This post is about a 16km walk from Dachau to Bergkirchen. I pass the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial and the herbary of the SS.
I had stayed the night in a hotel next to a gas station, a fast food place, and a hardware store. When I stepped out of the front door in the morning, it was still raining.
I didn’t go to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial right away. First, I wanted to find a place to store the Caboose. There were two or three streets with single-family houses right next to the former camp. I had noticed them on my visits to the memorial before, and they had always struck me as weird: had they always been there, even when the camp was still operational? Or had some people in post-war Dachau just decided to build their homes there, right next to the site of the first nazi concentration camp, a place where over 30,000 people had been killed?
It reminded me of Gusen.
to store or not to store
I walked around between the camp-adjacent houses, marvelling at the normality of it all, and I ran a few bells in the hope of finding a place to store the Caboose during my visit to the memorial. Nobody answered.
After this I went to the information center at the entrance of the memorial. It was very crowded, and I didn’t feel like leaving the Caboose there, either. So I tentatively pulled her in the direction of the memorial.
Once I got to the gate with the infamous ARBEIT MACHT FREI (“work sets you free”) slogan, I just stood there for a while. It was still raining. Many of the other visitors were taking pictures of the door with the slogan. There were a few groups being led around by memorial guides. I saw many colorful raincoats and umbrellas.
living in the camp
The night before I had run into an old lady who had told me that she, herself, had resided in the camp after the war. Resided in the camp… after the war?
“We are Danube Swabians,” she said, “when I was little my family lived in Budapest. At the end of the war we got displaced and ended up here, living as refugees in the former Dachau Concentration Camp.”
And then, just like that, a bus door closed and the old lady who had resided as a refugee in the former concentration camp was gone.
I had so many questions.
There were no books about this topic in the book store of the memorial site. So I decided to call a local non-profit called Arbeitsgemeinschaft zur Erforschung der Dachauer Zeitgeschichte e.V. (Committee for the Investigation of the Contemporary History of Dachau) and ask them. One of their representatives, a friendly lady named Kerstin, agreed to meet up and supply me with informational materials.
“By the way, have you seen the SS herbary?” Kerstin asked me. It was an area to the northeast of the former camp where the SS had forced inmates to do experimental fieldwork in order to find new ways to feed the population.
As it turned out the nazis, along with their love for fake runes and occult esotericism, were also obsessed with alternative “Volksheilkunde” (translating this as traditional medicine or folk medicine doesn’t seem to properly convey the ethno-nationalist meaning of the word Volk).
I walked around in the ruins of the herbary for a while. It had only recently been declared a memorial site, and much of it lay in ruins. It all seemed a bit spooky. There were, however, some administrative buildings that looked intact and even lived in.
And again I felt reminded of Gusen.
the walk from Dachau to Bergkirchen: