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Definition: Dachau from Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable

The first Nazi concentration camp, built near the town of Dachau in Bavaria in 1933, with the slogan Arbeit macht frei ('work brings freedom') over the gateway. Dachau became the model for later camps, and controlled a network of sub-camps throughout southern Germany and Austria. Although it was not an extermination camp, some 32,000 prisoners died from starvation, disease, maltreatment and the effects of horrendous medical experiments. Many of the inmates were transported on to death camps such as Auschwitz. See also Belsen; Final Solution; Holocaust.


Summary Article: Dachau from An Illustrated Dictionary of the Third Reich

Nazi concentration camp situated 12 miles northwest of Munich in Bavaria. Dachau was initially a makeshift holding pen that was set down amid the stone huts of a disused gunpowder factory. The camp was set up in early 1933, and soon overflowed with about 2,000 German political prisoners subjected to the ruthless rule of the SS commander, Theodor Eicke. The inmates were systematically humiliated, subjected to roll calls — standing without moving for several hours — and other brutal torments and mistreatments, underfed, beaten, worked to exhaustion in pointless hard labor — and not infrequently murdered by the camp guards. Dachau became a place of dread, a terrifying example of Nazi ruthlessness toward all opponents. It was the model for the early concentration camps that followed: Buchenwald (q.v.), near Weimar in central Germany, and Sachsenhausen (q.v.), near Berlin in the north. During World War II, Dachau was one of the largest and worst Nazi camps, and the scene of Nazi medical experiments carried out on hundreds of inmates. Dachau was also a place a detention for famous political VIPs and religious hostages such as Martin Niemöller (German anti-Nazi theologian and Lutheran pastor), Kurt von Schuschnigg (chancellor of the Austrian Republic before the Anschluß), Édouard Daladier (prime minister of France at the start of World War II), Léon Blum (three-time prime minister of France before World War II), General Franz Halder (dismissed head of the German army General Staff), Fritz Thyssen (industrialist), and Hjalmar Schacht (German economist, banker, liberal politician, and cofounder of the German Democratic Party).

© 2014 Jean-Denis G.G. Lepage

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