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Holiday Guides for Europe - Germany

Holiday in Germany - Tour Of Concentration Camps

More than 60 years after the end of the Second World War the scars of the Holocaust are still felt deep in the Germany psyche.

No other crime in history can come close in scope or brutality to the Holocaust, the systematic campaign by Nazi Germany to execute the 'Final Solution to the Jewish Question'.

From Auschwitz in Poland to Mauthausen in Austria the evidence of this most appalling crime can still be seen, but nowhere can the physical infrastructure of the Nazi state's network of concentration camps be more clearly seen than in Germany itself.

Whilst on holiday I realised Germany may not have been the site of the biggest camps in the concentration camp system, but it was nevertheless home to not only the first, but also some of the most brutal and best preserved camps in existence.

From Ravensbruck to Sachsenhausen, Dachau to Buchenwald, Germany's preserved concentration camps stand as testament to what man is capable of doing to his fellow man.

Having been told of the haunting power of Germany's concentration camps, as a keen holiday maker ready to explore, I soon after found myself in Munich just 30 minutes from Dachau.

Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp and the one on which all subsequent camps were modelled.

It is one of the best preserved camps in Europe, offering holiday makers a unique insight into the murderous conditions under which the camp was operated.

From the furnaces to the cells and posts to which prisoners were tied and tortured, Dachau gives a vivid picture of the unimaginable brutality of the Holocaust.

From here I took the train to the little village of Buchenwald near Weimar in east Germany. Buchenwald is another of Germany's most notorious concentration camps. While none of the prisoner's huts remain the core camp infrastructure has survived.

The crematorium, cells, fences, watchtowers and collections of prisoners' photos and shoes survive, providing a chilling glimpse of the realities of the Holocaust.

For the final stretch of my journey of discovery I headed to Berlin, on the outskirts of which can be found Sacsenhausen and Ravensbruck concentration camps.

Sachsenhausen was one of the first Nazi concentration camps, established in 1936 to house the Nazi party's political enemies.

Much of the camp still exists, with the gallows, camp walls and watchtowers, crematorium, prisoner cells and barracks still in existence, creating a haunting atmosphere that lives long in the memory.

The final leg of my journey took me to Ravensbruck concentration camp just to the north of Berlin.

Ravensbruck was one of the most famous Nazi concentration camps, unusual for the fact it was designed primarily for female prisoners.

During the war years some 130,000 women are believed to have passed through the Ravensbruck camp system, with only 40,000 survivors.

Violette Szabo, the British intelligence agent made famous in the 1958 film Carve Her Name With Pride, was just one of the women murdered in the camp.

Like most of Germany's concentration camps a visit to Ravensbruck is a sombre affair, not really a trip to make on a family holiday. While indisputably fascinating, the superb state of Germany's concentration camps preservation makes the brutal realities of the Holocaust all too evident, creating some of the most compelling monuments in the world that everyone should feel duty-bound to visit.

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