Scrapbookpages Blog

April 27, 2014

Dachau inmate who was mistakenly arrested by the American liberators of the camp

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:58 am

I have just learned that there is a book, entitled Unforgotten – A Memoir of Dachau, which was written by Franz Thaler, a former non-Jewish inmate of Dachau.  The book was originally published in 1988; a new edition was published in 2011 by Kiener Press.

Thaler’s book is for sale at the Dachau Memorial Site, and on the Amazon website in the UK.

You can read a review of this book at

This quote from the review introduces the story of Franz Thaler, who was an ethnic German, living in the South Tyrol during World War II:

By September 1943 and after the Italian capitulation, the German Army ends up occupying Italy, as well as the Tyrol. The 19 year old Franz refuses to serve in the German army and is forced to go on the run and ends up living higher up in the mountains sleeping rough for many months, surviving on plants, berries and the occasional hand-outs from friendly farmers and shepherds. After a law was passed by the Nazi’s to punish the families of deserters Franz is forced to give himself up, and subsequently ends up in the Dachau KZ.

After his first initial days in the Dachau Bunker he was eventually moved around several [sub-camps] before being transferred back to Dachau [main camp] where he was liberated on the 29th April 1945.

This quote from the review explains what happened to Franz Thaler during the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp by American soldiers:

After his transfer back to Dachau for the final month of the war he was in the [concentration] camp on the day of liberation. He, and a few other prisoners noticed the guards had already fled [the night before] and he made his way to the gate of the Jourhaus and through into the S.S. training camp that bordered the concentration camp, and there Thaler was found by the American soldiers who treated him unbelievably not as a prisoner, but as a guard! He, and quite a few other prisoners were mistaken for members of the S.S. and eventually sent to a POW camp in France before finally being set free.

He finally makes it home, back to the South Tyrol at the end of August 1945. In other words his suffering, this time at the hands of the Americans meant his war and imprisonment didn’t finish until many months after the war had ended in Europe.

The photo below shows the entrance into the Dachau concentration camp, which was separated from the SS training camp by a canal.

Dachau Jourhaus (Gate House)

Dachau Jourhaus — the SS training camp is on the left, but not shown in the photo

Entrance into the Dachau gatehouse; the SS camp is behind the camera

Entrance into the Dachau gatehouse from the SS camp, which is behind the camera

This quote is at the end of the review of the book:

[Thaler] finally makes it home, back to the South Tyrol at the end of August 1945. In other words his suffering, this time at the hands of the Americans meant his war and imprisonment didn’t finish until many months after the war had ended in Europe.

Whilst in an American camp between Dachau and Munich, and after not being fed for 6 days he tells of his first food…

“When I opened the tins I heard and saw nothing around me any more. One tin contained green beans in oil, the other three biscuits, a small piece of chocolate and four sweets. Before I started eating I broke out in tears. I had not seen delicacies like this for a long time. After months of starvation and the last six days without food and without water, I began to eat. Tears kept on running down my face and I swallowed many a tear. According to a wise saying, you have to eat bread mixed with tears once in your life in order to be able to appreciate its true value.”

Note that Thaler wrote that he was not given any food, nor water, for SIX DAYS.  I find it hard to believe that a person could live without water for six days!  I once went on a  fast for 10 days, but I drank plenty of water. After 10 days, with no food, I could barely stand up.

Why was Thaler treated this way by the American liberators of Dachau?  It was because they mistakenly thought that he was an SS man, who had disguised himself by wearing prisoner clothes.  He was lucky that he wasn’t killed in the Dachau massacre.

The remarkable thing about this story is that Thaler gave testimony about how the Americans treated the SS men in the Dachau SS training camp, after the camp was liberated.

Arbeit macht Frei sign on the Dachau gatehouse

Arbeit macht Frei sign on the Dachau gatehouse was removed when the camp was turned into a prison enclosure for German war criminals

Several months after Dachau was liberated, the former camp was turned into War Crimes Enclosure No. 1.  You can read about how the German war criminals were treated, on this page of my website: