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Dachu and the Document Museum

Dachu and the Document Museum

While traveling through Germany we were reminded on many occasions of this country’s troubled past. First there were the ruins of a church in Hamburg that had been bombed and burned during the war. There were the bullet holes in many of the older public buildings that had not been patched. There was Potsdam where the victorious Allies decide the postwar fate of the defeated country. And there were the Wall Memorials in Berlin marking the divide where East and West once fought the Cold War. But the memorials in Nuremberg and Dachu were very different and much more difficult.

When we arrived in Nuremberg we were told that Document Museum, which lies on the former Nazi Party’s Rally Grounds at the edge of the city, was a place where we could get an understanding of the German society inevitably led to the horrors of WWII. At the Rally Grounds Nazi leaders created a place where hundreds of thousands of Nazi supporters gathered, listened to inflammatory speeches and demonstrated there unshakable loyalty to the Nazi cause. It was here that the Nazi leadership promoted their vision of a Third Reich utopia that was never wrong and had the moral authority to do whatever it wanted, including fighting war on a scale the world had never before seen and committing horrific acts of murder and genocide. The pictures below are of the Rally Grounds as they exist today. We were told that there is much debate in Germany about what to do with these edifices of evil. Some think they should be wiped of the face of the earth, whiles others think they should remain as warning signs to future generations. In my opinion Germany has done a pretty good job balancing these approaches.

This is the stands where the Nazi’s held mass rallies during the 30’s and the early years of the war. It was from this grandstand that Hitler gave speeches, and later the US Army blew up the Nazi emblem that was mounted on top.

This is the stands where the Nazi’s held mass rallies during the 30’s and the early years of the war. It was from this grandstand that Hitler gave speeches, and later the US Army blew up the Nazi emblem that was mounted on top.

This photo is of a very poignant memorial at the Document Museum it depicts rail lines used to haul Jews and other enemies of the state to the concentration camps. On each card is the name of a person who was murdered by the Nazis. The inscription on the memorial said that there were 30,000 cards representing 30,000 people, which is just a small percentage of the six million Jews who were murdered.

This photo is of a very poignant memorial at the Document Museum it depicts rail lines used to haul Jews and other enemies of the state to the concentration camps. On each card is the name of a person who was murdered by the Nazis. The inscription on the memorial said that there were 30,000 cards representing 30,000 people, which is just a small percentage of the six million Jews who were murdered.

Across the lake is the main building that the Nazi’s built on the Rally Grounds. It was designed to look like the Colosseum in Rome and was large enough to accommodate sixty thousand party members. I thought it was particularly ironic that duck and swan boats now dominate the lake.

Across the lake is the main building that the Nazi’s built on the Rally Grounds. It was designed to look like the Colosseum in Rome and was large enough to accommodate sixty thousand party members. I thought it was particularly ironic that duck and swan boats now dominate the lake.

Our trip to Dachu, which is located near Munich, was a very sobering experience. We were fortunate to have a guide that provided us with the unvarnished truth about the things that occurred at this camp. She was an older woman about my age who lives in the community near the camp. She told us told us how the Nazis used Dachu before and during the war. During he time it was operational, over 200,000 prisoners were housed here. Of these 40,000 were either murdered or died of maltreatment. She told us that they conducted sadistic experiments on prisoners and refined procedures that would later be used at the concentration camps.

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This photo is of the insides of one buildings where high value prisoners were held before and during the war. Members of the group who attempted to assassinate Hitler during the latter years of the war were held here.

This photo is of the insides of one buildings where high value prisoners were held before and during the war. Members of the group who attempted to assassinate Hitler during the latter years of the war were held here.

Dachu had over 30 barracks each of which held 1,000 prisoners. Torture, starvation and horrific experimentation were the norm at this facility. All that remains in much of the camp are the foundations upon which the barracks once stood.

Dachu had over 30 barracks each of which held 1,000 prisoners. Torture, starvation and horrific experimentation were the norm at this facility. All that remains in much of the camp are the foundations upon which the barracks once stood.

This memorial at Dachu was particularly moving. It represents prisoners who could no longer take the horrors of daily life at the camp and committed suicide by jumping on the electrified fence.

This memorial at Dachu was particularly moving. It represents prisoners who could no longer take the horrors of daily life at the camp and committed suicide by jumping on the electrified fence.

Returning to Munich the contrast between the Germany’s past and present was readily apparent. Munich was in the midst of their annual diversity celebrations, which are similar to Pride Parades in the States.

This photo is of a group of immigrants demonstrating for their friends in Africa who are persecuted for being gay.

This photo is of a group of immigrants demonstrating for their friends in Africa who are persecuted for being gay.

Outside of a museum in Munich we came upon a performance of a street play deriding racist totalitarian governments. Alena’s photo with the shadow of the lead performer on the wall seemed to capture more than words could express.

Outside of a museum in Munich we came upon a performance of a street play deriding racist totalitarian governments. Alena’s photo with the shadow of the lead performer on the wall seemed to capture more than words could express.

Germany Part 2 and Amsterdam

Germany Part 2 and Amsterdam

Germany Part 1

Germany Part 1