Shortly after the American liberators of Dachau arrived on April 29, 1945, they interviewed 20 of the prisoners “in order to determine what conditions had been like in the judgement (sic) of these men.” According to the report, “Care was taken to pick only those with red triangles on their uniforms.” The political prisoners wore red triangles and the German criminals wore green triangles.
The Americans did not want to talk to the German “hardened criminals in the camp,” according to the Report. The political prisoners at Dachau were mainly Communists and were allies with the Americans. Many of the German criminals were Kapos who were prisoners who helped in running the camp. The Kapos might have told the story from the point of view of the SS administrators of the camp. Obviously, that’s not what the Americans wanted to hear.
A few weeks later, a report entitled “Dachau” was released. The report was later retitled “Dachau Liberated, The Official Report” and published in 2000; it was edited by Michael W. Perry and the book includes some additional material as well as some drawings done by an American soldier who was there when the camp was liberated.
Recently there has been some discussion about the one Irish person who was allegedly a prisoner at Dachau. The Dachau Report does not mention an Irish prisoner. There were many countries listed in the Dachau Statistics as having one prisoner in the camp, but not Ireland.
The Official Report lists 1 Dane, 1 Maltese, 1 Arabians, 1 Finns, 1 Iraqs, 1 Irans, 2 Swiss, 2 Armenians, 3 Turks, 6 Americans, and 8 British. There were 9082 Poles in the camp, according to the Official Report, and 4258 Russians, 3918 French, 2907 Slovenes, 2184 Italians, 1632 Czechs, 848 Belgians, 670 Hungarians and 558 Dutch. Other countries that were included in the statistics had smaller numbers of prisoners.
There were 2539 Jews, including 225 women, but most of them had only recently arrived, after having been evacuated from the sub-camps and brought to the main Dachau camp.
Here is a quote from the Official Report:
The purpose of this investigation was to find out two things: (1) What conditions in the Camp actually had been like, and (2) How much did the townspeople of Dachau know of the goings-on and what was their present attitude toward this monumental crime of twelve years’ duration that had transformed their sleepy little town into a world-famous place.
Dachau was “world-famous” in 1945? I don’t think so. Some of the American liberators said later that they had never even heard of the camp before they liberated it. In German, the term “world-famous” would be “weltbekannt,” an expression that I have frequently heard German speakers use. Did Americans use the words “world-famous” with a hyphen in 1945? This seems to have been written by someone in the American military who could speak German. Someone in the OSS perhaps?
The most important point in the quote that I put up is that it seems that the Americans had already made up their mind that the issue of the townspeople of Dachau should be addressed immediately. In case the townspeople might dispute the stories told by the 20 prisoners, this had to be nipped in the bud.
The Americans wisely decided to find out what the camp was “actually” like from the Communist prisoners and then find out how much the townspeople knew, so that any stories that differed from the “actual” account could be immediately discredited. To this day, it is claimed that the townspeople knew everything that was told by the prisoners, but they decided not to do anything about it.
More importantly, the Americans wanted to know the “present attitude toward this monumental crime of twelve years’ duration.” It seems that the Americans had already decided, before talking to the townspeople, that there had been “monumental” crimes going on at Dachau for 12 years. And they needed to know the “present attitude.” The townspeople needed to change their attitude and acknowledge that they were guilty because they had sat around for 12 years and had not lifted a finger to stop the “monumental” crimes.
Strangely, the 20 prisoners, who told about what Dachau was “actually” like, did not include any of the 6 Americans in the camp. One of these Americans was in the OSS. If he ever said anything, one way or another, about what it was like in Dachau, I’ve never heard about it.