The order of creation of the Dachau concentration camp was issued in March 1933 by Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler. It was the first concentration camp in the German Reich. Initially political prisoners were mainly sent there. From 1938 SS members’ training (Die Schutzstaffel der NSDAP – protection squadron NSDAP) was conducted in the camp. Then they became personnel in the next concentration camps. After the outbreak of the Second World War prisoners from countries occupied by Germany were sent to Dachau. Polish people were a very large group who were taken from both the General Government and the areas joined to the German Reich.
The area of the camp was in a shape of the rectangular, a long wall from the east and crosswise walls – short and surrounded by the concrete wall. By the walls on the concrete poles there was a thick wire connected to the electricity. On the opposite long wall there were no walls but the concrete poles with the live wire. On both sides there was a deep, concrete trench. From the trench there was a barbed wire, put on the ground on the wooden poles.- Father Aleksander Konopka recalled. The plantations of herbs with an area of 170 hectares, where the prisoners worked, adjoined to the camp. High mortality rate among prisoners was caused by malnutrition, diseases, executions, medical experiments carried out by the SS doctors and also due to bullying of prisoners. So called the “pole” punishment was very popular, Father Kajetan Ambrożkiewicz describes it in such a way: Executions were conducted by the bathing man in the baths. When it was our turn, we unbuttoned our shirts and each of us stood under the given hook. I walked onto the high stool which was put under my bathing hook. I placed my hands on my back – back to back. While the bathing man having tied them with the chain, raised my arms up, I kept them at my back with all my strength to have some “room” then… The bathing man hooked the chain onto the hook placed in the ceiling and I gently jumped forward from the stool. Anyone who was reluctant to do it, the stool was pulled out from under their legs. Sometimes the SS officer, who was present at the punishment, twisted the hanging man on the chain until the end and then let go violently. The pain was so intense that the hanged howled and often fainted. The “pole” punishment often caused the rapture of the shoulder tendons which resulted in losing the use of their hands and thus it counted them to a group of invalids. They were usually killed with exhaust fumes in specially adapted cars in which they were transported to the Hartheim Castle in Linz.
It is estimated that from 205 000 to 250 000 prisoners were kept in the camp from whom 32 000 and even 148 000 died. The Dachau camp was the main place where priests were kept, there were 1780 Polish priests from whom 868 died. In spring 1940 during Intelligenzaktion Dachau was the first camp where people detained by the Germans in Government District Katowice were sent. Some of them were kept in this camp, the rest was sent to other camps, generally to the sub-camp Mauthausen-Gusen situated near Lintz in Austria.
American officer William W. Quinn who took part in the liberation of the camp wrote in his report: Dachau, 1933-1945 will forever remain one of the most horrible symbols of barbarism in history. Our troops have found a sight so terrible that we could not believe it, barbarism so huge that it is inconceivable for a normal mind. Dachau and death are synonyms.