The Dachau Concentration Camp was the first of the Nazi camps opened which was intended to hold political prisoners. It was the camp that was in operation the longest from March 1933 until April 1945. It is located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory about 10 miles northeast of Munich. Opened by Heinrich Himmler, its purpose was expanded to include forced labor, and eventually, the imprisonment of Jews and foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded.
Over the 12 years of use as a concentration camp, the Dachau administration recorded the intake of 206,206 prisoners and deaths of 31,951. Crematoria were constructed to dispose of the deceased. Visitors may now walk through the buildings and view the ovens used to cremate bodies, which hid the evidence of many deaths. In early 1937, using prison labor, the SS initiated a expansion of the camp facilities to support 6,000 prisoners. After 1942, the number of prisoners held there regularly exceeded 12,000 giving rise to extremely unsanitary conditions. Typhus epidemics became a serious problem as a result of overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, insufficient provisions, and the weakened state of the prisoners.
For visitors there are extensive exhibits including stories of some of the prisoners who were brought to Dachau. There is a reconstructed barracks building to give visitors an idea of how the prisoners were housed. On the day we visited, the weather was cold and raining. Somehow this set the right mood for a place with such a dark and torturous history.