A Visit to Dachau - Part Three

This is the final part of my reflections on Dachau after my visit. One cannot jot down every thought, but I am aiming to cover the main 'themes' of my thinking...

Comparisons with Auschwitz
I have now visited Auschwitz four times; this was my first visit to Dachau. Every time I have travelled to Poland it has been warm and summery; Bavaria was coated with a thick blanket of snow for the duration of my stay, and the temperature was normally below freezing. Furthermore, although still relatively large, Dachau cannot compare with the sheer enormity of the site at Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Those, however, were only the basic lines of comparison which I could draw even before entering the museum. My first main observation was that the main exhibition, housed in the former maintenance building, is peppered with photographs from the camp at the time of operation. Dachau served as something of a model camp, having been the first, and was also used for propaganda purposes to convince organisations such as the Red Cross that it was a 're-education' facility. Therefore, the visitor can see examples of photographs depicting roll call, work groups and even medical experiments (clearly intended for Nazi eyes only and not for the Red Cross).
Additionally, the exhibition does not shy away from using graphic or disturbing photos. A visitor will see many photos and drawings of dead prisoners, piles of bodies, work in the crematorium etc. There is also the full-colour liberation footage that I mentioned in Part Two.
At Auschwitz, there are mainly two types of photographs on display. The first are situated in a block in Auschwitz I, and show row upon row of official photographs of prisoners, heads shaved, uniforms on. In the Sauna building in Birkenau, the last room contains walls mounted with photographs found in suitcases in Kanada, showing life for prisoners before deportation and, in many cases, death. In both of these examples, the individual is highlighted. Examples of individuals are used in Dachau, but only some case studies are carried through the entire exhibition, and are easy to miss with the vast amount of information the visitor is faced with.
Auschwitz also, of course, has more physical evidence on display. The shoes, glasses and tonnes of hair speak for themselves, without the need for grisly photos of dead bodies that somewhat dehumanise the people the bodies once belonged to. Plus, what relative would want to recognise their loved one's naked, emaciated, lifeless body at the top of a pile of others?
Finally, it also appears that the Auschwitz sites have remained untouched since their liberation. Of course, restoration work has been carried out and information for visitors has been placed upon sites of significance, but there have been no real new constructions, unlike Dachau. On the grounds of the site stand two large memorials and a small Russian Orthodox chapel. Such a site probably wouldn't be seen at Auschwitz; indeed, when the Pope commissioned a large Christian cross to stand at Auschwitz I some years ago, there was such an outcry from the Jewish population that it was removed. Then again, Dachau housed mainly political prisoners, used as more of a 'dumping ground' for prisoners from other camps towards the end of the war.
There are plenty more little differences that could be highlighted between the two, but then that would make this a very long blog post indeed...

This next and final thought is actually a recent one, given that I have been unwell these past few days and it came to mind while I was planning what else I would write.

Before the weekend I came down with norovirus, a common stomach bug usually spread more in the winter. I have spent most of my time in bed, and having the energy to stand up and walk has been difficult at times. Luckily, I have my dad around to make sure anything I need is granted; I am in a warm, comfortable bed in a warm house; although I cannot eat much, there is food available should I wish to try to eat.
It has certainly made me consider the position of a sick prisoner at any camp. Typhus and dysentery were some common diseases in the concentration camp system, with some particularly nasty symptoms. How could a prisoner, so weak and so starving, go to do a full day's work and receive hardly any food at the end of it all? How does one keep going without friends and family around to encourage and look after a person in those sort of conditions? Although I have felt rather sorry for myself because of this illness, and it being Christmas tomorrow, that really helped me put things into perspective.