While a trip to Europe can be a fairy tale, it can also be a sobering reminder of fascism's reign of terror during the 20th century. Visiting a concentration camp is a way to honor the survivors and remember those lost. Here's what you need to know.
Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
Just outside the town of Dachau sits one of Germany's most infamous camps, built in 1933 as one of the country's first Nazi concentration camps. The present-day memorial, themed "Never Again," recounts its grizzly history through a museum, film, reconstructed barracks, and chilling memorial shrines.
Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum
Unlike many of Europe's camps designed for slave labor, Auschwitz was meant for extermination. At the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, visitors can watch footage from the camp's liberation in 1945, walk beneath the "Arbeit Macht Frei" (Work Begins Freedom) gate, and enter surviving barracks in the vast Birkenau death camps. A shuttle bus runs between the two camps.
From 1938 to 1945, nearly 200,000 people from 40 different nations were imprisoned at Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria; of those, some 90,000 lost their lives. The Mauthausen Memorial serves to honor and remember the victims and also create public awareness of the camp's history.
Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum
One of the first concentration camps established in the Third Reich, Sachsenhausen quickly became the main camp in the Berlin area. Until its closing in 1945, some 200,000 people from all over Europe were imprisoned there, and of those tens of thousands lost their lives. Today, the site is a memorial and museum where visitors can learn the stories of the prisoners and visit the ruins of the gallows, gas chambers, and burial pits with a tour guide.
Situated 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Prague, Terezín was transformed from a holiday resort for Czech nobility into a Jewish ghetto and concentration camp in 1940. More than 150,000 people were sent there, including 15,000 children, to be held until being sent to their deaths in occupied Poland. It was known as the Paradise Camp due to a Nazi propaganda campaign to dupe the world into thinking life inside was just fine, even when it was far from it.
The first of two Treblinka camps was opened in 1941 as a labor camp not far from Warsaw. The second, much larger camp opened a mile away in 1942 as an ultra-secret extermination camp part of Operation Reinhard, a Nazi push to exterminate the Jews of German-occupied Poland. Today, a moving monument made from 17,000 stones occupies the site, outlining the shape of the death camp.