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A Survivor's Granddaughter on Dachau Mission


The National Socialist party constructed its first German concentration camp in Dachau, an otherwise mundane suburb of Munich, in 1933, originally to house political enemies. An audio guide with sound bites from survivors and liberators took us through the grounds, which included a museum inside the original processing area, several memorials and the crematorium. The volume of dead bodies quickly outgrew Dachau's two furnaces, so the Nazis added another building with four more, plus a gas chamber.A road bordered one side of the property where cars drove past a guard tower. Even if there had previously been thicker natural borders, we read that prisoners were often brought out to work on construction projects. If Dachau residents didn't see them then, how could they not have noticed the stream of train cars laden with new prisoners, or the distinctive smell of burning bodies? They may not have perceived the full extent of what was happening, but even Allied psychologists concluded there was no legitimate way to profess ignorance.Even though I still carry the impact of Grandpa's story, the troubling hollowness I felt at Dachau reminded me how easily humans can disconnect from pain we don't personally experience.

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