Dachau Memorial Site

A few weeks ago, I was asked to do a photo essay on the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, and today I am happy to present some of the photos on my site.

Main Entrance to Dachau Concentration Camp: The Jourhaus
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

You know, at school I learned a lot about World War II, the Nazi regime, and the terror brought by them upon the world. However, this was all quite theoretical. Our class never went for a Concentration Camp Memorial Site. Also, I admit that a part of me has never actively seeked further information on this topic. It all happened long before I was born. And so I had a blank spot on my mind.

Museum exhibit at Dachau Camp
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Now, when the job came in, I was excited. First, I never had been to Dachau, and second, I did not know what to expect. I had absolutely no pre-defined pictures in my mind, other than some blurry black and white photos with prisoners in striped uniforms. I found this to be very helpful for this job (often enough, I have a clear set of pictures in mind prior to attending an event, be it a soccer match, a press conference or a red carpet event). I could let the emotions and photos come in from an unbiased view point. I could see the Concentration Camp Site with my own eyes.

I took my time on a Monday morning, where the site is closed, to get some impressions without being disturbed by other visitors. That was a breathtaking experience, literally. It almost took my breath to be at a place where 65 years ago utter terror and cynism was daily business. A place where innocent victims of a cruel regime were terrorized, tortured, and murdered. Even as I write this, that scary feeling creeps in again.

Bedroom at Dachau Concentration Camp
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

The next morning, the tranquility was gone. Hundreds of pupils populated the Memorial Site (it is mandatory for classes in Bavaria to visit Dachau at least once). It was good to see that they apparently were interested in the topic, even if it took them some time to understand the horror of this place.

I talked to one of the guides, and she confirmed that “most people are like that – once they have seen just a few rooms, their chatty behaviour is gone, and the thinking process starts”. She smiled, and then asked me: “Do you know what hurts most?” – I shook my head ‘no’. – “Most people link the name Dachau with the horror of the Concentration Camp. But that’s long gone. Dachau has changed. It’s not like 1945 any longer. It has so many beautiful locations in town, just take the city hall. It just hurts to be associated with the Camp forever, even now, 62 years after the liberation.” – For obvious reasons, she asked me to not publish her name.

Jewish Monument at Dachau Camp
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

While I went to Dachau with a blank mind, I looked at other photographers’ sites later on. Many colleagues use black and white to illustrate the emotions and feelings caused by this place. I can understand this, but I came to the conclusion that -for the gallery presented on my site- using B&W photos would be a distortion of the reality, even if it’s a very small distortion. My reality is that I am shooting in color with a digital camera. If there are no colors, fine, then there are no colors. But I resist to artificially “enhance” the images by putting them to B&W, just for the effect.

I am more than happy to share my impressions with you, as they were so gripping. And so I invite you to my tiny gallery of Dachau Concentration Camp Photos. I really appreciate your feedback. Please feel free to contact me with your questions and comments, either via email or as a comment on this blog post.

Oh, and should you be in Munich, I strongly recommend to visit the Dachau Memorial Site if your schedule permits. It definitely is an important experience and a lesson for all of us. Just let’s hope that it will happen never again.

Never Again!
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

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