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Dachau Concentration Camp
Dachau, the WWII concentration camp, was a harsh cruel place with poor living, work, and food conditions. The abuse and hardship all the prisoners had endured made it hard to cope at the end, but during it when they lost friends and family it was even harder.
On February 28, 1933, Adolf Hitler allowed many concentration camps to be built and started. At first, they were made for political prisoners, anyone who opposed the government that they saw as a threat to their government. However, when they ran out of political threats, they began throwing “undesirables” (Jews, and any one not of their “Aryan” race) into the camps. They also built death camps (a camp to kill as many Jews/prisoners as they could), labor camps (which was for cheap work from Jews/prisoners), and even more concentration camps (where the Jews/prisoners were cruelly reeducated to the Nazi’s beliefs).
The Nazi’s started segregating the Jews into ghettos (walled/fenced off area were the Nazi‘s forced the Jews to live). Later, when the concentration, labor, and death camps were built, the rounded up the Jews from the Ghettos and took them to the camps by crowded freight trains. During the rides, if someone died they would be left there and most likely, on top of the weak people who could not stand. Most of the time the prisoners would be stuck in the freight train for days waiting to be let in.
“Theodor Eicke became the commandant of Dachau in June 1933” (Smelser, pg. 1 of 7)
When they got to the camps, they went through processing. Which included: separating the women and young children from the men and older boys, stripping down to nothing, shaving/cutting their hair off, showering than disinfecting in a cold pool of water and chlorine, getting their uniforms while their numbers are branded to them, and finally being “quarantined” in an area till they knew the routine. When they learned the routine, they were put into the main area with the other prisoners. (Shutter, pg. 47)
Once they got into the main area, they went to the barracks. Which were packed with twelve thousand people instead of the recommended rate of two hundred people. When people died in there, the guards left it up to the prisoners to get rid of them. However, at many times the prisoners were too weak or sick to carry them out, so they stayed there. This caused the barracks to reek of death and sickness. (Gellhorn, pg. 2 of 6)
They ate still ate three times a day, but the portion of food and the quality wasn’t even a third as good as the SS guards’ (SS is short for Schutzstaffel. Schutzstaffel is German for security staff). (Shutter, pg. 6)Usually, the food was so bad that dysentery and typhus were extremely common because of the poor food conditions and time it sat around.
When they did get sick from any type of disease (from food or just a weak immune system), they hid it for as long as they could because sick Jews/prisoners who could not work were seen as useless. They were usually left to die or get better, if they were not used for experiments such as altitude survival, eye color change, hair dyes, etc. (Shutter, pg. 11)
Some family member, friends, and organizations would try to send food in packages to them. However, even if the packages were addressed properly and had the right paper work, the SS would still open them (to check for weapons or anything else not allowed); unfortunately, they would never give them to the prisoners anyway. In addition, the SS guards would take the good food for themselves and give the rest to the cook. Most SS guards did not even tell the prisoners that their family and friends had sent them anything. (Shutter – pgs. 22 and 23)
Bathrooms conditions were no better, if not worse, than the barracks and food. They had a minute to wash themselves in troth like sinks and had another minute to go to the bathroom with few toilets and hundreds of men/women with them (at the same time). (Shutter, pg. 21)
“The toilets were disgusting” (Her Kahn – 1938.)
About once a week to once a month the prisoners were stripped and forced to walk miles to a pool of freezing water with too much chlorine, that burned their skin and killed a few people each time. (Shutter, pg. 21)
At the work camps, the prisoners were forced build and make different things that were needed in the area. (Shutter, pg. 6)When the guards felt like they were working too slow or that they were doing something they were not supposed to, they would throw them down and beat them. If anyone begged them to have mercy or to stop, they would beat them harder and beat the person who protested just as hard (if not to death). (Shutter, pg. 26)
Death camps were the camps the Nazi instated to kill as many Jews/prisoners as they could at once. (Shutter, pg. 6) They mainly used the gas chamber it was easier and quicker. It also looked like a shower so they were able to tell the Jews, they were killing, they were just taking a shower. They even had drains in the floor to create the illusion of the shower. The Jews would go in strip down and crowd in to the room where the SS guards locked the people in and dumped the gas in. The gas would cause them to suffocate, lock up, and then have their muscles give out. Other Jews would then haul them to the incinerators, where they were burned (to death if they were still alive, a few are each are each time). (Shutter, pg. 36)
“There, 3,166 inmates from Dachau were gassed” (Smelser, pg. 4 of 7) that we know of and 33,591 reported deaths.
Deaths camps also used mass shootings. They would line the Jews up on the tip of a giant hole and shoot them. They would fall in and when they were done shooting them they would have other Jews shovel the dirt back in on top of them. (Shutter, pg. 34)
On Doom’s Day, which was when America won the war and Hitler and his girlfriend killed themselves, everyone was shocked to find any camps. The German government had not let the camps out in the news and denied them or showed false videos that showed happy people in it when word or rumors somehow got out to the public about the camps.
When they first liberated Dachau Concentration Camp the Jews crawled, dragged others, and ran out to greet, hug, and kiss the American’s because they were so troubled from the abuse and torcher they had endured (the beatings, verbal abuse, seeing other killed/die, etc.) as well as the poor food, living, and work conditions.
Shuter, Jane. Survivors of the Holocaust. Chicago, Ill.: Heinemann Library, 2003. Print.
Shuter, Jane. Life and death in the camps. Chicago, Ill.: Heinemann Library, 2003. Print.
Shuter, Jane. The camp system. Chicago, Ill.: Heinemann Library, 2003. Print.
“Reporting the Holocaust” American Decades Primary Resources. Ed. Cynthia Rose. Vol. 5: 1940-1949 .Detroit: Gale, 2004. 381-386. Gale Power Search. Web. 1 Feb. 2012
“Dachau” Learning About the Holocaust: A Students guide. Ed. Ronald M. Smelser. Vol. 1. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2001. 143-147 Gale Power Search. Web 1 Feb. 2012