So the other day I was iunich, which happens to be right next to the original concentration camp – Dachau. I didn’t know this upon arrival to Munich, as I had only really heard about BEEEER!, but was definitely interested in seeing what it was like, especially after having visited the Bomb Dome in Hiroshima. Turns out the Dachau trip was a very different take than the Bomb Museum in Japan, and without the tour guide we had (who was awesome – thanks to Gordon), we wouldn’t have gotten even 1/100th of the info and insight that was did from the visit.
There are so many misconceptions that we seem to have in North America about WW2 and the concentration camps. Apparently a vast quantity, but not all of this misinformation stems from the movie Schindler’s List, which while a great movie, is not entirely accurate. So let’s start at the beginning of our misconceptions:
1. We have the impression that the Aryan race was supposed to be an entire populace of blonde haired, blue eyed ppl. Such is in fact not true. The Aryan race was simply people who could trace their Germany ancestry back 3 generations.
2. Dachau was the first concentration camp and some say it was not a “killing camp”, which is also not true. Dachau was the first stage of creating the entire system of concentration camps. All the training for all personel who worked at all the concentration camps was conducted here. It was where torture techniques were developed and perfected. It was where all of the psychological warfare techiques that were conducted throughout the nation of Germany and occupied territories were perfected. They had a gas chamber and it was used, more for testing various combinations of gases to see how they killed, but it was used nonetheless. Many many people died in Dachau, both from disease, deliberate gassing and torture.
3. Only Jewish people were in concentration camps. Again, simply not true. Concentration camps exsisted 6 years before WW2 even started. They were used as a method of keeping “political disidents” quiet. When Hitler first came to power, he declared a National State of Emergancy because the economy in Germany was so horrific. This gave him power to arrest anyone he so choose, stating that they were an enemy of the state. The first 6 years of concentration camps only contained German citizens, most of whom were not Jewish, but instead were the entire liberal elite who opposed Hitler and his tactics. With his state of emergancy, Hitler managed to successfully cull out any voice of opposition that would’ve been raised again him in his own country. It was only much later, after world war 2 started that Hitler also sent the Jewish people to concentration camps.
4. Anti-Semitism was only a thing in Germany, and Germany was the only country that supported Nazism. Again, not true. In fact, in the 1930’s, most of the world was anti-semetic, and it was the popular thing to do. Most politicians actively and vocally supported Hitler in his anti-semetism and the largest Pro-Nazi demonstration in the world actually took place in Times Square, NY.
5. People and other nations didn’t know what was happening in concentration camps. AGAIN, WRONG. Dachau was in fact used for TOURS!!! Can you believe this? Many nations, include the USA, France and England all came to see these concentration camps that Hitler said would purify the nation. They saw that there were many facilities for the inmates and that things were very clean (which they were in the beginning) and so supported the fact that all these people were imprisoned without trial or any charges being filed against them.
6. All concentration camps were disgusting and dirty. Also not true. At teh start Dachau was pristine and you would be tortured if you were in any way dirty. The prisoners all had beds, they were showered regularly and provided a tolerable level of food. However, this level of cleanliness was used a method of fear, because if anything was out of place, you or anyone else could be tortured or even killed due to your oversight. It was only in the end of the war, when there were too many prisoners being sent to concentration camps from the occupied territories and there wasn’t enough coal to burn all the gassed bodies, or enough food, that things started to get really gross and disgusting.
NOW, the thing you probably didn’t know at all: When entering a concentration camp, the state would take a. your passport, b. your bank accounts, c. all property and items belonging to you. In this way the state gained great wealth, because they had a constant source of income. Then they put the inmates to work in munitions factories in order to re-arm Germany. Hitler marketed his “slave labour” idea to big business and they thought it was a great idea (including companies like BMW and Mercedes), so used these political prisoners to build new war machines. Hitler re-armed Germany from NOTHING to what he fought WW2 with, in the course of 6 YEARS!!! This includes tanks, airplanes, submarines and a navy! Hitler was initially hailed as a HERO for bringing his country out of economic depression. OF COURSE you could bring any country out of depression by taking all the land and assests of the people and turning them into slaves!
It’s really downright fucking scary to think how similar all of these ideas sound to things that are being thrown around today about how Muslims are bad and how Europe needs to be cleansed of their Turkish illegal immigrants. How people are being held in Guantanamo Bay without being charged, and how the economy is depressed and something needs to be done, even if it infringes on the rights of the people. Living in a fear based society was the way that Hitler controlled first his own nation of Germany and then the countries that he invaded. And the craziest thing – the Gestapo tried for almost 12 years to acquire all the info on people that were in their country… info that we just post now on Facebook for anyone to see!
I have to say that visiting Dachau was probably the most eye-opening and insightful thing I have done in probably the last 2-3 years of my life. It was incredible! Certainly much more interesting and amazing than the drinking of beer in Munich could ever be! 🙂