Europe

Nazis and Naked Men

May 11, 2015

Due to our unfortunate train issues getting to Munich, we were forced to move our Dachau concentration camp tour from our first day to the final day of our stay in Munich. This type of tour is never going to be anything but very sobering and eye opening.

Having left our laundry with the service for two nights and needing to pack up our bags before heading to the tour, I left to pick up the clothes in a taxi as soon as the laundromat opened to retrieve them and then immediately pack them in a bag.

After a rather hectic start to the day, we had a calm train ride out to Dachau with a brief history lesson on the Nazi party’s beginnings and the path that led to the first concentration camp. The tour guide, an Australian living in Munich, seemed knowledgeable but we both grew tired of his attitude by the end of the three hour tour.

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Since Dachau was the first concentration camp, it painted a very clear picture of the evolution of the  Hitler and Nazi party from taking power until the fall of the Third Reich. The actual conditions are impossible to imagine and even the terrifying video footage taken by the American liberators doesn’t do it any justice. The most vivid and surreal part of the tour was walking through the gas chamber which they cannot confirm if it was ever used to murder anyone.

Remembering Dachau

This camp was not Auschwitz as was reiterated over and over, millions were not murdered in this place. Ten of thousands were murdered through medical experiments, forced labor and executions. Dachau served as the starting point for the surrounding forced labor camps which produced parts for multinational corporations, such as BMW and Hugo Boss. The ideas of the Nazis were far reaching and not the idea of a single man. The fact that so many people benefitted from the Nazis seems to get lost in the fog of war.

As we walked out, Kim and I discussed how the genocide of the Nazis did not begin as a whole scale murder of Jews, homosexuals, Jehovah’s witnesses or political enemies. Rather it was the cumulative of a series of terrible decisions made by immoral men and a population which was numb, ignorant, or fearful to realities going on around them. These men did not believe what they were doing was wrong; they believed they were doing what was best for Germany and the world. And beliefs can empower and motivate humans to do almost anything.

Before heading back to Munich, we purchased a historical recount of Dachau as told by the survivors which has more details and should paint an even more vivid picture of the atrocities. The tour guide gave us some recommendations for food after a hard pitch for his bike tour. He seemed rather annoyed with Kim and I even though we hadn’t really interacted much throughout the tour. I guessed that he didn’t think we would be big tippers.

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He did have a great restaurant recommendation, right across from the Hofbräuhaus. After grabbing some beer and a pork roast, Kim and I unsuccessfully tried to plan out some of Interlaken for the next day. We disagreed on, what else, sleep. I, incorrectly, thought we couldn’t sleep in and fit everything we wanted to do in. As with most things on this trip, I was wrong.

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We walked from lunch over to the English Garden, which is a beautiful, gigantic park which we barely walked into before sitting down in the grass. Desperate to find a restroom and maybe one last German beer, I walked deeper into the park. This was a huge mistake. We had been warned that the garden was covered with old, nude men sunbathing, but I guess we didn’t want to believe it. They don’t just sunbathe; they sit in the “paint me like one of your French girls” pose from Titanic. My eyes in desperate need of some cleansing and my throat dry, I found a beer and headed back to Kim.

She hadn’t yet noticed the men, so I was quick to drag her down with me. We discussed Dachau and our stay in Munich a little more while relaxing in the Garden. We concluded that this had been the best stop on the trip and that we deserved one more sausage before our train. Keep in mind that we were just a little over two hours since our last meal.

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It was totally worth it. My last beer in Germany was accompanied by a delicious brat with cheese and potato salad. We stopped by the Hofbräuhaus to use the public restroom and to get that one last check on the to-do list. It was very large in scale, but the crowds of tourists made us appreciate our decision not to spend too much time there.

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Back at the train station, after another set of poor directions on my part, we boarded our first of three trains into Switzerland toward Interlaken. Unlike our last long haul train trip, this was on time and without event. Unless we count Kim getting giggly tired and telling me “I’ll spit in your mouth” in the quickest of argument escalations. It was a long night and we laid down for bed in our first and only hostel, after putting the sheets on our bed, at around 1:30 a.m.

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