Scrapbookpages Blog

October 2, 2013

American G.I. who saw the blood-stained walls of the Dachau gas chamber

Donald Burdick holds a photo which he took with a "liberated" German camera

Donald Burdick holds a photo which he took at Dachau, with a “liberated” German camera

The photo above shows Donald Burdick with a German 35 mm. Voigtländer camera around his neck, holding a photo of the Dachau death train, which he personally took on the day that the Dachau camp was liberated.

American soldiers liberated the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945, but before that, they had the good sense to liberate some German cameras, so that they could photograph the atrocities committed by the Germans at Dachau.

I have enhanced the photo that he is holding, using Photo Shop.  My enhanced version is shown below.

Photo taken by Donald Burdick at Dachau shows German soldiers who were killed by Lt. William Walsh

Photo taken by Donald Burdick at Dachau shows body hanging out of train boxcar

I previously blogged about the bodies found on the Dachau death train here, and I included the photo below which shows the body that is hanging out of the train.

American soldiers pose beside the bodies of SS soldiers who were shot by Lt. William Walsh at Dachau

American soldiers pose beside the bodies of SS soldiers who were shot by Lt. William Walsh

So why am I blogging about this for the umteenth time?  This morning I read a news article on the Leigh Valley newspaper, The Morning Call.

This quote is from The Morning Call:

As Donald Burdick of Forks Township approached the Dachau concentration camp in Germany on the morning of April 29, 1945, he caught the scent something foul in the air. It was a hint of the gruesome scene he was about to stumble upon: about 25 or so railroad stock cars filled with decaying human corpses.

Burdick’s personal photos of what he saw that day as a soldier in the U.S. Army were on display Sunday as part of “The Legacy Exhibit, The Story of the Holocaust.” Initially created for display at area school libraries, the exhibit was open to the public for the first time at the Sigal Museum in Easton.

The interior of Nazi concentration camps, including the blood-stained walls of gas chambers and ash-filled crematory ovens, is captured in the photos of Burdick and others. There are also the ghostly images of prisoners — some alive, practically standing skeletons; others dead, stacked in piles.

Burdick recalled the liberation of Dachau to an audience of about 100 at The Legacy Exhibit’s opening ceremony.

I would love to see Burdick’s photo of the “blood-stained walls of gas chambers” at Dachau.  (Was this an “available light” photo?  Or did Burdick have a flashgun on his “liberated” camera?)

The walls of the homicidal gas chamber at Dachau are glazed brick.  It would have been so easy to wipe down the walls of the gas chamber before the Americans arrived.

The Dachau gas chamber had walls made of glazed brick.

The Dachau gas chamber had walls made of glazed brick.

So why did the stupid Germans leave blood on the walls of the Dachau gas chamber?  Maybe for the same reason that they shot four of their own SS men and put their bodies on the “Death Train,” so that the American liberators could take photos with their liberated Voitlander cameras.  (The body in Burdick’s photo was the body of an SS man, shot by Lt. William Walsh, BEFORE he saw the Dachau concentration camp.)

This quote is a continuation of the article about “The Legacy Exhibit, The Story of the Holocaust”:

The Legacy Exhibit is the brainchild of Marylou Lordi of Easton. She conceived it a couple years ago as a way to bring the lesson’s of the Holocaust to students at Easton High School.

With the help of the Holocaust Resource Center of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley, she began assembling artifacts, especially those with a local connection.

She said she wanted to make the history feel real for students by showing them that some of the people who lived it were their neighbors.

“Beyond that, we are trying to teach a larger lesson, that of standing up,” said Shari Spark, coordinator for the Holocaust Resource Center. “If you are not afraid of making a little bit of noise, injustice can stop. … The Holocaust is an example in the extreme of where that didn’t happen.”

After the exhibit’s initial showing at Easton High, it traveled to a dozen other school libraries. Over time, the number of artifacts grew through donations as word of the undertaking spread throughout the community.

“We let it evolve,” Lordi explained.

Burdick and others, including Jewish survivors of World War II, also have addressed assemblies and individual classes at the schools.

Following Burdick’s account, people filed into the room displaying the Legacy collection. Some stared at the photographs; others recoiled after a quick glance.

Also featured were a chronology of the Holocaust, vintage radio broadcasts and military uniforms.

Among those in attendance was Julia Ben-Asher, a senior at Lafayette College. She said she has been to numerous Holocaust memorials.

There was a time, long, long ago, when newspapers took pride in publishing “all the news fit to print.”  It was the policy of every newspaper to print both sides of every story.  Today’s journalists take pride in publishing lies.

The Morning Call newspaper should have mentioned that there are two sides to the Dachau story, and that there is some controversy about the Dachau liberation story, as told by Donald Burdick.

There is another article in The Morning Call which you can read here.

This quote is from the article cited in the link above:

That day in late April 1945, Burdick smelled something putrid as his 16th Field Artillery Observation Battalion moved through the countryside.
[…]
Burdick can’t pinpoint the date he entered Dachau, but his unit could have been among three U.S. Army divisions that liberated the camp on April 29, 1945 — the 42nd Infantry, 45th Infantry and 20th Armored. They found 30,000 survivors, most of them political prisoners. Jews made up the second largest group.

So Donald Burdick was with the 16th Field Artillery Observation Battalion?  It was probably several days after the camp was liberated on April 29th before he took his photos with a liberated camera.

Did Donald Burdick  see any of the 4,000 prisoners who were suffering from typhus at Dachau?  Maybe, but why should he mention that?  No one cares that there was a typhus epidemic at Dachau.  Students today only want to hear about the blood-stained walls of the gas chamber.