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Dachau Blues...

By Phil Guidry

(Editors Note: From time to time, StudentNow will present travel stories that are more contemplative, personal and historical. This article about a reporter's visit to Dachau is just such a story.)

The thing you notice about this horrible place is the silence. Even as the gravel crunches under your feet, even as the tourists huddle and discuss matters in hushed, whispered tones, even as the traffic passes by on the city streets just outside the guard gates, the silence is there. It is inescapable - it toys with your mind, and it forces you to deal with the scenario which unfolds all around you.

This is the town of Dachau, Germany, an otherwise-charming village established in the 12th century that was once a haven for artists and poets. But I am here, as a visitor, as a curious observer, for a different reason.

Dachau was the site of the first concentration camp in Germany. It opened in 1933, and from that point until it was stormed, liberated, and ultimately burned to the ground by American troops in 1945, it was the site of some of the worst atrocities man has ever committed against his fellow man.

It has been tastefully reconstructed, the shattered pieces restored and refitted using the original materials which were scattered about at the end of World War II. The barbed wire running across the fence tops is rusty; the bricks and mortar which make up the "living" quarters are cracked and dirty. The ditches dug by the prisoners here which would eventually be filled with their starved, emaciated bodies, still runs along the outer edges of the compound. This place does not feel like a recreation. At all.

I came upon Dachau on the last day of a weeks-long whirlwind journey around western and central Europe, a trip in which I took 15 rolls of film. For this last stop, however, I put my camera away. There are just some things you don't want a photographic record of. And the things I saw there I will never forget - they are more indelibly printed in my mind than on any photograph.

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