Prison cell at Dachau

Dachau

“Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Makes you Free) stoically greeted us as we walked into the Dachau Concentration Camp. These words in wrought iron were the philosopher kings philosophizing to the untermenschen walking through the gate. The Gestapo taught prisoners they could earn their freedom if they worked hard and conformed to Nazi Socialist ideology.

Then came the Bunker, the prison where political and religious prisoners who posed a threat to Nazi power lived and died. Some cells were divided into multiple smaller cells – too small to sit or lie down.

Two rows of conifers lined the “Spirit of the Camp”, the road between the barracks where prisoners met to exchange information during their limited free time. As I walked down the path, I listened to commentary about female prisoners forced to work in a brothel created by the Gestapo to propagate more workers, and Dr. Sigmund Rascher’s human experimentation with altitudes, freezing, and infectious diseases.

This led to the farthest end of the camp, where Dachau’s darkest secret remained obscured in the forest outside the camp’s main walls. Along a path through the woods was an execution range with blood ditch and a pistol range for execution. Coming full-circle was a solitary building with a towering chimney, which exhaled the smoke of incinerating bodies – each of six incinerators could hold two to three bodies. Ashes were still visible in the collection grates.

In the room beside the incinerators was the gassing chamber. Above the door, a sign read “BRAUSEBAD” – Showers, and on the outside wall were two drop-boxes where canisters of Prussic Acid were dropped into the room.

Statuette in the Fugerei

Die Fuggerei

DAY 16

The Fuggerei in Augsburg, described as a city within a city, is the world’s oldest social housing complex still in use, founded by the Fugger family in 1516, and known internationally – even being taught in Japanese textbooks. To this day, it is supported entirely by private interests.

Even though Augsburg was a wealthy trade city in the Middle Ages, over 80% of its population was impoverished. Jakob Fugger (merchant, banker, and entrepreneur) built the Fuggerei to provide housing to some of the poor, as a means in his mind, to gain eternal salvation. Many craftsmen lived here while practicing their trade, including W.A. Mozart’s great grandfather, Franz Mozart, a mason. The rent was and still is equivalent to €0.88 ($1.13), in addition to saying three daily prayers for the Fugger family.

During WWII, the Fuggerei was destroyed by Allied bombing, and only 10 days later, the Fugger family made a resolution to completely rebuild the Fuggerei. Then later the same year, they suffered another tragedy when Fugger von Glött (head of the Fugger family) was arrested by the Gestapo for his role in the July 20 assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler.

Even after suffering losses at the hands of both Allied and German forces, the Fugger family spent the next nine years rebuilding their legacy in the original style with exacting detail and quality. During the initial reconstruction phase, workers fabricated their own tools due to the lack of availability.

“Especially right after the collapse, the first attempts to reconstruct showed, when all is said and done, only the energy and initiative of each individual can conquer adversity.” - Architect Heinrich Götzger (1948, Translation from Augsburg, Ein Beitrag zum Wiederaufbau zerstörter Altstädte)

Bayern

DAY 15

Bayern (Bavaria) is just east of Baden-Württemberg, where we’re staying, so it was a short 3.5 hour drive to Augsburg, an old (15 BCE) Roman-era city.

A friend we’re staying with introduced us to Riegele, a local brewery where I tried my first beer in Bavaria – a place known for quality beer. They make some of the best beers I’ve tasted.

Maypole Definition

Heidelberg Altstadt and Castle from the Philosophers Way