Shooting Range

The Bunker

Memorial Cemetery

The Beginnings

The Prisoners

Slave Labor

Suffering and Dying



The Jourhaus


Roll-Call Area

The Monument



Admission procedure

Prisoner Baths

Everyday routine

Pole Hanging

Bunker Courtyard


Camp Prison

Standing Bunker

Camp Road


Religious Memorials

Disinfection Barracks

Rabbit Hutches


About the Author


Back to Museum website

Chapter 27

Housing Colony


After the liberation most prisoners went home and the old concentration camp was quite deserted. But not for long. Soon camp guards and other war criminals were locked up there, awaiting their trials. After that, Dachau was arranged into temporary housing facilities for political refugees for whom, in postwar Germany, there were no other living arrangements available.


Visitors to the remembrance center Dachau enter the grounds of the former concentration camp through a breach, which was hewn into the wall in 1965. The entrance goes over the foundations of the prison where during the war, SS-ers were punished. As they enter the roll-call terrain, they will see two large living barracks; not the original ones, but the ones that were rebuilt in 1964. Most visitors will then go to the museum, which is in the building where the kitchen and bathhouse used to be.


In front of the museum is the international Dachau monument. This is where the barracks that were built in the last few years of the war were, in addition to a church built by prisoners and a kettle house for the former escapee camp. The tour over the grounds continues past thirty concrete foundations, which were placed there in 1965/66, to mark the locations of the barracks which were there. Each one of them is a monument to everything that took place in those barracks.


Later, a children's park was built for the children of the refugees, but in 1961, it was replaced by a restaurant, with the incredibly insensitive name of “Gaststätte zum Krematorium” (Crematorium Restaurant). In 1963 the border police ordered it torn down. Later, a Jewish prayer house was built on this spot.


At the end of this gray barren expanse, on the spot where the Gärtnerei ( camp nursery) and the Desinfektion (disinfection station) used to be, there are now three buildings: a Protestant church, a Roman Catholic chapel and a Jewish place of worship.


In the beginning, the camp was in the hands of the Americans. They were the ones who locked up all the SS-ers and war criminals. In 1947 however, their rule came to an end and the barracks became free. The camp was them turned over to the province of Bavaria.


The Bavarian government suggested to the American authorities that the erstwhile “Prison camp” be redesignated for the reeducation of work-shy and asocial elements. Both the choice of words and the intention were very similar to the goals of the original founders of the camp. The words “concentration camp” were carefully avoided in the proposal.


Of course the plan did not go through. Dachau was to have a much more useful purpose.


After the war there were millions of refugees in Germany, who all had to be housed somewhere. And that was an almost impossible task, especially in the heavily bombed out cities. That there was so much living space available in the former concentration camps came as a godsend to the authorities.


The majority of the Heimatsvertriebenen (People who were chased out of their home country) were Germans who, after the war had been chased out of the Czech Sudetenland, and the areas of Selicia, Pommerania and East Prussia, which had been assigned to Poland. They had to leave these areas, where some had lived for centuries, at a spur of the moment, as a collective punishment for those who had enthusiastically collaborated with the occupiers. In most cases their possessions were confiscated. For them the slogan Heim ins Reich (home in the state) came to life again, although not in the way Hitler had intended.


The way the camp was at that time was not suitable for human habitation. The Americans had not felt inclined to give the SS prisoners more comfort than they had afforded their former prisoners, so they had left the camp the way they found it.


But the buildings were not suited to house refugees for a long term in some comfort. The space in the barracks was too large to live in and the entire complex had gone to seed over the years. The roofs leaked and the sanitary facilities and the lighting systems had be replaced. All in all an expensive affair and although the need for immediate housing cried out for a fast solution, it was difficult to arrange the financing. The building plans provided for twenty-four homes per barracks. Every Stube (hut) measured 20x10 meters (60'x30') and was subdivided into three independent apartments, complete with bathrooms and electricity. They could be reached through an outside door and a hallway with three entrance doors.


With every four Stuben they needed eight front doors per barrack. There were two two room apartments and one one room apartment. 24 apartments per barrack, housing for 400 families, a village of about 2000 inhabitants. They were simple and a bit cramped, but they had everything a homeless refugee could want.


And with that, the Wohnseidlung Dachau-Ost (Housing Colony Dachau-East) was ready. By Christmas 1949 everyone had a roof over their head in their own cozy little home.


From thee start it was clear that this was only an emergency solution. The need for housing in Germany remained great for years, so it wasn't until 1965 that the last inhabitant left. The population had been declining for years, but in the sixties there were still several hundred people. In 1965 the last of the construction of Dachau memorial was finished. According to the plans the old barracks had to be razed, and in their place large concrete foundations were to be poured. Because the building plans had to be delayed again and again, the plans ran aground. When the memorial was delivered there were only 32 foundations ready.


It took some trouble to get the inhabitants to leave their homes. When a barrack came empty, it was demolished immediately and so slowly but surely the terrain became an empty mess.


It is clear however, that the people enjoyed living there for fifteen years, which is something that cannot be said for the inhabitants of the camp that came before them.