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May 1, 2011

New book tells about German civilians killing prisoners who were on the death march out of Dachau

Jewish prisoners and Russian POWs march out of Dachau

On April 26, 1945, three days before the Dachau concentration camp was liberated by American troops, 6,887 prisoners were marched out of the camp.  On that same day, the Commandant of Dachau, Wilhelm Eduard Weiter, left the camp with a transport of prominent Dachau prisoners bound for Schloss Itter, a sub-camp of Dachau in Austria. Also on that day, 1,759 Jewish prisoners were put on a train and evacuated out of the Dachau camp.

A new book entitled  The Death Marches: The Final Phase of Nazi Genocide, written by Daniel Blatman, has just been published in Germany. Blatman’s book tells about German civilians killing some of the Jewish prisoners on the march out of Dachau and on other death marches.

According to an article on the Spiegel Online website, “The book addresses the broader issue of the death marches of concentration camp prisoners in 1944 and 1945, during the waning months of the war.”  

The death march out of Dachau went through several small towns in Bavaria

This quote is from the Spiegel Online article which you can read here:

Blatman, a historian at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, comes to an unsettling conclusion about the last phase of the Nazi mass murders: “The more the war approached its end, and the more obvious the prisoners’ presence in the midst of the German population became, the more regularly German civilians participated.”

Those civilians included government and local officials, members of the Nazi Party and the Hitler Youth, as well as local residents. They abused or killed large numbers of those who, in the last stage of their lives filled with suffering, were forced on marches or had spent days being transported across Germany in overfilled freight cars.

At least 250,000 former prisoners lost their lives on death marches between January and May 1945. Their graves line roads in parts of Lower Saxony, Bavaria and Mecklenburg, and in almost all of the places where the Nazis had built their camps.

Sculpture in Dachau Museum depicts Dachau death march

This quote from Spiegel Online tells why Blatman believes that German civilians participated in killing the prisoners who were marched out of the camps:

There is no historical evidence that anyone at the very top, such as Hitler or SS chief Heinrich Himmler, gave the orders to liquidate the camps. The last weeks of the war were characterized by a gradual breakdown of administrative order. The jurisdiction over the groups of prisoners being forced to march around the country changed in rapid succession, and many local officials acted on their own authority when deciding what to do with the prisoners.

But why did so many officials behave with such brutality, and why did ordinary civilians become involved, when it was already clear that the Nazis’ “final victory” was a fantasy?

To answer this question, Blatman cites the example of the guards, a group of people who had become merciless sadists over the years. The concentration camp guards saw themselves as frontline soldiers against the enemy within, and as defenders of the Aryan race and the superior nation. Now that they were no longer working in the camps, they continued their mission, except that they were relieved of their prescribed routines. Worried about being caught by the Allied soldiers in the company of bands of walking skeletons, they chose to kill the potential witnesses instead.


  1. Here is an Iranian documentary “Merchants of the Myth” with English subtitles. The people are waking up.
    Enough said.

    Comment by Gasan — May 3, 2011 @ 10:13 pm

  2. I was hoping the government of Poland would proceed with their slander suit against Princeton professor Jan T. Gross but, of course, that was hoping for too much. The Invisible Hand intervened, news about the suit disappeared from the wire services and Polish historians and the public never got their day in court. Someone in Germany should subpoena Daniel Goldhagen. But instead his odious defamations are rewarded with more academic honors.

    Comment by who+dares+wings — May 1, 2011 @ 9:31 pm

    • I have read the book by professor Jan T. Gross. Before he wrote this book,it was generally believed that it was the Germans who killed the Jews in Jedwabne.

      I have tried several times to read Goldhagen’s book all the way through. Each time, I had to stop. His book is the most boring book that I have ever encountered. Not only is the book totally boring, the basic premise of the book, which was his Harvard doctorate thesis, is wrong.

      Comment by furtherglory — May 2, 2011 @ 8:28 am

  3. Rest assured that German citizens even today would drop everything and attack columns of Jews if it weren’t for decent and more evolved professors like Daniel Blatman using the lessons of history to separate that wretched nation from its beastliness.

    Comment by who+dares+wings — May 1, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

    • Here is a quote from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum web site about Daniel Blatman:

      “For his exceptional scholarly work, Dr. Blatman was awarded a four-year grant from the Israel Science Foundation to conduct research on “The Death Marches and the Evacuation of the Concentration Camps, January-May 1945.”

      Since he was financed by the Israel Science Foundation, Dr. Blatman’s book might be just a little bit biased.

      The USHMM web site mentioned his work on the subject of the Gardelegen massacre:

      “Dr. Blatman conducted a case study of a massacre of approximately 1,400 Jewish survivors of the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp near Gardelegen, Germany in April 1945. He explored the complex social and political situation in Germany in the last weeks of the war and the motivational factors that led ordinary citizens of Gardelegen to independently initiate this massacre. Dr. Blatman attempted to synthesize the social history of Nazi perpetrators with theories associated with contemporary genocide and genocidal massacre.”

      I have a page on my web site about the motivational factors that led ordinary citizens of Gardelegen to perpetrate the Gardelegen massacre:

      Comment by furtherglory — May 1, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

  4. I found an interesting review of the book by Timothy Snyder at I found the comments on the review also worth a look. Snyder’s perspective generally is interesting when so much attention is focused on Auschwitz.

    Comment by Ethelred — May 1, 2011 @ 1:23 pm

    • I read the review on the link that you gave and found this statement:

      “Mr. Blatman’s subject is the fate of these prisoners as various camps were dissolved near the end of the war. Because the laborers were regarded as units of economic utility, those who could be moved were transported west to work in the Reich as the Red Army approached.”

      When I wrote on my blog that the prisoners were transported west to work in the Reich as the Red Army approached, I was called a “Holocaust denier,” because the official story is that the prisoners were marched West in order to kill them so that they could not be witnesses to the atrocities at Auschwitz.

      Here is another quote from the review:

      “Prisoners marching through Germany and Austria were also now among civilians who didn’t scruple to kill them. As bombs fell and enemy armies approached, the haggard prisoners were seen by the locals as a security threat. They represented the populations that, according to Nazi propaganda, should be cleansed from Europe.”

      I don’t agree with this statement. I think that the German civilians were worried about being killed by the prisoners who escaped from the marches. It was not that “they represented the populations that should be cleansed from Europe.” On the contrary, the prisoners represented the populations that would rape and/or kill the German civilians if they got the chance. That’s why they were killed when they escaped the marches.

      Comment by furtherglory — May 1, 2011 @ 4:00 pm

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