By Phil Guidry
(Editors Note: From time to time, StudentNow
will present travel stories that are more contemplative, personal
and historical. This article about a reporter's visit to Dachau
is just such a story.)
The thing you notice about this horrible place is the silence.
Even as the gravel crunches under your feet, even as the tourists
huddle and discuss matters in hushed, whispered tones, even as the
traffic passes by on the city streets just outside the guard gates,
the silence is there. It is inescapable - it toys with your mind,
and it forces you to deal with the scenario which unfolds all around
This is the town of Dachau, Germany, an otherwise-charming village
established in the 12th century that was once a haven for artists
and poets. But I am here, as a visitor, as a curious observer, for
a different reason.
Dachau was the site of the first concentration camp in Germany.
It opened in 1933, and from that point until it was stormed, liberated,
and ultimately burned to the ground by American troops in 1945,
it was the site of some of the worst atrocities man has ever committed
against his fellow man.
It has been tastefully reconstructed, the shattered pieces restored
and refitted using the original materials which were scattered about
at the end of World War II. The barbed wire running across the fence
tops is rusty; the bricks and mortar which make up the "living"
quarters are cracked and dirty. The ditches dug by the prisoners
here which would eventually be filled with their starved, emaciated
bodies, still runs along the outer edges of the compound. This place
does not feel like a recreation. At all.
I came upon Dachau on the last day of a weeks-long whirlwind journey
around western and central Europe, a trip in which I took 15 rolls
of film. For this last stop, however, I put my camera away. There
are just some things you don't want a photographic record of. And
the things I saw there I will never forget - they are more indelibly
printed in my mind than on any photograph.