, were incarcerated or survived will never be known. Dachau stands as a memorial for those who died and a real reminder of the hatred which took place. The Holocaust was a solemn time in history for every nation, and it will be observed by the United States on Holocaust Remembrance Day April 19.

Come out to the Fall Hall Community Center from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 17, to honor and remember those who suffered during the Holocaust.