Dachau Concentration Camp
- Dachau was the first concentration camp of the Nazi Party.
- The camp layout, building design and organization was used as a model for all other camps.
- It became a training center for SS concentration camp guards.
- “Dachau and Death" were synonymous.
- In 1944, the creation of “standing cells” so small and confined that a prisoner could only stand were ordered to be built. Confined prisoners would stand from 3 - 8 days without food or water.
LOCATION: Dachau, Germany, eleven miles northwest of Munich.
DATES CAMP WAS IN USE: March 1933 April 1945 - the entire period of the Third Reich. (However, from 27 September 1939 to 18 February 1940 it was not used as a concentration camp. It was used by the Waffen-SS for training members of the SS Totenkopfverbande and large numbers of SS military units. During this time period prisoners were transferred to Mauthausen.)
OFFICIAL TYPE OF CAMP: “A Political Camp” - Forced Labor. Above the entrance gate to the camp were the words: Arbeit Macht Frei (Work Will Make You Free.) Dachau was not considered to be a “death camp” because Jews were not sent there for the express purpose of being murdered.
SUBCAMPS: Dachau had thirty-six large sub-camps containing approximately thirty-seven thousand prisoners.
CAMP LAYOUT AND DESCRIPTION:
- 32 Barracks including one for medical experiments and one for clergy opposed to Nazi regime.
- Support buildings ( laundry, kitchens etc.)
- Administration buildings.
From the outside, the camp appeared to be an ordinary military post, surrounded by a high brick wall. It was guarded by several hundred SS troops and Gestapo agents who lived in comfortable quarters. Viewing the camp from the main gate, on the far side of the camp, was a large rectangular confinement area, surrounded by a water-filled moat, a high barbed wire fence and guard towers. This area contained thirty-four wooden barracks, some of which were used for administrative purposes and the remainder were for prisoners.
Just inside the only entrance to the confinement area were two larger buildings that were connected containing the kitchen, laundry, storage rooms and the "camp prison." In this dual facility, prisoners were tortured, flogged, hung at the stake, and executed.
The confinement area composed a very small area of the entire camp which which was filled with many other buildings and barracks.
Outside the confinement area, but within the post area, was a rifle range.
PRISONER MAKE UP:
- Prisoners were classified by nationality and the “crime’ they were accused of. The strongest national representations at liberation (estimated by liberators) were Poles (9200), followed by Russians (3,900), French (3,700), Yugoslavs (3,200), Jews (2,100) and Czechs (1,500) Germans (1,000), and a smattering of Belgians, Hungarians, Italians, Austrians, Greeks etc.
- Prisoners represented all religious and ethnic groups.
- Dachau was primarily used for political prisoners, common criminals and religious dissidents and included resistance fighters, Jews, clergymen and others who refused to collaborate with the occupation forces.
- Eventually, transports were sent to Dachau from each country as it was invaded by the German army.
- At the liberation inmates from more than thirty countries were found in Dachau, with Germans forming only a minority.
- The majority of prisoners who died in the camp were Catholic.
- All prisoners underwent the same fate when they entered the camp, they lost their legal status, their remaining possessions were confiscated, their hair was shaved off, and they were dressed in striped clothes. They were allocated a number as well as a coloured triangle, indicating what type of category they belonged to.
1940 - First Polish prisoners.
1941 - First Balkan prisoners
1942 - First Russian prisoners
1940 - 1942 - Prisoners from occupied countries notably France
ALL MALE CAMP: Dachau was primarily an all male camp with a few exceptions. When the Dachau camp was liberated, there were 225 Jewish women there. (They had arrived at Dachau only a few weeks before liberation.) There were also a few women who were held as "special prisoners" in the bunker, as the camp prison was called; they were the wives of VIP prisoners, such as Kurt von Schuschnigg, the former Chancellor of Austria.
NO TATTOOS: Incoming inmates at Dachau were not tattooed. Auschwitz/Birkenau was the only camp where prisoners were tattooed. However, prisoners who were transferred to Dachau after the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was closed already had a tattoo when they arrived.
WORK: Prisoners built roads, worked in gravel pits, and drained marshes, reclaiming them as arable land, initially, production in the camps was directly under the control of the individual camp commandant. But as the camps continued to grow, the range of production expanded, and the SS industries that were served by the camp labor were centralized under their main office in Berlin.