Jewish Memorial at Dachau
The Jewish Memorial, designed by Frankfurt architect Hermann
Zwi Guttmann, is located approximately 40 yards east of the Catholic
Memorial in the area of the former Dachau concentration camp
that is close to where the original disinfection
hut once stood. The disinfection hut, once used as a facility
to kill lice in the camp clothing, had been converted into a
restaurant during the time that the camp was the home of German
refugees; it was torn down in November 1963 to make way for the
construction of the Jewish Memorial. In 1964, the 34 barracks
buildings were also torn down, along with a building which formerly
housed the camp brothel, located very close to the spot where
the Jewish Memorial now stands.
Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, a former inmate of Dachau who
was instrumental in getting the Catholic Memorial and the Catholic
Convent built at Dachau, suggested that a Jewish Memorial be
built. Construction began in September 1964 and the completed
memorial was dedicated on May 7, 1967.
The building is made out of basalt lava and the floor of the
prayer room is six feet underground. The 18 foot walkway leading
down to the underground room is outlined by an iron fence which
is reminiscent of the barbed wire fence around the concentration
camp. Like the Catholic chapel next to it, the Jewish Memorial
is open to the elements and has a hole at the apex of the roof
from which a marble shaft protrudes. The shaft is topped by a
Menorah with seven arms, representing the holy relic of Jerusalem's
ancient temple. The photograph below shows the Jewish Memorial
in the northeast corner of the former camp. On the extreme left,
you can see a section of the north wall around the camp.
Photo of Jewish Memorial taken May 1997
The photograph below shows the rear view of the Jewish Memorial.
The line of poplar trees to the left marks the main camp road
which leads from the International Monument to the Catholic Church
of the Mortal Agony of Christ. On the right in this photograph,
you can see a bit of the Catholic chapel which is covered with
river rock and surrounded by a ring of dwarf oak trees. The gravel
around the Jewish Memorial is very coarse and you will need sturdy
walking shoes to traverse this area.
View of Jewish Memorial from the rear
The area directly behind where the Jewish Memorial stands
today was formerly the site of the rabbit hutches when the concentration
camp was in operation. The rabbits were raised to provide fur
for the clothes worn by German pilots. When Heinrich Himmler
came to visit the camp, he brought along his small daughter,
Gudrun, and took her to visit the rabbits.
In front of the Jewish Memorial is the east side of the former
camp with retangular beds of gravel to denote where the buildings
formerly stood. In the photograph below, you can see two of the
seven guard towers and the east wing of the service building
in the background. In the foreground is the tiled ramp that leads
down into the interior of the memorial.
East side of former camp as seen from Jewish Memorial
When I first saw the Jewish Memorial, I thought it was supposed
to represent the ovens where the bodies of the Jews were burned,
or perhaps the underground gas chambers at Auschwitz. According
to the architect, however, the underground room represents the
hiding places of the Jews who tried to escape persecution by
the Nazis. Like the Protestant Memorial which is also partially
underground, the Jewish Memorial represents hope and salvation,
after descending to the depths of despair.
At the bottom of the ramp, there is an iron gate across the
entrance, shown in the photograph below. It reminds me of the
"Arbeit Macht Frei" gate into the former concentration
camp, except that the bars of the gate are chaotic and instead
of the cynical Nazi slogan, there is a star of David on each
side of the gate. Over the gate (not shown) is an inscription
in Hebrew which reads "Give them a sign of warning, eternal
one! The peoples should learn that they are mortals."
Gate across opening to Jewish Memorial
The door handles were fashioned to resemble olive branches,
which are the sign of God's reconciliation with Noah after the
flood. Notice that the handles are the same on both sides of
the door, as the photograph below shows. The door was closed
and locked on the day that I took this picture, although the
Memorial is usually open to the public. I had to return the next
day to get interior shots of the Memorial.
Door handles are symbolic olive branches