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.
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.
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.