On the site of former Nazi concentration camp Dachau, outbuildings that used to belong to the complex's herb garden are now being used to house refugees. Once a place of fear and death, children can now be seen playing on the site where inmates were forced to spend hours toiling in the cold and rain to cultivate plants intended for use in medicine.

"The buildings belonged to the former plantation, to the herb garden, which was one of the worst labour detachments of Dachau concentration camp, where especially Jewish and religious prisoners were working in order to make the soil arable and to plant medicinal herbs. It was one of the worst labour detachments because the work was mostly outside, and the death rate was immense. And as such it was a place of death and terror," head of Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site Gabriele Hammermann said.

The garden complex does not belong to the official memorial site, but is being used by the city authorities to house the homeless and asylum seekers whose applications have been recognised, giving them a home to start their new lives in Germany.

"Now it has become a story in connection with the debate about the migrant crisis. But homeless people and recognised asylum seekers are housed here, not refugees [whose status is still unclear]. And that difference is often not being made in the press," Hammermann said.

The use of the site remains controversial, she said, adding that it would be better to house people closer to the local population. "Fundamentally, we think that other places are more appropriate in order to house people, especially since integration is a major goal. So I think it makes more sense to house people in the centres of towns, not on the outskirts. But at the moment it is a very tense housing situation," Hammermann said.

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.

With limited housing available, many local authorities have found unusual places to house refugees, including inflatable buildings, sports and recreation centres, and even a virtual ghost town abandoned to make way for a future open-pit mine.