Just like most concentration camps, the closer you got to 1945, the busier the camps got. Dachau was at full capacity in the early 40's, with hundreds of new prisoners coming each day. We saw the barracks where the prisoners slept and ate. The beds were just one massive bunkbed stacked three rows high, but when there were not enough beds for people, new bunks were made that were just one big bin full of people. If the prisoners did not make their beds perfectly or if they were missing a button on their clothes or for just about any other reason, they would be punished
. A punishment would consist of at least an hour hanging from a pole by your wrists. Later the pole was taken away and prisoners just hung freely. There were also beatings and many other brutal methods. The prisoners were also forced into labour. Most of the work was meaningless, like shovelling sand from one spot to another, then back again to the same spot. When they were done that, they had to clean every inch of of the barracks and bath house. Those that tried to escape were shot or killed by the electric fence. Some just ran up to the fence to end their suffering. When the prisoners were unable to perform work, or if there got to be too many people, they would be killed by hanging or firing squad. Dachau has a gas chamber, but it was never used for mass murders. Instead, as the murders and deaths rose, crematoriums were built where hundreds of bodies were burned into ashes each day. To make it easier for the S.S., victims were hung from a beam right in front of the ovens so they didn't have to carry the bodies far. There were rooms beside the oven rooms where stacks of dead bodies would be piled before they were burned. When we stood in these rooms, we could see a picture that the US soldiers took when they first arrived, of the stacks of bodies in the same room we were standing. It was very horrible and very hard to take. This was definitely a dark time in human history. Now in Dachau there are memorials set up at different spots of the camp, remembering the thousands of individuals from different people groups that lost their lives.
I don't know what was more horrible about Dachau, the way the victims were treated when they were alive, or the way they were killed. Going to at least one concentration camp on our trip was a priority. We can read and learn about the Holocaust all we want in school and on the Internet, but it does not impact you quite as much as being there.