One year after Adolf Hitler came to power, the first harrowing report of the conditions in a camp set up for persons who needed “re-education”, came to light. Set up only 1.5 hrs walk from the charming old town centre and the railway station, Dachau concentration camp served as a blueprint for all future Nazi internment, and later extermination camps.
Our Anglian guide, Ian Coyne caught up with us at Dachau Youth Hostel, where we settled in for the evening. We went over some of the key vocabulary in German that would be needed on the next day, and had a short group discussion in German.
The former concentration camp Dachau (or KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau) was our first port of call the next day. Our tour was aimed to help us gain a deeper understanding of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and the subsequent entrenchment of the Nazi Party state.
A sombre mood prevailed upon our arrival at the former concentration camp Dachau. After going through the iconic “Arbeit Macht Frei” gates, we were all overwhelmed by the sheer size of the grounds. The sight that greeted us at the bunker, used as a prison, left us speechless. Here a range of “special prisoners”, often clergy such as Pastor Niemoller, were detained. The standing cells, in which prisoners were required to stand for up to 72 hours, was only one of the punishing methods used to control the prisoners. After a three-hour tour of the grounds, we were confronted with the dreaded crematorium area where modern ovens had been installed towards the end of the war - to “increase efficiency”. We all certainly felt and saw the extent to which the Nazi reign of terror contributed to the control of the population.
After lunch we started our walking tour of Munich and visited key places along the route of the Munich Putsch. The Feldherrenhalle and Odeonsplatz, where the Nazi fallen were honoured and troops swore their personal oath to Hitler, had a big impact on us. Midway through the tour, the students took lunch in Munich’s vibrant Viktualienmarkt and had the chance to practice their German on the local food sellers.
Our youth hostel in the beautiful town of Nuremberg ended up being a strikingly renovated castle nestled in the old city walls. Nothing could prepare us for the size of the overwhelming structures created by the Nazis to house their vast annual party rallies. After learning about life in Nazi Germany in the documentation centre, we spent the day exploring the 11 square kilometres of the former rally grounds. The planning, organization, infrastructure and orchestration needed to coordinate these rallies was impressive. We better understood why adoring crowds were attracted to these Nazi events and how the persona of the Führer was glorified to bring a heightened sense of euphoria to the gatherings.
In the evening the group reflected on the various tours by doing a quiz in German. The students were split into two groups based on language ability to reinforce new vocabulary and to hold discussions about the impact of the visits.
Our last visit in Nuremberg took us to Courtroom 600, where the International Military Tribunal was held on the 20th of November in 1945. Out of the 21 accused, 6 were acquitted and the rest were either sent to jail, or received the death penalty. The exhibition explained the court procedure as well as the importance of restorative justice and the role of the international tribunal. The courtroom, which is still used today, was open to the public.
Our last stop was in the beautiful Medieval town of Lindau near Bodensee for a visit to an unusual dungeon, ice cream and a brief bit of German practice, before happily reuniting with parents in Zug.
- Field Trip
- Middle School