Marko ZUPANČIČ (1914 – 2007).


Skica dahavskega koncentraciskega taborišča [Sketch of the Dachau Concentration Camp].

Dachau Concentration Camp, Germany: Late May – Early June, 1945.

Mimeograph on cheap wartime paper (Very Good, mild even toning, old staple mark in upper left corner with a small piece of modern tape verso), 30 x 21 cm (12 x 8 inches).

A highly detailed plan of the Dachau Concentration Camp, made by the important Slovenian Modernist architect, former student of Le Corbusier, and Dachau survivor, Marko Zupančič, and printed within the Dachau camp shortly after its liberation.

This extremely rare map was printed in Dachau Concentration Camp, near Munich, Germany, probably in late May or early June 1945, shortly after American forces liberated it.  It provides a highly detailed plan of the camp and its various components.  The map was made by the subsequently prominent Slovenian Modernist architect, former student of Le Corbusier, and camp survivor, Marko Zupančič, while he waited to be processed out of Dachau.  While the map is not singed by Zupančič, a note within the newspaper Dahavski Poročevalec,no. 29confirms that he is the author of this map, along with another map that embraces Dachau and its environs, including the crime scene of Leitenberg.

The map focuses closely on the Dachau Camp proper, and labels its various buildings and horrific facilities in precise detail.  Notably, on the right, it labels the residential area, the ‘Plantaža’, delineating all 32 of the camp’s dormitories, along with the ‘Vrt’ (Garden), ‘Knunci’ (rabbit pens), ‘Kuhinja’ (kitchen) and ‘Zapor’ (prison).  Near the centre, quite horrifically, is the ‘Kremtorij’ (crematorium), and around that, the Taborišča SS, the residences of the criminals who operated the camp.  Beyond that are various other facilities, such as the ‘Kotlarna’ (boiler room) and the ‘Garaža’ (garage), and the ‘Volašnica SS’ (barracks).  Most curiously, in the lower left corner, near the compass rose, is the inscription ‘Vzhod, ki nas je rešil’ [The East, that saved us], referring to the direction from which the Americans liberated the camp. 

To be clear, the present work was made at the Dachau Camp in either late May or early June 1945, while the camp was under American administration.  The camp was liberated from the Nazis by the U.S. Army on April 29, 1945.  However, while the Americans went to great efforts to dramatically improve the conditions of the camp’s residents, most of the former prisoners were obliged to remain in the camp for some weeks until being processed out.  Not only did the Americans need to screen the rolls for people who were potential security risks to the Allies, but it was also considered unsafe or very difficult for many of the internees to return home.  Moreover, there were issues of infectious diseases within the camp, and doctors mandated a quarantine period.  Time was required for all the appropriate arrangements to be made, and so thousands, including Zupančič, remained in Dachau. 

The Americans facilitated activities and diversions for the internees as they awaited their release.  A small number of residents requested, and were given, the resources to publish newsletters and small visual works, giving rise to the present map.  Like other existing works printed by survivors in Dachau, this map is mimeographed on a relatively small sheet of cheap wartime paper, from stock that was probably left behind by the departed German staff.

The present map appears to have been both issued separately, and also as a supplement to the final issue (no. 30) of Ludwig Mrzel’s newspaper, Dahavski Poročevalec,issued within the Dachau camp on June 5, 1945.  A caption within the paper specifically notes that three items, including the present map;Zupančič’s other map depcitignt he envorons of Dachau with Leitenberg; and Božidar Pengov’s poignant image Ne moremo z vami – toda ne pozabite nas! were altogether supplements to this issue of the newspaper.  It is thought that Zupančič’s two maps and Pengov’s moving image were originally separately printed and distributed well before June 5, 1945, in some cases to non-Yugoslav internees who had little use for the newspaper.  It follows that the leftover stock of these prints was affixed to copies of the final edition of the newspaper so that they could be distributed as precious souvenirs to the departing survivors (that being the last occasion to do so).

Marko Zupančič (1914 – 2007), the author of the present map, was an important Slovenian Modernist architect and a survivor of the Dachau Camp.  He was born in Ljubljana, the son of Oton Zupančič (1878 – 1949), one of the most famous Slovenian poets and playwrights, and the father of Modernism in Slovenian literature.  Marko started out drafting many of the illustrations for his father’s works, before studying architecture at the University of Ljubljana under the legendary Jože Plečnik.  In 1939, Zupančič was chosen to intern under Le Corbusier in Paris, the ultimate honor for a modernist architect.  After a year in Paris, he was forced to suddenly return home upon work of the outbreak of war between France and Germany.  He left on the last train out before the Blitzkrieg reached the city.  His freedom in Yugoslavia was short lived, as after the Italian takeover of Ljubljana, in April 1941, Marko was interned in the Gonars Concentration Camp, Italy, for being an ‘intellectual’.  After Italy’s capitulation in September 1943, Zupančič was released, but was soon re-arrested by the Nazis and interned in Dachau, where he befriended the Yugoslav Partisan internees.  Given his skills as a draftsman, it makes perfect sense the he was author of the two maps of the camps made as souvenirs for internees shortly before their release.

After the war, Zupančič was very much en vogue in newly Communist Yugoslavia.  He had a major role in designing the new planned city of Nova Gorica (1947-8) and built the Parliamentary Club (1946-7) in Ljubljana, known as the only definitively Le Corbusier-style edifice in Yugoslavia (sadly torn down by idiots in the early 1990s).  Zupančič’s career building grand public edifices prospered through the 1950s; however, Modernism fell out of style in 1960s Yugoslavia, and his work was limited to smaller private commissions of the rest of his long career.