July 19: The bunks are three deep with thin straw mattresses. There is no space between them, you sleep head to foot, coughing, moaning, turning. You climb off the end of the bunk without the use of a ladder. The prisoners on each side of you have died and have been replaced by others. You no longer exchange names. How long before you die too? If you are still alive you help drag anyone who has died during the night to the morning formation and roll call. You stand in the cold or rain or snow.

roll call square and barracks

It is a check to see be sure no one has escaped. If the numbers don’t match up, the roll call starts again. That’s why even the dead must be brought out. You are beaten at random, and you are never sure why. You don’t do anything to call attention to yourself, don’t cough, don’t groan no matter what hurts or how weak you feel. If you can’t work, you may be subject to medical experiments that usually end in death. Stand straight, act capable of work. Don’t make eye contact. Answer promptly and loudly when your name is called.

Entrance and Dachau concentration camp memorial site

Toward the end of the war beatings grow worse and rations are cut. Food is a watery “soup” with no protein. You are starving, you don’t recognize your face or your body, you function by rote. You stomach and bowels protest. Your teeth have fallen out, your hair. You skin is covered with sores. There is no medical care. You don’t dare mention you’d like to see a doctor.  Your barracks, designed for 200 now holds 2,000. It stinks, you stink. You try not to think anymore about what may have happened to you wife, your children. Are they alive? Are they better off dead? What will be left of them, or you if you survive? Bodies are burned to hide the number who have died. Later you will learn that 41,000 dead are accounted for, but the numbers that died in transports or who are not German are not counted, no gypsies, no gays. It is after all “the final solution.”

How can humans do this to each other? How different was this from recent actions in Iraq at Abu Ghraib? The Balkins? Counties in Africa?

I can’t comment today on the rest of  our day. It seems so frivolous. We made Zürich and tomorrow, we will be in Troyes, France.


About ejhowle23

Authors and adventurers, participated in the World Race 2011, an automobile rally from New York to Paris, crossing three continents and 14,000 land miles. Following much the same route as the setting for our debut novel, The Long Road to Paris. This blog describes our own adventures and challenges. And now you can follow our Bahamas sailing adventure that provides the setting for our second novel, Night Watch. Our rally, the African Safari Challenge, crossed five countries in South Africa in May 2014 and in 2015 we participated in the second Trans-American rally this time from Nova Scotia to San Francisco. Spring of 2016 we travelled 28 days around Australia with friends from previous rallies and in the fall participated in our most exhausting rally through Argentina, Chili and Peru- the Rally of the Incas. We were awarded the Against All Odds award. We're still not sure if this was for us or our car. Stewball never broke down and we hardly did. We will soon take on Iceland as a self-drive tour and in the fall of 2017 we will participate in the Odyssey Italia and then back to Africa for a do-over (almost) of the Africa Safari Challenge.
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4 Responses to Dachau

  1. Carla says:

    Everyone should see a concentration camp once in their lifetime. So it will never be forgotten what people are capable of. The war memories were still so alive for my grandparents and parents and I am told many stories. But what happens after my generation disappears? That worries me.


  2. TBC says:

    Beautifully and starkly written. And yes, people are still doing this to one another. How can it be?

    The only surprise is the thin straw mattresses. I wasn’t aware that the prisoners were even given that.

    We must never forget. Never.

    TBC and Arnie

  3. Nancy Deutsch says:

    We saw Dachau in 1985. Our guidebook described it as “a charming Bavarian village”, no mention of the “camp”. The bunk beds had attractive blue and white checked sheets! Obviously consciousess has been raisd since. We two were the only American tourists. The rest were Germans! Even more shocking was a large map showing that there were concentration camps in every town. They fed into the main ones that we hear about, so it’s hard to believe that townspeople didn’t know. There was a photo exhibit of the bad stuff, punishments etc. which seemed to fascinate the German tourists. There was none of the information that Ed reports. And yes, this sort of dark inhuman behaviour persists, but not in such an efficient, institutionalized way.

    We are loving the blogs! We’re like those people who waited at the dock for the next chapter of Dickens’ novel “Is there a blog tonight?” we say?


    • ejhowle23 says:

      Yes, I photographed the map of all the “feeder” camps. That was a surprise to us too. We had audio headsets, but eventually I had to quit listening. The written information and photos were graphic enough. The audio had lots of accounts in the languages of the survivors, of course no English. Today, Paris!

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