I previously blogged here about the “death train” found by the American liberators of Dachau. Now a Holocaust survivor, Stephen Nasser, who is out on the lecture circuit talking to school children, has identified himself as the unconscious prisoner whose head is closest to the door on the left side of the picture. Nasser has written a book entitled My Brother’s Voice which is used in American schools; a Teacher’s Resource Guide is used to teach the children about the events described in Nasser’s book.
According to his book, Nasser was a Hungarian Jew who was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944 at the age of 13. Although it was the policy of the Nazis to gas everyone under the age of 15 at Birkenau, Stephen survived the selection process and later wound up in Mühldorf, a sub-camp of Dachau.
The following quote is from the Teacher’s Resource Guide (a pdf file) which shows a slightly different photo of the scene above:
When he was liberated by U.S. troops on April 30, 1945, he (Stephan Nasser) was discovered — unconscious — under a pile of bodies in a boxcar.
Caption: In this published news photo of American liberation of a Holocaust death train in 1945 at Seeshaupt, the caption said that in this boxcar alone sixty-four were dead. But Nasser believes one was alive. From the position he was lying when he passed out, and other evidence, he is 99 percent certain that he was the person lying with his head closet (sic) to the door.
The problem is that the photo, which is included in the Teacher’s Guide to Nasser’s book, shows the train that had brought prisoners to Dachau from the Buchenwald camp, not from the five Mühldorf sub-camps of Dachau. The train was discovered by American soldiers when they liberated Dachau on April 29, 1945, not on April 30th, as stated in the Teacher’s Resource Guide. Another “death train” went from one of the Mühldorf sub-camps to Seeshaupt, which was liberated by General Patton’s third army on April 30, 1945. This is not the train that is shown in the photo above.
According to the official Dachau report, compiled by the US Army after the camp was liberated, there were 31,432 survivors in the main Dachau camp, including 2,539 Jews who had been brought to the camp from the sub-camps just a few weeks before the liberators arrived. Most of the Jewish prisoners from the five sub-camps of Mühldorf had been evacuated to the main Dachau camp a few days earlier, accompanied by Mühldorf Commandant Martin Gottfried Weiss, who then became the acting Commandant of Dachau since the actual Commandant had left the camp.
You can read all about the “death train” from Buchenwald to Dachau on my website here.