Following Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, Dachau became the first of the Nazi concentration camps in Germany in March 1933 (it was designed to hold up to 5,000 prisoners). Initially they were intended for political prisoners but as the world spiraled into war they became a place to imprison “undesirables” and were linked to slave labour and the Holocaust. Dachau became the camp model and these types of camps spread across Germany and all their controlled territories. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum estimates some 42,500 camps and ghettos were in existence at the end of the Third Reich regime in 1945 and some 15 to 20 million people were interned or died within them. The Dachau entrance gate states “Arbeit Macht Frei” which loosely translates to “Work Brings Freedom“. Never was a more bold face lie told to those internees that passed through them.
Interestingly on November 4th, 2014 this very gate was stolen. The original gate and inscription was forged by inmates of the camp in 1933 but it is believed that the inscription was replaced by a reproduction when the camp opened as a memorial in 1965. Regardless it has great personal significance to those that survived or had family within Dachau. Hopefully the matter is quickly resolved by the German police.