Upon our arrival to Munich, our study abroad group was given background on our two main visits that would occur within our couple of days in this historical city. Our visit to Munich was in order to supplement our understanding of the creation and duration of Nazi Germany, as well as learning how this state resulted in the beginning of World War II. We began our journey to further understanding of Nazism with our visit to Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, which was the pilot concentration camp that formed the method of how individuals would be treated at concentration camps during the Final Solution. This site is also a memorial to the 41,500 lives lost at this concentration camp.
Our study abroad group, accompanied by Dr. Claire Greenstein, a professor at Georgia Tech with a background in German history, began our visit with the film offered at the memorial site. This film gave an inside look as to how Hitler became the Chancellor of Germany, followed by his dictatorship that created the Dachau Concentration Camp as one of its first projects. This concentration camp was first intended for political prisoners, which consisted of politicians and activists that held ideals that differed from the National Socialist Party. The identities expanded to include Jewish people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, gay men, and other minority populations in Germany by 1935 in order to promote a pure Germany. This film detailed the terrible conditions in which the prisoners were forced to endure and conveyed the feelings of hopelessness of all who were sent to Dachau. Following this film, we were given the opportunity to explore the memorial site and educate ourselves on the events that took place at this concentration camp, as well as the lessons learned from Germany after World War II.
Later in our visit to Munich, we attended a walking tour of the Third Reich. This tour supplemented our knowledge of Hitler’s rise to power in Germany with historical sight-seeing and an engaging tour guide to lead us around Munich. We began in the center of Munich, where we were given some background information on Hitler’s political career before he became the Chancellor of Germany in 1933. We learned that the well-known book, Mein Kampf, was written during his time in jail, where he had been imprisoned for his political views. This book contained the anti-Semitic ideology that Hitler later used as a tool to convince the German people that he held the solution to their economic crisis following World War I. We also visited a hotel that was the site in which a group of Hitler’s followers decided to dedicate their lives to protecting the Chancellor; these men were later known as Hitler’s secret service. The tour ended by the tour guide leading us to the location where the Nazi Party derived its origin story from. At this location, several Nazis were in armed conflict with other policemen that resulted in the death of six Nazi politicians. In order to honor the lives of these politicians, it was necessary to salute to their memorial as one would walk past this specific location. The photo below shows where this memorial was once placed.
This memorial had unintentionally created Dodger’s Alley, where those who did not wish to salute at this memorial would take an alternate route, which became very unsafe as the Nazi Regime took a stronger hold in Germany. Today, this site is often used as a place events that would have never been condoned under Nazi Germany, such as Munich Pride. This tour gave us an important understanding of what the Third Reich looked like for those who lived in Germany during that time, as well as an understanding of how present-day Munich addresses its past.