Scrapbookpages Blog

November 4, 2011

Educating 6th graders about Dachau

An article on the website, which you can read in full here, has this headline:  South Hall 6th graders learn about the Holocaust.

This quote is from the article:

Fifty sixth graders at South Hall Middle School Thursday morning learned about the Holocaust of World War Two from someone who saw it first hand.

Retired army general Russel Weiskircher was a 20-year-old soldier when he helped liberate Dachau, the Nazi death camp, 66 years ago at the close of the war in Europe.

As vice chairman of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust, he said his mission is to educate, and encourage young people never to hate.


Weiskircher said most students he talks to have never heard of Dachau.

The Commission is a state agency that uses the lessons of the Holocaust to teach about injustice, stereotyping, discrimination and bigotry so that the Holocaust will never be repeated.

Why should 6th graders in America learn about Dachau?  Should 6th graders be taught that prisoners were sent to Dachau because of injustice, stereotyping, discrimination and bigotry?  Will teaching young children about Dachau cause them to love everybody, or will it teach them to hate the ethnic group that set up the Dachau camp?

Shouldn’t American students be learning about the internment camps in America, where Japanese-Americans and German-Americans were imprisoned?  Some say that the 4th Amendment rights of these American citizens were violated. The students could learn history and government at the same time, if they were taught about the American internment camps.

There has been a lot of news recently about the Japanese-American soldiers, who fought for America during World War II.  There are many claims by Japanese-American veterans that they liberated Dachau.  That can’t be right because Russell Weiskircher claims that he was among the liberators of Dachau, and he’s not Japanese-American.

Russell Weiskircher was a soldier in the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Thunderbird Division. This was the regiment that played a big role in the liberation of Dachau. In April 2007, Weiskircher spoke to students at a Catholic school in Georgia about what he saw at Dachau on April 29, 1945. This quote is from his speech:

“We were coming toward the camp and the first thing, this intense odor and then we saw bodies spewed over six acres.”

The 157th Infantry Regiment first entered the SS camp, next door to the concentration camp, and proceeded to kill the SS soldiers who had been sent to surrender the camp.  Did Weiskircher see the bodies of Hungarian and German soldiers, that were killed during the liberation, “spewed over six acres”?

I’ve been to Dachau several times and my estimate of the size of the concentration camp is that it is about 5 acres.  Other liberators have described the scene with the phrase “bodies stacked like cordwood,” but according to Weiskircher, the bodies at Dachau were “spewed over six acres.”

Weiskircher, who retired from the Army as a Brigadier General, was Vice President of the Georgia Holocaust Commission in 2007 when he gave the speech that I quoted above.

The following is a quote from Weiskircher’s speech which was published on April 21, 2007 on the website :

“A little girl, about six years old, crawled up to the barbed wire. And, all she knew was she used to have a mommy and her name was mommy,” he told the students.

“Her name was the number tattooed on her arm. She didn’t know her name.”

The fact that this child survivor had a number on her arm indicates that she had been previously registered at the Auschwitz death camp. She was Jewish because only Jews at Auschwitz were tattooed. When the Auschwitz camp was abandoned on January 18, 1945, the survivors, including women and children, were marched 37 miles through two feet of snow to the German border, and then sent by train to Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Dachau and other camps.

According to Holocaust historians, the Jews were “death marched” out of Auschwitz in order to kill them by marching and those who survived the march were then taken to camps like Dachau for the purpose of killing them.

Barbed wired fence and prison barracks  Photo Credit: Frederick Ludwikowski  Courtesy of Robert Thomas Gray, 14th Ordnance Co.

The photo above, taken after the liberation of Dachau, shows what the camp looked liked before the survivors rushed to the fence to greet the liberators.  The Dachau camp was surrounded by a wall on three sides; on the west side of the camp was a barbed wire fence with a ditch in front of it. Behind the ditch was a strip of grass which was off limits for the prisoners.  A few of the prisoners were killed instantly when they touched the fence before the electricity was turned off.  The little six-year-old girl could have been trampled to death by the rush to the fence, but apparently she survived.

Between the two barracks in the photo above can be seen three flags, including a British flag. There were several captured British SOE men at Dachau when it was liberated. On the right is Barrack 27, where Belgian political prisoners were housed in Room 4. Catholic priests also lived in Barrack 27, but they had already been released a few days before the Americans arrived.  Dachau was mainly a camp for political prisoners, particularly resistance fighters, who were fighting during World War II as illegal combatants.

Most Americans knew about the internment camps in America during World War II.  Eisenhower referred to the Nazi camps as “internment camps,” because that was the terminology that was familiar to Americans.

According to Wikipedia, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the internment camps in America with Executive Order 9066, issued February 19, 1942, which allowed local military commanders to designate “military areas” as “exclusion zones,” from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast, including all of California and most of Oregon and Washington, except for those in internment camps.

How many 6th graders in America know about our internment camps?  When I was in the 6th grade, I knew about the American camps, but I didn’t know anything about Dachau.  In my day, every 6th grader knew about the Bataan Death March, but nothing about Dachau.  How times have changed!

I did a google search to find out more about what Weiskircher teaches American 6th graders and found a video on this website.

Here is what I learned from the video:

1.  Weiskircher does not know how to pronounce the word Dachau correctly.

2.  The Dachau camp could be smelled from 2 kilometers away on a cold day when there were snow flurries.

3. Weiskircher didn’t know the size of the Dachau camp, but it was the size of two or three golf courses.

4.  The Dachau camp was “completely encircled by a moat.”  (The moat was only on one side of the camp. The “moat” was called the Würm river canal.)

Bridge over the Würm river canal on the west side of Dachau camp

5.  There were 42 box cars on a track just outside the camp, not 39 cars as most of the other American soldiers reported.  (no mention of the fact that many of the cars were gondola cars and the prisoners had been killed when American planes strafed the train)

6.  The prisoners at Dachau included “homosexuals, Gypsies, Seventh Day Adventists and Mormons.  (no mention of political prisoners who were captured while fighting as illegal combatants)

7.  The prisoners in the 42 box cars had been brought to Dachau because Dachau had crematories.  The prisoners from the train were “showered in the gas chamber” and then burned.  (Caution:  if you don’t believe that prisoners were brought to Dachau specifically for the purpose of killing them in the last days of the war, you will be labeled a “Holocaust denier.”)

8.  Prisoners were “worked to death” at Dachau. (The word typhus did not pass his lips during his talk to the students.)

Of course, Weiskircher didn’t tell the students about the atrocities committed by the Americans at Dachau.  (google Dachau massacre)

There is no law against lying and exaggerating about Dachau, but if Weiskircher had told the students the truth about Dachau, he would be in danger of spending 5 years in prison in Germany after rendition (the abduction and illegal transfer of a person from one nation to another) which was the fate of Germar Rudolf.

Who shot the lock off the Dachau gate when the camp was liberated by American soldiers?

Filed under: Dachau, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 5:33 am

Gate into Dachau was locked by a bar over the Arbeit Macht Frei sign on the door

Japanese-American soldiers who fought in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the U.S. Army are being honored this week for their service to their country.  This quote is from a news article which you can read in full here:

“Two of our [442nd] guys shot the locks off the [Dachau] compound to let the prisoners out, but they wouldn’t come out because they thought we were the Japanese army,” said [Virgil] Westdale.

The 442nd not only liberated the Dachau prisoners, but shared food and blankets with them and scrounged supplies from the neighboring German town.

“The misery we witnessed was unbelievable. Some of the guys snapped photos of the bodies stacked like cords of wood. We saw the gas chambers and the ovens, which were still hot when we arrived,” said Westdale in his book “Blue Skies and Thunder,” released in January 2010.

What lock? There was no lock on the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate into the concentration camp that needed to be shot off. The gate could be opened from the outside by removing a bar which locked it. The gate was wide enough for a truck to drive through it, but there was also a pedestrian door in the gate that could be opened without opening the whole gate. The pedestrian door could only be opened by remote control from inside the gatehouse. There were SS guards inside the gatehouse, waiting to surrender. Twelve SS men who were guarding the gate surrendered to 1st Lt. William J. Cowling, according to John H. Linden, the author of “Surrender of the Dachau Concentration Camp 29 Apr 45, the True Account.”

Gate into the Dachau Memorial site is the original gate into the camp

My photo of the gate into the Dachau concentration camp and the restraining bar which locked the entire gate is shown above. When the bar was removed and the whole gate was opened, the pedestrian gate was part of the right-hand half of the gate.    (more…)