Entrance Gate with Lettering "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work will make you free") stolen from Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial

Unidentified persons broke into the fenced and guarded grounds of Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial on the night of November 1-2, 2014, stealing the historic gate from the concentration camp. This is the first and most ruthless assault on the historic buildings in the history of the memorial. The act of desecration was aimed at the camp gate located in the "Jourhouse", a key symbol of the ordeal suffered by the inmates of the concentration camp. Holocaust survivor and Vice President of the International Dachau Committee, Dr. Max Mannheimer, said he was "horrified that Nazis apparently so desecrated the memorial to those murdered here and violated the reverence due to such a place. I would not have thought destruction of this quality to be possible any longer." Dr. Gabriele Hammermann, Director of Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial, called this deed a "deliberate, reprehensible attempt to deny and obliterate the memory of the crimes committed in this place. The assault on this relict of highly symbolic importance demonstrates a new dimension, since it is an attempt to demolish the memorial at its very core. And it is not mere coincidence that all this happened at a point in time when the survivors, who have put their trust in Germany's culture of accounting for its history, will not be with us for very much longer. It is clear that we still have a long way to go before we will have dealt sufficiently with this history and that we must endeavor to protect and preserve such educational sites, especially in view of the NSU murders and other examples of radicalization."

In the meantime, a charge has been filed against person or persons unknown, and the police and state security agencies are investigating. All security standards at the memorial will now be put to the test and strengthened if necessary in consultation with the police. The Director of the Foundation of Bavarian Memorials, Karl Freller, immediately notified the Bavarian Minister of the Interior, Joachim Herrmann, asking for all possible aid in solving the case.

 

On the history of the building

Members of the SS forced the inmates to build the Jourhouse in May and June of 1936. The Jourhouse served as the main exit and entrance to the prisoners’ camp and as the main office of the camp SS personnel. The name "Jourhouse" comes from military parlance (French jour = day) and refers to the fact that the day personnel were housed here. Inside the building were the offices for the Schutzhaftlagerführer ("protective custody camp leader"), as well as the Rapportführer and Blockführer. The building's passageway was barred by a forged gate through which the prisoners had to go when they entered the camp and then march through again each day on the way to their labor details. Hence the gatehouse marked the boundary between the world outside and the prison. This gate was forged by inmates in one of the camp's workshops. Communist inmate Karl Röder was commanded by the SS to fashion the lettering "Arbeit macht frei", which was removed after the war and replaced by a reconstruction when the memorial was established in 1965. This propaganda slogan ("Work will make you free") reflects Nazis' attempts to appear harmless by presenting the concentration camp as a "work and reeducation camp". At the same time, these words denote the cynical attitude of the SS to the inmates, for forced labor was one of the primary means of terrorization in the concentration camps.

 

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