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Continued - Dachau Blues...

By Phil Guidry

I walk the rest of the premises, doing my best to pay attention to the other landmarks of the camp: the barracks, the main hall, the chapels and synagogues, the guard towers. But my eyes keep wandering over to a large black sign with white lettering. It has a haunting ring to it, even in German: Krematorium.

You cannot spend very long in the Krematorium at Dachau. Anyone with a soul simply cannot stand it for more than a few moments. There are the ovens, plain as day right before you. It still does not make sense. There are other, darker chambers and crannies. Plain, lifeless concrete walls usher you deeper into this tiny maze of murder. Next comes a room with a low, flat ceiling and dim, murky light. You step inside, trying to get your bearings. Then it hits you, and you feel waves of nausea. You hurry out, unable to breathe. This is the shower room.

Emerging from the Krematorium is like going through a life-changing revelation. I felt weak, inquisitive, and somehow even more confused than before. But there was one thing I knew: I was glad to be out of there.

Then I walked back across the grounds, and the gravel crunched under my feet once more. Even without closing my eyes I could imagine this place, packed to the gills with the lowly and the unfortunate, while a sickening gray pall hung over what was once one of the most charming villages in Germany. On my way out I said goodbye to a wrinkled old man who stood at the camp's information desk. He looked to be in his 70's or 80's. I wondered if he was German, or Jewish, or something else. But, I realized, it didn't matter. Dachau affects you, it gets into your brain, your mind, and your heart. It doesn't matter who you are.

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