„Plantation“, 1941 (photograph by the SS)
„Plantation“, 1941 (photograph of the SS)

In 1938 concentration camp prisoners were forced to build an herb garden (plantation) on the other side of the Alte Römerstrasse, east of the camp. The cultivation of local herbs was the idea of the 'working group for medicinal plants studies' and Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler showed particular interest in the plan. Germany should have no need to import foreign medicines and herbs. The economic importance of the work done by the prisoners in the herb garden increased as the war progressed.

Drawing Return from the "Plantation"
Return from the "Plantation" (drawing by Hans Quaeck, 1955)

The SS guards marched the prisoners to work on the large open-air site under abusive threats and blows, and prisoners were arbitrarily shot 'while attempting to escape'. Less brutal working conditions reigned only in the buildings and greenhouses. There a work detail of draftsmen was supposed to produce a plant collection for Himmler. At the risk of losing their lives, some of the prisoners managed to depict the crimes committed by SS guards in secret notes.

The SS set up a shop as part of the herb garden to sell produce from the 'plantation' to residents from Dachau and neighboring communities. Some prisoners succeeded in establishing secret contact to the civilian population.