vendredi, janvier 05, 2007

Visit to Munich and the Dachau NAZI Concentration Camp

The NAZI period must be a heavy cross to bear for the Germans. Yet I think that they are doing really fine since unlike the Turks (vis-à-vis the Armenian Genocide) and the Japs (WWII in Asia), for example, they have chosen to face their past and as such earn the permission to move on.

Though this morning I was talking to a German mom and she told me that she didn't want to visit Dachau as the past is best kept where it is. I said, "Everybody coming here wants to visit Dachau..." and she retorted, "Not if you're German!"

It would be unthinkable not to visit Munich when we live just 2 hours away by car. And it would be unthinkable not to visit Dachau when we were in Munich. But well, we're not German :-).

Last December was a good time to visit Dachau. It was cold and bleak enough for us to visit the camp memorial and try to imagine how horrible winter must be for its former inmates; and the unnaturally warm winter we are having now made it easier for us to bear walking around in the cold.

Entry is free. Though you'll have to rent an audiophone (3 Euros for adults). Guided visits are available, but only on Saturdays and Sundays (if I'm not wrong). We started with the camp grounds (but it seemed a little antiseptic as almost all of it had been torn down), the cremation buildings, the sleeping quarters (picture above - newly reconstructed) and finally the museum.

The cremation buildings were a very bleak, impressive and necessary sight to behold, but I didn't feel brave enough to have pictures taken of the ovens or the gas chamber...The film being shown in the museum (in English at 15h30, for example) was well-done and really gave one a feel of the horrible atrocities being committed by the Nazis during WWII. One must make sure that one has enough time to visit the museum, there is much to read through and the camp closes at 17h.

Man's senseless cruelty is hard to bear. And millions of Jews, German and other soldiers, homosexuals, opposition politicians etc etc had died because of a power-mad regime gone crazy. But I personally still do not believe that the creation of the State of Israel was a really good idea. Or at least not in such a rush. We should learn from History, but not tamper with it. But that's just my opinion.

Come to think about it, millions of people from different parts of the world have been killed and continue to be killed for the most senseless of reasons. Why is it that nobody seems to be doing anything for the bulk of them?

As we left the camp, it was dark and the air felt heavy and much more oppressive. We all wondered aloud though how so many Germans could bear to live so near the camp memorial, there are houses everywhere - probably built above the thousands still buried underneath!

On a happier note, Munich, the City of BMW, is a really lovely city. Stately homes, wide avenues, many shops, restaurants etc. The people dress up really nicely too in general - quite a contrast to Stuttgart. There's a river near the Modern Art Museum and the English Gardens where people could actually surf the waves. Quite a sight in the heart of town.

We always stay at the Mercure Hotel in the Rudolf-Vogel-Bogen street, in the south of the city. It is children-friendly and is quite comfortable (4*). We've also established some sort of food routine when we were there : a meal at a fine Vietnamese restaurant Thang Long ( in town (good Pho and Roast Duck with Kangkong), and some cake (excellent carrot cake) and sandwiches at a bakery near the castle. And we always try to bring some stale bread along as the kids like to feed the ducks, geese, swans and other birds in the lake in front of the castle.

My little Armand had been very brave (sigh), you see him going after the goose even when he had just moments ago had his finger caught in its beak because he stupidly held the bread in his hand for too long a time.

I must say that I wouldn't mind living in Munich.

On our way to Munich we stopped by in Ulm (famous for its cathedral) for lunch. Had typical German food in a warm and friendly taverna - meaning heavy, hearty and rustic, sometimes good and to be eaten only once in a while - Zwiebelroastbraten, Sauerkraut mit Bratwurst, Hirschgulasch...

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