Mauthausen or Dachau Memorial?

We will be travelling from Munich to Salzburg and Salzburg to Vienna in September. We would like to stop at one of the memorials. Can anyone recommend which one is better. We will be travelling by train and I'm not sure how easy Mauthausen is to get to if we are travelling by train.

Posted by steven
white plains, ny, usa
1473 posts

As you will be in Munich , Dachau , from a logistical perspective , is more convenient to access . Mauthausen is slightly more involved but not that difficult . To answer the question of " which one is better ? " , I am not sure I would phrase it quite that way . Both of these places are horrid , and depending on what knowledge of them you possess when visiting , will inform your personal experience . It is often said about both that they were actually facilities for the persecution of political or ideological dissidents of the Nazi regime . While this is technically true , it does not address the de facto function of both places . Dachau was the scene of much suffering , as many of the sadisitic medical experiments were carried out there . Mauthausen was a work camp of unbelievable horror and the " Stairway of Death " can barely be understood even with a visit to the camp . I visited both of these hells ( and a third - Terezin ) on my last trip this past fall . For all the beautiful and wonderful things , places , and people I experienced , these memorials were a sobering experience . See them both , if you can , but Mauthausen had me in tears . If you do go - train to Linz , change to local train to Mauthausen town - cabs right outside the bahnhof ( about 10EU ) to the memorial site . When you are ready to leave , the receptionist at the site will call a cab for your return to the station . Neither of these places are " enjoyable " as a poster here once occasioned to remark ; They were never meant to be .

Posted by Kent
Pacific Northwest
9302 posts

As Steven's post describes, be prepared to cry if you go to any of the Death Camps.
Some people must do this on their trip to Europe, others may find it is not what they wanted to experience on their vacation.
Some people feel it is worth it to go, even to cry, to make sure we never forget what happened at these places.

Posted by Shelly
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
52 posts

Thank you very much for your advice. I'm sure both places are horrible and will be a very sobering experience. I will be going with my 3 sons 19 - 25 and just feel that it would be a valuable learning experience for us to go and remember the suffering those poor people we forced to endure.

Posted by doric8
347 posts

good for you, shelly, for taking your sons. I visited a death camp in Poland ,,,, and it is indeed a life changing experience. perhaps a bit of pre reading for yr sons would help them prepare

Posted by Chris
Mahone Bay, Canada
310 posts

Hi Shelley,

I've been do Dachau about a half dozen times but will only be visiting Mauthausen for the first time this fall, so I can't answer your question directly. I would like to offer the suggestion that you try to visit the memorials earlier in the day and make sure the remainder of your day is light sight seeing - public parks, nice scenery, etc. The best way I can describe visiting Dachau is that it is a 'heavy' experience. Each time I have left the memorial I feel weighed down with the impossibility of all the suffering that happened there. I couldn't imagine going from that into visiting a place like the Residence or one of the art museums. I expect our visit to Mauthausen will be the same.

Posted by Shelly
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
52 posts

That's very good advice. I will make sure we do that. I think it would be easy just to skip it but we come from a German heritage and I somehow feel an obligation to take my boys and to go and pay our respects. We can truly never understand the horror these people had to endure but I have felt a need for a while to do this. We went to the Anne Frank House last spring. That was also a very sad experience but one that was worth doing especially after reading Annes diary. My 19 year old son read her diary in grade 7 and had such compassion for her he always wanted to go. Such sad times.