When I got to Munich on Sunday I made my way to Sabrina’s apartment on the metro. Then we went to the pool by her house for a couple of hours. I didn’t know that pools were a big part of German culture, but they are! This pool was really neat because it was filled with water from the river, which they just channeled into a swimming area. This meant that the whole pool was a bright green color from algae. I was considering swimming but the pool was cold and crowded so instead I laid out in the grass with my Nook. Later on, Sabrina had studying to do so I spent some time organizing and planning for the rest of my 2 weeks in Europe.
The next morning I headed to the train station to go on a Radius tour of Dachau. Dachau was the original concentration camp and served as a model to the others. Since the headquarters of the Nazi party were in Munich, they choose Dachau as the site of the first imprisonment camp for the containment of political opponents. Political victims were the first to be contained by the Nazi party. Later on the Nazi’s began to imprison others who they found dangerous to their political power, including the Jews, Catholic priests, etc. We learned that there were 3 distinct phases to the Nazi imprisonment strategy. In the first stage, the Nazi’s sent political opponents to the camps near by to the major cities in order to instill fear into the general population and coerce them into conforming. The second stage began at the start of the war, when the Nazi’s needed supplies for the war they used prisoners for the production of armaments. Only after the war began did the Nazi’s begin to introduce camps solely for the purpose of death, at first in Poland. The Holocaust occurred according to Nazi officials who came up with the Final Solution.
Visiting Dachau was horrifying but also educational and served as a reminder that something like that should never be allowed to happen again. All over the camp, memorials have been erected and several warnings tell of the unjustifiable suffering that should never be permitted again. Dachau was one of the last camps to be liberated by the Americans, who showed up just a little too late for some thousands of prisoners who were lead on a death march and other hundreds who were dying in the camp from typhus, starvation, and other diseases. The camp had to be quarantined for 3 months following the liberation because it would have been dangerous to let so many infected people out into the public without medical treatment. Following the war, the barracks at Dachau were used as a refugee camp for almost 20 years. When the refuge camp closed, the barracks were torn down for health and safety reasons. In their place there is an outline of where they used to be, and one barrack has been reconstructed in order to show the progression of sleeping quarters in the camps throughout the war. First, there were individualized bunks, then larger bunks, and finally just huge slabs of bunks that people would sleep on laying side by side. Dachau was the first camp to open but also the first camp to become a memorial site. As such, it not only served as a model for concentration camps but also as a model for the memory of such horrible places. Only a few original buildings from the camp have survived. One – the maintenance and shower building has now been turned into a museum with thousands of photos and information. We watched a video of live footage from the camp there. Another building was the holding cells for Catholic priests and members of the Nazi party who were caught saying something treasonous. Here is where the notorious standing cells used to be, where prisoners would be locked into a tiny cell with only space to stand for days at a time.
The crematory is another building which has survived intact. The original crematory and the new crematory with the “modern” ovens is a chilling sight. We walked first through the gas chamber, disguised as a shower and then through the oven room. This was certainly one of the most sobering sights of the tour, standing right where thousands of innocent people were murdered. Visiting Dachau was not fun, but I felt it was necessary in order to remember those who suffered there.
After my tour returned by train to Munich, I walked from the train station to the Marienplatz, which is the main town square. In the basement/ cellar of the town hall there is a restaurant called The Rathskeller. I never knew that the restaurant underneath the LBC student center at Tulane was named after a German concept. I enjoyed an Omega 3 salad there with lettuce, avocado, salmon and nuts. Then I crossed the square and went up into the tower of St. Peters church. The top of the tower affords a great view over the Marienplatz and the rest of the city. Once I climbed down the narrow stairs from the tower, I went to the downtown marketplace, where they sell food products, garden products, as well as some German souvenirs. There I bought some raspberries and enjoyed them with some ApfelWein – basically apple cider. Next I walked to the Hofgarten and the English Garden. The English Garden is huge! I passed through the famous Chinese Pagoda and the beer gardens and I made it to where surfers surf the rapid of the river in one spot under a bridge that has quite a current. It was fun to watch them try to catch a wave then bail out down river, get out, walk back, and go at it again.
On my way back to the metro I passed by the old Munich palace building and by two lions where Hitler used to deliver his speeches. I learned that there were 43 assassination attempts on Hitlers life! That’s crazy! When I got back to Sabrina’s apartment, we took a walk down to the love lock bridge over the Izer River. It was a full dat but I learned a lot and enjoyed exploring the city of Munich.