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December 20, 2010

Why did the SS leave a gas chamber for the American liberators to find at Dachau?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: — furtherglory @ 3:42 pm

For years, I wondered why the staff at the Dachau concentration camp had left behind a gas chamber when they escaped the night before the American liberators arrived.  The Americans had already found the Ohrdruf sub-camp of Buchenwald on April 4, 1945 and the main Buchenwald camp on April 11, 1945.  Bergen-Belsen had been turned over to the British on April 15, 1945.  There had been plenty of time to blow up the Dachau gas chamber before the Americans arrived on April 29, 1945.  So why did the SS men leave evidence of war crimes behind for the Americans to find?

The fact that the acting Commandant, Martin Gottfried Weiss, and his men escaped before the Americans got there means that they were expecting to be charged with war crimes, or maybe even shot without being put on trial.  So why did they leave evidence behind?

I finally learned the answer to this question a couple of years ago, and the answer may surprise you.  

The SS didn’t just run away and leave incriminating evidence behind.  No, they weren’t that stupid.  Here’s what really happened:

Sgt. Scott Corbett, a correspondent for the official 42nd Division newspaper, who was at Dachau on the day it was liberated, wrote that the SS staff had set a time bomb to blow up the gas chamber after they left the camp on April 28th, the day before the American liberators arrived.  The Americans got there just in time to cut the wires.

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.

Dachau morgue has drain for the blood

The photo above shows the bodies stacked like cordwood in the room next to the ovens, and the drain for the blood.

Sgt. Corbett was already very well informed about the German war crimes since he knew that the SS had previously destroyed the gas chamber evidence at Auschwitz after they abandoned the camp in January 1945.  The Germans left Auschwitz on January 18, 1945 and the first gas chamber was blown up on January 20, 1945, possibly with a time bomb set to go off after they left.

What would have happened if these brave American soldiers had not had the good sense to look for a time bomb and cut the wires in time.  There could have been an explosion that would have killed hundreds of American soldiers, as well as the Dachau prisoners.  Tourists would be looking at the ruins instead of being able to stand inside the gas chamber.

Most of the tour guides at Dachau now tell visitors that the Dachau gas chamber was used a few times for gassing small groups of prisoners, although not for “mass gassing.”   Some of the Dachau tour guides tell visitors that Dr. Sigmund Rascher experimented with gassing prisoners in the Dachau gas chamber.  What they don’t tell visitors, as far as I know, is that the gas chamber evidence was saved in the nick of time by the American liberators.


  1. […] time in the gas chambers of the Holocaust.  I didn’t question this, until I finally saw the gas chamber at Dachau in […]

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  2. […] with bodies, presumably the bodies of prisoners who had just been gassed.  I previously blogged here about how the Nazis had set a time bomb to blow up the Dachau gas […]

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  3. […] I previously blogged about why the Dachau gas chamber was not blown up. […]

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  4. loved the flashing burger advert in the middle of the page… i felt really peckish after that picture of corpses…
    i expect you’ll be turning a pretty penny on that one, you shrewd devil 😉

    Comment by slarty bartvarst — February 27, 2012 @ 12:18 pm

    • I do not make any money off the ads on my blog. It is wordpress that rakes in the money from my blog. On my Macintosh computer, using Firefox, I do not even see the ads. On my old IBM computer, I can see the ads. I don’t approve of making money off the Holocaust and I have never made a dime from my website or blog.

      Comment by furtherglory — February 27, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

  5. To put everyones mind at rest be assured that the gas chamber was never operational, no gassing of inmates ever took place in Dachau there were no reason what-so-ever to lay a time bomb or other means of destruction. I lived inside the camp for a number of years and met inmates that stayed on, even for them this question of gassing was always something of a joke.Nearly all high ranking SS personal including their families had been evacuated to Tyrol-Austria just in time. The so called guards left in charge were mainly recuperating from war wounds assigned to light duty and about 500 of them paid the price for others during the massacre on the concrete wall inside the old coal bunker.Their burial grounds has never been acknowledged, however my infomant believes the Americans burried them at their Golf Course behind the Hospital
    Herbert Stolpmann-Auckland New Zealand

    Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — January 13, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

    • What the hell is wrong with you? Those who were brutally murdered in Dachu were not buried in a golf course. I don’t know where the hell you go this skewed information, but there were gassings and mass murder at Dachu.

      Comment by Hazel — January 6, 2012 @ 10:56 am

      • Mr. Stolpmann was referring to the German soldiers who were killed in the “Dachau massacre” by the American liberators. This was kept secret by the American Army for over 40 years; the bodies were buried and the German people were forbidden to look for the bodies.

        Comment by furtherglory — January 6, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

  6. It my understanding that there were only mechanical clocks at that time. They have a span of 12 hours. Probably, there could be some sophisticated clocks with 24 hours span. Have you seen those at your local TARGET stores? Probably not. And I doubt that those were available for Dachau personnel to set up the time bomb.

    Comment by Gasan — December 21, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

    • I didn’t know this and probably the guy who made up this story didn’t know it either. I am very impressed with the extent of your knowledge.

      Comment by furtherglory — December 22, 2010 @ 5:59 am

  7. A time bomb, huh!
    And what type of timer was used that would set up an explosion more than 12 hours after? The 20 miles long detonating cord or just a regular clock? The last one could not be set for more that 11 hours and 59 minutes. What time the Germans left on April 28 and at what time the Americans arrived next day? Was it less than 12 hours in between? And what timer was used in Auschwitz which has triggered the explosion 12 days later?

    Comment by Gasan — December 20, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

    • The regular guards left Dachau on the night of April 28th. I don’t know the exact time, but let’s say it was around 8 p.m. The soldiers in the 42nd Division arrived at Dachau around 3 p.m. on April 29th, so it was more than 12 hours later.

      I don’t know how the gas chambers were blown up at Auschwitz; I was merely speculating that it might have been by time bombs. I didn’t know that the time frame for a time bomb was so short.

      The Germans left Auschwitz on January 18, 1945 and two of the gas chambers were blown up on January 20th, two days later. Russian soldiers were in the area on January 17th but they didn’t liberate the camp until January 27th. The last gas chamber at Auschwitz was blown up on January 26, 1945. So the Germans apparently came back to the camp twice to blow up the gas chambers. The Auschwitz gas chambers couldn’t possibly have been blown up by the Russians, who would never have destroyed evidence.

      As for Dachau, the American liberators were led to the gas chamber by the prisoners. I don’t know where the time bomb was located or how the American soldiers found it.

      Comment by furtherglory — December 20, 2010 @ 10:08 pm

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