DYNT visits Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, which stands on the site of the original camp, opened to the public in 1965. It is free to enter and thousands of people visit Dachau each year to learn about what happened there and remember those who were imprisoned and died during the Holocaust.
At the dawn of World War II, Hitler came to believe that restricting the daily activities of Jews in Germany and the countries annexed by the Nazis would not resolve what he considered to be his “Jewish problem.” Nor would isolated acts of violence against Jews serve a purpose. Instead, the chancellor determined that the sole solution would be the elimination of every European Jew.
Also set for extermination were members of any group considered by Hitler to be ill-equipped to reside in the new Germany. Among them were artists, intellectuals and other independent thinkers; communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others who were ideologically opposed to the Nazi Party; homosexuals and others who were viewed as sexually deviant; Gypsies; the physically and mentally handicapped; and anyone else considered to be racially or physically impure. Between 1941 and 1944, several thousand sick and handicapped Dachau prisoners were sent to Nazi “euthanasia” centers, where they were put to death by exposure to lethal gas.
Over the years of its operation, from 1933 to 1945, thousands of Dachau prisoners died of disease, malnutrition and overwork. Thousands more were executed for infractions of camp rules. Starting in 1941, thousands of Soviet prisoners of war were sent to Dachau then shot to death at a nearby rifle range. In 1942, construction began at Dachau on Barrack X, a crematorium that eventually consisted of four sizeable ovens used to incinerate corpses. With the implementation in 1942 of Hitler’s “Final Solution” to systematically eradicate all European Jews, thousands of Dachau detainees were moved to Nazi extermination camps in Poland, where they died in gas chambers. The Nazis also used Dachau prisoners as subjects in brutal medical experiments. For example, inmates were obligated to be guinea pigs in a series of tests to determine the feasibility of reviving individuals immersed in freezing water. For hours at a time, prisoners were forcibly submerged in tanks filled with ice water. Some prisoners died during the process.
In April 1945, just prior to the liberation of Dachau by the Allied forces, the SS ordered approximately 7,000 prisoners to embark on a six-day-long death march to Tegernsee, located to the south. Those unable to maintain a steady marching pace were shot by SS guards. Other marchers died from starvation or physical exhaustion.
On April 29, 1945, the United States military entered Dachau, where they found thousands of mostly emaciated prisoners. The U.S. soldiers also discovered several dozen train cars loaded with rotting corpses. During the entire time in which Dachau served as a concentration camp and death camp, over 200,000 prisoners were cataloged as having passed through its gates. An inestimable number, running into the thousands, were never registered, making it impossible to know exactly how many people were imprisoned at Dachau and how many died there.