On January 30th, Adolf Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor by Reich President Otto von Hindenburg. At this time the Weimar Republic was still rudimentary working. Only 51 days later, on today’s ground of Dachau Memorial Site, the Dachau Concentration Camp near the town of Dachau was opened as one of the first concentration camps in the country. How was this possible? What had happened? What was the “legal instrument” to justify camps like this?
Already well before, the Weimar Republic’s government was only able to rule the country by the so called “emergency regulations”. Not only did they override the civil rights guaranteed by the Weimar Republic to a great extent, but they also authorized the Government of the German Reich to impinge on the governmental power of the states. These regulations paved the way from democratically oriented Weimar Republic to Nazi dictatorship. Planned as regulations “until further notice” they actually remained in effect until the “Third Reich” collapsed in 1945.
The National Socialists immediately started to imprison members of the communist party, dissidents and other inconvenient persons without legal reasons. Regular prisons were overcrowded in a minimum of time and first temporary prison camps were opened.
Related to these events the first concentration camp was opened in Dachau on March, 22nd 1933, on the premises of a vacant World War I ammunition factory. Rapidly Dachau became the prototype for all German Reich’s concentration camps. Here a detailed system of Terror was organized and adopted as standard by subsequent camps.
Even though during its 12 years of existence Dachau never had been an extermination camp, yet 41.000 of its 206.000 prisoners died of exhaustion and starvation, were executed or murdered, lost their lives to illnesses or human experiments.
The first memorial site on these premises was opened in 1965. For the main part It had been designed for the survivors, only few being still alive nowadays.
Between 1996 and 2003 today’s Dachau Memorial Site has been changed to a place of learning and remembrance. Visitors shall follow “the path of the prisoner” and are challenged to enter the premises of the former “preventive detention camp” through the original entrance: the gate wearing the inscription “ Work Brings Freedom”.
This private walking tour shall contribute to give an insight on the occurrences and to respectful commemoration.

 

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