/dah"kow/; Ger. /dah"khow/, n.
a city in SE Germany, near Munich: site of Nazi concentration camp. 33,200.

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First Nazi concentration camp in Germany, established in 1933.

It became the model and training center for all other SS-organized camps. In World War II the main camp was supplemented by about 150 branches in southern Germany and Austria, which were collectively called Dachau. It was the first and most important camp at which laboratories were set up to perform medical experiments on inmates. Such experiments and the harsh living conditions made Dachau one of the most notorious camps, though it was not designed as an extermination camp.

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      city, Bavaria Land (state), southern Germany. It lies on the Amper River, just northwest of Munich. First mentioned in 805, it remained a small market town until the 20th century, attaining civic status in 1934. Dachau is situated on a hill, on the summit of which are the castle of the Wittelsbachs and a parish church (1625). The city's picturesque natural setting has long attracted landscape painters. Industries include the production of paper, cardboard, electrical equipment, textiles, and ceramics. In 1933 the first concentration camp set up by the Nazi SS (Schutzstaffel) was opened on the site of a former ammunition factory on the outskirts of Dachau. A museum and memorial chapels were opened in the 1960s. See Dachau (concentration camp). Pop. (2003 est.) 39,474.

      the first Nazi (Nazi Party) concentration camp in Germany, established on March 10, 1933, slightly more than five weeks after Adolf Hitler (Hitler, Adolf) became chancellor. Built at the edge of the town of Dachau, about 12 miles (16 km) north of Munich, it became the model and training centre for all other SS-organized camps.

      During World War II the main camp was supplemented by about 150 branches scattered throughout southern Germany and Austria, all of which collectively were called Dachau. (This southern system complemented the camps for central and northern Germany, at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.) In the course of Dachau's history, at least 160,000 prisoners passed through the main camp, and 90,000 through the branches. Incomplete records indicate that at least 32,000 of the inmates died there from disease, malnutrition, physical oppression, and execution, but countless more were transported to the extermination camps (extermination camp) in Poland.

      The composition of the inmates reflected the Nazis' changing choice of victims. The first inmates were Social Democrats, Communists, and other political prisoners. Throughout its existence, Dachau remained a “political camp,” in which political prisoners retained a prominent role. Later victims included Roma (Rom) (Gypsies) and homosexuals, as well as Jehovah's Witnesses. Jews were brought to Dachau after Kristallnacht in November 1938. Initially, Jews could be freed if they had a way out of Germany. When the systematic killing of Jews began in 1942, many were sent from Dachau to the extermination camps. Dachau received Jews again after the “death marches” of the winter of 1944–45. These marches, following the forcible evacuation of the extermination camps, were one of the final phases of the Holocaust.

      Dachau became the prototype of Nazi concentration camps. Its first commandant, Theodor Eicke, created the organizational structure for the camp. When he was appointed inspector general of all camps, the Dachau system became the model for the other camps.

      A gas chamber was built in 1942 but never used. Those who were to be gassed were transported elsewhere, as were the sick, who were sent to Hartheim, one of the killing centres of the T4 Program, established to “euthanize” the infirm and disabled.

      Dachau was the first and most important camp at which German doctors and scientists set up laboratories using inmates as involuntary guinea pigs for such experiments as determining the effects on human beings of sudden increases and decreases in atmospheric pressure, studying the effects of freezing on warm-blooded creatures, infecting prisoners with malaria and treating them with various drugs with unknown effects, and testing the effects of drinking seawater or going without food or water. Continued throughout World War II, such experiments and the harsh living conditions made Dachau one of the most notorious of camps. After the war, the scientists and doctors from this and other camps were tried at Nürnberg in the “Doctors' Trial”; seven were sentenced to death. (See Nürnberg trials.)

Michael Berenbaum

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Universalium. 2010.

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