German Chancellor Angela Merkel is being heavily criticized in the press because she combined a trip to the Dachau Memorial Site with a trip to the town of Dachau in connection with her re-election campaign. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with that. If she had gone to the town, and NOT visited the former camp, she would have been criticized even more.
In one news story, which you can read in full here, a former Dachau prisoner defends Chancellor Merkel:
Jean Samuel, a French resistance fighter held at Dachau from July 1944 until the camp’s liberation in April 1945, said that regardless of Merkel’s campaign schedule the gesture was important.
“We are fighting for the duty to remember so I hope that is also why she came,” he told AFP at the ceremony.
As a “French resistance fighter,” Jean Samuel was an illegal combatant, who could have been executed because he was in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1929. You can read about the history of the French resistance on my website here. Jean Samuel was most likely a prisoner at the Natzweiler camp, which was the main camp for French resistance fighters, before he was transferred to Dachau.
The photo below shows some of the French Resistance fighters, who were prisoners at Dachau.
Notice that one of the French Resistance fighters at Dachau was given a jacket that is two sizes too small. This is just one of the many ways that prisoners at Dachau were tortured. At least, he has a cigarette in his hand. The photo below shows another photo of the resistance fighters at Dachau, including one man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. Could this be the same man?
The photo above shows some of the members of the International Committee of Dachau, an organization that was in charge of the Dachau camp when it was liberated. The second man from the left, who is wearing a cardigan sweater and a coat, appears to be Albert Guérisse, a British SOE agent from Belgium, who was hiding his identity by using the name Patrick O’Leary.
Guérisse was one of five British SOE agents who had survived the Nazi concentration camps at Mauthausen in Austria and Natzweiler in Alsace before being transferred to Dachau. On the day that the Dachau camp was liberated, Guérisse greeted Lt. William P. Walsh and 1st Lt. Jack Bushyhead of the 45th Infantry Division and took them on a tour of the camp, showing them the gas chambers and the ovens in the crematorium.
After Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, the official report of the US Seventh Army was printed as a book entitled Dachau Liberated: The Official Report by The U.S. Seventh Army, Released Within Days of the Camp’s Liberation by Elements of the 42nd and 45th Divisions. The Report was based on two days of interviewing 20 political prisoners at Dachau; the prisoners told the Americans that both the shower room and the four disinfection chambers were used as homicidal gas chambers.
The following quote is from The Official Report:
“When the American troops arrived on 29 April 1945, there were approximately 32,500 estimated internees of all nationalities, the Poles predominating. During this period, the camp was notorious for its cruelty, but within the last six or eight months, some ‘token’ improvement was noted in the treatment of the internees. However, the new crematorium was completed in May 1944, and the gas chambers, a total of five, were used for the executions and the disposals of the bodies.”
I applaud Jean Samuel for defending Chancellor Merkel. It’s the least he could do to thank the Germans for not executing him, as they could have legally done, since he had been fighting in World War II as an illegal combatant.
In order to understand the story of the French Resistance, with regard to Dachau, you can read about the long and complicated case of General Charles Delestraint on my web site at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/GeneralDelestraint.html