The horror of Dachau, the first concentration camp during World War II, is officially 90 years old this year. From 1933, when the camp was first established, to 1945 when it was liberated, hundreds of thousands of people suffered unbearable conditions while held within its walls.
Ninety years ago, one of the most horrific episodes in the history of mankind began. On March 22, 1933, the first 150 prisoners condemned to suffer the horror in Dachau, located northwest of Munich, arrived. It was only two months since the Nazis had seized power. It was the beginning of a systematic extermination and one of the bloodiest stages of the 20th century that involved the entire planet.
Suffering the horror in Dachau
For the Nazi hierarchs, Dachau was the model for all concentration camps that were opened later. Rules and regulations were created there. The first to occupy Dachau were German opponents of the regime implemented by Hitler. Theodor Eicke was the commandant of Dachau and in charge of designing the brutal regulations for the prisoners.
Some 200,000 prisoners passed through Dachau, most of them Jews. Although the Nazis took there anyone who was a nuisance to them. Opponents of the National Socialist regime, homosexuals, committed Christians, Roma, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Communists.
At the outbreak of war, Jews were sent there to implement what Hitler called the Final Solution. Thousands of Jews were exterminated by execution, incineration, malnutrition, overwork, and other diseases. When the Americans arrived at Dachau, they found more than 30,000 Jews with advanced malnutrition and hundreds of corpses piled up in one section of the camp.
Many of the healthy prisoners who came to Dachau were forced to make armaments. But so many others, men, women and children, were used for horrible medical experiments.
Some features of the Dachau concentration camp
Dachau was built on an old building that was formerly a gunpowder factory. At the entrance to the camp, a sign read Arbeit Macht Frei, which means: Work will set you free. A misleading and even mocking phrase, which was later used in other concentration camps such as Auschwitz.
The Dachau concentration camp was expanded in 1937 with the construction of new buildings in order to add 6,000 more prisoners. The prisoners themselves were forced to build and expand the site. They worked from sunrise to sunset with little food.
In 1938, with the Nazi occupation of the Sudetenland and Austria, Dachau received Inti and Roma (Gypsies). Also in November 1938, antisemitic pogroms began. About 11,000 German Jews were sent to Dachau. There they were extorted for their property.
Finally, the war would come, with the Holocaust and its consequences for the world, which are still felt today.