Scrapbookpages Blog

February 28, 2010

The “accidental slaughter” of German soldiers at Dachau was “an unintended massacre”?

I previously blogged about the movie Shutter Island and the scenes of Dachau in these 3 posts:

I am blogging about the movie again because I was horrified when I read an article today on this website:

“As an American soldier during WWII, DiCaprio’s character is forced into some horrific scenes. These eventually lead to the accidental slaughter of a hundred SS officers. The unintended massacre plagues DiCaprio with guilt; but not too much: he still stands idly by while a Nazi commander botches a suicide attempt and bleeds to death, fully conscious.”

Waffen-SS soldiers surrendering at Dachau

Waffen-SS soldiers, who had come from the battlefield, still wearing their camouflage uniforms, to surrender the Dachau concentration camp, are shown in the photo above with their hands in the air. This scene was re-enacted in the movie Shutter Island.

The shooting of disarmed German soldiers during the liberation of Dachau was investigated by the Office of the Inspector General of the Seventh Army. Their report was finished on June 8, 1945 but was marked Secret. The report did not say anything about “the unintended massacre” of German soldiers, nor anything about German soldiers  being “accidentally slaughtered.”

German soldiers executed by American liberators of Dachau

A Waffen-SS soldier named Hans Linberger  survived the shooting at the wall, shown in the photo above.  He had been wounded in battle on the eastern front and, after a long hospital stay, he had arrived at the Dachau SS garrison on March 9, 1945 as a member of a Reserve Company. On April 9, 1945, the men of the Reserve Company were put into the hospital that was right next to the scene of the shooting. They had been so severely wounded that they were no longer fit for combat; Linberger had been wounded in battle four times and had lost an arm.

Hans Linberger was dragged out of the hospital and lined up against the wall to be executed, although he had absolutely nothing to do with the Dachau concentration camp that was next door to the SS garrison.

The photograph above is a still photo, taken by T/4 Arland B. Musser, 163rd Signal Photographic Company, US Seventh Army, on April 29, 1945, the day that the Dachau concentration camp was liberated. It shows 60 Waffen-SS soldiers on the ground, some wounded, some playing dead, and 17 dead, according to Flint Whitlock, historian for the 45th Thunderbird Division, who got this information from Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division of the US Seventh Army, the first unit to arrive at the Dachau camp.

In his book entitled Surrender of the Dachau Concentration Camp 29 April 1945, Col. John H. Linden of the 42nd Infantry Division identified the men in the photo above as follows:

“The second American soldier from the left is Bryant, whose first name is unknown, but whose nickname was “Bird Eye.” The third soldier from the left is Martin J. Sedler, and the man who is kneeling is William C. Curtain. All three of these men were with M Company of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment. The soldier at the extreme right is Pfc. John Lee of I Company.

The buildings in the background are inside the Dachau SS garrison where Waffen-SS troops were quartered; the building on the right is a hospital where a Reserve Company of crippled Waffen-SS soldiers, previously wounded in action, were quartered. The Waffen-SS was the elite volunteer Army which included many divisions from other countries, as well as German soldiers.

According to Col. John H. Linden’s account of the liberation of Dachau, T/3 Henry F. Gerzen, 163 Signal Photographic Company, was filming the shooting with a movie camera. A few frames of this movie, which survived the cover-up of the Dachau massacre, show Lt. Col. Felix Sparks firing his pistol into the air to stop the action shown in the photo above, which allegedly took place around noon.

In 1989, Lt. Col. Sparks wrote an account of the role of the 45th Infantry Division in the liberation of Dachau. His description of what happened at the wall, shown in the photo above, is as follows:

As I watched, about fifty German troops were brought in from various directions. A machine gun squad from Company I was guarding the prisoners. After watching for a few minutes, I started for the confinement area (the concentration camp), after taking directions from one of my soldiers. After I had walked away for a short distance, I heard the machine gun guarding the prisoners open fire. I immediately ran back to the gun and kicked the gunner off the gun with my boot. I then grabbed him by the collar and said: “What the hell are you doing?” He was a young private about 19 years old (Private William C. Curtin) and was crying hysterically. His reply to me was: “Colonel, they were trying to get away.” I doubt that they were, but in any event he killed about twelve of the prisoners and wounded several more. I placed a noncom on the gun and headed towards the confinement area.

The very first incident during which German Waffen-SS soldiers were killed at Dachau was perpetrated by 45th Infantry Division soldiers in the  3rd Battalion, 157th Regiment, I company, under the command of Lt. William P. Walsh; this shooting took place inside the SS garrison at Dachau before any Americans had reached the concentration camp.

According to Lt. Walsh, one of the men of I company shot a handsome SS officer because he had tried to make a break to escape, after he had surrendered. The name of this German soldier is unknown.

Then four more Waffen-SS soldiers in the Dachau garrison emerged with their hands up and surrendered to the men of I company.  Lt. Walsh herded the four SS soldiers into an empty railroad boxcar inside the camp and “emptied his pistol” into them, according to his own account.

There is considerable disagreement about what time the photo above was taken. According to Col. Howard A. Buechner, a medical officer in the 45th Division, the photo was taken at around 2:45 p.m. during a second action when 346 SS soldiers were allegedly killed. In his book, The Hour of the Avenger, Col. Buechner wrote that a second machine gun was located to the right, but out of camera range.

Lt. Jack Bushyhead was in charge of the second machine gun, which Col. Buechner says was set up on top of a bicycle shed. However, Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Regiment, has stated that the photo above depicts a shooting which occurred around noon and resulted in 17 deaths, according to his story.

This was not the only shooting that took place during the liberation of Dachau.  There were also SS guards in Tower B who had come down from the tower and surrendered, but were then killed in cold blood by the American liberators.

Tower B where SS guards at Dachau were shot

A dead SS guard at Dachau is pulled out of the moat

After the soldiers in Tower B were shot with their hands in the air, their dead bodies were then thrown into the moat on the west side of the camp, and the American liberators continued to shoot at them.

The U.S. Seventh Army IG report of the shooting of unarmed prisoners at Dachau has since been made public and a copy of it was reproduced in Col. John H. Linden’s book entitled Surrender of the Dachau Concentration Camp 29 April 1945.

Here are four paragraphs from the report which pertain to the shooting of the guards at Tower B:

11. After entry into the camp, personnel of the 42nd Division discovered the presence of guards, presumed to be SS men, in a tower to the left of the main gate of the inmate stockade. This tower was attacked by Tec 3 Henry J. Wells 39271327, Headquarters Military Intelligence Service, ETO, covered and aided by a party under Lt. Col. Walter J. Fellenz, 0-23055, 222 Infantry. No fire was delivered against them by the guards in the tower. A number of Germans were taken prisoner; after they were taken, and within a few feet of the tower, from which they were taken, they were shot and killed.

12. Considerable confusion exists in the testimony as to the particulars of this shooting; however Wells, German interrogator for the 222 Infantry, states that he had lined these Germans up in double rank, preparatory to moving them out; that he saw no threatening gesture; but that he shot into them after some other American soldiers, whose identities are unknown, started shooting them.

13. Lt. Colonel Fellenz was entering the door of the tower at the time of this shooting, took no part in it and testified that he could not have stopped it.

18. It is obvious that the Americans present when the guards were shot at the tower labored under much excitement. However Wells could speak German fluently, he knew no shots had been fired at him in his attack on the tower, he had these prisoners lined up, he saw no threatening gesture or act. It is felt that his shooting into them was entirely unwarranted; the whole incident smacks of execution similar to the other incidents described in this report.”

None of the American soldiers that killed the guards, who had surrendered at Dachau, were ever put on trial for violating the Geneva Convention. The regular guards and staff members had left the camp the night before, so they were not there for the massacre. The guards and staff members, who were captured after the camp was liberated, were prosecuted by an American Military Tribunal.  It wasn’t really a “trial,” because the men on trial were presumed to be guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around.

All of the guards and staff members of the Dachau camp were convicted of participating in a “common design” to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the Geneva Convention of 1929.

Some people have such hatred for the German people that they will go to any length to excuse the actions of the American soldiers at the liberation of Dachau, even though the German soldiers who were killed were not the regular guards in the camp.

Here is a quote from an e-mail that I received recently regarding the Dachau massacre:

I’m Jew (ich bin ein Jude), and it gave me a great deal of pleasure to see photos of German SS soldiers/guards murdered by American soldiers and liberated inmates.  How come you’re not happy?  Cheer up, people 🙂