I hear the crunch of gravel under footsteps. The sound breaks the hot, still silence that hangs ominously in the air. The visitors make no other sound as they walk by me in stunned quiet. I understand. I watch them pass.
Soon others come, speaking in hushed, deathlike voices. The words are inaudible to me, but I know without hearing. I understand. They stop and gaze at me, their eyes void of all emotion except disbelief. I am glad they are here because they will see and never forget. My existence evokes a truth that contradicts the immaculate gardens and spotless buildings our camp now exhibits. This is a place where the relics and memories of the past remain in constant turmoil with the beauty and orderliness of today. I will remain her always to represent the consequences of hate.
Welcome to Dachau. Dachau, where the iron gate at the entrance sarcastically beckons "work makes you free." The words tauntingly call out, twisted within the iron bars.
I am glad that your are here, for you also must learn and never forget. The gravel beneath your feet was long ago stained with blood and sweat of the innocent oppressed within our barbed-wire. Dashed upon this very ground are the ambitions, dreams and souls of those forced to call this camp home. Here, where you stand, once fell the unheard cries of the tormented and distressed.
At first inspection, the white of the gravel may allude to chasteness and purity. Yet even now, the sun reflects mercilessly off the pale ivory rocks inducing a great white heat that can be compared only to hell.
Dachau today is extremely different than before. Some say it is better that way, less appalling, less shocking. These are the ones that call Dachau a memorial. I, however, believe the truth is a warning. This warning will only be heeded when the consequences are fully realized.
Many aspects of our camp have been disguised to hide the truth. Not far from here runs the execution wall known as "the blood ditch." However, today you must look closely to find the wall for it and all the atrocities the wall has seen are hidden beneath the thick, twisted ivy. You must force yourself to look beyond the green facade that masks reality; you must force yourself to see the truth. The beautiful gardens that span the length of the wall also exist to conceal appalling truths. These gardens mark the grave of the "Thousands unknown." Thousands. Some who visit here never look beyond the blossoms to realize the magnitude of human life buried below them within the earth.
The barracks have been destroyed now. The endless series of rectangles, created by the remaining foundation stones, are the only evidence of human cages that once stood there.
The watch towers, which once looked with omniscient eyes, now stand blind, non-threatening. Even the crematorium, with all its memories of death and ashes, stand spotless. Its red-brick exterior gives no hint to the horrors it has seen; the interior walls, painted virgin white, seem to scream out, "No, not here--never here."
There are visitors who pass through our camp who refuse to look beyond. They refuse to believe and therefore, refuse to remember. Still, they stop to look at me, a mass of iron formed into the shape of a nameless prisoner. They read the words inscribed on my base, "Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it," then they continue down the trail. I can only pray I have made them realize that my message is now immortal through the words that are read.
They have been warned; I exist for a reason.
Last update: 5 June 2000