BY A SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT STANDING in the entrance to the Chapel of the Death Agony of Christ, a priest who survived the horrors of the concentration camp last Sunday called on Germans to pray for Nazi murderers as well as for their victims.
On the 17th anniversary of the liberation of Dachau camp by American troops some 1,000 Munich Catholics had come to take part in a "Pilgrimage of Atonement"—and learn what had really happened there.
The pilgrimage was organised by Coadjutor Bishop Neuhaeusler, of Munich—who himself spent four years in Dachau-in conjunction with the Catholic men's and women's organisations of the city. In future, it will he an annual event, on the Sunday nearest to Liberation Day, April 29.
A half-hour of prayer opened with a moving address by a Munich parish priest. Mgr. Muller, who spent the last eight months of the war in Block 26.
"Pray for the 30,000 or more who died here", he cried, "but pray too for their torturers, their murderers . . We want no vengeance, no hate, but atonement there must be . . and it is the innocent who must atone for the guilty." This was the theme of the prayers which followed, linked by readings from the Passion.
Behind the crowd faces curious or impassive appeared at the windows of the first row of drab huts: for Hiller's first concentration camp is still a home for more than 1,000 East German refugees. Each block still houses 12 families; each was built to take 180 men; in the last terrible months each held upwards of 2,000 persons.
After the ceremony the crowd broke up, to visit the museum with its terrifying documentation of cruelty, the crematorium or the gas chamber which because of prisoners' sabotage was never used ( instead, Dacha u in mates were sent to Linz in Austria, where more than 3,000 of them were gassed in two years).
One group gathered around Mgr. Muller Its he talked in a
strangely casual tone about life in Dachau, gesturing around the camp. Over there were the gal
lows; there the so-called blood trench where they shot prisoners
in the back of the neck; at the bottom of the parade ground were the posts where men hung
from hands forced wrenchingly upwards behind their heads ("It was supposed to he only for an hour, but . . .").
He stood outside the "chapel" which, through the Vatican's intervention, German priestprisoners were allowed to have in one end of their hut—and which the 800 Polish priests in the next block were forbidden to use. (Of the 2,579 priests sent to Dachau, 1,780 were Poles, and more than half of them died there.)
Inside, the wooden monstrance still stands on the simple altar, and above it the crucifix carved by a prisoner.