Buildings that were part of an herb garden at the former Dachau concentration camp are now home to 50 homeless people seeking refuge in Germany, reported the AFP on Tuesday. The herb garden is not part of the concentration camp memorial. In a statement, Florian Hartmann, the mayor of Dachau, which is reportedly going through a housing shortage, acknowledged the historical irony of re-purposing the buildings as a homeless shelter, but stressed the need to assist “the weakest members of society” by allowing the buildings to assume a “useful social role.” In an email to The Guardian, Hartmann wrote:
The buildings in the herb garden are used to house people who can’t afford a flat at market rates. They’re the more vulnerable members of our society. In that way, the buildings with their historical burden can be used for a socially meaningful purpose.
According to the International Business Times, “the German government has said it expects 800,000 people to seek asylum in Germany this year, as Europe struggles to cope with a huge influx of people fleeing war and poverty in countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.” Hartmann, however, would not specify whether any of the persons given shelter at the former concentration camp are those fleeing from Syria or elsewhere.
Germany has recently employed a number of non-traditional solutions to respond to incoming refugees’ need for housing. In fact, a recent announcement indicated that former Nazi concentration camp Buchenwald has housed asylum seekers from African countries such as Eritrea and Algeria. However, plans by the towns of Schwerte and Augsburg to house refugees in concentration camps earlier in 2015 were abandoned amid opposition, reported The Guardian.
Similar resistance has been voiced against the effort to house the homeless at Dachau, including the director of the former concentration camp memorial site, Gabriele Hammerman. She told The Guardian: “For me, it’s not very welcoming to house refugees in a place that symbolizes torture and death.”
Hannah Vaitsblit is an intern at Tablet.