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April 29, 2011

the final resting places of the victims of the Dachau death camp

Filed under: Dachau, Germany — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 9:48 am

Waldfriedhof cemetery in Dachau

When Dachau was liberated by the American Seventh Army on April 29, 1945, most of the German guards had fled the night before, and mounds of unburied corpses were found in the camp. There were also 2,310 bodies found on an abandoned train outside the camp. Everything was left untouched until newpaper reporters, American Congressmen and film makers could be brought in to document the horror. Burial began on May 13, 1945 after the bodies could no longer be kept on display because they were beginning to constitute a serious health hazard.

18 American newspaper reporters view Dachau bodies

The photo above was taken on May 3, 1945, the same day that a film of the Dachau gas chamber was made; the film was shown at the Nuremberg IMT as proof that the victims at Dachau had been gassed.

In May 1945, the first month after Dachau was liberated, there were 2,226 deaths in the camp. There were 196 deaths in June 1945 before the typhus epidemic in the camp was finally brought under control. The people of the town of Dachau were forced to bury 1,268 of these victims at Waldfriedhof, the town cemetery of Dachau.  Other victims of the typhus epidemic were buried in mass graves at the Leitenberg cemetery, and around 800 bodies were burned in the crematorium at the concentration camp.  

Dachau citizens were forced to haul the bodies out of the camp

In the photo above, notice the sign on the gate on the right hand side. The sign warns visitors that the Dachau camp is off limits because of the typhus epidemic which was still going on in May 1945. The buildings in the background are in the SS garrison which was right next to the Dachau prison camp. Note the team of perfectly matched horses in the background.

Wagons haul the bodies out of Dachau, May 1945

When burial of the bodies at Dachau finally began on May 13, 1945, citizens of the town of Dachau were forced to haul the bodies to the new town cemetery called Waldfriedhof, which is 6.5 kilometers from the concentration camp. The photo above shows Army trucks escorting the farm wagons.  The American military could have hauled the bodies out of the camp in trucks, but the citizens of Dachau were forced to handle this job as punishment for not doing anything to stop the killing at the Dachau death camp.  The citizens of the town claimed that they knew nothing about the Dachau gas chamber, but how could they not have known?

Preparations for this new burial site had begun during World War II, and some of the work had been done by inmates of the Dachau concentration camp.

Monument in honor of the Jewish victims of Dachau

On May 1, 1964, a memorial stone designed by Dieter Aldinger was dedicated at the Waldfriedhof cemetery; it is shown in the photograph above.

The graves of the camp victims are arranged in terraced rows on a gently sloping hillside near the entrance to the cemetery. When I visited the cemetery in May 2001, there were a few miniature roses that had been planted along some of the rows of graves, but for the most part, the graves of the Dachau victims were untended and neglected. The rest of the vast Waldfriedhof cemetery was very well maintained with not a weed in sight. There were no other visitors in this part of the cemetery while I was there, and no fresh flowers or wreaths had been left at any of the graves.

As shown in the two color photographs above, the Jewish monument at Waldfriedhof stands at the bottom of a slope, in the center of all the graves.  The Jews, who died on the death march from the Flossenbürg camp to the Dachau camp in the last days before the liberation, are also buried here.  However, I observed that at least 90 percent of the flat grave markers in the cemetery had Christian crosses on them.

Christians and Jews buried side by side at Waldfriedhof

Monument in honor of the Dachau victims from Austria

On May 2, 1945, the 116th Evacuation Hospital arrived at Dachau and set up operations. According to a report made on May 20, 1945, there were 140 prisoners dying each day in the Dachau camp; the principle causes of death were starvation, tuberculosis, typhus and dysentery. On the day of liberation, there were 4,000 prisoners in the Dachau prison hospital and an unknown number of sick prisoners in the barracks who had been receiving no medical attention.

Eighteen one-story wooden SS barrack buildings in the Dachau army garrison were converted by the Americans into hospital wards to take care of all the sick prisoners. The American medical personnel were housed in the SS administration building, which is now the Dachau Museum. A Typhus Commission arrived and began vaccinating all medical personnel and the prisoners. There was a daily dusting of DDT to kill the lice which spreads typhus.

Dachau survivors were sprayed with DDT

On May 3, 1945, the sick prisoners at Dachau were brought into the hospital wards. They were bathed, dusted with DDT powder and given clean pajamas to wear; their old prison clothes were burned.  Note that this was the same day that newspapers reporters were photographed viewing the dead bodies that were laid out of the east side of the camp.  (The Dachau crematorium was on the west side of the camp.)

Mass graves for Dachau victims being dug at Leitenberg Photo Credit: Donald E. Jackson, 40th Combat Engineer Regiment

German civilians bury decomposed bodies at Leitenberg Photo credit: Donald E. Jackson, 40th Combat Engineer Regiment

Monument in honor of Jewish victims buried at Leitenberg

Polish victims of Dachau were buried at Leitenberg

The lonely hill called Leitenberg is located north of the Dachau Memorial Site in the former village of Etzenhausen, which has since been incorporated into the town of Dachau. The full name of this cemetery is KZ-Friedhof auf der Leiten, which in English means Concentration Camp Cemetery on the Leiten hill. This cemetery was created by the Germans in October 1944 after they ran out of coal to burn the bodies of the thousands of prisoners who were dying in the camp.

Christian cross at Leitenberg cemetery

In the middle of the Leitenberg cemetery is a Christian cross, made of wood, which was designed by Klaus Backmund from Munich. On all four sides of the cross are panels which are engraved with likenesses of Christian martyrs. Leitenberg was consecrated as a Christian cemetery on December 16, 1949. The majority of the prisoners in the Dachau concentration camp, when it was liberated, were Catholic.

Mass graves at Leitenberg

The Leitenberg cemetery was beautifully landscaped in a design by Christian Bauer. Low shrubbery was planted in rows across an open space to mark the mass graves. On both sides of the clearing, shown in the photo above, there are trees and rhododendron bushes, evocative of an English garden.

The photograph below shows another view of the clearing with rhododendrons in bloom on the right hand side. The cemetery looks like it is well maintained, but has an overgrown look that seems to be deliberate. In the background of the first photograph, where the trees converge, is the spot where the Christian Cross stands in the center of the cemetery, hidden by the trees in the photograph above.

Rows of mass graves at Leitenberg

By July 1945, the typhus epidemic in the Dachau concentration camp had been brought under control by the US Army doctors, and all the prisoners had either been released or moved to a Displaced Persons camp at Landsberg.  The former Dachau concentration camp was then turned into War Crimes Enclosure No. I for German war criminals.

12 Comments »

  1. I found out a few days ago that my grandfather died in Dachau on April 20th, 1945. Since my father was no longer alive when I discovered that he was Jewish, that he had survived the Holocaust (and that my grandfather had perished), I had only fragments of the past to work with. Researchers at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Budapest, as they were searching for Hungarian victims in this camp, discovered that my grandfather died in Dachau. I hope to visit the camp and cemetery next time I’m in the area.

    Comment by Christopher Adam — September 15, 2014 @ 10:38 am

    • The Jews at Dachau were mostly prisoners who had been transferred out of Auschwitz and brought to Dachau, where they took a shower, and were then transferred to one of the Kaufering sub-camps of Dachau. In the last days, before Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, the Jews in the Kaufering camps were brought to the main Dachau camp. There was a typhus epidemic at Dachau which killed many of the prisoners in the last days before the American liberators arrived.

      There is a cemetery near Dachau, where the prisoners who died after the camp was liberated, are buried. A prisoner who died on April 20th would have been buried in a mass grave on the hill called Leitenberg, which is few miles from the camp.

      Comment by furtherglory — September 15, 2014 @ 5:03 pm

  2. This is the German gassing film footage purportedly found by Stuart Schulberg in Berlin at the end of the war. The audience at the screening of Nuremberg: It’s Lesson for Today were told these were scenes from a euthanasia program in Poland.

    Comment by who+dares+wings — April 30, 2011 @ 9:52 am

    • Thanks a million for posting this video. I don’t think this video is incriminating at all. The euthanasia program was not directed toward any race of people. It was designed to eliminate people who were “unworthy of life,” meaning that they were too deformed or too mentally ill to live a normal life, and had to be hospitalized for life. Hospitals were needed to take care of wounded soldiers and people who had a chance to recover from illness. Carbon monoxide was allegedly used at Hartheim Castle to kill deformed and mentally ill patients.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 30, 2011 @ 10:09 am

      • When I wrote the comment above, I had not yet seen the Schulberg film entitled “Nuremberg, Its Lesson for Today.” Now that I’ve seen it, this footage does not refer to Hartheim Castle where the gassing was done by carbon monoxide. At Hartein, the carbon monoxide came into the room through a pipe near the floor but there is no claim that the pipe was attached to a car exhaust.

        I think it was a big mistake to include that film footage in the Nuremberg film because it had nothing to do with the official Holocaust story, and it only serves to confuse everyone. This mistake only helps the Holocaust deniers who immediately spot this film footage as fake.

        Comment by furtherglory — May 25, 2011 @ 6:59 am

  3. Good Webling massacre discussion with a list of the names of the executed SS:

    http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=51148

    Comment by who+dares+wings — April 30, 2011 @ 8:04 am

    • Thanks for giving us this link. I noticed this sentence in the text: “Their orders were to delay the advance of American tanks of the 20th Armoured Division and infantry units of the 7th. US Army which was approaching Dachau.”

      This implies that the Germans were tying to prevent Dachau from being liberated. Dachau is NORTH of Munich. I think that they were trying to prevent the Americans from taking Munich. The Dachau camp was preparing to surrender.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 30, 2011 @ 10:01 am

  4. Had visited the site yesterday after attending the liberation-day ceremony at the KZ site. Was pretty hard to find by bike what with the size of the cemetery grounds, railway track etc. Am interested to see what you have to say about the Webling massacre nearby.

    Comment by Keir — April 29, 2011 @ 9:58 pm

    • I have heard of the Webling massacre, but I don’t know the details, other than that Germans were killed after they had surrendered. This happened many times near the end of the war.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 29, 2011 @ 10:24 pm

  5. Sorry to confuse. The gassing sequence in the Schulberg film was purportedly shot in Poland not at Dachau. Sandra Schulberg told us that the film was shelved due to Cold War sensibilities. I called it a “a propaganda extravaganza” because there was no mention of the simultaneous invasion of Poland by the Germans and the Soviets. The film was all about Nazi depredations. Now I can’t recall why she said it wasn’t released to American audiences. I think Schulberg shot the gassing sequence himself, but then I’m a skeptic when it comes to homicidal gas chambers in WWII.

    Nuremberg: It’s Lesson for Today

    http://www.nurembergfilm.org/restoration_bio_sandra_schulberg.shtml

    I once sent an email to a US Army veteran who said he’d been at the liberation of Dachau. I asked him about the Bushyhead SS massacre and he got furious and accused me of being a lying Holocaust denier. So, I sent him the links with pictures of this Allied atrocity and he got even more upset!

    Comment by who+dares+wings — April 29, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

  6. Who made the film of the Dachau gas chamber shown at the IMT trial?
    I just saw a film that was made for Germans only by Stuart Schulberg, Hollywood director Bud Schulberg’s lesser known brother. This never seen by English speaking audiences before propaganda extravaganza, entitled “NUREMBERG: It’s Lesson for Today,” was retrieved from the National Archives where it had been languishing since 1947. It was located and gussied up by the late Stuart Schlberg’s daughter Sandra Schulberg. By “gussied up” I mean that foley artists were used to add sound where there had not been any before and new computer editing technologies were employed to clean up the old print etc. The “money shot” here is a gassing sequence that lasts about two minutes. According to Ms. Schulberg, who attended the screening in my city, this gassing sequence was filmed by Germans and discovered by her father who then edited into his film.
    It’s a very Hitchcockian snippet. A shot of a shadow of a Nazi officer against a brick wall at night
    with a hose from a limousine like vehicle’s exhaust pipe going into it. The car engine revs up, and the camera cuts to the Nazi shadow and that’s all there is to it. No close ups of the panic stricken Jews inside, or their screams issuing from behind the wall the lethal hose is affixed to. Two thumbs down for mass murder metaphorical mediocrity.

    Comment by who+dares+wings — April 29, 2011 @ 11:52 am


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