In mid-September I visited some of our International Mission Board missionaries in Kiev, Ukraine, and served with a mission team in Chisinau, Moldova. On the return trip to the states, our team from Lake Norman Baptist Church in Huntersville spent one night in Dachau, Germany, near the Munich airport.
A tour of the Dachau Nazi concentration camp proved to be a very sobering experience. An excellent museum occupies several large buildings on the site. It is complete with audio tour guides, or visitors can take the self-guided tour, viewing hundreds of photos and artifacts from this dark period in human history. There is abundant content to read throughout the tour.
If you plan to visit Dachau, take your time in the museum. Absorb the surreal, shocking truth of some of the greatest evidence of man’s complete depravity. No one can survive the tour with the trite conclusion that man is “basically good,” as some frequently repeat. The sin nature of all mankind is on display at Dachau.
Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp built by the National Socialist Workers Party (Nazi Party). It served as a model for the other labor camps and extermination camps.
BR photo by K. Allan Blume
The main gate to the Nazi Concentration Camp at Dachau reads “Work makes you free.” The slogan, like the National Socialist Party’s other promises, was completely deceptive.
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Nazi Germany established about 20,000 camps, imprisoning and/or exterminating millions of victims. At least 2.7 million Jews were murdered. Tens of thousands of Roma, Poles and Soviet prisoners of war were killed also.
At least 3.5 million Germans spent time in a concentration camp. The Germans executed 77,000 of their own who expressed resistance or disagreement with any element of the Nazi Party. The government did not tolerate any opposing viewpoints.
The Dachau camp was built in March 1933 for political prisoners. In its 12 years of existence, more than 200,000 people from the whole of Europe were incarcerated there. More than 43,000 died in the camp. At the current entrance of the camp, a plaque reads, “Dachau – the significance of this name will never be erased from German history. It stands for all concentration camps which the Nazis established in their territory.”
The living conditions were sub-human: indescribable torture, untreated disease, extreme starvation, human experiments and emotional terror tactics. The camp was designed to hold 6,000 prisoners. When it was liberated by the United States military on April 29, 1945, it was overfilled with 32,000 prisoners. One sign explains, “The final months were characterized by catastrophic overfilling of the camp” in an effort to relocate prisoners from other camps. “The prisoners were exposed to the limitless tyranny of the SS guards. Control and terror dominated everyday life in the camp.” [SS stands for “Schutzstaffel,” German for “Protective Echelon.”]
According to a display near the entrance the purpose of the present memorial site is to “testify to the crimes of National Socialism, [and provide] places for remembering the suffering of the victims, and act as places of learning for future generations … so that knowledge about the historical events is kept alive in the minds of the population and passed on.”
Displays explain how prisoners were forced to assemble “on the roll call ground” every morning and evening for roll call. In all weather conditions, they were forced to stand at attention motionless for about an hour. Sometimes even the dead had to be dragged to the roll call ground to be counted. If the number of prisoners did not match the official head count, torture could last for many hours. Some of the sick and weak often collapsed during roll call.
A large memorial sign in an open yard says in four different languages, “May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom and in respect for their fellow man.”
At the end of the tour, one of our group asked, “How could this happen?”
I am not an expert on the Nazi holocaust, but I have three personal observations.
First, the German people were looking to the government to provide for their needs, which is something only God can do. Liberalism had a firm grip on the Christian church in Germany so Christians were not encouraged to practice sola scriptura, the Latin phrase for the Protestant Reformation’s appeal “by scripture alone.” Apart from complete confidence in Holy Scripture, mankind searches for other gods to meet their needs. Hitler and his socialist party filled the vacuum in the German people’s hearts.
Second, the people were not informed. An uninformed electorate is the ideal breeding ground for tyrants. One ingredient in the shortage of information was a very weak press. The German news media supported Hitler. Some of that was forced survival, but the truth remains, the press did not challenge the Socialist Party. In fact, they published many articles that falsely described the conditions in the concentration camps as favorable. The conditions in the camps worsened considerably with the support of the press.
Third, the leaders lied. Hitler promised the people one thing and did the opposite. He was elected to office on lies and his party operated by false propaganda. Truth was completely abandoned. They made up the rules as they moved along, and all of the rules were for their personal benefit. The people lost their freedom.
Given the oppressive environment, few Germans stood courageously for truth. But there was a man who stood tall. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor and theologian who courageously opposed Nazi tyranny. He paid the ultimate price for his convictions. He was executed April 9, 1945, a mere 20 days before the defeat of Hitler’s National Socialist Workers Party.
I’ve been reflecting on the connections between the culture that created Dachau and the America I live in. The parallels are disturbing. Space will not allow a full discussion, but I want to raise some questions. When will our government leaders open their eyes to the holocaust of abortion? The lies of Planned Parenthood have been sufficiently exposed. Blind government leaders are not honest. They need to come clean with the truth. Dachau has come to us.
What voices are you believing and following? The first Psalm warns us, do not follow the voices of the wicked! Given the severe, left-wing bias of most American media outlets, we may be listening to the same kind of media voices that supported Hitler’s regime. Media should tell people the truth, not regurgitate the bylines of political parties.
The Bible warns us in 2 Timothy 3:13, “But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Therefore we must be discerning people and pray this prayer for each other, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10).