Scrapbookpages Blog

August 6, 2010

The pile of clothes found at Dachau by the American liberators

This morning I read a blog which included a photo of a pile of clothing found by the American liberators at Dachau. I have this photo on my own web site here; the photo is shown below.

Pile of prisoners clothing found at the Dachau concentration camp, April 1945

I clicked on the photo on the blog and read this caption:

This pile of clothes belonged to prisoners of Dachau concentration camp, recently liberated by troops of the U.S. Seventh Army. Slave laborers were compelled to strip before they were killed. Germany, April 30, 1945. T4c. Sidney Blau. (Army) NARA FILE #: 111-SC-206193 WAR &  CONFLICT BOOK #: 1129

Sign at Dachau Memorial Site shows photo of pile of clothing

The blogger who put the photo of the clothing on his blog post had recently visited Dachau.  Apparently he didn’t notice the sign shown in the photo above.  This photo was taken by me several years ago; maybe the sign has been taken down since my visit.  Maybe the tour guides at Dachau are now telling visitors that the Jews were forced to strip and throw their clothes on a  pile before they were gassed.  But why gas the “slave laborers” at Dachau? Wouldn’t this defeat the purpose of having a slave labor camp?

When the American liberators arrived at Dachau on April 29, 1945, there were piles of prisoners clothing waiting to be deloused in the four disinfection chambers at the south end of the crematorium building. The photo of the clothing, shown above, which is  currently stored in the National Archives in Washington, DC, was printed in newspapers in 1945 with this caption:

Tattered clothes from prisoners who were forced to strip before they were killed, lay in huge piles in the infamous Dachau concentration camp.

There was a typhus epidemic in the Dachau camp and 900 prisoners at Dachau were dying of the disease when the liberators arrived, according to Marcus J. Smith. Smith was an Army doctor, who along with 9 others, formed Displaced Persons Team 115, which was sent to Dachau after the liberation. In his book entitled Dachau: The Harrowing of Hell, Smith wrote that eleven of the barracks buildings at the Dachau camp had been converted into a hospital to house the 4,205 sick prisoners. Another 3,866 prisoners were bed ridden.

Photo of a disinfection chamber door at Dachau, April 30, 1945

The photograph shown above was taken on April 30, 1945, the same day that the photo of the pile of clothing was taken.  It shows a US soldier standing in the open-air hallway in front of one of the doors into the four disinfection chambers. Clothes were hung on hangers, then placed inside the disinfection chambers and deloused with Zyklon-B. The US Army released the photograph shown above with a caption which said that this was the gas chamber for murdering the Dachau inmates.

Disinfected clothing was hung on hangers outside the disinfection chambers

The American liberators mistakenly assumed that the Jewish inmates at Dachau were forced to remove their clothes, then either hang them neatly on hangers outside the chambers or throw them onto a big pile of clothes, before entering the disinfection chambers to be killed with Zyklon-B.

I  also read this information on the blog:

Dachau wasn’t an Extermination Camp like Belsen. It had a gas chamber, but it was apparently only used “for experimental purposes”.

Belsen (Bergen-Belsen) was “an Extermination Camp?”  This is news to me. I visited Bergen-Belsen several years ago and wrote extensively about the camp; you can read all about Belsen here.  I wrote about the gas chamber at Belsen here.

Here is another quote from the same blog:

Although it wasn’t a Death Camp as such, there was a punishment block in which large numbers of people were murdered.

I must get back to Dachau to see the punishment block where large numbers of people were murdered. I missed this on the several trips that I made to Dachau.