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February 7, 2010

What did the citizens of the town of Dachau know and when did they know it?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 6:58 pm

I love to read other people’s blogs, especially posts by tourists who have been to the Memorial Site at the former Dachau concentration camp  and have  blogged about their visit. The one thing that is frequently mentioned by bloggers is that the Dachau camp was so close to the town of Dachau that the citizens must have known what was going on there.

Just this morning, I read a blog posted on ExChristian.net on January 31, 2010 by a woman using the name summerbreeze.  She wrote:

“On a days’ visit to Dachau, I was struck by the close proximity of the town of Dachau to the Concentration Camp. It is only three kilometers between the city’s train station and the camp.”

The title of her post was “Good Christians with non-working noses.”

The noses of the Dachau residents couldn’t have been working, according to summerbreeze, because if the good citizens of Dachau had working noses, they would have smelled the burning of the bodies in the camp.  True, but what if the bodies weren’t being burned? How come no one ever thinks of that?

The supply of coal in Germany was running low because there was a war going on, and coal could no longer be used to burn the bodies; the bodies of  the prisoners who died in the camp had been buried in mass graves up on a hill called Leitenberg since October 1944.

The Dachau concentration camp was open for 12 years, but half of all the prisoners who died at Dachau died during the last 6 months, from the middle of December 1944 to the middle of June 1945.  Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945 but the prisoners had to stay in the camp for the next six weeks, until a typhus epidemic could be brought under control.

The Germans didn’t have a typhus vaccine, nor DDT, so it was difficult for them to stop an epidemic once it got started.  They had been using Zyklon-B, a dangerous poison, to kill the lice that spreads typhus.

German doctors had been desperately working on developing a typhus vaccine for over two years, but they had not been successful.

According to the web site of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

“From about December 1941 to about February 1945 experiments were conducted at the Buchenwald and Natzweiler concentration camps, for the benefit of the German Armed Forces, to investigate the effectiveness of spotted fever (typhus) and other vaccines. At Buchenwald numerous healthy inmates were deliberately infected with spotted fever virus in order to keep the virus alive; over 90 percent of the victims died as a result.”

The doctors who were working on developing a vaccine at Buchenwald were tried as war criminals at the Nuremberg Doctor’s Trial.   The defendants Karl Brandt, Handloser, Rostock, Schroeder, Genzken, Gebhardt, Rudolf Brandt, Mrugowsky, Poppendick, Sievers, Rose, Becker-Freyseng, and Hoven were charged with special responsibility for and participation in the vaccine experiments, according to the USHMM web site.

America did have a typhus vaccine and all the American soldiers had been vaccinated before going overseas.  American POWs in Germany received booster shots of typhus vaccine sent through the Red Cross.  The Nazis could have stolen this vaccine and given it to their own soldiers, but they didn’t, and as a result 99% of the American POWs survived, according to the Red Cross.

When the American liberators arrived at Dachau they saw the bodies of prisoners who had died of typhus.  Did any of them say, “For Christ’s sake, why didn’t America send some typhus vaccine and DDT to Dachau?”  NO! The American soldiers didn’t stop to ask how these prisoners had died; they just went berserk and shot German Wehrmacht soldiers and Waffen-SS soldiers who had surrendered and had their hands in the air.

The Waffen-SS soldiers had been sent from the battlefield to surrender the camp after all the regular guards had left the day before. Wounded Wehrmacht soldiers had been dragged out of their beds in a hospital that was clearly marked as a hospital, then shot while they had their hands up.

The place where these German soldiers were shot was an enclosure where coal was supposed to have been stored.  It was empty because the Germans had run out of coal at Dachau.

summerbreeze wrote on her blog:

“After our U.S. troops liberated Dachau, several of our soldiers were so horrified and repulsed by what they saw, the bodies piled high, the gas chambers and the walking corpses, that they opened fire on many of the guards there. Could you blame them ?”

Yes, as a matter of fact, I could blame them.  The Germans followed the Geneva Convention to the letter, with regard to American soldiers, because America had signed the convention. The German soldiers who were sent to surrender the Dachau camp never fired a shot; even when the Americans were shooting at them, they maintained their strict discipline to the end. Technically, American soldiers committed a war crime at Dachau, but George S. Patton refused to let them be tried as war criminals.

summerbreeze wrote:

“Our troops also went into the City of Dachau and rounded up the citizens and forced them to look at the horror inside the camp. I remember seeing pictures of the local men and women with wide-eyed “disbelief” on their faces…..then our troops forced the citizens to help clean up the camp—BRAVO !”

German civilians forced to see dead prisoners

The photo above shows German civilians from being forced to view the bodies in the barracks of a concentration camp, but this photo was not taken at Dachau.  I’ve never seen any photos of the Dachau citizens on their visit to the camp.  Did any of the photos show the citizens being given a shot of typhus vaccine or being dusted with DDT before they entered the camp?  There are photos of the prisoners being sprayed with DDT to kill the lice that spreads typhus, but as far as I know, the citizens of Dachau were deliberately exposed to typhus on their visit to the camp.  Was there even a sign at the entrance, warning that there was a typhus epidemic in the camp?  If there was, I’ve never seen a photo of it.

The citizens of Dachau were not forced to clean up the camp.  After the typhus epidemic was over, Dachau was turned into War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 and German soldiers were put into the camp; they voluntarily cleaned up the barracks.

The wives of the SS men, who were still living in the garrison next door to Dachau after their husbands had been killed by the liberators, were forced to clean the railroad cars of the “death train” after the dead bodies had been removed.  But that’s another story.  Just google “death train” to learn more.

Have You Ever Heard of Sachsenhausen?

The three major concentration camps in Germany were Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen.  The names Dachau and Buchenwald have become household words, but have you ever heard of Sachsenhausen?

Sachsenhausen was set up in 1933 in an old brewery in Oranienburg at the same time that Dachau was set up on the grounds of an abandoned factory in Dachau.  The camp in Oranienburg was not called a Konzentrationslager, so Dachau became the first German concentration camp, using the British name for a camp for civilians in South Africa during the Boer war.

Heinrich Himmler called a press conference to announce the opening of Germany’s first concentration camp at Dachau, but there was little fanfare for the opening of the camp in Oranienburg.  J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI in America, allegedly sent a telegram of congratulations on the opening of Dachau.

Prisoners at Sachsenhausen concentration camp worked in a large brick factory

In 1936, both Dachau and the Oranienburg camp were completely rebuilt.  The name Sachsenhausen was given to the Oranienburg camp. In January 1941, both Dachau and Sachsenhausen were designated Class I camps, where political prisoners were sent to be rehabilitated and then released.  Buchenwald became a class II camp where hard-core political prisoners had little chance of being released.

Entrance into Sachsenhausen concentration camp

Both Dachau and Sachsenhausen had a gatehouse with the words “Arbeit macht Frei” on the gate, but the sign at Buchenwald said “Jedem das Seine,” or everyone gets what he deserves.  Also, sometimes translated as To each his own.

As a child of 12 in 1945, I saw all the newsreels about the gas chamber at Dachau and the human lampshades and shrunken heads at Buchenwald, but there was nothing about Sachsenhausen in the news.

Arson damage at Sachsenhausen has not been repaired

The first time I ever heard of Sachsenhausen was in September 1992 when I saw a small news item in my local newspaper, which reported on a fire that was set by “right-wing extremists” in the Jewish Museum at Sachsenhausen.  I hastened to look up Sachsenhausen in the only Holocaust book I owned at the time, Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners.  But there was no mention of Sachsenhausen in the index.

There is not a nickel’s worth of difference between Dachau and Sachsenhausen.  Both are near a major city: Dachau is close to Munich and Sachsenhausen is not far from Berlin. Both were mainly camps for political prisoners.  Both were set up shortly after the burning of the Reichstag in Berlin on the night of February 27, 1933; the first prisoners at each of these two camps were some of the 2,000 men who were arrested, following the fire, because they were suspected of planning to overthrow the democratically elected German government.

Entrance to Sachsenhausen gas chamber from SS garage

Both camps received around 10,000 Jewish prisoners who were arrested on the night of November 9, 1938, which is called Kristallnacht. Both had a gas chamber.

So why does Sachsenhausen get no respect?

Well, the Sachsenhausen camp was liberated by soldiers in the army of the Soviet Union and they didn’t carry movie cameras around with them. There were no American reporters accompanying the Soviet troops.

Dachau and Buchenwald were liberated by American soldiers who had photographers in the Army Signal Corps and lots of reporters traveling with them. George Stevens, a famous Hollywood director, arrived a couple of days after Dachau was liberated and made a professional quality movie about the camp, including some color footage.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said that the American soldiers didn’t know what they were fighting for, but after they saw Dachau and Buchenwald, they knew what they were fighting against.  Eisenhower didn’t visit Dachau or Buchenwald himself, but he ordered that as many American soldiers as possible should be brought from the battlefield to see these two camps.  These soldiers went home and told their families about what they had seen in the camps.

America didn’t send soldiers from the battlefield to see Sachsenhausen, nor any of the camps that were  liberated by the Soviet Union.  That’s why Sachsenhausen is mostly unknown in America, even to this day.

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