Bunker and bunker courtyard
In the concentration camps the prisoners lived in constant fear of the brutal treatment and terror exerted by the SS. In the fall of 1933, Theodor Eicke, the commandant of the Dachau concentration camp at the time, issued the “disciplinary and punishment regulations for the prisoner camp”. As part of these regulations a catalogue of measures was drawn up that enabled severe penalties to be imposed in the concentration camps, including death sentences. Moreover, this set of regulations created the illusion that a legal order was being followed; in reality however, every SS man could act arbitrarily and simply put a prisoner on report.
The most frequently imposed punishments were detention in the bunker, floggings, the so-called tree or pole hanging and standing at attention for extremely long periods.
There were three detention buildings (called “bunkers”) in the Dachau concentration camp. The first, improvised building contained five cells; in the fall of 1933 a former toilet block was converted into a series of cells for 20 prisoners. As part of the camp redevelopment in 1937/38 a prison with 136 cells was build behind the maintenance building, replacing the first two cell blocks.
The third bunker is the only building still preserved today. It is part of the Memorial Site and a small exhibition there provides information on the history of the detention buildings in the Dachau concentration camp and the fate of those imprisoned there.
Detention in the bunker was a method that enabled the SS to isolate rebellious and defiant prisoners, confine and expose them to harsher prison conditions outside the reach of their fellow prisoners, and to torture or indeed murder them. The Czech painter Josef Ulc described his time in the bunker: “I was locked up in a dark cell and forced to spend 14 days there. It was terrible, all alone in complete darkness. I went hungry for three days before I was finally given something to eat on the fourth. I never knew what time it was, sometimes I felt I was going crazy. All I could do was tell the story of my life to myself, I remembered my arrest, as I was denounced by an adversary; otherwise I softly hummed all sorts of opera and operetta melodies, then hit songs, and even came up with new melodies of my own. I kept on talking all the time, counted my steps (sitting was prohibited) from 10 to 5,000. I often clasped my brow and asked myself if I was still sane.”
The bunker courtyard was located between the rear of the maintenance building and the prison block; it was also used for carrying out punishments, torture, or executions.
Aerial view of the bunker area, end of may 1945. On top of the bunker courtyard is the former maintenance building, on the left edge of the picture you can see the "Jourhouse"
Photo of the former bunker, 2007.
Drawing "Standing cells" by the Slovenian surviver Bogdan Borcic. The standing cell, tiny cells where the prisoner wasn't able to sit down, were a punishment in the bunker.