Dachau in Munich: Why I Went

Munich is a city of the wildly popular Weisswurst (white sausage), lively beer gardens (about 20 to choose from!), bustling street side cafes, significant architecture and stunning hikes courtesy of the Bavarian Alps. It also harbors a dark history. During the 1920’s, Germany was mired in economic depression, which offered a slice of sunlight to extremist political parties, one being the Nationalist Socialist German Worker’s Party or known worldwide as the Nazi Party. History is similar to karma, he weaves and sprouts with no set targets in mind. He just does. Munich is an unfortunate mistress to history. By 1923, the majority of Nazi Party members were concentrated in Munich. This is where Hitler chose to stage the famous Beer Hall Putcsh, a plot to overthrow the Weimar Republic. He failed at that time, but by 1933 the Nazi Party controlled all of Germany. Dachau is about 20 km from Munich, a quaint town with an 18th century castle and quiet, treel lined streets flanked by suburban homes to those who work in Munich. 51 days after Hitler seized power, an abandoned munitions factory near Dachau became the Party’s first prisoner camp. It opened on March 22, 1933 and was liberated by the U.S. Army on April 29, 1945. At first, Dachau was mainly implemented to eliminate Hitler’s political opponents and Jews, but soon expanded to rid Germany of undesirables – homosexuals, criminals, gypsies, Christian leaders or anyone deemed unworthy to exist under the Nazi regime. By the mid 1940’s, Germany was losing the war and the amount of foreign intakes to the concentration camp rose significantly. I suspect the Nazi Party was panicking and wanted to erase evidence by relocating and executing their captive enemies. Dachau is considered a prototype for other concentration camps that were built in eastern Europe, particularly Poland. The highest concentration of Jewish people lived in Poland at the time, so anything learned and crafted at Dachau contributed to Hitler’s Final Solution. It’s an awful concept to think about and you might wonder why I chose to tour Dachau during my stay in Munich when there are so many other lighthearted things to do. Thanatoursim or “dark’ tourism is not the latest fad in travel. As long as there’s been horror, there’s also been grief and the need to remember those who perished at the hands of evil. British scholar A.V. Seaton wrote about thanatourism in his 1996 academic paper titled,  From Thanatopsis to Thanatourism: Guided by the Dark, describing it as, “The ‘thanatourist’ being motivated by the desire for actual or symbolic encounters with death.” […]