Barracks at Dachau concentration camp
In the first three years, after the Dachau concentration camp
opened in March 1933, the prisoners were housed in the factory
buildings of the former gunpowder and munitions plant, on the
grounds of which the camp was located. In 1936, a construction
project was started to build an entirely new camp. This was to
be the "model camp" for two new concentration camps
soon to be built at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen. The prisoners
were forced to do the construction work themselves. 34 new wooden
buildings were built in two rows of 17 each, on both sides of
a main camp road (Lagerstrasse) which ran north and south between
the two rows of buildings. A line of evenly spaced poplar trees
was planted on each side of the road in 1937. The original trees
were cut down in 1964 and the trees you see today were planted
in the 1980ies.
In 1964 all the barracks buildings were torn down because
the cost of maintaining them would have been too high and the
dilapidated wooden buildings would have spoiled the appearance
of the present Memorial Site, which is predominantly a vast field
of gravel with memorials and monuments at each end. The photograph
below shows 15 rectangular beds of gravel which denote the former
locations of even-numbered barracks, 2 to 30, on the west side
of the camp. There are 15 more odd-numbered barracks on the other
side, numbered 1 to 29. The first four barracks, nearest to the
administration building, were designated with the letters B and
C on the west side and the letters D and E on the east side.
Building A was the gate house. In 1965, there were two barracks
reconstructed on the sites of buildings B and D. Gravel-filled
rectangle denote the locations of buildings C and E.
Locations of barracks are marked by beds of gravel
The two reconstructed barracks now stand at the edge of the
former roll-call square where the prisoners had to line up each
morning and evening to be counted. The first photograph shows
these two barracks, one on each side of the tree-lined main road.
The barrack on the left side of the photograph is full of junk,
which one can see through the windows, and it is not open to
visitors. New exhibits are planned for this building and will
be open by 2003. The second building is furnished with bunks
and tables and is supposed to look the way the barracks did during
the years before the camp became over crowded. The second photograph
shows the gatehouse, which was the entrance into the camp, with
the reconstructed barrack that now stands where the camp
canteen once stood.
Two reconstructed barracks built in 1965
Gatehouse on the left, reconstructed barrack on the
Thirty of these wooden buildings, which were all the same
size and shape, were used as barracks (Wohnbaracken) where the
prisoners lived. Each barrack was called a block. Blocks B and
D were located where the reconstructed barracks now stand. Block
B was the camp canteen (Kantine) where the prisoners could buy
cigarettes and extra food with the camp money they earned for
their labor or with money that they were allowed to receive from
friends and family outside the camp. Behind this building was
Block C, where the camp library was located. Here prisoners were
allowed to borrow books by Jewish and Communist authors that
were banned in Germany. Buildings D and E were used for the infirmary
(Revierbaracken) where sick prisoners were quartered. Part of
building E was set aside for the morgue (Totenkammer) Later,
the infirmary had to be expanded to include three more barrack
buildings as epidemics spread from Poland to the camps in Germany.
Barrack 9 was designated at the quarantine barrack where newcomers
had to stay for a few weeks. By the time the American liberators
arrived, Blocks 1 through 11 were being used for sick prisoners
as a typhus epidemic raged through the camp.
The photograph below shows the end of the reconstructed barrack
on the left in the picture above. Behind this building, there
are 15 beds of gravel which represent the locations where the
barracks formerly stood and one more rectangle for building C.
The concrete rectangles are not the foundations of the buildings
that were torn down. At the far end, on the left side, you can
see the gray concrete building that is the Protestant Church
of Reconciliation. A camp greenhouse
(Lagergärtnerei) formerly stood in the spot where the church
was built. Behind the other reconstructed barrack is another
field with 15 beds of gravel for the barracks and one for Block
E, one of the original infirmary buildings. Thirty of the beds
of gravel have a number on a concrete marker at the end nearest
the road. Blocks 2 and 4 were for German prisoners in the camp.
The priests were housed in blocks 26 and 28 (Priesterblock) at
the northern end of the camp. Block 30 was for the invalids.
Blocks 15, 17 and 19 on the east side were the punishment blocks
(Strafblöcke) where the prisoners, who had been arrested
for the second time after being previously released, were housed.
Block 15 was reserved for the Jews who were kept isolated from
the other prisoners. The punishment
blocks were separated from the other barracks by barbed wire.
These prisoners were not allowed to use the canteen, the library
or the camp brothel.
Reconstructed barrack building and location of original
When the concentration camp was in operation, the barrack
buildings were painted green and there were flower beds at both
ends of each building. All the buildings were precisely laid
out at right angles to each other, and all electrical wires were
underground. The main camp road was covered with gravel which
the prisoners had to keep smooth by pulling a heavy roller across
it. In the winter, all the snow had to be removed from the camp
by the prisoners and hauled to the Würm river on the west
side of the camp.
Each barrack was divided into two compartments, each with
its own door. The first photograph below shows the doors into
one of the reconstructed barracks. The original barracks did
not have unpainted doors like the reconstruction and the doors
were not side by side like they are here.
Two unpainted wooden doors on reconstructed barrack