January 30, 1933. A black cloud began to form over Germany as Adolph Hitler became chancellor. Exactly one month later the Legal Bulletin of the Reich No. 17 stated that articles 114, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124 and 153 were no longer valid. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right to assemble were now restricted. Weeks went by and these articles were still not reinstated. Little did the citizens of Germany know that these articles would not be reinstated for years (Whissen 27-38).
Six weeks after the Legal bulletin of the Reich No. 17 was put out, Henreich Himmler announced that a concentration camp in Dachau, Germany had been established. This was later simply known as Dachau Concentration Camp. This camp was located in a small town called Dachau and about 10 miles from Munich, Germany. It was entitled to accommodate 5,000 political prisoners, although after the camp had opened the population rarely ever dropped below 12,000. Yet as the war progressed, the different types of prisoners increased and over 31,000 prisoners inhabited the camp (Feig 43-47).
Dachau Concentration Camp had a distinct and prompt schedule created by Theodore Eicke. With Dachau being the first of its kind, the daily schedule served as a role model for other concentration camps. The schedule was divided into two, a summer routine and a winter routine. The summer routine went as follows:
Wake up- 4:00 am
Roll call- 5:15 am
Working time- 6:00am-12:00pm
Dinner(including marching in and out)- 12:00pm-1:00pm
Working time- 1:00pm-6:30pm
Roll call- 7:00 p.m. (lasting about an hour)
All to barracks- 8:45 p.m.
To bed- lights out- 9:00 p.m. (Distel 126).
As the winter schedule consisted of:
? Wake up- 5:00 am
Working time- from dawn to dusk? (Distel 126).
The first prisoners in Dachau were mainly political prisoners. These were people who went against the regime, or the current government in power. At this time it was the National Socialists German Workers Party. With this, most of the first prisoners consisted of communists, social democrats, members of the trade union and a few members of the conservative and liberal parties. Also the very first Jewish prisoners were imprisoned in Dachau only because of their political beliefs. In the following years the types of people deported to Dachau varied. These people were made up of, Jews, homosexuals, gypsies, Jehovah? Witnesses, clergymen and others. In November after, ?The Night of Broken Glass? more than 10,000 Jews were sent to Dachau. Although in the long run that was to be considered not many Jews at all (Dachau par. 2).
Prisoners from a variety of different European countries were brought to Dachau. Such countries included Austria, Poland, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Soviet Union and France. Out of these countries the Polish prisoners were the largest national group, followed by the prisoners from the Soviet Union. Altogether there were well over 200,000 prisoners from more than 30 different countries imprisoned in Dachau. At most times German prisoners were more ?privileged? so to speak, but after a long span of time, Germans were finally considered a minority. With this, Dachau was a camp overflowing with different cultures (Horwitz 46-47).
Slave and Labor in the Dachau Concentration Camp greatly differed from one project to another. All of the prisoners in Dachau worked in heavy labor teams. Major working assignments included rolling the streets or working in the gardens and plantations. The gravel pits, the moor-express and the snow kommando were also great tasks. The prisoners themselves considered the gravel pits to be the worst assignment. However they also agreed that , ?Snow Kommando? was also terrible. This chore was to be done under the conditions of, ?Horrible Germany Weather.? The assignment required prisoners to pile all of the snow using wooden planks. Earlier prisoners were ordered to build a large brick structure, complete with ovens. Though these assignments were entirely corrupt, Nazis? considered Dachau to be one of the more mild camps (Feig 50-51).
If you weren?t involved with the slave and labor of Dachau Concentration Camp, chances are you would be involved in a series of medical experiments. These experiments were prepared and performed by a man named Dr. Rascher. The experiments he conducted dealt with, high altitudes, freezing, dry freezing, sea water, and a disease called malaria. They took place in the year of 1942. After Rascher wrote a thorough letter to Henreich Himmler, he received granted permission to perform his experiments on human subjects after his past failures with monkeys. With this Rascher began his studies and experiments (Feig 55-60).
High altitude experiments were the first of Rascher?s wonders. The German Air Force was able to provide Dachau with a decompression chamber at which high altitudes could be simulated. During this experiment a subject would be placed in the decompression chamber. Once the high altitude was simulated the subject would begin to sweat and coil his body. Then he would strenuously agitate and lapse into unconsciousness. One prisoner claimed to secretly spy on an experiment in progress and saw the subjects lungs explode. The purpose of this experiment was to investigate the limits of human endurance at high altitudes. This would serve as an advantage to the German Air Force ( Feig 55-60).
Following the high altitude experiments, Rascher came up with freezing theories. The purpose being, how much cold a human being could stand before dying. During these experiments, the prisoner was placed in a tank of ice water or thrown naked in the snow for the night. The doctor would wait until his subjects passed out and then take their temperatures numerous times. Most subjects ended up dying , when their temperature was around -25C. Out of the 300 subjects used in this experiment, 90 parished (Dachau par.3-5).
Later that year, a light bulb went off in Rascher?s head as he came up with, ?dry freezing? experiments. In the duration of these experiments the subjects were given one bed sheet and then thrown into the cold, naked. Then about every 10 minutes a bucket of freezing cold water was poured over them. Throughout this process their temperature was taken repeatedly. Pending this experiment Doctor Rascher allowed no anesthesia. As a result of this, the shrieks and screams of prisoners were heard throughout Dachau. After the experiment, even if the subject did survive, they were left for dead in the cruelties of horrible Germany winter. Above are only some examples of Rascher?s experiments conducted in Dachau Concentration Camp. Others included the use of sea water and a disease called Malaria (Mazel par. 4-5).
Besides experimentation, much suffering and death also occurred on the grounds of Dachau. These actions began to take place in October of 1941, when thousands of prisoners of war from the Soviet Union arrived in the camp and were shot to death. During the same time period the Gestapo also made special and secret orders for a group of people to be transported to Dachau and then executed. In 1942 Dachau built five gas chambers, and the fifth chamber was meant to be used for homicidal purposes. However there is no proof or hard evidence of them ever using it. That same year over 3,000 prisoners were taken from their barracks in Dachau to a sanitarium, in which they were all killed by carbon monoxide. These people consisted of Catholic priests and clergymen (Feig 52-61).
A sufficient number of prisoners in Dachau died of, starvation, sickness, exhaustion, degradation, beating, torture, being hanged, being shot, carbon monoxide and lethal injections (Whissen 46). Yet these excruciating deaths and executions all took place during the war. As the war was drawing to a close Dachau did not know what to do with remaining prisoners. This brought up the idea of, ?Death Marches.? Death marching was a process in which a large group of prisoners were marched to a remote area for days without food and water. The march alone killed many, but towards the end of the march, if prisoners were still alive, S.S. soldiers would try and kill them off with machine guns. The entire purpose of the marches were to make it seem as though the United States or Soviet troops had mistakenly killed them. However, suffering and death was about to come to a close as liberation rounded the corner (Feig 59-61).
Concentration camps were being liberated and the United States and Soviet troops were closing in on the S.S. In Dachau?s final days, a bad infestation of Typhus, killed thousands just days before their freedom. On April 28, 1945 most of S.S had decided to abandon the camp. Only one day later, on April 29, 1945 Dachau was liberated by units of the United States troops (Feig 59-63).
As poor records were kept there were only 31,905 registered deaths. Prisoners that were killed during death marches and the thousands that died days before liberation were not counted in this total. Also many peoples? deaths were not accounted for that committed suicide on the barbed wire. Many authors and survivors of Dachau today believe the death count to be well over 200,000 people (Whissen 46-47).
Distel, Barbara. Concentration Camp Dachau. Dachau: Comite International de Dachau, 1978.
Horwitz, Gordon J. In the Shadow of Death. New York: Maxwell Macmillan
Mazel, Harry. The Dachau Gas Chambers. United States: 1996. The Holocaust
History Project. February 13, 1999.