I am writing today in answer to a comment made by a man whose grandfather was an American soldier at Dachau the day it was liberated on April 29, 1945. His grandfather brought home photos of Dachau, including a photo of the gas chamber which was piled high with bodies, presumably the bodies of prisoners who had just been gassed.
The photos are no longer in this man’s possession, but he supplied a link to a web site which shows a drawing done by Brian J. Stonehouse, a British SOE agent who was a prisoner at Dachau. The drawing shows an open door and through the door, one can see another door, beyond which there are bodies piled up. The drawings of Brian Stonehouse are copyrighted so I cannot show the drawing of the gas chamber here. You will have to go to this website to see the drawing which looks like a drawing of the scene in the photo below.
Note that the photo above shows a floor drain with blood running down into it. A gas chamber cannot have a working floor drain because the poison gas would get into the sewer and poison the whole neighborhood.
My color photo directly above shows the Dachau gas chamber with a view into another room on the right, which is the room shown in the old black and white photo above. There were six floor drains in the gas chamber. Note the one floor drain in the photo, which is now closed up. On the left side in the photo is a water pipe that was used to clean the morgue room which had no water supply. Above the water pipe is an opening for a peephole into the gas chamber. Note that the tiles around the peep hole do not match the other tiles in the room.
When the American soldiers arrived on April 29, 1945, the gas chamber was empty, but the room next to it was piled high with bodies. The photo below shows the outside of the building where these rooms were located.
The gas chamber is the room on the far left which has three holes in the wall. The next room is the morgue room which has windows, and then the room where the ovens were located.
The room that was in the drawing done by Brian J. Stonehouse was the morgue room where bodies were stored until they could be burned in the ovens. On the day that Dachau was liberated, there was no coal to burn the bodies.
This is the description given on the website for the drawing done by Brian Stonehouse:
Brian Julian Stonehouse, M.B.E. (1918-1998) Dachau gas chambers-the day after liberation signed and inscribed ‘B J Stonehouse/ Dachau 4t’, charcoal 29 x 32cm (11 7/16 x 12 5/8in). In a personal diary started in Dachau on Liberation day Brian Stonehouse described the day this sketch was made: ‘Monday Evening, April 30, 1945 – I visited and made sketches of piles of corpses at the Krematorium. Not much time to sketch, as the place had been mined by the SS before they left, and the building was expected to blow up at any minute.’ The sketches he made in Dachau were presented to the Imperial War Museum, this is believed to be the last known concentration camp picture by Brian Stonehouse still in private hands.
Note that Brian Stonehouse said that he “made sketches of piles of corpses at the Krematorium.” He did not say that the “piles (plural) of corpses were in the gas chamber.
Stonewhouse literally took his life in his hands to sketch the “gas chambers” (plural) which he believed had been mined by the SS before they left. He didn’t make this up. According to Sgt. Scott Corbett, a correspondent for the official 42nd Division newspaper who was at Dachau on the day it was liberated, the SS staff had set a time bomb to blow up the gas chamber after they abandoned the camp on April 28th, the day before the American liberators arrived.
I previously blogged here about how the Nazis had set a time bomb to blow up the Dachau gas chamber.
The following quote is from an article written by Sgt. Scott Corbett for the Rainbow Reveille, the 42nd Division Newspaper. This excerpt from Scott Corbett’s article is included on page 42 of the book entitled Dachau 29 April 1945, the Rainbow Liberation Memoirs, Edited by Sam Dann:
The first human beings ever to enter the infamous Concentration Camp at Dachau without despair and terror, entered it today. Infantry men of the XVth Corps, 42nd Division, are now in command of Dachau and they brought a new life to over 30,000 survivors among the prisoners of the horror camp.
What they found there bears out every atrocity told about the first great concentration camp in 12 years of its existence. In the crematorium, the skeleton-like bodies of the dead still lay in a room next to the furnace, stacked like cordwood. The cement floor slanted to a drain which carried off the blood, but not the unforgettable stench of death. Unlike Auschwitz, where the Gas Chamber and the Crematorium were demolished by the retreating SS, the destruction of this horrifying evidence at Dachau by a time bomb was prevented when doughboys discovered and severed the wire which would have set off the charge. In addition, the entire building was a maze of booby-traps.
It is clear from this description of the gas chamber building by Scott Corbet that the room with the bodies “stacked like cordwood” was the “room next to the furnace.” The room next to the furnace was the morgue room, not the gas chamber. There was another room at the north end of the Baracke-X building which was also being used as a morgue room on the day the camp was liberated. This room is shown in the photo below.
My photo below shows the door into the Dachau gas chamber with a view into the gas chamber and the morgue room next to it. I was standing in the same spot where Stonehouse was standing (or sitting) when he made his sketch. Actually, I think that Stonehouse drew his sketch from memory after he saw the door into the gas chamber; he didn’t get the doors quite right in his sketch.
I was standing in the undressing room when I took the photo above, which shows the door from the undressing room into the gas chamber. I composed this photo so as to show the electrical wiring going into the room. The undressing room is 10 feet high, but the gas chamber as it looks now is around 7 and a half feet high. The location of the wiring indicates that the gas chamber was originally 10 feet high. (Hint: the “gas chamber” at Dachau may have been a shower room that was modified by the American liberators.)