Dachau building shelters refugees, homeless

Annex of former Nazi concentration camp — the first such site in Germany — houses about 50 people with no homes

The entrance gate of the former Nazi concentration camp in Dachau near Munich, southern Germany, with the slogan 'Arbeit Macht Frei.' (AP/Christof Stache, File)
The entrance gate of the former Nazi concentration camp in Dachau near Munich, southern Germany, with the slogan 'Arbeit Macht Frei.' (AP/Christof Stache, File)

An annex of the former Nazi concentration camp Dachau has been turned into a shelter for the homeless, including refugees, the mayor of the southern German town and a resident at the center said Tuesday.

The town — host to the camp which bears the chilling inscription “Arbeit Macht Frei” (Work Will Set You Free) on its gate — has turned a building in the camp’s former herb garden into a shelter.

It houses “about 50 people… who have lost their homes”, Mayor Florian Hartmann said in a statement, without specifying whether these included any recent refugees.

Hartmann said his town had suffered from a severe housing shortage for some time, and authorities had to find ways of housing the homeless.

The building “serves as accommodation for people who cannot afford housing on the (open) market,” he stressed.

“These are the weakest members of society. This building has been burdened by history but can now take on a useful social role.”

The mayor would not specify whether any of the current refugee influx are among the shelter’s residents.

Any asylum-seekers there are likely to have been in Germany for some time, and not part of the new arrivals.

One man in his forties who declined to be named said he had been in Germany “for years” and had obtained an apartment at the site after losing his home.

“There are all kinds of people here: former refugees or not. But we were all homeless at some point,” he said, declining to specify his country of origin.

The Nazis opened Dachau as a concentration camp for political prisoners in March 1933, just weeks after Adolf Hitler took power.

It was the first such site in Germany and served as a forerunner for other camps.

Some 43,000 people died there and more than 206,000 people were detained before they were freed by the US Army on April 29, 1945.

The iron gate to the former camp with the “Arbeit Macht Frei” inscription has had to be replaced after the original was stolen by thieves from the camp’s memorial last year.

Earlier this month, the Daily Mail reported that Buchenwald, one of the largest and most notorious Nazi concentration camps on German soil in World War II, was housing refugees.

At least 21 male asylum seekers were now living in the barracks of the camp that once housed thousands of prisoners of the Nazis.

An estimated 56,000 people from all over Europe died at Buchenwald between 1937 and 1945; they were starved and worked to death in horrendous conditions, killed in medical experiments or summarily executed.

The former barracks had previously been used previously for various purposes, including storage, as an artist’s workshop and as a kindergarten, German media reports said.

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