Hist 133C, L 7:
The Experience of Defeat, and the "Three Founding Myths"
by Prof. Marcuse, Jan. 21, 2004 (superceded by Jan. 2006 version)

How did WW2 end, and what lasting "lessons" did Germans draw from it?

Fortunes of War

Dachau statistics

Commandant of Belsen to boss, March 1, 1945

"You informed me me by telegram of 23rd February, 1945, that I was to receive 2,500 female detainees as a first consignment from Ravensbrück. I have assured accommodation for this number. The reception of further consignments is impossible, not only from the point of view of accommodation due to lack of space, but particularly on account of the feeding question. .... [I]t was decided that the camp could not hold more than 35,000 detainees. In the meantime this number has been exceeded by 7,000 and a further 6,200 are now on their way. As a result all barracks are overcrowded by at least 30%. ... In addition to this question, a spotted fever and typhus epidemic has now begun, which is spreading every day. The daily mortality rate, which was still in the vicinity of 60-70 at the beginning of February, has now attained a daily average of 250-300 and will increase further in light of the prevailing conditions."

Your Guilt poster, 1945'Media Blitz' at liberation

Response: The "Three Myths"

Source Interpretation

Dachau Mayor Schwalber at a dedication ceremony, April 1947Mayor of Dachau, Nov. 9, 1945 in Dachau castle

Ladies and Gentlemen!
How peaceful life once was here! Dachau, once the epitome of rural stolidity and earthiness, closely bound to its artists and their noble cultural efforts for more than a century! To mention only a few of the names that carried Dachau's reputation into the world: Christian Morgenstern, ... Karl Spitzweg, Wilhelm Leibl, Lovis Corinth, [Max] Slevogt, ...
At the beginning sparse reports about the inmates of the camp leaked out to us. But after construction was complete the hermetic isolation left us with only dark premonitions about the fates and human suffering behind the concrete walls topped with barbed wire.
Dante's saying should have been written over the gate: "Lasciate ogni speranza, voi, che entrate!" We know that since 1940 alone at least 28,000 people died a miserable death. The lists show that 220,000 passed through the camp.
And the name of our beloved Dachau is associated with all of these cruelties!
But the real Dachau was different!
Today, with pure hearts and clean hands this "other Dachau" commemorates all of the victims whose blood has soaked our native soil and whose ash covers the paths within the camp.
You dead, however, who have been taken up by our native soil, rest there in peace! Your memory shall not only be honored by a monument of stone, but we will carry it in our hearts as long as the heavens allow us to breathe the air of freedom, and allow the sun of peace to shine.
And in the future Dachau shall once again become a center of true culture and respect for human rights, for the good of our city and all of humanity.

Film Clips

page by H. Marcuse, prepared for web 1/22/04
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