Everything you need to know about planning a day trip to the Dach Concentration Camp near Munich
In March 1933, barely 2 months after Adolf Hitler seized power in Germany Heinrich Himmler ordered the construction of a concentration camp outside Munich. It was the first of its kind, but sadly far from the last. Until April 29th, 1945, when the US-army liberated the infamous death camp, an estimated 41,500 people were brutally murdered in the Dachau Concentration camp.
After the liberation, it was turned into a memorial in 1965 and today more than 800,000 people visit it each year. It is one of the most important day trips from Munich. Here is what you need to know about visiting the Dachau Concentration camp near Munich. You’ll find pictures and a more detailed description of what to expect further down.
How to get to Dachau Concentration Camp from Munich
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It takes about 40 minutes to get to Dachau from Munich. Just take the suburban train S2 from Munich Central Station towards Petershausen and get off in Dachau Bahnhof (9 stops). From here, get on the bus no. 726 which stops right in front of the station and leaves every 20 minutes. It will stop right in front of the memorial. Buy a day ticket or the Munich Card (which also gives you free public transport & discounts for various museums & palaces).
You could also walk, which is about 3 kilometers. I am mentioning this, as the path is actually lined with a couple of important stations and there are smaller sites of remembrance every 500 meters or so. You can simply follow the signs, but obviously it will take around 45 minutes to get there.
You will probably need around 90 to 120 minutes for the tour of the concentration camp. So, starting from Munich central station, you’d have to calculate around 4 hours for the full tour.
The best Dachau Tours from Munich
You can easily visit the memorial on your own. But the experience will be much deeper with a guide which is why I recommend booking a tour. You do have a couple of different options, but here is the one I would say is currently the best for foreign tourists: Dachau Memorial Half-Day trip.
The Concentration Camp is, however, not the only site the Nazis left their mark in Munich. There is one very good tour that visits both the Camp and a walking tour through Munich to all the important sites in the city center: Munich and Nazi History Combination Day Tour.
If you are looking for more inspiration, I urge you to read my list of the 20 best things to do in Munich.
A tour through the Dachau Concentration Camp memorial
The Dachau Concentration Camp was not only the first but also one of the largest of its kind. Though it’s hard to give exact numbers, we know that more than 200,000 people were imprisoned here over the 13 years of its existence. The first years were all in the name of political terror and they used the Nazis the camp to consolidate their power. Things changed dramatically after the Kristallnacht in 1938 and with the start of World War II when they started to bring prisoners from the occupied regions to Dachau.
Your visit starts at the famous entrance gate of the Dachau Concentration camp. Train tracks once lead right to the gatehouse, though they were dismantled after the war. The iron gate reads “Arbeit macht frei” – Work shall set you free. While most prisoners did indeed have to work in the factories nearby, freedom was hardly connected to a good performance.
Through the gate, you’ll enter the gigantic drill ground of the camp. Prisoners had to stand at attention twice a day here, sometimes for extremely long periods as arbitrary punishment. This was no joke. E.g. in January 1939, when the painter Lous Übrig was able to flee, the SS ordered the full camp to stand attention in the deepest cold of the winter which leads to quite a lot of deaths.
Most of the camp consisted of flimsy barracks – only the main building was constructed from brick and concrete. This is where the administration was once located, but today you’ll find an exhibition inside.
Pictures, old records, and artifacts from the camp tell a vivid story of the cruel life in the camp. How it all started, who was imprisoned, the punishments, the food, and how it all ended. It takes quite some time to take it all in, but this is not the place to close your eyes, so go slowly.
Only two of the many barracks survived the years. After the war, the US used the camp and the adjacent casern for a while and preserving this inhuman spot was not the top priority in a country severely devasted by World War II.
Still, inside you’ll get a good impression of how the prisoners were crowded into the barracks. The Dachau Concentration Camp underwent a couple of changes and was expanded a couple of times. As you walk through the barrack, you’ll also see how the bunk-beds changed (for the worse) over time. In the end, it looked more like a multi-tiered chicken coop.
At the far end of the camp, you’ll find churches and a Jewish memorial site. Roughly one-third of the prisoners were Jews, but there were also a lot of Russians, Polish people, clerics, homosexuals, Sinti and Roma, and a wide mix of political prisoners. So, there is also an orthodox church, etc, with regular services.
On the far left, through a little gate in the fence, you’ll find the infamous Barracke X or Block X. This was where the gas chambers and the crematoriums were located.
I always find it very hard to enter this building as even after all this time, the sheer inhumanity of it all is still palpable. In big letters, it says Brausebad (“shower”) at the entrance of the gas chambers. That kind of deception was very common in the camps.
For example, in 1942 mentally ill or prisoners incapable of work were transported into a “sanatarium” in Hartheim where they were killed. There is, however, no evidence that the gas chambers in Dachau were used for mass murdered.
Still, deaths were frequent in the camp (remember, almost one in four found their death in Dachau), which is why part of the Barrack X was a crematorium. First, there were only 2 furnaces, but soon they needed more and there were altogether 6 of them. Most of the people died of the horrible conditions in the camp. Typhus was a major issue, but also other diseases and simple malnourishment, combined with the draconic punishments.
In the exhibition in the main building you can still see one of the benches that were used for flogging.
All in all, your day trip to Dachau Concentration Camp from Munich is probably not the easiest. Once you see the pictures, the inhuman living conditions, the sheer atrocity of the punishments, and the staggering death count, it’s very hard not to be moved. This is exactly why it’s important to visit, but obviously it’s very different from visiting the fairy tale castle Neuschwanstein.
Should Children visit Dachau?
This is a tough question. If you want to book a tour at the information center, then they won’t sell tickets to children 13 or younger. That is mainly because especially in the museum you will see and hear quite a lot of things young kids will not be able to process. We are talking of mounds of dead people, naked prisoners, the way they tortured the prisoners, etc.
The grounds itself and even the crematorium are a different matter. Those are “just” buildings. Even here, there are some pictures on the walls with extremely graphic content.
Dach Concentration Camp Opening Hours
- The memorial site is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. It is only closed on the 24th December (Christmas).
- There is no entrance fee; there is a small fee for audio guides and tour guides, though.