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April 27, 2013

“Dachau Liberation reprisals” — another term for the “Dachau Massacre”

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 7:19 am
SS soldier who was killed in the "Dachau reprisal"

SS soldier who was killed in the “Dachau Liberation reprisals”

The term “Dachau Massacre” is frequently used to mean the killing of SS soldiers during the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, by American troops, on April 29, 1945.  There are photos of the dead SS soldiers, yet Wikipedia states that “American soldiers allegedly wounded and killed German camp guards and German prisoners of war” on a page with the title Dachau Liberation reprisals.  You can read all about the Dachau Massacre on my web site here.

The Geneva Convention of 1949, which is currently in effect, states that the principle of the prohibition of reprisals against persons has now become part of international law in respect to all persons, whether they are members of the armed forces or civilians.

According to international law during World War II, under the Geneva Convention of 1929, it was legal to violate the laws of war by responding with a reprisal against civilians in order to stop guerrilla actions that were against international law.   It was NOT legal under the Geneva Convention of 1929 to kill Prisoners of War in a reprisal. 

In plain words, it was a war crime for American soldiers to shoot German Prisoners of War at Dachau in a reprisal.  The title of the Wikipedia article should be “Dachau Liberation war crimes.”

This quote is from the Wikipedia article about the “Dachau Liberation reprisals”:

The Dachau liberation reprisals were a series of killings of German camp guards and German prisoners of war from the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945, during World War II. Following the prisoners’ liberation by American soldiers from 45th Infantry Division of the U.S. Seventh Army, American soldiers allegedly wounded and killed German camp guards and German prisoners of war. The number of victims differs widely by account, though the estimated death toll stands at 123.[1] Other camp guards were killed and tortured by former inmates.

The reprisals occurred after the U.S. 45th Infantry Division entered the Dachau concentration camp. Before the soldiers entered the camp, they found outside 40 roofless boxcars (or freight-cars) full of emaciated dead bodies in advanced stages of decomposition.[2][3] More bodies were found about the camp. Some had been dead for hours and days before the camp’s capture and lay where they had died. Soldiers reported seeing a row of cement structures that contained rooms full of hundreds of naked and barely clothed dead bodies piled floor to ceiling, a coal-fired crematorium and a gas chamber.[1]

In American railroad terminology, roofless boxcars are called gondola cars.  The cars on the death train found at Dachau were Italian cars, as shown in the photo below.

Line of cars on the "death train" found at Dachau

Line of cars on the “death train” found at Dachau

This quote, from the words of Private John Lee, a soldier in the 45th Division, is at the top of my website page about the death train which you can read in full here:

“These people were stuffed in these cars. The cars had bullet holes all over them, evidently from strafing on the way to Dachau. Most of the GIs just stood there in silence and disbelief. We had seen men in battle blown apart, burnt to death, and die many different ways, but we were never prepared for this. Several of the dead lay there with their eyes open, a picture I will never get out of my mind. It seems they were looking at us and saying, ‘What took you so long?'” 

The prisoners on the Death Train had been brought to Dachau from the Buchenwald camp, in order to prevent them from being released by the American liberators.  There was a fear that the prisoners might go to the nearby city of Weimar and attack German civilians if they were released.

Hans Merbach was the 35-year-old SS man who was assigned to supervise the evacuation of Buchenwald prisoners to Dachau. The train had left the Weimar station near Buchenwald on April 8, 1945 and didn’t arrive at Dachau until almost three weeks later. The train was delayed because of Allied bombing of the railroad tracks.

Martin Rosenfeld, one of the prisoners on the death train who survived, testified at the trial of Hans Merbach that the train was strafed by Allied planes on the way and that the prisoners were forced to stay in the open boxcars, while the SS men took cover in the woods. Rosenfeld’s testimony was quoted by Joshua M. Greene in his book Justice at Dachau. Other survivors of the Death Train testified that Merbach had shot dying prisoners and prisoners who had been wounded by American bullets.

It is understandable that the American liberators were upset when they saw the dead bodies on the train, but they should not have committed a war crime by shooting the SS men in the Dachau training camp who had nothing to do with the train.  They should not have shot SS guards who had surrendered and had their hands in the air.  Wounded Wehrmacht soldiers should not have been dragged out of a hospital at Dachau and shot; this was a war crime that should not be covered up by calling it a reprisal.

You can read about the Dachau trial of Hans Merbach on my website here.


  1. There were three American divisions who reached Dachau at about the same time, creating considerable confusion. In order of arrival time, they were the 20th Armored Division, the 42d Inf. Div and the 45th Inf. Div. According to an eye witness, it was not the 45th Inf Div that was involved in the shootings. It was members of the 42d Inf Div. The final decision to not press charges was made by Gen. Patton.

    Comment by Ron Everett — November 23, 2015 @ 12:48 pm

  2. “The term “Dachau Massacre” is frequently used to mean the killing of SS soldiers during the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, by American troops, on April 29, 1945. ”

    Aw, poor babies. They deserved it. I’m glad they were killed and I would have done it myself. You’re a fucked up person.

    Comment by Jon Hendry — June 25, 2015 @ 3:22 am

  3. Private John Lee wrote: “These people were stuffed in these cars. The cars had bullet holes all over them, evidently from strafing on the way to Dachau.”

    Where are those bullet holes? I’ve seen many pics of the famous “Death train” and I haven’t seen any bullet hole in those train cars or in the dead bodies found in those cars. Can someone show me one of those bullet holes?

    Comment by hermie — April 28, 2013 @ 8:06 am

    • The bullet holes would have been in the roof of the cars, but most of the cars on the train had no roof. The third photo on this page of my website might have some bullet holes:

      The photos on this page might show some bullet holes:

      The second photo on the page cited above shows young boys in the Hitler Youth who were brought to the camp and shown the bodies of SS men who were brought to the train and killed by Americans.

      The strafing of the train was mentioned by prisoners who were witnesses at the trial of the SS man who was in charge of the train.

      Are you claiming that the train was not strafed by American planes?

      Comment by furtherglory — April 28, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

      • I’m not claiming that the train was not strafed by American planes. But I’m claiming I don’t see any evidence it was. The strafing of the train was maybe mentionned by prisoners, but words are only words. So many lies have been told about that war that I need more than doubtful ‘testimonies’. The photos you’ve pointed are not compelling to me. They don’t seem compelling to you either (you wrote “might” twice). Anyway those cars are far from having “bullet holes all over them” as ‘reported’ by some GIs. All I see is cars full of dead bodies exhausted by typhus, undeliberate starvation and a too long travel through devastated Germany.

        Comment by hermie — April 29, 2013 @ 3:42 am

        • The photos of the train were taken by American soldiers and American newspaper reporters. They would not have made a point of showing a car riddled with bullets. However, at least one American soldier, John Lee, talked about the train having been strafed. There was testimony, given by a Jewish prisoner, at the trial of the man in charge of the train that the train had been strafed.

          Notice that the photos show a lot of blankets wrapped around the dead prisoners. Other photos show buckets in the car — for water and other purposes. The trip was only expected to be 220 miles, but it took more than 3 weeks. What if these prisoners had not been taken out of the Buchenwald camp? What kind of damage would they have done to the civilians in Weimar? Keep in mind that Elie Wiesel wrote about the Jews going to Weimar to rape and pillage. The purpose of taking these Jews to Dachau was to delay attacks on civilians when the camps were liberated.

          Comment by furtherglory — April 29, 2013 @ 7:26 am

          • FG wrote: “The photos of the train were taken by American soldiers and American newspaper reporters. They would not have made a point of showing a car riddled with bullets.”

            Unless it was planned to say the SS had shot the prisoners in the cars…what was done if I remember correctly. Weren’t the SS having shot the prisoners of the “death train” supposed to justify the GIs’ anger and the execution of the camp guards?

            Comment by hermie — April 29, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

            • The story, that SS men who had surrendered inside the SS garrison, were taken to the train and shot, was not known until 40 years later. If I recall correctly, I think that it was the Boston Globe newspaper which first revealed the story of the Dachau Massacre. I was one of the first webmasters to put the story of the death train up on a website, before blogging was invented. The first stories about the train DID claim that the SS had shot prisoners in the cars because they were trying to escape.

              In fact, prisoners who tried to escape while the train was on its way to Dachau WERE shot. The whole purpose, of taking the prisoners out of the Buchenwald camp and bringing them to Dachau, was to prevent them from attacking civilians after the camps were liberated. When the “death train” arrived at Dachau, the prisoners who were still alive were brought inside the camp. The dead prisoners were left on the train; there was no coal to burn the bodies. The regular SS guards were preparing to leave the camp because they knew that they might be killed by the liberators. There were so many people dying of typhus in the camp that there were not enough workers to dispose of the bodies.

              The execution of the camp guards, and other soldiers stationed at the Dachau garrison, was justified by the discovery of the dead prisoners on the train. The executioners didn’t bother to ask questions. Some of the 45th Division soldiers thought that the “death train” was a train load of dead bodies that had been brought to Dachau for burning or burial. There was another train, inside the SS garrison, which was empty; this train had brought prisoners to Dachau and they had survived because their train had not been strafed.

              The “Dachau Massacre” took place BEFORE the 45th Division soldiers saw the concentration camp which was INSIDE the Dachau complex. So the justification for the first killing of German soldiers at Dachau was the “death train.”

              Comment by furtherglory — April 30, 2013 @ 7:35 am

  4. The United Soviet of America together with Soviet Britain and Soviet Russia, had absolutely no interest in the Geneva Convention or The Articles of War, and any degree of genocide was acceptable to the Soviet Communist Alliance of Soviet Britain, Soviet Russia and Soviet America (The “Axis of Evil”), to further their agenda for a Global Communist World Order; and the present “Axis of Evil:” Soviet America, Soviet Britain and Soviet Israel are no different in this respect, with a United Communist Nations to “rubber stamp” any atrocity committed by this alliance.
    Even if the United Communist Nations does investigate acts of genocide by the above alliance and their partners, they can rest assured that they will never be prosecuted for war crimes. The “Axis of Evil” is its own “Geneva Convention” of death and genocide with its own agenda either for the complete enslavement of the planet or the complete destruction of the planet as the supreme triumph of Satan: Natsa Tasna Asnat Tansa Naats Atans Atan Aton Saant Sanat Aten Tanas Tasan Antsa Astan Aants Nasta Natas Anast Tsaan: over GOD THE DIVINE CREATOR. Zionism and Satan are to my way of thinking, one and the same. John-Joseph: Saintclair (Jomi)

    Comment by John-Joseph:Saintclair — April 27, 2013 @ 9:38 am

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