Eric Carlson is a History professor here at Gustavus. Today he volunteered his time to explain to us the Holocaust and Nazi Germany as a whole. To start class he displayed a propaganda video called “Triumph of the Will.” The introduction of the film showed Hitler as an adorned man who interacted well with citizens, particularly children. Before Hitler was seen in this film, clouds were shown in the sky. This is inferring that Hitler came from the sky, thus, came from Heaven and is a God. This type of propaganda was very popular during the Nazi era. Later, the film presented the idea that the Nazi’s way of life was fun and rewarding. There was multiple examples of individuals in the Hitler Youth Camps having a good life full of food, water, fire wood, laughter, and togetherness.
Following the video, Dr. Carlson discussed how Hitler came to power. He explained that German’s failure in World War I helped pave the way for his reign over Germany. Prior to Germany’s surrender in World War I the German citizens were told they were winning the war. They felt they were stabbed in the back, and wanted to put the blame on someone or some group. Hitler’s party (National Socialist Democratic Workers Party) gained popularity as a result of their emphasis on togetherness and equality among social classes. They recognized that democracy was not working in Germany because it divided the people, and presented the idea of destroying democracy with democracy. Although Hitler never had a majority of support among Germans he became their new chancellor.
After gaining power, Hitler began placing political opponents in concentration camps. The first of these camps was Dachau, which opened March 22, 1933. Interestingly, the German’s stated that the idea to use concentration camps came from American’s doing the same to Native Americans. Soon the camps expanded to hold criminals and religious opponents as well as political opponents. It wasn’t until 1938 that Jews begun to be rounded up and sent to the concentration camps, and even then they were released within days. Once Germany took over Poland they began sending Jews in death camps within Poland.
Dachau contunued to be used in a variety of ways following the war until 1960. It was initially used to hold the Nazis before their trials, and later used to house refugees. Following that it was used as a United States military base, which included an elementary school.
With pressure from survivors of Dachau, the camp was formed into a historical memorial in 1960.
Ben Reynolds, Jake Tone, Beau Bachman