Paying respects to the victims of Nazism

Trip Start Apr 08, 2007
Trip End Oct 01, 2007

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

No first-time visit to Munich and Bavaria is really complete without a good, sobering look at the history of the mid-20th century. Therefore, for Mayu - who had never been to a former Nazi concentration camp - Dachau was a must while we were here. So, that's what we put on the agenda for today.

Since the past few days have mostly been "go, go, go," we thought we'd take it easy and sleep in a bit. Mayu originally wanted to try and take in both Dachau and one of Munich's major museums (like the Alte Pinakothek), but with us not getting out of the house until 11ish, that was seriously pushing it. We managed to time our U-bahn and S-bahn connections beautifully though, so it didn't take us long to get out to Dachau proper. Once there, we jumped the bus in front of the station for the brief ride to KZ-Gedenkstätte: Dachau's former concentration camp.

I had already been to the site and museum twice before, so I largely knew what to expect. I think Mayu was a bit overwhelmed by all the (English) information, but she did find it both enlightening and unsettling. That said though, there's a significant part played by the conditions outside when one visits. The last time I was there, it was blustery and chilly, making for an overwhelmingly dark experience. This time however, the weather was absolutely stunning (as it has been this whole trip so far). It's a little harder to put the bleak nature of the place into perspective when everything looks so immaculate and beautifully springlike. So, I think it lessened the emotional hit for Mayu, which probably was a good thing to a certain extent.

Afterwards, with the afternoon growing quickly shorter, we decided to peek around the town of Dachau itself. I imagine that probably 90% of tourists visiting the camp have absolutely no idea about anything else in town. And, really, were it not for a little guidebook I had peeked through recently, I wouldn't have either. It turns out though that Dachau has a lovely little old town perched on top of a hill overlooking the area, complete with a fine Baroque palace and garden with views towards Munich. After walking up there ourselves, we were really surprised to find how quaint and attractive the place was, especially given its sinister reputation. In some ways it made the whole thing even weirder - to think that such a pleasant, provincial town on the outskirts of Munich would be the site of such a horrific creation of mankind. It really brings on a new perspective in many ways.
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