The Museum at the Dachau Memorial Site

Displays in the Dachau Museum, May 2007

The displays in the room shown in the photo above are in what was once the shower room at Dachau. The shower fixtures have been removed, along with the water pipes and control wheels which regulated the flow of water.

Display photo shows General Milch on a tour of the Dachau shower room

The photo above shows a Museum display with a photograph of General Erhard Milch on a visit to the Dachau shower room, which is shown on the left in the photo. General Milch is the man with white lapels on his coat. After the war, General Milch was arrested as a war criminal and confined to one of the cells of the Dachau bunker, after he refused to testify against other Nazis.

Notice the water pipes on the ceiling of the shower room and the large control wheel for regulating the flow of water in the foreground on the left.

The caption on the display shown in the photo above says "These are the torments of hell." This is a reference to the shower room being used for the hanging punishment, according to the Museum. The old exhibit at Dachau showed a photograph of prisoners hanging by their arms from trees, without identifying the photo as one that was taken at Buchenwald, not Dachau.

The photo below shows a whipping block which is displayed on the left side of the shower room shown in the photo above. Whipping as a punishment was discontinued in 1943, by order of Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler.

Whipping block on display in Dachau museum

Note the old floor of the building which is visible in the background of the photo above. The unfinished look of the west wing of the museum building gives a feeling of authenticity; this is not one of those glitzy museums that you sometimes see in America.

The old museum, which first opened in 1965, showed a pair of wooden shoes like the ones that are worn in Holland. It was implied that the prisoners at Dachau wore these shoes, although I've never seen a single photograph of Dachau prisoners wearing them. The wooden shoes are gone now, but there are other items of clothing on display, for example the blue worker's cap shown in the photograph below. These caps were worn by the Communist prisoners at Dachau and also by the Communists in the other concentration camps. I don't think that the former museum exhibit, which was first set up in 1965, even mentioned the word Communist, although the largest group of prisoners at Dachau were political prisoners, mostly Communists.

Blue worker's cap on display at Dachau

Locker with prison clothes hanging inside

An empty Red Cross package on display at Dachau

The photograph above shows an empty Red Cross package on display at the museum, and the text says that, beginning in 1943, the Dachau prisoners received these packages. However, young visitors to the museum still get the impression that prisoners were deliberately starved to death at Dachau. For example, the museum shows a small metal bowl which was used by the prisoners, but it does not show the soup bowls, used in the camp, which were as large as a serving bowl used on American tables.

A film clip from a movie shot by famous Hollywood director George Stevens on May 3, 1945 is shown on a monitor in the museum. The film has no narration, and when I was there, young teens were gasping at the sight of the emaciated bodies shown. It was not explained that these prisoners had died during the typhus epidemic, and had not been deliberately starved to death.

The George Stevens film shows the abandoned train full of corpses which the American soldiers discovered outside the Dachau camp when they arrived to liberate the prisoners. The bodies in the open boxcars, as shown in the film, are covered with snow; it had snowed at Dachau on May 1, 1945. According to the Dachau museum, there were 3,000 unburied bodies found by the American liberators; this figure would have included the alleged 2,310 bodies found on an abandoned train which had started from Buchenwald and had taken 19 days to reach Dachau because the train tracks had been destroyed by Allied bombs. The caption on another photo of bodies stacked outside the crematorium, which is now displayed at the crematorium, says that it was taken in late April or early May, presumably not on the day of liberation. Prisoners were still dying of typhus at Dachau in May and June of 1945, long after the liberation of the camp, and the burial of the bodies did not start until May 13, 1945.

American doctors are shown in the George Stevens film spraying the liberated prisoners with DDT, but with no narration to explain this, young visitors to the museum don't know that this was being done in an effort to kill the lice which spreads typhus. However, the museum does confront the issue of typhus in the new exhibits. The photograph below shows a display about disinfection measures taken in the Dachau camp.

Arm band worn by the disinfection squad at Dachau

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This page was last updated on June 7, 2007