Hist 33D, L 15: Dachau, 1945-2002

page created by UCSB professor of history Harold Marcuse, Nov. 15, 2002

  1. Education Abroad Prog. (EAP) announcement
  2. Last time: Dachau, 1890-1945
  3. Question: How have Germans dealt with the past since 1945? Myths and groups
  4. Announcements (readings for Tue; final exam choices)
  5. 1968-present [only begun in lecture, continued next time]

Last Lecture: Dachau, 1890-1945

Question: How does case of Dachau illustrate the Holocaust in its historical context?


  1. "normal" German town in 19th century (artists colony)
  2. disruption by World War I (artists leave, munitions)
  3. consequences of Versailles Treaty (unemployment)
  4. how the Nazis turned meager showing into majority
  5. how the concentration camp system developed over time
    (teleology: moving towards a known goal)
  6. Phases: 1933-42: neutralize opposition;
    1943-44: branch camps for industry
    11/44-4/45: chaos, mass death in Germany

Today's Question

Again, let's look at the case of Dachau, and ask: How did Germans "deal with" the Nazi past after 1945?

The German term and its translations: Vergangenheits-bewältigung: "past-mastering"

Three Phases of VB in West Germany

'Media Blitz' at liberation

"These shameful deeds: Your fault!"

May 1945 Poster: Your Fault

Response: The "Three Myths"

Proposed memorial, Nov. 1945, by Karl Knappe

"I think it would have been sufficient to allude to the horrors in the large lower rooms, and not eternally block the road to freedom and salvation with remembrance." (1960 explanation of his 1945 idea)

proposed Dachau memorial by Karl Knappe, Nov. 1945

Source Interpretation

Dachau Mayor Schwalber at a dedication ceremony, April 1947Dachau Mayor Schwalber,
Nov. 9, 1945 in Dachau castle

Ladies and Gentlemen!
How peaceful life once was here! Dachau, once the epitome of rural stolidity and earthiness, closely bound to its artists and their noble cultural efforts for more than a century! To mention only a few of the names that carried Dachau's reputation into the world: Christian Morgenstern, ... Karl Spitzweg, Wilhelm Leibl, Lovis Corinth, [Max] Slevogt, ...
At the beginning sparse reports about the inmates of the camp leaked out to us. But after construction was complete the hermetic isolation left us with only dark premonitions about the fates and human suffering behind the concrete walls topped with barbed wire.
Dante's saying should have been written over the gate: "Lasciate ogni speranza, voi, che entrate!" We know that since 1940 alone at least 28,000 people died a miserable death. The lists show that 220,000 passed through the camp.
And the name of our beloved Dachau is associated with all of these cruelties!
But the real Dachau was different!
Today, with pure hearts and clean hands this "other Dachau" commemorates all of the victims whose blood has soaked our native soil and whose ash covers the paths within the camp.
You dead, however, who have been taken up by our native soil, rest there in peace! Your memory shall not only be honored by a monument of stone, but we will carry it in our hearts as long as the heavens allow us to breathe the air of freedom, and allow the sun of peace to shine.
And in the future Dachau shall once again become a center of true culture and respect for human rights, for the good of our city and all of humanity.

Dachau tourist postcard; Dachau KZ watchtower, 1957

cartoon of Denazification laundry, June 1946Three Inversions: I

"Good Nazis":
denazification laundry
June 1946 cartoon in satiricalSimpl  magazine

"For one repentant sinner there is more joy than for ten just people."
"Denazificator, patent H. Schmitt" [the minister of denazification in Bavaria].

Three Inversions: II

"Bad survivors"

Dachau statue by F. Koelle, 1950, "unknown prisoner"Koelle's statue "Inferno", planned for Dachau in 1948Three Inversions: II® III

"bad" survivors are "cleaned up": sculptures by Fritz Koelle

1948 statue "Inferno", selected by Auerbach for Dachau. After 1949 "Leiten Affair" another of Koelle's sculptures, the more innocuous "unknown prisoner" was chosen and dedicated in 1950
["Inferno" was exhibited in Berlin in Spring 2002 in the first national exhibition about the Holocaust and its aftermath, at the German Historical Museum]

Dachau aerial photo in 1956

Dachau aerial photo ca. 1970

Dachau International Memorial 1968

Dachau: Catholic chapel 1960

Dachau: Carmelite Convent, 1964

Dachau: Jewish memorial 1967Dachau: Protestant Church of Reconciliation, 1967



Dachau: 1968er fight with survivors, May 1968

Dachau: triangle memorial, and homosexual memorial, 1985

The demise of the 3 myths

1970s: end of ignorance--older generations admits knowledge (1979 broadcast of "Holocaust")

1980s: end of victimization--Reagan and Kohl at Bitburg; end of divided Germany in 1989

1990s: "dialectic of mythic resistance"
fighting it 'proves' resistance; admitting disproves
e.g. Oskar Schindler: a "good Nazi" who shows that most Nazis were NOT good!

back to top

page created by Harold Marcuse, Nov. 15, 2002