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March 30, 2011

The urns used for ashes at Dachau and other concentration camps

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:06 am

This morning, I was looking at the blog of a former German soldier which you can read here.  He mentioned the clay pots, which resembled flower pots, that the Germans used for the ashes of the prisoners who were cremated at Dachau.  Hundreds of these pots were found at Dachau by the American liberators, but for some reason, the pots are nowhere to be seen now.  A picture is worth a thousand words, so I thought I would show you what the urns found at Buchenwald and Natzweiler looked like.

Clay pots for the ashes of prisoners who were cremated

According to stories that I have read, the clay pots at Dachau were red, just like the pots shown in the photo above; I took this photo at the Natzweiler Memorial site at Natzweiler in Alsace, which is now in France.

The photo below shows urns that are displayed at Buchenwald.  What happened to the urns found at Dachau?  Were they just thrown out?

Clay urns found at the Buchenwald concentration camp

Before October 1944, the bodies of prisoners who died in the Dachau concentration camp were either buried in the Old Cemetery in the town of Dachau or they were cremated in the double oven of the old crematorium or the four ovens inside Baracke X, the new crematorium. When the American Seventh Army liberated Dachau, the inmates told them clay pots were used to send the ashes to the relatives. Only the ashes of German prisoners were sent to the families, and only if the relatives paid a small fee.

After October 1944, when the supply of coal ran out, the Dachau victims of the typhus epidemic were buried on the hill called Leitenberg, which is a few miles from the camp.

As you enter the gate into the crematoria area at Dachau, you will see straight ahead of you, behind the crematorium building, the location where the ashes of thousands of unknown victims at the Dachau camp were buried. The photo below shows a small monument, which stands at the back of the mass grave. The monument has three tiers with a star of David in the middle and a Menorah on top. The marker in the foreground says “Grave of thousands of unknown.” A path to your right leads into the woods where there are other mass graves of the ashes of prisoners who died at Dachau.

Grave of ashes for Jewish victims at Dachau

The photo below shows the grave of ashes for non-Jewish prisoners at Dachau.

The photo above is deep into the woods that are north of the crematorium at Dachau. Just before you enter the woods, you will see the grave of ashes that is shown in the photo below.

Grave of ashes at Dachau Memorial site

The photo below show the fourth and last grave of ashes at Dachau.

Site of ashes buried at Dachau Memorial site

Curiously, there are no graves or ash pits where the bodies of German soldiers, who may have died in the War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 at Dachau, were buried.  The burial place for the bodies and/or ashes of more than 500 German soldiers who were killed in the Dachau Massacre is unknown.


  1. 10 lbs. tops is what I heard for a torched body. The urns are usually where the weight came from. However I don’t think the clay urns would weigh that much. Here’s one group of people that are totally hated by another group. What don’t jive is why the Krauts would be considerate enough to put each individual jew in their own urn and carefully shelve them. I would expect they would’ve tossed ’em. Put em in a garbage can and dump em at the end of the day. If I despised someone that bad,I aint gonna give a damn about respecting their asses. It’s kinda like Typhoid Mary was making her rounds. What did the Krauts do with the sick jews? Sent em to the hospital. Yeah,that for sure seems like the trait of “mass murderers”

    Comment by Tim — June 21, 2015 @ 12:18 pm

  2. I collected a couple urns while stationed in Germany. The locals used them for mixing plaster and sold them cheap.

    Comment by Molly Stair Meredith — February 26, 2013 @ 7:58 pm

  3. Further Glory and Herb,
    I have read somewhere that the normal cremation of an adult human body would have left about 18 lbs of ashes and crashed bones. We have cremated our family cat just few months ago (at the cost of $156, by the way), and received about three quarters of a pound of ashes and crashed bones. The clay urns, which are shown on the photos, do not appear as capable of accepting the volume of 18 pounds of ashes. Those urns appears as serving more commemorative or symbolical purpose. They could be easily personalized.
    What I am trying to say, is that the urns could be given to the families of the deceased and consequently cremated inmates for a proper burial. The cremation process could be prohibitively expensive because of the fuel cost. In India, they are using pure ghee for that purpose and lots of it.
    Was it possible that the urns were used for symbolical purposes and given to the families after an inmate would die? Don’t you think that Dachau administration would give only portion of the “output” of the crematorium ovens. I don’t see how 18 or even 10 pound could be put in those urns.
    Best regards to both of you.

    Comment by Gasan — March 30, 2011 @ 9:01 pm

  4. I did mention in my blog that I had noticed a total of six dog type kennels in 1946 when I first saw the Dachau crematorium filled what I thought were flower pots and I was curious to find out from inmates if they had had so much leiser time to decorate their window sills of the barracks.The answer was, oh no, we scaped the ashes into them after the ovens had cooled down and dumped them somewhere around the crematorium.

    I only know only of one occasion when an SS-man had picked up the ashes of his comrade (in a cigar box)that was in the Strafkompanie(SS-penal company) seperate from inmates,that he allegedly had died of pneumonia.

    Hans Linberger will tell you privatly and in confidence that he thinks that the Americans burried the 500 SS-guards after the masscre what is now a golf course within in the camp,but he has no proof of it.

    I have never seen the memorial site as it is now,nor do I wish to.

    Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — March 30, 2011 @ 5:45 pm

    • Cigar box. I could go for that. Put my ashes in a Monte Cristo or Cohiba box when I die.

      Comment by Tim — June 21, 2015 @ 12:21 pm

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