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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Trip with Jiekai - Part 16: Day 10 - Dachau, Nuremburg (9/4)

Trip with Jiekai - Part 16
Day 10 - Dachau, Nuremburg (9/4)

This day, I visited Dachau, the very first concentration camp. It was a very interesting experience, since it had many many parallels with a certain unpleasant period in my past, and I smiled on many occasions in spite of myself. Unlike the previous day, the weather was horrible - it was cold, miserable and raining for the whole morning; the perfect day to visit a concentration camp.

Dachau was the first concentration camp, opened in 1933 for undesirables who were titularly placed in "protective custody" (a phrase which served to conceal the true horror of what happened to them). By the end of the war, at least 20,000 had died inside. However, unlike places like Auschwitz, it was not a death camp - inmates were worked hard there, possibly even to death, rather than being killed outright. Thus, they did their patriotic duty for the German state, gaining a chance to redeem themselves for the crimes they had committed.

As such, I don't see why those who were sent there complained. They weren't sent to die, only to work (and when Germany was short of arms, conditions were even improved to stop so many from dying) after being taken in "protective custody". Dying was not the desired outcome, and only those considered unfit to work or considered undesirable (eg Russian Prisoners of War) were killed outright. In fact, they got the chance to serve their country by performing a form of national service and should've felt honoured. Many 'privileges' were granted to inmates - some Sundays were devoted to recreation, there was a brothel at one time and there was a canteen where inmates could spend some of their slave pittance.

Those who were sent to Dachau should therefore be grateful that they were not killed outright. Indeed, it was unfair to those who were sent straight to their doom that other inmates were sent to Dachau. They all should've been killed: this would've been right and proper. One suffer, all suffer. Arbeit macht frei (work makes you free).

[Addendum: people just cant help but feel Dachau is 'hell', 'torture' and everything negative. They never see it as a way of changing the way of life, a form of paying back what the govt has given, a chance to learn about respect, and most importantly, learning about life, work, and play.

Dachau has alot to offer. Only those who say it robbed them of their freedom are just a bunch of ingrates. (Courtesy of cheahchuwen]


In Dachau, the inmates rose at an unearthly time and had to run out singing for their morning roll call, standing at attention in a specified manner they'd be punished for not adhering to. In all, they had three roll calls a day.

Roll call square

If one guy tried to escape, his whole block would be punished. Inmates had to arrange their things in a very specific order, and were punished if their items were off-position.

Museum building

Unfortunately, unlike the previous day's guide, this one wasn't that experienced - he seemed a bit haphazard in leading us around, and he didn't count to make sure everyone was present before leaving (a Filipino and I were stranded at one point because we left the auditorium by the back exit, when the others gathered at the front, and they left before waiting the short period of time necessary for us to arrive. We had to look for the others.)

Whipping trestle with bullwhip

Inmates were served bread and ersatz coffee for breakfast. They also had to do area cleaning (for their own good - there was no incidence of disease before 1938) and were punished when they couldn't live up to the SS officers' ridiculously high standards.

Execution wall
Inmates were shot against this wall

A divide and conquer policy was practised - some inmates were designated Kalfakotors and detailed to watch over the others. Some were brutal but others were kind.

SS Penal camp in the bunker

The public at large was unaware of the deaths and abuses going on in Dachau, since it was all covered up, as well as masked with patriotic propaganda and slogans.

Former standing cells
This used to hold 3 standing cells, whose function should be obvious from their names

They had a brothel in Dachau to raise productivity. There was also a canteen where inmates could spend some of their slave pittance, but visiting it (as with many other basic human rights) was a "privilege".

Gate - Arbeit Macht Frei ("Work makes you free")
Loyalty to Country
Inmates were motivated by empty slogans like this that concealed the true horror of their plight. Another (painted on the roofs of the buildings) read: "There is one path to freedom. Its milestones are: 'Obedience, honesty, cleanliness, sobriety, diligence, orderliness, sacrifice, truthfulness and love of the fatherland.'"

Dachau shows what happens when you strip people of human dignity and treat people unequally, where some are designated as being below and inferior to others. Basic human rights - like that to be free - are designated "privileges".

Toilet facilities

Compared to Dachau, the Zimbardo Prison Experiment is really nothing. Indeed, it's insulting to compare the two, and no parallels can be made. We cannot learn anything about the former by studying the latter!!!

Sleeping quarters

Some people point out that the Nazis gained power democratically, and that this shows that democracy is not as effective in protecting human rights as it is touted to be (or something like that). This is not quite the case. It shows, rather, what happens when a dominant party becomes too powerful and uses the apparatus of the state to crush its political opponents and perpetuate its rule, imprisons people without trial and suspends other civil liberties, holding its people in fear and its thrall. It shows what happens when a dominant party replaces the rule of law with the law of rule (with many provisios for executive power and discretion) and has a leader seen/portrayed as infallible and benevolent at its head. All the while, the Party is calling for the country to unite behind it because the Party and the Party alone has saved it from a previous period of poverty and disaster - it is the saviour of the country, as well as the only thing that stands between it and utter ruin.

Guard tower
This is supposed to be an original guard tower, but the guide said the door was facing the wrong way so it was probably reconstructed. Guards with machine guns stood guard inside.

If the Nazi Primary School organised a field trip to Germany, I wonder what would happen. Would people understand that symbols and words are inherently meaningless, and that to cry racism or offence where none is known or intended is ludicrous?

A ditch, trip wire and an electric fence.
Stepping on the grass would get a prisoner gunned down by someone in the tower. Some guards taunted prisoners by throwing their caps onto the grass and asking prisoners to fetch them.

While in Amsterdam, my parents remarked on something (maybe graffiti): "too much democracy". At Dachau, I remarked: "too little democracy". I'd rather have too much than too little, thank you very much.

Old Crematorium

Martin Niemoller (of "then they came for me" fame) was imprisoned at Dachau. Hmm.

Fumigation cubicle
In the new crematorium.

Shower room
All of the shower heads but one (viewable at the rightmost part of the photograph) have been stolen over the years as morbid souvenirs. This was planned but not used for mass gagging.

Incinerator room
2/4 of the furnaces in the incinerator room. The shadows of the pulleys they hanged people by can be seen - they'd hang them, then cremate them. How convenient.

Execution range. With blood ditch

Grave of thousands

Representative prisoner; 'The dead serve as a reminder'
This is the opposite of how they stood at roll call (at attention, with their head down and arms by their side).

Russian Orthodox chapel, 1994

I entered one of the churches at Dachau. Inside, a bible was flipped to Romans 7:8. Given what happened at Dachau, I thought another chapter more appropriate and so flipped it to a random part of Numbers (it was in German so I couldn't find the appropriate verse referring to the Midanites).

Poplars lined along the camp road

Demolished housing blocks. Rebuilt one in the background.

Leadership, Discipline, Professionalism, Fighting Spirit, Ethics, Care for Soldiers
Unfortunately the original gate was stolen at the end of the war so this is a new one.

Some fundies claim that atheism is dangerous because two of the biggest mass murderers of the 20th century (and probably human history), Hitler and Stalin, were atheists. This is a gravely mistaken view, not only because Hitler was not an atheist and indeed used Christian imagery and worked with churches (Thanks to My Little Bird for first alerting me to this point. Those who wish to see for themselves can read 2 paragraphs of Mein Kampf referring to God), but because we can similarly claim that this shows that men with moustaches are evil (they are, but that's beside the point); what we need to establish was whether their alleged atheism was integral, related or peripheral to their evil deeds.

Rather, I'd characterise the lesson of Hitler and Stalin as being that when there is an unthinking adherence to ideology, convenient rationalisation of heinous deeds, the creation of an us vs them mentality and the unquestioning acceptance of what infallible, omnibenevolent authority/father figures dictate, evil can reign unchecked. Not coincidentally, this is what you find in Fundamentalist Christianity with, for example, its justification of the Midanite Holocaust (the logic for which can similarly justify the Jewish one).

Near Dachau I saw a sign for a lady's night at a bar. Maybe it's only Nederland that doesn't have ladies' nights. Aww.

At the bookshop at the Munich Hauptbanhof the only books in English were travel guides. Damn. There was also a toilet managed by McClean which promised "safe and clean toilets". I was trying to picture what an unsafe toilet would be like: perhaps the toilet covers are loose and fall down, hurting men's unmentionables. Or maybe they start cholera or dysentry epidemics. It's as bad as SFI's mission to provide "safe" food.

Jiekai and I then took the train to Nuremburg. The stupid public transport information/ticketing office was closed on Sundays (luckily we didn't need a day pass or information on buses/trams) - these Germans should really wake up their idea and cater to tourists better.

Deutsche bahn rules
I can't rummage in litter bins, molest other guests or carry metal-coated balloons?! Damn.

The city got bombed to bits in World War II, so I was wondering why the place looked so medieval. Then it struck me: the buildings looked too clean - they'd reconstructed the town to look medieval. As such, everything had a Disneyland feel to it.

St Lawrence Church
Not very impressive.

Facade of the church

View from museum bridge

View from museum bridge

Three old men in a tub (?)

Bratwurst roslein
They claimed to be the biggest bratwurst restaurant in the world. I wonder what their criteria was.

The franconian platter
Instead of crispy pork knuckle they had crispy pork shoulder. Nuremburg sausage is smaller than normal German sausage, has a coarser texture and is more obviously herbed. Red cabbage is nice - sauerkraut everyday gets boring - I suspect there was some red cabbage in it. I like the token lettuce leaf and tomato. The only downside was that the waiter announced to us, as he gave the bill, "Service is not included."

Exotic Coat hooks

Church of our lady

Beautiful fountain

Albrecht Durer statue

I had a melon gelato for €0,70. It was damn good and large, especially after the shit that was Berthillon's.

Candy underwear
Gotta love these Europeans.

Fako medieval town square

"Underground shoes & clothes" *London underground sign*

Like almost all of the youth hostels we stayed in, Lette'm sleep Hostel, the one we stayed at in Nuremburg had motion sensors installed to turn off lights when no one was there. This is a good idea in theory but in practise the light usually turns off at the wrong time, perhaps due to insufficient sensors being installed. Unlike at the other hostels, the cutting of lights at Nuremburg extended to the bathrooms, and no sensors were placed to pick up movement from the cubicles, so while I was showering the light suddenly turned off and I was left in the dark despite waving my arms frantically to attract a motion sensor's attention.

I was musing with Jiekai as to why there were more fundie doctors than fundie biologists (of which there are none or almost none). His theory was that doctors focus on too small a scale and on diagnosis and treatment, rather than looking at the big picture.

Interestingly enough, unlike (at least some) NUS lawyers, Jiekai doesn't know any common Latin phrases despite his distinction for Roman law.

Cock files, or things for which I would've pelted Jiekai with the Biggest Snowball In The World, Part Deux, if there'd been snow:

- He put on a very fake accent when talking to Ang Mohs
- He made an extravagant promise on behalf of 2 other future members of the putative Leage of Desperate Gentlement
- He claimed that I had a Japanese porn magazine in my bag (???)
- When I was uploading files using Yousendit he used the same window to load his own page, interrupting my upload
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