Ex-concentration camp now a homeless refuge

  • 23/09/2015
The main gate to Dachau Concentration Camp (Reuters)
The main gate to Dachau Concentration Camp (Reuters)

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 centre say.

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 on Tuesday (local time), 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.