Scrapbookpages Blog

May 20, 2010

The first SS soldiers who tried to surrender the Dachau camp were shot by Lt. William Walsh

American soldiers view the bodies of Waffen-SS soldiers killed at Dachau

Up until yesterday, when a reader of this blog identified the dead bodies in the photo above as Waffen-SS soldiers who had been killed at Dachau by American liberators in the 45th Infantry Division, I had always believed the story that these were prisoners who had been shot by the SS guards, as they were trying to get out of the train. The death train had departed from the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 7th and had not arrived at Dachau until April 27th because American planes had bombed the tracks; prisoners riding in open railroad cars had been killed when American planes strafed the train.

The "death train" found by the American liberators at Dachau

The Commandant of the Dachau concentration camp had left on April 26th and the regular SS guards had escaped the night before the Americans arrived.  Waffen-SS soldiers had been brought from the battlefield, on the orders of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, to surrender the camp and to keep order until the Americans could take over.

In the photo at the top of this page, note the shoes that the dead men are wearing.  I had never noticed this until a reader pointed out that these are German military shoes.  In every photo of the death train, the caption always says that these men were prisoners who were trying to get out of the train.

American liberators at Dachau view the bodies on the "death train"

Dachau photo from the G.J. Dettore Collection.

The sight of the dead bodies on the train enraged the soldiers of I Company in the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Division and, before the Americans entered the Dachau camp, they decided that they would take no prisoners. The first four Waffen-SS soldiers who came forward carrying a white flag of surrender were ordered into an empty box car by Lt. William Walsh and shot.  The photo above shows their bodies.  Notice the Jewish Star of David on the side of the boxcar.

After shooting the four Waffen-SS men who had tried to surrender the camp,  Lt. Walsh “segregated from surrendered prisoners of war those who were identified as SS Troops,” according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General of the Seventh Army, dated June 8, 1945.

The following is a quote from the I.G. report:

“6. Such segregated prisoners of war were marched into a separate enclosure, lined up against the wall and shot down by American troops, who were acting under the orders of Lt. Walsh. A light machine gun, carbines, and either a pistol or a sub-machine gun were used. Seventeen of such prisoners of war were killed, and others were wounded.”

Note that the I.G. report refers to “prisoners of war.”  The American military knew that this was a clear violation of the Geneva Convention of 1929, but no Americans were ever put on trial for this admitted war crime.

The 45th Division soldiers had entered the SS garrison, next door to the concentration camp,  through the open railroad gate at the southwest corner of the Dachau complex at 11 a.m.  Soldiers in the 42nd Infantry Division arrived around 3 p.m. and met SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker, who was waiting to surrender the concentration camp, along with a Red Cross representative carrying a white flag. By this time, the 45th Division soldiers had killed up to 560 German soldiers, according to some accounts.  General Dwight D. Eisenhower set the number of German soldiers at Dachau who were “liquidated” at 300.

The Dachau massacre was kept secret for over 40 years by the American military.  Instead of telling the true story of what happened, the liberators lied about the photos of the death train, claiming that the dead SS soldiers on the train were prisoners, and that the SS had machine-gunned the prisoners to death when actually the prisoners had been killed by Americans who strafed the train.  Martin Rosenfeld, a Jewish survivor of the “death train,” testified at the trial of the SS man in charge of the train that the prisoners had been killed by American bullets, as American planes strafed the train.

Plaque at the Dachau gatehouse in honor of the 42nd Division liberators

The photo above shows a plaque which hangs on the outside wall of the Dachau gatehouse. There is also a plaque in honor of the 20th Armored Division which helped to liberate the camp, but no plaque for the 45th Division soldiers.  The 45th Division declined to be honored, maybe because these soldiers felt bad about killing German POWs after they had surrendered.

The Waffen-SS soldiers who were killed by Lt. William Walsh had absolutely nothing to do with the Dachau concentration camp. In spite of this, there are still many German-haters out there who think that it was perfectly alright for Americans to kill German POWs after they tried to surrender the Dachau garrison.


  1. [...] previously blogged here about the “death train” found by the American liberators of Dachau.  Now a Holocaust [...]

    Pingback by Holocaust survivor Stephen Nasser identifies himself in famous photo taken at Dachau « Scrapbookpages Blog — March 2, 2012 @ 8:56 am

  2. who cares? whether they were camp guards or not – we didn’t kill enough of them.

    Comment by george — October 13, 2010 @ 11:57 pm

    • Yup, The germans were idiots, the original commandant excapes with all his SS friends, and Himmler sends
      a “surrender” group in to turn the camp over, All the evidence of brutal murder/torture/starvation should have
      alerted them that when the Americans saw all this they would not be happy.

      I am not a coward, but if I was Lt Wicker I would have got out of their the minute I stepped in their , after I saw all
      that. He should have known it was a suicide posting. I believe Ltt Wicker was killed by the Prisoners and all his
      men were also killed.

      Their is an old saying, If you are “not sure” ” Kill them all, and let them God sort it out” .


      Comment by Ted — January 19, 2012 @ 10:50 am

      • The man to whom you are referring as “the original commandant” was Martin Gottfried Weiss. He became the “acting commandant” for two days after Commandant Wilhelm Eduard Weiter left on April 26, 1945 to escort a number of VIP prisoners to a sub-camp of Dachau that was in Austria.

        Weiter had replaced Weiss on November 1, 1943 when Weiss was transferred to another job. Weiss left with most of the SS men in the camp on April 27, 1945.

        Himmler did not “send a surrender group in to turn over the camp.” As the “acting Commandant,” Weiss turned the camp over to a prisoners organization known as the International Committee of Dachau.

        It was the Red Cross man, who was in the camp at the time, that persuaded Lt. Wicker to surrender the camp. Wicker had only recently arrived because he had been in charge of bringing prisoners from the sub-camps to the main camp just before the main camp was liberated.

        Lt. Wicker was aware that there was a typhus epidemic in progress in the camp, but he was probably not aware of the “brutal murder/torture/starvation” in the camp. Lt. Wicker had a group of men that he was in charge of: these were the men that were handling the evacuation of the sub-camps to the main camp. Not all of these men were killed.

        Lt. Wicker may have been killed by the prisoners, but it is more likely that he was killed by the American liberators. The prisoners mainly concentrated on killing the low-level guards who were left behind by Martin Gottfried Weiss when he and the high-ranking SS men escaped. Weiss had not been in the camp very long; he had only recently arrived with prisoners from the sub-camps that he was in charge of.

        Weiter allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself himself at Schloss Itter (a sub-camp of Dachau) on May 6, 1945, according to Johannes Tuchel who wrote about The Commandants of the Dachau Concentration Camp in his book: Dachau and the Nazi Terror II, 1933-1945. I think it is more likely that Weiter was shot by American liberators.

        Comment by furtherglory — January 19, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

  3. The Waffen-SS soldiers who were sent to help with the surrender to the Dachau camp had nothing to do with the bombing of Italy, which was done by pilots in the Luftwaffe. Some of the Waffen-SS soldiers who were sent to the camp were Hungarian. Even if pilots from the Luftwaffe had been sent to Dachau, it was a war crime under the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1929 to shoot a prisoner of war who had just surrendered.

    Comment by furtherglory — August 8, 2010 @ 5:37 pm

    • How many POW’s were killed by the Germans during the battle of the bulge. How many POW’s and civilians were murdered as retaliation by the Russians on the eastern front?
      When emotions are high, the Geneva convention is not always followed.
      Sad, but true.

      Comment by War is Hell — September 13, 2010 @ 5:01 am

  4. no wonder. they bombed almost every single town of italy

    Comment by federico — August 8, 2010 @ 3:24 pm

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