The movie Shutter Island, based on a 2003 novel by Dennis Lehane, opened in American theaters on February 19, 2010. The Dachau massacre scene was completely changed and some of the photos on this page, which I began writing on Feb. 10th, no longer show what is in the movie.
The movie plot centers around Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, who is investigating the disappearance of a woman patient in the Ashecliffe mental hospital on Boston’s Shutter Island.
In Lehane’s novel, there is a one paragraph flashback scene which briefly describes the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945. Lehane wrote that “500 Krauts” (German soldiers) were killed by the American liberators.
The photo below shows a scene which was cut from the movie; this scene depicts American soldiers entering Dachau on April 29, 1945. The gate vaguely resembles one of the real gates into the Army garrison next door to the Dachau concentration camp, which is shown in the second photo below. In real life, the American soldiers entered through a different gate.
When the American soldiers arrived, they were horrified by the sight of the “death train” that was parked on the railroad tracks outside the Dachau camp.
The train had left the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 7, 1945 and had not reached Dachau until April 28, 1945 because American bombs had destroyed the railroad tracks on the 220 mile route from Buchenwald to Dachau.
Some of the prisoners, riding in open gondola cars on the train, had been killed by American bullets as U.S. planes strafed the train.
In 1954, at the time that the story in the movie is taking place, the shooting of unarmed German soldiers at Dachau was still a closely guarded secret, which would not become known for another 31 years. One of the first newspapers to publish the story of the Dachau massacre was the Boston Globe.
The main character in the movie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, lives in Boston; he was involved in the “Dachau massacre,” that is shown in the flashback in the movie.
The photo above shows a scene from the movie Shutter Island which depicts the corpses found on the 39 cars of the “death train” at Dachau. In the movie, there is only one railroad car. This fictitious scene resembles the real photos of the train, combined with real photos of the pile of corpses found outside the crematorium at Dachau.
Note what appears to be barbed wire in the photo, which indicates that the train in the movie was parked inside the Dachau concentration camp enclosure; the real-life “death train” was partly inside, and partly outside, the SS garrison, which was next door to the concentration camp.
The regular guards at Dachau had all fled from the camp the night before the Americans arrived and there was no one to take care of the dead bodies. There was a typhus epidemic in the Dachau camp and 400 prisoners were dying each day from the disease.
There were no naked corpses piled up outside the “death train.” There were only a few bodies on the ground beside the train, as shown in the photo above.
The horrible scene of the “death train” was what prompted American soldiers of the 45th Infantry Division to kill Hungarian Waffen-SS soldiers who had been sent directly from the battlefield, wearing their camouflage uniforms, to surrender the Dachau camp.
The 45th Thunderbird Division soldiers, who executed the “500 Krauts,” had come upon the abandoned train of 39 railroad cars just before they entered the SS training camp through the railroad gate on the west side of the Dachau SS complex.
When the photo above was published, the caption read as follows:
“SC 208765. Soldiers of the 45th Infantry Div., U.S. Seventh Army, order SS men to come forward after one of their number tried to escape from the Dachau, Germany, concentration camp after it was liberated by U.S. forces. Men on the ground in background feign death by falling as the guards fired a volley at the fleeing SS men. 157th Reg. 4/29/45.”
This caption is a total lie. The soldiers were not trying to escape; they remained standing with their hands in the air until Lt. Col. Felix Sparks ordered the execution to stop. Some of them were wounded Wehrmacht soldiers who had been dragged out of an Army hospital at the Dachau garrison.
The American liberators allowed the prisoners to kill the guards and mutilate the bodies. Note the German guard in the photo above with his pants pulled down.
The photo above shows 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker surrendering the Dachau camp to Brig. Gen. Henning Linden of the 42nd Rainbow Division while Red Cross representative Victor Maurer holds a white flag of surrender.
Note that Wicker’s face is scarred; after he was wounded in battle on the Eastern front, Wicker was transferred to Dachau to work as a guard. Wicker was killed, but no one knows whether he was killed by the liberated prisoners or executed by the American soldiers. His family was never notified of his death.
2nd Lt. Wicker had been persuaded by Victor Maurer to stay behind when the other guards left the camp. He had been away from the camp and had only recently arrived, leading a group of prisoners from one of the sub-camps to the main Dachau camp.