Using the voluntary social year for culture to prepare a concept for a seminar on the topic of acts and perpetrators at Dachau concentration camp

Since September 2017, I, Matthias Grab, have been serving my voluntary social year for culture at Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site. I have been undertaking various small and larger projects, one of which is to devise a one-day seminar on the topic of acts committed at Dachau concentration camp and their perpetrators. The goal of the seminar is to give those attending a better understanding of the topic and encourage them to give it some thought.

Drawing by Dachau inmate Albert Kerner after liberation: enforcement of punishment by flogging at Dachau concentration camp on December 24, 1938.
Drawing by Dachau inmate Albert Kerner after liberation: enforcement of punishment by flogging at Dachau concentration camp on December 24, 1938.

One focus of the seminar is on individual biographies, as well as the motivations of the individual persons and the possibilities for them to act differently. Using various exercises and considering various perspectives, I intend to illuminate as many different aspects and approaches as possible. How did the perpetrators become perpetrators? Who profited from the marginalization of the victims, and how? Who bore the responsibility? Above all, though: would it have been possible to defy an order?

The seminar intends to show the participants the impact that personal decisions can have, both in a positive as well as a negative sense. With the aid of original documents, prepared materials and most importantly, the victims’ own perspectives, the participants are to be encouraged to give consideration to the heterogeneous group of persons that made up the perpetrators and ponder why these persons took part in such crimes. The seminar also intends to encourage the participants to be watchful, intervene and help, and get them to think about their own actions.

Photo: © Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site