Southern Illinois University School of Law–Legal Globalization & Comparative Law 2014

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Munich and the Dachau Concentration Camp

Upon arriving in Munich, Germany, we were all struck by the amazing architecture around us. Beautiful old buildings lined the streets, some housing things such as H&M and McDonalds. It was interesting to see that people who lived there walked by thinking nothing of these buildings, while we gawked at each one. We went to a German Court and met with a judge the day after we arrived. We were able to compare and contrast some of the differences between our legal system and the German legal system. We also talked about the White Rose movement, as this courthouse housed the proceedings. It was surreal being in the same court where the Nazi Party handed down pre-determined “justice”. The Nazi hearings were mainly an opportunity for the judge to scald the “perpetrators” before handing down the punishment of death. The next day, we visited Dachau Concentration Camp. The feeling that encompasses one upon walking through the gates of Dachau is indescribable. As one walked through the gates the words “Arbiet macht frei” are inscribed above, meaning work makes one free. As we walked around we were able to see the roll call area where countless people were publicly punished and handed out their jobs for the day. We walked through the museum, which catalogued the lead up to World War II and the establishment of concentration camps. It also chronicled people who had been kept in Dachau, putting faces and stories with the unfathomable events that happened there. The original barracks were torn down, however, two were rebuilt to show the conditions of living the prisoners had to endure. As the concentration camp aged, more and more prisoners crowded the barracks. At the back corner of the camp, the original crematory remained. It was such a disturbing experience to walk through a building where countless people were burned, an effort to erase their memory from this earth. There was a small gas chamber we walked through; it gave us an idea of the fear that grasped people in their last moments of life. Behind the gas chambers, there were a couple of walls where prisoners had been lined up and shot. There were also mass graves where ashes had been dumped. The visit was deeply impactful, one that will stay with me forever.

~BT

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