Dachau, the German concentration camp for Jews and others considered inferior or dangerous to the Nazi cause, was liberated in the spring of 1945.
Allied soldiers stood horror stricken at the emaciated survivors staring at them through the fences. They were the pitiful remnants of the thousands who died there, some gassed or otherwise executed; others succumbing to disease, overwork, or mistreatment.
My husband and I visited Dachau over fifty years later. We stepped off the train and found our way to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial. The neighborhood was quiet, with few of the usual shops and restaurants associated with places where visitors come in large numbers.
Inside the camp, we studied exhibits tracing the history of this monument to inhumanity. The exhibits were stark: black and white pictures of Jews being corralled; methodical recording of statistics; and scientifically dispassionate accounts of brutal experiments done on prisoners.
As in many historic sites, a movie was shown in an auditorium to add to the exhibits. I think it’s the only time I didn’t watch such an audio-visual aid. I couldn’t. I wept and could not stop. My husband led me from the building.
I never want to go back to Dachau, but I think everyone should see it at least once. Then they will understand the phrase “never again.”
Ann Gaylia O'Barr, author of Singing in Babylon, Searching for Home, Quiet Deception and Distant Thunder (all OakTara), was a Foreign Service Officer in the United States Department of State from 1990 to 2004. Assignments included tours in U.S. embassies and consulates in Saudi Arabia (Jeddah and Dhahran), Algeria, Canada, Tunisia, and Washington, D.C. (Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and Bureau of Intelligence and Research).