Agence France-Presse

Residing in post-Nazi Dachau: painful childhood reminiscences

Jean Boehme nonetheless remembers the variety of the Nazi focus camp block the place he lived as a baby: 31C.

He went to highschool in block 33, and remembers {that a} close by watchtower was remodeled right into a makeshift bistro.

Boehme, now 73, grew up on the positioning of Dachau, the focus camp simply outdoors Munich which was liberated 75 years in the past on Wednesday.

Though it stays a much less well-known story of the Holocaust, Dachau was considered one of a number of Nazi camps which had been repurposed after the conflict.

Confronted with a housing scarcity elsewhere, the Allied forces and later the brand new West German authorities remodeled them into barracks and momentary lodging.

The son of a French lady and a German soldier who had been stationed in France, Boehme was round 5 years outdated when he moved into his new residence in Dachau, he instructed AFP.

His father, who had returned residence after Germany’s defeat in World Conflict II, persuaded Jean’s mom to hitch him within the city of Dachau with their two sons.

“What a shock it was for my mom when she arrived and realised we had been going to stay in a former focus camp!” Boehme sighed.


Housing was scarce in post-war Germany, the place many cities had been partially destroyed.

The previous camp at Dachau, which was inbuilt 1933 and served as a mannequin for all the opposite focus camps in Europe, was put to make use of by the native Bavarian authorities.

It offered momentary housing for refugees, primarily for Germans who had been pressured out of territories in japanese Europe following the defeat of the Third Reich, but additionally for particular instances resembling Jean Boehme’s household.

In line with the Dachau memorial centre, round 2,300 folks lived within the former camp between 1948 and 1965.
“To start with, we shared one room, however later we received two rooms,” Boehme instructed AFP.

The household hardly ever left the positioning, which was nearly self-sufficient.

“There was a college, a bakery, a grocery, a bar, a physician, a tannery to supply folks with work, a Catholic and a Protestant church. There was even a brothel!” Boehme mentioned.

He and his brother hated college, however spent lengthy hours enjoying with different refugee kids between the camp buildings.

“We simply did not realise,” he mentioned.

One fastidiously saved {photograph} reveals Boehme as a baby subsequent to one of many lodgings, a shy smile on his face and a canine at his aspect. Behind him, laundry airs on a wire strung between two buildings.

In one other image, he’s sat subsequent to a adorned pine tree — his “first Christmas in Germany”.


Solely his mom grasped the gravity of the state of affairs, Boehme mentioned.

“She repeatedly instructed my father that we had no proper to stay right here, in a former focus camp.”

But the household spent round three years on the positioning of the camp.

“We had been very glad to go away,” mentioned Boehme, who nonetheless went on to stay for a few years within the city of Dachau.

“Once I had guests, I’d take them to see the camp. It was inescapable. I needed them to see what occurred, what this nation was able to.”

Boehme nonetheless thinks about his childhood, particularly when he reads articles about trendy refugees who’ve lately arrived in Germany.

“When it’s important to stay in crowded circumstances the place there’s not a lot area, there are all the time going to be conflicts,” he mentioned.

“That was the case in Dachau, and it’s nonetheless the case in at this time’s refugee centres.”

“There may be not a lot left” of his childhood residence in Dachau at this time, Boehme mentioned, although the reminiscences and the trauma stay.

“My mom by no means recovered from it. She was by no means glad right here. It haunted her till she died,” he mentioned.

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