WORK SETS YOU FREE – ARBEIT MACHT FREI Dachau Munich

 

60 years after the inhumane imprisonment of one hundred and eighty-eight thousand inmates and the execution of almost thirty-two thousand, a young (me) crossed that “factory” line. The line in which:

 

  • A person loses all rights but one: to beg the warders to execute you.
  • Your father is no longer yours, and your mother cannot hug you or dry your tears.
  • All your posessions will feed the expenses of the bloody war machine.
  • You go to sleep without having dinner, and instead “enjoy” a peace of old, moldy bread or simply water as a meal.

 

I remember I walked in a prisoner’s dormitory and my body started to sweat cold and I was shaking. I was afraid, even knowing that the days of pain and misery were far from that day. I started to loose my balance and was walking backwards and my internal compass was spinning at a dizzying speed. I was losing my equilibrium, and I could smell the urine and sweat of the prison floors. The tourists around me had vanished. I was alone. I was still stepping backwards and my hands were reaching for something to stop me. Moments later, my hands rested on something cold and damp. I regained my senses and I had control over my body once again. As I looked behind me, I found that my right hand was leaning on that bench.

the-bench

That bench with the stick of punishment, one that the Lagerordnung (Disciplinary and Penal Code written for Dachau) was inviting the SS warders to use in order to punish the workers with no names. They were called people (the trend between the Lager’s prisoners was more or less 100 pounds). I jumped when I saw that bench. I was scared. I started walking towards the door to outside and I could smell myself. It was a mix of pee and sweat, and my black and white long-sleeves were dirty. I turned my head to the left and I caught a reflection of my face full of wounds and I could feel my back was painful and red red bloody. As I ran faster, the dormitory door started to close. Behind the door started to illuminate and the dream looked like it was vanishing. I knew I didn’t belong to that day, moment, or time of history. As I was running, the handle of a gun punched me in the face and I felt myself passing out. I fell into four bony arms that stopped me. I could faintly see on their wrists 102456 and 102475. I didn’t even have the time to realize what was happening and I was kneeled with bare chest exposed, blood dripping from my face. I heard Ein (one) and felt a sharp slap with a wund (painful) stick on my back. My skin swelled up in the area where the stick hit me. Then I heard Zwei (two), again the same pain but 10 times harder. I started saying the first words of “Our Father”…Drei (three)…

Once I opened my eyes, a brown haired woman was throwing water over my face. Lots of tourists from all over the world were watching me with worry. None of my classmates were there. I was lucky not to pass out in front of them. God knows how many times they would make jokes on me.

 

Yes, the life gave me the opportunity to travel and visit this place…

 

15 minutes after that episode, I finally was able to convince the lady that I was fine. I was finally free to go out and breath in some fresh air. I was walking towards the bus parking. It was early in the morning, around 10:00 AM and it was February. I remember even now after several years, how I wasn’t able to handle that cold weather. It was fogy and wet. The jacket my parents bought for me for that school trip was really warm but it didn’t matter.

 

The walk towards the gate of freedom was tough and the remorse was killing me. My fellow classmates were taking pictures around the memorial and by the wall of inscriptions, enjoying the day trip and laughing. From within the fence, my imagination could see around me these young and old prisoners, in their black and white uniforms, watching me with sad faces. I was disappointing them. I was giving up. I was weak, but they knew something:

 

I was there with a mission…

 

As I’m writing this article I understand why they were all watching me with sad faces. They wanted me to write this article and let the world know what happened to them and other people during that war.

 

Through me, that small part of the world that doesn’t know about all these humanitarian injustices, can now know more.

 

I hope that one day, every single person on this planet (Mr. PewDiePie included) will finally understand that we cannot trivialize what the war atrocities have brought to our planet.

 

Outside the fence, I turned around and read the words over the gate: ARBEIT MACHT FREI – WORK SETS YOU FREE

 

All those 188.000 people who stepped into that place were there with a hope. Working hard, one day, will set them free again.

 

Everything was a lie

 

I decided to return back and step by step, I walked every single centimeter of that camp. I saw the showers and the crematory. I saw things that, to imagine what they were used for, would make you vomit.

 

the-crematorium
Crematory

 

gas-showers
Gas Chamber

Two hours later, I began walking back towards the gate. The sky now was becoming blue and the sun was coming out. Those sad faces were sunny and they were happy. The children and their parents now were wearing their époque clothes and they were greeting me. They were walking with towards the gate to freedom.

 

I wasn’t cold anymore and my heart and soul were strong. I came out of that Lager more me; I came out of that camp more human…

 

Our society has learned a lot from these errors and has changed a little bit since then, but we still have a lot of work to do. Are we going to learn from our mistakes? Let’s begin to write a non-violent history and bring freedom to all those who cannot defend themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Replies to “WORK SETS YOU FREE – ARBEIT MACHT FREI Dachau Munich

  1. The image of the punishment bench, can you tell me the source for it? I’d like to use it in a documentary film.

    Thank you.

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