Last night I watched an episode of Band of Brothers for the umpteenth time. I never tire of this TV series. This particular episode was about the 101st Airborne Division (the real life Band of Brothers) when they were in southern Germany near the end of World War II.
The photo above shows the real life scene at the Kaufering IV sub-camp of Dachau, which was near Landsberg am Lech. This scene is very accurately re-created in the Band of Brothers.
Kaufering IV was first liberated by the 12th Armored Division of the US Seventh Army on April 27, 1945. Soldiers in the 101st Airborne Division didn’t arrive until April 28, 1945, but in the Band of Brothers, they are shown as being there first. The prisoners greet them and act as though they have never seen an American soldier before.
Kaufering IV was one of 11 camps, all named Kaufering and numbered I through XI; Kaufering IV had been designated as a “sick camp” where prisoners who could no longer work in the Kaufering factories were sent. But in the TV series Band of Brothers, this is not mentioned.
There was a typhus epidemic in Germany in 1945 and all Kaufering prisoners with typhus were sent to the Kaufering IV camp. The dead bodies in the photo above were prisoners who had died of typhus and other diseases.
In Band of Brothers, the barracks at Kaufering IV have been accurately re-created, but it is not explained that the barracks were built partially underground in order to hide the camp from American planes that were bombing everything in sight. The photo above shows the real life camouflaged huts where the Kaufering IV prisoners lived.
The eleven Kaufering sub-camps had been set up specifically to build three huge underground factories for a project called Ringeltaube. In these subterranean factories, the German jet fighter plane Messerschmitt Me 262 was to be built. Allied bombing raids had made it necessary for the Nazis to build their factories underground.
In the last days of the World War II, all the Kaufering camps were evacuated except for the sick prisoners in the Kaufering IV camp. Some of the Kaufering prisoners arrived at the Dachau main camp on April 27, 1945, only two days before Dachau was liberated by American troops.
In the Band of Brothers TV series, civilians from the town of Hurlach are shown burying the bodies, but what is not mentioned is that they were forced at gun-point to handle bodies of prisoners who had died of typhus. The Germans had not been vaccinated and some of them undoubtedly got typhus and died as a result. (At Bergen-Belsen, out of 80 unvaccinated German guards who were forced to handle the bodies of typhus victims, 20 died of typhus.)
The Germans are shown in Band of Brothers, arriving at Kaufering IV wearing nice clothes. This is true to life; they had been ordered to wear their Sunday best for the burial of the bodies. This was the case at all the concentration camps where civilians were ordered to bury the bodies.
Then there is a scene in Band of Brothers where one of the 101st Airborne soldiers is screaming at a German shop keeper who is objecting because all of his goods are being taken by the Americans to feed the Kaufering IV prisoners. The shop keeper keeps repeating “Ich bin kein Nazi.” But the soldier is angry because the shopkeeper didn’t do anything about the Kaufering IV camp, although he must have smelled the burning bodies. Of course, the German civilians would not have been told anything about the top secret underground factories in the Kaufering camps, but this American with a Harvard background couldn’t understand that.
One of the next scenes shows 600,000 German soldiers marching in perfect formation down the center of the Autobahn after they surrendered. The Americans knew of the legendary discipline of the German Army, so the German soldiers are completely unguarded as they march.
Meanwhile, undisciplined American soldiers are shown killing two German soldiers, who have just surrendered in good faith, and then stealing their prized Luger pistols. The 101st soldiers just shrug this off, while Harvard guy screams at the Germans soldiers who are marching by. He is angry because Germany started the war and his Harvard education had been interrupted as a result. The Germans completely ignore this verbal abuse and keep marching in step.
Band of Brothers is a true story, based on real soldiers in the 101st Airborne. It is highly accurate except for how the liberation of the Kaufering IV camp is shown. Why do movies and TV shows always have to misrepresent the concentration camps?