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Ann Kathleen Otto


Dachau and Munich

The next stops on our memorial tour are contrasts in setting—one for solemn reflection, the other for hedonist celebrations. Welcome to Dachau and Munich.


We enter the gate that reads Arbeit Macht Frei (“Work Sets You Free”), which appeared on entrances to Auschwitz and other concentration camps like Dachau. Our eyes are immediately drawn to the center of the courtyard and the breathtaking sculpture known as the International Monument (right). Hitler established this first camp in 1933 for political prisoners. I’d expressed concerns about visiting this site on the trip, remembering sorrowful feelings after touring the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Group members who have visited Dachau before say that this was a political camp, not a death camp. I can’t fathom the difference.

Several buildings remain as museums. Commanded by the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel, or “Protective Echelon”), over 200,000 prisoners from throughout Europe were imprisoned in the twelve years that the camp was open, and one in five prisoners died. The camp was liberated by the Americans on April 29, 1945. While Dave visits the crematorium area, I visit the nearby Russian Orthodox church, one of several religious monuments on the grounds.

Unlike many sites visited on our trip, everyone, youth included, are silent and well behaved. We walk through buildings where prisoners slept and ate, tables and chairs just as they left them. One locker remains open so we can see how sparingly they lived. We return to the bus, still in whispers. We are glad Dachau is still here to archive and educate future generations.

October in Munich

It’s the opening weekend of Octoberfest in Munich for us—and three million others from around the world. For Germany, that means plentiful beer and food. Dave and I have German roots, and his are around the Munich area in Bavaria. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but when we hear the logistics of getting to the official Octoberfest grounds and the crowds expected, we decide not to join the dozen of our group who chance it. The brochure isn’t encouraging, either. If a tent is full (which most would be), you can’t enter, and you can’t purchase anything, including the € 11 liter of beer, unless you have a seat. You are “permitted to dance on the benches, but it is not permitted to stand on the tables.” Probably difficult to control given the inebriated consumers. We wouldn’t have survived.

Downtown Munich was also beyond crowded with cheerful Tyrolean peasant-dressed visitors everywhere.  We attempt to go to the famous Hofbrauhaus (right), but no empty seats remain in the great hall or any of the other eating areas. These are the tourists waiting for evening to join the annual festivities. We walk a block down the street and find a corner café with outside seating, lovely sandwiches, and coffee. We’ll save the wine and beer for evening. We shop in the pedestrian-only streets and admire the squares and the Cathedral. Munich has charm. We decide to return—but not in October.

After Munich

At the end of the day, we are relieved to travel through small villages in Bavaria and Tyrol toward the small city of Kufstein for the night. The citizens are cleaning up from a day celebrating their own small Octoberfest. From our hotel window, we look directly above us to the fortress that has watched over the city for eight hundred years (left).

A perfect spot for the night. It was a very long day.

Learn more about Dachau at  the official site:

See more photos of Dachau, Munich and Kufstein at the Yours in a Hurry Facebook Page:

Next time: Salzburg and Hitler’s hide away, the Eagle’s Nest

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