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April 26, 2016

April 29th, the 71st anniversary of the Dachau massacre

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:36 am

This news article tells one version of the Dachau massacre [aka “The liberation of Dachau”]:

Begin quote

Friday, April 29 is the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Nazi Germany’s first concentration camp — a day that changed Homecrest man Seymour Kaplan forever.

The 90-year-old World War II veteran — among the last living eyewitnesses to Holocaust horrors — was a fresh-faced, 19-year-old machine gunner with the 42nd Infantry Division in Munich when he was ordered into a jeep that day in 1945, and unbeknownst to him driven 10 miles to Dachau Camp to serve as a Yiddish interpreter for prisoners.

End quote

A Yiddish interpreter for the Dachau prisoners? Was Dachau a death camp for Jews? Did the Dachau camp have to be liberated before all the Yiddish-speaking Jews could be killed in the Dachau gas chamber?

The reason this subject is so important is because the liberation of Dachau is symbolic of the liberation of Germany from the Nazis. It is symbolic of the Allied victory over Fascism and the preservation of the freedom of Americans, which had been threatened by the mere existence of Hitler’s Third Reich.

It is symbolic of the Allied liberation of the Jews from persecution by the Nazis, and the end of the Final Solution which claimed the lives of 6 million Jews.

The liberation of Dachau was one of the most significant events of World War II and one of the most important events in world history. All of the soldiers in the 45th and 42nd Divisions of the US Seventh Army can rightly claim to be heroes because they participated in the liberation of Dachau.

Here is the real story!

By the Spring of 1945, the whole country of Germany lay in ruins with every major city destroyed by Allied bombs. Churches that had taken 200 years to build were now empty shells. Bridges had been blown up, train tracks had been bombed and every road was clogged with German refugees. Thousands of women in eastern Germany were drowning themselves, rather than submit to rape by the Russian soldiers, who were advancing towards the capital city of Berlin.

Boys of 14 and old men of 60 years of age were fighting in a hopeless last ditch effort to save Germany from Communism. German soldiers, who had survived the bloody conflict on the Eastern front, were stripping off their uniforms and jumping into the Elbe river to swim naked across to the west side so that they could surrender to the American Army.

Whether soldiers or civilians, the German people were deathly afraid of the Russians, who already had a reputation for committing unspeakable atrocities, even before they reached Berlin.

There was complete chaos in Germany: the infrastructure of the country had been destroyed, the cities were nothing but huge piles of rubble, and everywhere there was complete devastation. Animals in the Zoo in Berlin had to be shot when they escaped after a bomb attack.

German citizens were cowering in underground bomb shelters in the cities or waving white flags of surrender from the windows of their homes in the small towns, including the town of Dachau.

Former concentration camp prisoners, who were now free because some of the  camps had been abandoned by the guards, were wandering aimlessly through the countryside, looting and stealing from the German civilians who still had a home left after repeated Allied bombing raids.

Subways were flooded; phone lines were down; electricity was off. The water supply of the bombed cities was contaminated or non-existent.

Thousands of homeless German civilians had taken shelter in the bombed-out shells of the churches, and were cooking over open fires in the streets of every major city.

Refugees trying to flee from the war zone sat for days beside the railroad tracks waiting for trains which never came. Others were on the road, trying to escape on foot, carrying a few meager possessions, but there was nowhere to go.

Allied planes were strafing everything that moved, including cows grazing in the fields and the trains that were evacuating concentration camp prisoners in an effort to keep them from being released. Former concentration camp prisoners, bent on revenge, attacked the German civilians as they tried desperately to escape. Everything was in short supply, including food, clothing, medicine, coal and even wood to make coffins.

The stench was unbearable; everything smelled of smoke from the charred remains of burned buildings. Corpses were dragged out of the bomb shelters and buried in shallow graves in the gardens of destroyed homes.

Thousands of dead bodies of German civilians were still buried under the collapsed buildings in every large city. In the historic city of Nuremberg, there were 20,000 bodies still buried under the rubble at the time that the trial of the German war criminals began in November 1945.

The Nazi war machine, that had once rolled ruthlessly across Europe and smashed every country in its path, was now suffering a crushing defeat by the superior forces of the Soviet, British and American armies. Soon the world would learn of the Nazi atrocities in the concentration camps and forced labor camps all over Germany. Dachau, the name of the worst camp of them all, would soon become a household word in America.

Photo of the surrender of Dachau

Photo of surrender of Dachau

Another photo of the surrender of the Dachau camp

Another photo of the surrender of the Dachau concentration camp

The main Dachau camp was surrendered to Brigadier General Henning Linden of the 42nd Rainbow Division by SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker, who is shown in the photos above. Wicker was accompanied by Red Cross representative Victor Maurer who had just arrived the day before with five trucks loaded with food packages. In the first photo above, Marguerite Higgins is shown, with an arrow pointing to her. She one of the reporters, who was covering World War II.

No one knows for certain what happened to 2nd Lt. Wicker after he surrendered the camp, but it is presumed that he was among the German soldiers who were shot that day by the American liberators or beaten to death by some of the inmates.

Lt. Col. Howard Buechner, a doctor with the 45th Division, wrote the following in his book entitled The Avengers:

Begin quote

Virtually every German officer and every German soldier who was present on that fateful day paid for his sins against his fellow man. Only their wives, children and a group of medics survived. Although a few guards may have temporarily avoided death by disguising themselves as inmates, they were eventually captured and killed.

An investigation conducted between May 3 and May 8, 1945 by Lt. Col. Joseph M. Whitaker, known as the I.G. Report, concluded that the total number of SS men killed on April 29, 1945 at Dachau was somewhere between 50 and 60, including the SS soldiers killed after they surrendered at Tower B, shown in the photo above. Most of the bodies had been thrown into the moat and then shot repeatedly after they were already dead, according to testimony given to the investigators by American soldiers who were there.

Tower B is shown in the photo below. Notice the bodies of dead German soldiers at the base of the tower.

End quote

Tower B is shown in the photo below.

DachauTowerB.jpg

No Americans were killed, nor wounded during the liberation of Dachau. The SS men had been ordered not to shoot and there was no resistance as they were massacred by the liberators.

American soldiers at Dachau

American soldiers at Dachau

In his book about Dachau, Flint Whitlock quoted T/5 Oddi, one of the soldiers in the photo above, from a telephone interview in January 1997:

Begin quote

Our group was the first part of people to go in there [to the prisoner enclosure]. When they saw us, they knew right away we were Americans and they started shouting and waving tiny flags. I don’t know where they got the flags – I imagine the women who were there made them out of swatches of cloth.

End quote

On 28 May 1945, Brig. Gen. Charles Y. Banfill, an Air Force officer who was with the 42nd Division soldiers when Brig. Gen. Henning Linden accepted the surrender of the concentration camp from Lt. Heinrich Wicker, wrote an official report, quoted by John H. Linden in his book, in which Banfill stated the following:

Begin quote

1. This is to certify that I was present at Dachau on 29 April 1945 as a member of a party headed by Brigadier General Henning Linden, Assistant Division Commander, 42nd Infantry Division, U.S. Army.

[…]

5. With one exception, all American personnel, who came under my observation during this period, conducted themselves in an exemplary fashion. The exception noted was that of a soldier who I believe to be a member of the 45th Infantry Division. He called himself to my attention by a loud and obscene series of statements revolving around who had first reached the concentration camp. I approached him and noting that he was apparently under the influence of intoxicants, called him to attention and identified myself to him clearly and explicitly. He immediately quieted down. I noticed the neck of a bottle sticking out of his jacket. I withdrew the bottle which was nearly empty and apparently contained wine and threw it into the moat. At that point, Brig. Gen. Linden approached and directed the soldier to move over to a point some 20 feet away. I noticed that Brig. Gen. Linden spoke emphatically to him for about a minute and then apparently directed him to rejoin his unit. The soldier walked away.

[…]

7. It is my considered opinion that Brig. Gen. Linden did everything in his power to carry out his Division Commander’s instructions to keep the prisoners within the prison enclosure. As determined by discussions with English speaking prisoners, the camp had been under extreme tension for many hours. The prisoners did not know (a) whether they would be massacred by the Germans, (b) whether they would be involved in a fire fight between the German and American troops, or (c) whether they would be liberated by the timely arrival of the Americans. The sight of the few American uniforms that appeared at about 1505 hours resulted in an emotional outburst of relief and enthusiasm which was indescribable.

End quote

An intoxicated soldier, who was creating a disturbance at the gate, was also mentioned by Lt. William Cowling in his official report to headquarters. A German soldier who survived the Dachau massacre mentioned that some of the prisoners were also drunk that day and were killing the guards with shovels. The drunken 45th Division soldier at the gate was never identified.

German soldiers shot at Dachau

Dead SS men who had surrendered the Dachau concentration camp

The photo above shows the bodies of Waffen-SS soldiers who had been sent from the battlefield to surrender the Dachau concentration camp. They offered no resistance to the liberators.

The original of the famous photo above hangs in the 45th Division Museum in Okalahoma City; the photo was copied in Munich, only weeks after World War II ended, and was offered for sale to the men in the 45th Division.

Ted Hibbard, who works at the 45th Division Museum, has identified the picture of the dead SS soldier above as a photo taken by a member of the 45th Division named Edwin Gorak. According to Hibbard, the freed inmates were given 45 caliber pistols by soldiers in the 45 Division and allowed to shoot and beat the SS men who had been sent to surrender the camp.

American soldiers in World War II were very proud of committing war crimes. Only the “krauts” were ever prosecuted, and they continue to be prosecuted to this day.

 

 

 

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.

February 27, 2013

New book about Felix Sparks gives a new perspective on the liberation of Dachau and the Dachau massacre

You can read a review of Alex Kershaw’s new book entitled The Liberator here. The liberator in the title is Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division of the US Seventh Army, the first unit to arrive at the Dachau complex, which consisted of an SS garrison and a concentration camp.

It was Sparks who fired a shot into the air to stop the killing of German soldiers with their hands in the air, an event known today as the Dachau massacre.  The Dachau massacre was kept secret for 40 years, and many people today still don’t believe it.

German soldiers being executed at Dachau by 45th Division soldiers

German soldiers being executed at Dachau by 45th Division soldiers

Felix Sparks fires a shot into the air to stop the massacre

Felix Sparks fires a shot into the air to stop the killing of unarmed German soldiers

In the two photos above, note the German soldiers standing against a wall with their hands up; the second photo shows Lt. Col. Felix Sparks firing a shot into the air to stop the massacre.

I received a notice from Amazon today telling me that this new book is out; in the past, I have purchased many books about Dachau and the liberation of the camp.

This quote is from the review of the book which you can read in full here:

….. Kershaw’s exploration of what relentless combat can do to the mind. By Sept. 1944, he notes, more than 100,000 men had been pulled off the line due to combat fatigue.

“According to the U.S. Army surgeon general, all men in rifle battalions became psychiatric casualties after 200 days in combat. ‘There aren’t any iron men,’ declared one army psychiatrist. ‘The strongest personality, subjected to sufficient stress over a sufficient length of time, is going to disintegrate.’ ”

This happens at Dachau. Completely unprepared for what awaits them, and having fought for far too long, some of Sparks’s men crack, and begin shooting and killing unarmed SS men. Sparks manages to stop it, but is held responsible anyway. As fortune would have it, his case winds up on the desk of four-star General George S. Patton in May, 1945.

“There is no point in an explanation,” Patton tells him. “I have already had these charges investigated, and they are a bunch of crap. I’m going to tear up these goddamn papers on you and your men.”

“You have been a damn fine soldier.”

A sentiment this deeply researched and affecting book makes abundantly clear.

I have not read the book yet, so I don’t know if the author mentions that, while the 45th Division was busy killing unarmed German soldiers in the SS garrison that was right next to the camp, the 42nd Division was accepting the surrender of the camp from a German officer.

Surrender of the Dachau camp to the 42nd Division

Surrender of the Dachau concentration camp to the 42nd Division under a white flag of truce

The 45th Division “liberated” the SS garrison, killing wounded Wehrmacht prisoners, along with SS men who had been sent to surrender the camp.  The concentration camp, which was within the walls of the SS garrison, was “surrendered,” not “liberated” in the sense that it was defended and soldiers had to be killed in order to take over the concentration camp by force.

You can read about the surrender of the Dachau concentration camp on my website here.

You can read about the role of the 45th Division in the “liberation” of Dachau on my website here.

The following quote is also from the review of the book:

In France, in the waning months of the war, this almost gets him [Felix Sparks] killed, as he leads a charge to rescue some cut-off forces. As he exits his tank to rescue some wounded, the Germans have an easy shot and Sparks is as good as dead. Astonishingly though, an SS machine gunner by the name of Johann Voss holds his fire. Given the ruthless reputation of the SS, this is a shocking revelation, but Kerhsaw explains: “There was no honor to be gained, said Voss, by drilling a brave officer with 7.2mm bullets as he tried to help his wounded men. Indeed, there was a silent understanding among the SS watching Sparks. Killing him would be wrong.”

So this new book is going to point out that at least one SS soldier fought honorably during World War II?  Was this what caused Lt. Col. Felix Sparks to stop the killing of unarmed German soldiers, about whom Col. Howard Buechner wrote: “Public outrage would certainly have opposed the prosecution of American heroes for eliminating a group of sadists who so richly deserved to die.”

Col. Buechner’s account of the Dachau massacre is quite controversial; you can read about it on my website here.

February 4, 2013

the controversy over the “Dachau Massacre” lives on

Filed under: Dachau, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:49 am

I previously blogged about the “Dachau Massacre” here and here and here.  I also blogged about the IG report on the killing of the SS guards at Tower B here.

Famous photo of the "Dachau Massacre"

Famous photo of the “Dachau Massacre”

Today, I did a google search which turned up this entry on a yahoo group. The man that wrote this entry, which I am quoting below, believes that only “around 40” Hungarian and German soldiers were killed on the day that Dachau was liberated.  Howard Buechner wrote a book in which he said that 560 soldiers were killed by American troops that day.

Quote from a yahoo group:

Warning please…if you are related to Howard Buechner, you will not
necessarily like what I will write there. I will try and be diplomatic, as
diplomatic as one can be towards a Veteran who not only seems to have been
a pathological liar, but also had no qualms about inflicting fellow vets
with new traumas derived from the lies he spread in a self-aggrandizing
little excuse for a history book he wrote in 1986 entitled *The Hour of the
Avenger.*

I wouldn’t trust a word in that book, nor in some others I see he penned.

I have the proof, as best as can be found today. I will be posting it on
that page this week.

It includes copies of the relevant testimony of Buechner in 1945, testimony
he never thought would come to light.

He wrote his malicious book in 1986. The classified IG report only surfaced
in 1990 or 1991. In it he contradicts, without question, the lies he spread
in 1986…and, later for all I know. The army clerk misspelled his name in
the IG report as “Buchner”, but it’s him alright.

I regard the men of the 45th as “heroes” of a sort, with whatever flaws
they bore. My dad was one, both a hero and flawed. He would not have liked
the reputation of such brave men sullied by a noted physician and wanna-be
successful author. Literary critique? Buechner’s writings remind me of that
which an elementary schooler might do with certain terms. He calls himself,
in his mendacious work, “The Witness”. Yeah….right.

He wasn’t the witness to what he writes about, though he arrived later at
the scene. There were others who were. Their testimony is in the IG report.

He should have been court-martialed for dereliction of duty. That was the
recommendation of the investigative officer. Buechner may never have known
that.

Again, apologies if you are related or if you have read and believed that
book.

I have written extensively on my website about Howard Buechner’s account of the “Dachau Massacre.”   This quote is from this page of  my website:

In the first hour of the liberation, while Col. Buechner was setting up his Aid Station in the town of Dachau, 122 SS men had allegedly been “shot on the spot,” after they had surrendered to the 45th Division, according to George Stevens, Jr. who did a documentary film on the liberation; he was quoted by Col. Buechner in his book. The killing of 122 SS men in “the first hour,” was also reported by Michael Seltzer in his book entitled “Deliverance Day,” and subsequently repeated by many other writers. […]

Stevens also told Col. Buechner that 40 SS guards had been beaten to death by the inmates, or shot with guns given to them by the American liberators, and 20 more SS guards were killed by American soldiers when they attempted to surrender after descending from the guard towers. Another 100 SS guards were murdered in unrelated killings by individual soldiers of both the 42nd and 45th Divisions, according to George Stevens, as told to Col. Buechner. These events had taken place during the 30 minute period of chaos, at the beginning of the liberation, before order could be restored. Lt. Col. Sparks said that during this time, “battle hardened veterans became extremely distraught. Some cried, while others raged. Some thirty minutes passed before I could restore order and discipline.”

When the situation was brought under control, 358 SS men were rounded up and herded into an enclosed area that had been used as a coal yard before the camp had run out of coal. Shortly thereafter, 12 SS men were machine-gunned to death in an execution in front of the coal yard wall.

The photograph below shows American military officers inspecting the bodies of the 12 Waffen-SS soldiers who were executed in the incident at the coal yard.

American soldiers inspect bodies in the coal yard

American soldiers inspect bodies in the coal yard

The execution of the SS men at the coal yard was stopped by Lt. Col. Felix Sparks who kicked a machine gunner away from the gun. According to Lt. Col. Sparks, the machine gunner was a soldier whose nickname was “Birdeye.” Birdeye had shouted “they are trying to get away,” and had then cut loose with his .30 caliber machine gun. This incident brought the total number of dead to 174, according to Col. Buechner. Later, when the 346 Waffen-SS men were allegedly killed on the orders of Lt. Bushyhead, the total number of soldiers executed increased to 520. In addition, Col. Buechner wrote that 30 SS men had been “killed in combat” and 10 had escaped temporarily, but were captured and killed later, bringing the grand total to 560 SS men killed during the liberation of Dachau.

Col. Buechner could have gotten his information about the 560 SS soldiers at Dachau from an article written by Andrew Mello in 1980 in After the Battle. Mello used Nerin E. Gun’s book The Day of the Americans as his source. Gun wrote that an SS officer named Lt. Heinrich Skodzensky had reported that there were 560 SS men under his command when he surrendered the Dachau Army garrison to the men of the 45th Thunderbird Division.

The man who surrendered the Dachau concentration camp was Lt. Heinrich Wicker, who was accompanied by a civilian Red Cross representative.

The total number of enemy soldiers who were killed by American soldiers at Dachau is unknown. Howard Buechner wrote his book after getting information from Private John Degro, who was there when the camp was liberated.  You can read about John Degro on this page of my website.

The following information is from this page of my website:

An investigation was conducted by the US Army between May 3 and May 8, 1945, which resulted in a report entitled “Investigation of Alleged Mistreatment of German Guards at Dachau.” Israel wrote that 23 officers and enlisted men of the 45th Infantry Division and 9 officers and enlisted men of the 42nd Infantry Division were questioned in Pullach and Munich, Germany. Lt. Col. Joseph M. Whitaker headed the investigation; the report, which was filed on June 8, 1945, is sometimes called “the I.G. Report.” In 1991 a copy of the I.G. Report was found in the National Archives in Washington, DC and was made public.

The following paragraphs from the I.G. Report pertain to the shooting of SS men at Dachau by soldiers in the 45th Division:

4. At the entrance to the back area of the Dachau prison grounds, four German soldiers surrendered to Lt. William P. Walsh, 0-414901, in command of Company “I”, 157th Infantry. These prisoners Lt. Walsh ordered into a box car, where he personally shot them. Pvt. Albert C. Pruitt, 34573708, Company “I”157th Infantry, then climbed into the box car where these Germans were on the floor moaning and apparently still alive, and finished them off with his rifle.

5. After entry into the Dachau Camp area, Lt. Walsh segregated from surrendered prisoners of war those who were identified as SS Troops.

6. Such segregated prisoners of war were marched into a separate enclosure, lined up against the wall and shot down by American troops, who were acting under the orders of Lt. Walsh. A light machine gun, carbines, and either a pistol or a sub-machine gun were used. Seventeen of such prisoners of war were killed, and others were wounded.

7. Lt. Jack Bushyhead, 0-1284822, executive officer of Company “I”, participated with Lt. Walsh in this handling of the men and during the course of the shooting personally fired his weapon at these prisoners.

16. Lt. Walsh testified that the SS men were segregated in order to properly guard them, and were then fired upon because they started moving toward the guards. However, the dead bodies were located along the wall against which they had been lined up, they were killed along the entire line, although Lt. Walsh only claims those on one flank moved, and a number of witnesses testified that it was generally “understood” that these prisoners were to be shot when they were being segregated. These facts contradict the defensive explanation given by Lt. Walsh.

There was no mention in the I.G. Report of a second incident in which 346 SS men were allegedly shot at the coal yard wall.

As a result of the investigation, the American soldiers who were involved in the execution of SS men at Dachau were threatened with court-martial, including Lt. Col. Felix Sparks and 1st Lt. Jack Bushyhead. Buechner had not been present during the execution; he was cited in the I.G. Report for dereliction of duty because he refused to give medical aid to the SS men who were still alive after the shooting which resulted in 12 to 17 deaths in the coal yard.

June 19, 2012

91-year-old WWII veteran breaks his silence about the Dachau massacre

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:38 am

Most news articles, about the American soldiers who liberated the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945, mention that these veterans have never talked to their families about the horror of Dachau.  Now one of the Dachau liberators, Don Ritzenthaler, has broken his silence and has told his grandson about what really happened at Dachau when the camp was liberated.

Gatehouse at Dachau concentration camp, 1945

This quote is from an article written by John Deem on May 25, 2012 in the Lake Norman Citizen newspaper:

Grandpa Ritz has never been able to talk about Dachau, other than to say he was there, and that what he saw was horrible. After reading about the place and what the Germans did to their mostly Jewish prisoners, I wasn’t surprised that the mention of Dachau rendered my typically effusive grandfather mute.

But there always was something in Grandpa’s reaction that made me wonder: Was he haunted by more than just the ghosts of what he’d seen on April 29, 1945?

According to the Official Report by the U.S. Army, there were 31,432 prisoners in the main camp on the day the camp was liberated.  Among the survivors were 2,539 Jews who had been brought to the main camp from some of the 123 sub-camps just a few weeks before the liberators arrived.

Most of the prisoners in the sub-camps of Dachau were Jews who had survived Auschwitz and had been brought on trains to Germany after Auschwitz was abandoned by the Germans in January 1945. Other Jews at Dachau on the day of liberation had been brought there from three Lithuanian ghettos in the Summer of 1944. The American liberators got most of their information about the Dachau main camp from these Jews who had only recently arrived and were eager to tell their stories.

Throughout its 12-year history, Dachau was mainly a camp for political prisoners, including Communists, Social Democrats, trade union leaders, spies, resistance fighters, and others who were considered “enemies of the state.”  Also among the prisoners were Catholic priests, common criminals, Gypsy men, homosexuals, and asocials. Dachau was not a death camp for the genocide of the Jews.

This quote is from the article written by John Deem:

“We were some of the first ones in,” he [Don Ritzenthaler] recalled. “It was a terrible place.”

We’d heard that much before, and nothing more. But I always sensed that there was something more. I even had a pretty good idea just what that something was.

“After what we saw, we shot any German guards we saw on sight,” Grandpa [Ritzenthaler] continued.

The shooting of the “German guards” and a few Wehrmacht soldiers who were dragged out of a military hospital at Dachau, an event known as the Dachau massacre, was kept secret for over 40 years.

The article by John Deem includes this quote:

I now knew that for 67 years, the uncharacteristically violent actions of this uncommonly gentle man had only multiplied the horror of what he’d seen, because he had become a participant in it.

Of course, most of us would have done the same thing. But leaving hell with Satan’s blood on our hands makes us the Devil’s kin, even if it’s as distant cousins. It means we’ve surrendered to the very hate that so repulsed us in the first place.

While he’s never said so, I can’t help but believe that this nexus of revulsion and revenge triggered something unrecognizable, something uncontrollable, in Grandpa, and it frightens him still.

Here is the full story on the liberation of Dachau:

On April 29, 1945, SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker surrendered the camp to the 42nd Rainbow Division of the US Seventh Army, which had found the camp on its way to take the city of Munich, 18 kilometers to the south. Accompanied by Red Cross representative Victor Maurer, 2nd Lt. Wicker surrendered the Dachau concentration camp to Brigadier General Henning Linden, commander of the 42nd Rainbow Division, under a white flag of truce.

The 45th Thunderbird Division of the US Seventh Army also participated in the liberation of Dachau, arriving at the nearby SS garrison before the 42nd Division approached the main entrance on the south side of the Dachau complex where 2nd Lt. Wicker was waiting to surrender the camp.

Before reaching the concentration camp, the 45th Thunderbird Division had discovered an abandoned train, with no engine, on a branch railroad line which at that time ran from the Dachau station along Freisinger Street in the direction of the camp. Inside the 39 train cars were the corpses of prisoners who had been evacuated from Buchenwald on April 7, 1945 and, because of heavy bombing and strafing by Allied planes in the last days of the war, had not reached Dachau until three weeks later, two days before the American soldiers arrived.

Most of the regular SS guards and the administrative staff had fled from the camp the next day and there was no one left to oversee the burial of the bodies. No precise figures are available, but the train had started out with approximately 4,500 to 6,000 prisoners on board and between 1,300 and 2,600 had made it to Dachau still alive. Some of the dead had been buried along the way, or left in rows alongside the tracks. The gruesome sight of the death train, with some of the corpses in the open cars riddled by bullets, so affected the young soldiers of the 45th Thunderbird Division that they executed Waffen-SS soldiers stationed at the Dachau garrison after they had surrendered.

Upon entering the camp after the surrender, the American liberators, and the news reporters accompanying them, were horrified to discover over 900 dying prisoners in the infirmary barracks. According to the court testimony of the camp doctor, as many as 400 prisoners were dying of disease each day in the final days before the liberation.

Political prisoners at Dachau after the camp was liberated Photo credit: USHMM

Accompanied by Communist political prisoners, who served as guides, the Americans toured the prison camp and were shown the building, just outside the barbed wire enclosure, which housed the homicidal gas chamber disguised as a shower room. The Americans heard eye-witness accounts from Dachau survivors who said that prisoners had been gassed to death in the fake shower room; they also heard stories of how prisoners had been shoved into the crematory ovens while still alive. Bodies of fully-clothed dead inmates were found piled inside the new crematorium building and many more naked corpses were piled up outside. Outside the disinfection chambers, there was a huge pile of clothing waiting to be fumigated with Zyklon-B gas pellets.

Waffen SS soldiers, still wearing battle fatigue uniforms, were sent to Dachau to help with the surrender of the camp

The so-called “guards”, who were killed by the Americans, were German and Hungarian SS troops who had been sent from the battlefield to help with the surrender of the camp.  The men, who were killed by the American liberators, were completely innocent, but were murdered in cold blood by the Americans who didn’t bother to ask questions before shooting anyone they saw who was not dressed in a prison uniform.

It is good that some of the Americans involved in the Dachau massacre are now admitting what they did.  Here is one last quote from the article by the grandson of Don Ritzenthaler:

What I pray, though, is that he dies knowing he was nothing like the Germans who acted as Satan’s lackeys at Dachau. If he had been like them, he wouldn’t have shot them, because he wouldn’t have given a damn.

I agree that, if Don Ritzenthaler had been like the Germans at Dachau, he would not have shot the “guards” who were wearing battle fatigues or the Wehrmacht soldiers who were recovering from war wounds in a hospital.  He would not have shot anyone, after the Army that he was fighting with, had accepted the surrender of a camp that held mostly political prisoners.

February 28, 2010

The “accidental slaughter” of German soldiers at Dachau was “an unintended massacre”?

I previously blogged about the movie Shutter Island and the scenes of Dachau in these 3 posts:

https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/shutter-island-scene-shows-dachau-massacre/

https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/shutter-island-dachau-flashbacks/

https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/02/22/the-liberation-of-dachau-scene-in-shutter-island/

I am blogging about the movie again because I was horrified when I read an article today on this website:

“As an American soldier during WWII, DiCaprio’s character is forced into some horrific scenes. These eventually lead to the accidental slaughter of a hundred SS officers. The unintended massacre plagues DiCaprio with guilt; but not too much: he still stands idly by while a Nazi commander botches a suicide attempt and bleeds to death, fully conscious.”

Waffen-SS soldiers surrendering at Dachau

Waffen-SS soldiers, who had come from the battlefield, still wearing their camouflage uniforms, to surrender the Dachau concentration camp, are shown in the photo above with their hands in the air. This scene was re-enacted in the movie Shutter Island.

The shooting of disarmed German soldiers during the liberation of Dachau was investigated by the Office of the Inspector General of the Seventh Army. Their report was finished on June 8, 1945 but was marked Secret. The report did not say anything about “the unintended massacre” of German soldiers, nor anything about German soldiers  being “accidentally slaughtered.”

German soldiers executed by American liberators of Dachau

A Waffen-SS soldier named Hans Linberger  survived the shooting at the wall, shown in the photo above.  He had been wounded in battle on the eastern front and, after a long hospital stay, he had arrived at the Dachau SS garrison on March 9, 1945 as a member of a Reserve Company. On April 9, 1945, the men of the Reserve Company were put into the hospital that was right next to the scene of the shooting. They had been so severely wounded that they were no longer fit for combat; Linberger had been wounded in battle four times and had lost an arm.

Hans Linberger was dragged out of the hospital and lined up against the wall to be executed, although he had absolutely nothing to do with the Dachau concentration camp that was next door to the SS garrison.

The photograph above is a still photo, taken by T/4 Arland B. Musser, 163rd Signal Photographic Company, US Seventh Army, on April 29, 1945, the day that the Dachau concentration camp was liberated. It shows 60 Waffen-SS soldiers on the ground, some wounded, some playing dead, and 17 dead, according to Flint Whitlock, historian for the 45th Thunderbird Division, who got this information from Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division of the US Seventh Army, the first unit to arrive at the Dachau camp.

In his book entitled Surrender of the Dachau Concentration Camp 29 April 1945, Col. John H. Linden of the 42nd Infantry Division identified the men in the photo above as follows:

“The second American soldier from the left is Bryant, whose first name is unknown, but whose nickname was “Bird Eye.” The third soldier from the left is Martin J. Sedler, and the man who is kneeling is William C. Curtain. All three of these men were with M Company of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment. The soldier at the extreme right is Pfc. John Lee of I Company.

The buildings in the background are inside the Dachau SS garrison where Waffen-SS troops were quartered; the building on the right is a hospital where a Reserve Company of crippled Waffen-SS soldiers, previously wounded in action, were quartered. The Waffen-SS was the elite volunteer Army which included many divisions from other countries, as well as German soldiers.

According to Col. John H. Linden’s account of the liberation of Dachau, T/3 Henry F. Gerzen, 163 Signal Photographic Company, was filming the shooting with a movie camera. A few frames of this movie, which survived the cover-up of the Dachau massacre, show Lt. Col. Felix Sparks firing his pistol into the air to stop the action shown in the photo above, which allegedly took place around noon.

In 1989, Lt. Col. Sparks wrote an account of the role of the 45th Infantry Division in the liberation of Dachau. His description of what happened at the wall, shown in the photo above, is as follows:

As I watched, about fifty German troops were brought in from various directions. A machine gun squad from Company I was guarding the prisoners. After watching for a few minutes, I started for the confinement area (the concentration camp), after taking directions from one of my soldiers. After I had walked away for a short distance, I heard the machine gun guarding the prisoners open fire. I immediately ran back to the gun and kicked the gunner off the gun with my boot. I then grabbed him by the collar and said: “What the hell are you doing?” He was a young private about 19 years old (Private William C. Curtin) and was crying hysterically. His reply to me was: “Colonel, they were trying to get away.” I doubt that they were, but in any event he killed about twelve of the prisoners and wounded several more. I placed a noncom on the gun and headed towards the confinement area.

The very first incident during which German Waffen-SS soldiers were killed at Dachau was perpetrated by 45th Infantry Division soldiers in the  3rd Battalion, 157th Regiment, I company, under the command of Lt. William P. Walsh; this shooting took place inside the SS garrison at Dachau before any Americans had reached the concentration camp.

According to Lt. Walsh, one of the men of I company shot a handsome SS officer because he had tried to make a break to escape, after he had surrendered. The name of this German soldier is unknown.

Then four more Waffen-SS soldiers in the Dachau garrison emerged with their hands up and surrendered to the men of I company.  Lt. Walsh herded the four SS soldiers into an empty railroad boxcar inside the camp and “emptied his pistol” into them, according to his own account.

There is considerable disagreement about what time the photo above was taken. According to Col. Howard A. Buechner, a medical officer in the 45th Division, the photo was taken at around 2:45 p.m. during a second action when 346 SS soldiers were allegedly killed. In his book, The Hour of the Avenger, Col. Buechner wrote that a second machine gun was located to the right, but out of camera range.

Lt. Jack Bushyhead was in charge of the second machine gun, which Col. Buechner says was set up on top of a bicycle shed. However, Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Regiment, has stated that the photo above depicts a shooting which occurred around noon and resulted in 17 deaths, according to his story.

This was not the only shooting that took place during the liberation of Dachau.  There were also SS guards in Tower B who had come down from the tower and surrendered, but were then killed in cold blood by the American liberators.

Tower B where SS guards at Dachau were shot

A dead SS guard at Dachau is pulled out of the moat

After the soldiers in Tower B were shot with their hands in the air, their dead bodies were then thrown into the moat on the west side of the camp, and the American liberators continued to shoot at them.

The U.S. Seventh Army IG report of the shooting of unarmed prisoners at Dachau has since been made public and a copy of it was reproduced in Col. John H. Linden’s book entitled Surrender of the Dachau Concentration Camp 29 April 1945.

Here are four paragraphs from the report which pertain to the shooting of the guards at Tower B:

11. After entry into the camp, personnel of the 42nd Division discovered the presence of guards, presumed to be SS men, in a tower to the left of the main gate of the inmate stockade. This tower was attacked by Tec 3 Henry J. Wells 39271327, Headquarters Military Intelligence Service, ETO, covered and aided by a party under Lt. Col. Walter J. Fellenz, 0-23055, 222 Infantry. No fire was delivered against them by the guards in the tower. A number of Germans were taken prisoner; after they were taken, and within a few feet of the tower, from which they were taken, they were shot and killed.

12. Considerable confusion exists in the testimony as to the particulars of this shooting; however Wells, German interrogator for the 222 Infantry, states that he had lined these Germans up in double rank, preparatory to moving them out; that he saw no threatening gesture; but that he shot into them after some other American soldiers, whose identities are unknown, started shooting them.

13. Lt. Colonel Fellenz was entering the door of the tower at the time of this shooting, took no part in it and testified that he could not have stopped it.

18. It is obvious that the Americans present when the guards were shot at the tower labored under much excitement. However Wells could speak German fluently, he knew no shots had been fired at him in his attack on the tower, he had these prisoners lined up, he saw no threatening gesture or act. It is felt that his shooting into them was entirely unwarranted; the whole incident smacks of execution similar to the other incidents described in this report.”

None of the American soldiers that killed the guards, who had surrendered at Dachau, were ever put on trial for violating the Geneva Convention. The regular guards and staff members had left the camp the night before, so they were not there for the massacre. The guards and staff members, who were captured after the camp was liberated, were prosecuted by an American Military Tribunal.  It wasn’t really a “trial,” because the men on trial were presumed to be guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around.

All of the guards and staff members of the Dachau camp were convicted of participating in a “common design” to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the Geneva Convention of 1929.

Some people have such hatred for the German people that they will go to any length to excuse the actions of the American soldiers at the liberation of Dachau, even though the German soldiers who were killed were not the regular guards in the camp.

Here is a quote from an e-mail that I received recently regarding the Dachau massacre:

I’m Jew (ich bin ein Jude), and it gave me a great deal of pleasure to see photos of German SS soldiers/guards murdered by American soldiers and liberated inmates.  How come you’re not happy?  Cheer up, people 🙂

February 10, 2010

Shutter Island scene shows Dachau massacre

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, movies — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 3:36 am

The movie Shutter Island, based on a 2003 novel by Dennis Lehane, opened in American theaters on February 19, 2010. The Dachau massacre scene was completely changed and some of the photos on this page, which I began writing on Feb. 10th, no longer show what is in the movie.

The movie plot centers around Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels, who is investigating the disappearance of a woman patient in the Ashecliffe mental hospital on Boston’s Shutter Island.

In Lehane’s novel, there is a one paragraph flashback scene which briefly describes the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945. Lehane wrote that “500 Krauts” (German soldiers) were killed by the American liberators.

The photo below shows a scene which was cut from the movie; this scene depicts American soldiers entering Dachau on April 29, 1945. The gate vaguely resembles one of the real gates into the Army garrison next door to the Dachau concentration camp, which is shown in the second photo below. In real life, the American soldiers entered through a different gate.

American soldiers entering fictitious  gate at Dachau

One of the real gates at Dachau

When the American soldiers arrived, they were horrified by the sight of the “death train” that was parked on the railroad tracks outside the Dachau camp.

The train had left the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 7, 1945 and had not reached Dachau until April 28, 1945 because American bombs had destroyed the railroad tracks on the 220 mile route from Buchenwald to Dachau.

Some of the prisoners, riding in open gondola cars on the train, had been killed by American bullets as U.S. planes strafed the train.

Prisoners had been killed by American bullets

In 1954, at the time that the story in the movie is taking place, the shooting of unarmed German soldiers at Dachau was still a closely guarded secret, which would not become known for another 31 years. One of the first newspapers to publish the story of the Dachau massacre was the Boston Globe.

The main character in the movie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, lives in Boston; he was involved in the “Dachau massacre,” that is shown in the flashback in the movie.

Movie scene shows corpses piled up at the “death train”

The photo above shows a scene from the movie Shutter Island which depicts the corpses found on the 39 cars of the “death train” at Dachau. In the movie, there is only one railroad car. This fictitious scene resembles the real photos of the train, combined with real photos of the pile of corpses found outside the crematorium at Dachau.

Note what appears to be barbed wire in the photo, which indicates that the train in the movie was parked inside the Dachau concentration camp enclosure; the real-life “death train” was partly inside, and partly outside, the SS garrison, which was next door to the concentration camp.

The "death train" parked at the Dachau concentration camp

The “death train” parked at the Dachau concentration camp

Bodies piled up outside the crematorium at Dachau, April 1945

Bodies piled up outside the crematorium at Dachau, after the camp was liberated in April 1945

The regular guards at Dachau had all fled from the camp the night before the Americans arrived and there was no one to take care of the dead bodies. There was a typhus epidemic in the Dachau camp and 400 prisoners were dying each day from the disease.

The body of a prisoner beside the “death train”

There were no naked corpses piled up outside the “death train.”  There were only a few bodies on the ground beside the train, as shown in the photo above.

The horrible scene of the “death train” was what prompted American soldiers of the 45th Infantry Division to kill Hungarian Waffen-SS soldiers who had been sent directly from the battlefield, wearing their camouflage uniforms, to surrender the Dachau camp.

Dead Waffen-SS soldier who was sent to surrender Dachau

This scene, which shows German SS soldiers at Dachau, was cut from the movie

Waffen-SS soldier killed by the American liberators at Dachau

Movie extras who played German soldiers

The 45th Thunderbird Division soldiers, who executed the “500 Krauts,” had come upon the abandoned train of 39 railroad cars just before they entered the SS training camp through the railroad gate on the west side of the Dachau SS complex.

German soldiers being executed at Dachau

When the photo above was published, the caption read as follows:

“SC 208765. Soldiers of the 45th Infantry Div., U.S. Seventh Army, order SS men to come forward after one of their number tried to escape from the Dachau, Germany, concentration camp after it was liberated by U.S. forces. Men on the ground in background feign death by falling as the guards fired a volley at the fleeing SS men. 157th Reg. 4/29/45.”

This caption is a total lie.  The soldiers were not trying to escape; they remained standing with their hands in the air until Lt. Col. Felix Sparks ordered the execution to stop. Some of them were wounded Wehrmacht soldiers who had been dragged out of an Army hospital at the Dachau garrison.

Note real life Dachau survivor wearing a warm jacket

Prisoner in movie wearing an identical warm jacket; this actor’s scene was cut from the movie

German guards at Dachau were killed by the prisoners

The American liberators allowed the prisoners to kill the guards and mutilate the bodies. Note the German guard in the photo above with his pants pulled down.

SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker surrenders camp to Brig. Gen. Henning Linden

The photo above shows 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker surrendering the Dachau camp to Brig. Gen. Henning Linden of the 42nd Rainbow Division while Red Cross representative Victor Maurer holds a white flag of surrender.

Note that Wicker’s face is scarred; after he was wounded in battle on the Eastern front, Wicker was transferred to Dachau to work as a guard.  Wicker was killed, but no one knows whether he was killed by the liberated prisoners or executed by the American soldiers.  His family was never notified of his death.

2nd Lt. Wicker had been persuaded by Victor Maurer to stay behind when the other guards left the camp.  He had been away from the camp and had only recently arrived, leading a group of prisoners from one of the sub-camps to the main Dachau camp.

May 12, 2018

The Dachau concentration camp

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — furtherglory @ 12:57 pm

The History of Dachau

“During the Holocaust, Germans extinguished the lives of six million Jews and, had Germany not been defeated, would have annihilated millions more. The Holocaust was also the defining feature of German politics and political culture during the Nazi period, the most shocking event of the twentieth century, and the most difficult to understand in all of German history. The Germans’ persecution of the Jews culminating in the Holocaust is thus the central feature of Germany during the Nazi period. It is so not because we are retrospectively shocked by the most shocking event of the century, but because of what it meant to Germans at the time and why so many of them contributed to it.”

Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust

Gate into Dachau concentration camp, 1945

Dachau is a name that will be forever associated with Nazi atrocities and the Holocaust. Opened on March 22, 1933 in a former World War I gunpowder factory, just outside the 1200-year-old Bavarian town of Dachau, the Dachau concentration camp was one of the first installations in the Third Reich’s vast network of concentration camps and forced labor camps throughout Germany and the Nazi-occupied countries.

Although there were other spontaneous camps (wild camps) set up in Nazi Germany around the same time, Dachau was the first of these camps to be called a “concentration camp” and it was the first to use SS soldiers as the guards. The other camps used SA soldiers (Storm Troopers) as guards.

Throughout its history, Dachau was primarily a camp for men; it was used to incarcerate Communists, Social Democrats, trade union leaders, religious dissidents, common criminals, Gypsy men, homosexuals, asocials, spies, resistance fighters, and others who were considered “enemies of the state.” It was not a death camp for the genocide of the Jews, although there were Jewish prisoners at Dachau.

During its 12-year history, Dachau had 206,206 registered arrivals and there were 31,951 certified deaths. Many of the Dachau prisoners, including Jews, were released after serving an indeterminate sentence. The Jews were always kept isolated from the other prisoners and were treated far worse than the others.

Dachau was the place where many famous, high-level political opponents of the Nazi government were held near the end of the war. Just before the camp was liberated, there were 137 VIP prisoners at Dachau, including the former Chancellor of Austria, Kurt von Schuschnigg, and the former Jewish premier of France, Leon Blum. They were evacuated to the South Tyrol in April 1945 on three separate trips, shortly before soldiers of the American Seventh Army arrived to liberate the camp.

Although Dachau was in existence for 12 years, most people know only the horror described by the soldiers in the 42nd Rainbow Infantry Division and the 45th Thunderbird Infantry Division after they had liberated the camp on April 29, 1945. Three weeks before, on April 9, 1945, a bomb had hit the camp, knocking out a water main and the source of electricity. There was no running water in the camp and drinking water had to be brought in by trucks. There was no water for the showers, nor any water to flush the toilets. There was however, one last vestige of what the camp had been like before Germany was bombed back to the Stone age: fresh flowers in a vase in the undressing room for the gas chamber.

The prisoners were not starving because there were 5 truck loads of food, which had been brought in by the Red Cross, although it had to be cooked over wood-burning stoves. Just before the guards and SS officers left the camp on April 28th, they turned the food warehouses in the SS garrison over to the prisoners.

The evacuation of prisoners from the sub-camps to the main Dachau camp had begun in March 1945, in preparation for surrendering the prisoners to the Allies. The evacuated prisoners had to walk for several days to the main camp because Allied bombs were destroying the railroad tracks as fast as the Germans could repair them. The few trains that did bring prisoners to Dachau, including a train load of women and children, were bombed or strafed by American planes, killing many of the prisoners.

The first thing that the American liberators saw at Dachau was the “death train” filled with the dead bodies of prisoners who had been evacuated three weeks before from Buchenwald; the train had been strafed by American planes, but the soldiers assumed that these prisoners had been machine-gunned to death by the guards after the train arrived. After the war, Hans Merbach, the German soldier who was in charge of this train was put on trial by an American Military Tribunal at Dachau.

Most of the prisoners in the sub-camps of Dachau were Jews who had survived Auschwitz and had been brought on trains to Germany in January 1945 after a 50-kilometer death march out of the camp. By the time that the survivors staggered into the Dachau main camp in the last weeks of April, they were emaciated, sick and exhausted. Other Jews at Dachau in 1945 had been brought from the three Lithuanian ghettos in the Summer of 1944 to work in the Dachau sub-camps. The American liberators got most of their information about the Dachau camp from these Jews who had only recently arrived and were eager to tell their stories about abuse at the hands of the Nazis.

Since March 1945, around 15,000 new prisoners had been accommodated in a camp that was originally designed for 5,000 men. By the time the liberators arrived, there were over 30,000 prisoners in the camp. There was a typhus epidemic in the camp but the Germans had no DDT, nor typhus vaccine, available to stop it. Up to 400 prisoners per day were dying of typhus by the time that the Americans arrived. There was no coal to burn the bodies in the ovens and the staff could not keep up with burying the bodies in mass graves on a hill several miles from the camp.

At the Bergen-Belsen camp, a sign had been put up outside the gate to warn the British liberators that there was typhus in the camp, but there was no sign at Dachau since there was no danger to the Americans who had all been vaccinated against typhus and other diseases before going overseas. The American liberators assumed that the emaciated bodies that they found piled up in the camp were the bodies of prisoners who had been deliberately starved to death.

The name Dachau became a household word for Americans following World War II. This was because it was the only major Nazi concentration camp in the American occupation zone in western Germany. Bergen-Belsen was in the British zone of occupation and Natzweiler was in the French zone. Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen were in the Soviet zone of occupation in eastern Germany and Mauthausen was in the Soviet zone of Austria.

All the major death camps were behind the “Iron Curtain” and few Americans had even heard of them before the fall of Communism; the six death camps, Auschwitz, Majdanek, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec and Chelmno were all located in what is now Poland, and they were controlled by the Communists. For many years in America, Dachau was the name most associated with the Holocaust, not Auschwitz.

The excuse for setting up concentration camps, including the Dachau camp, was the hysteria following the burning of the Reichstag, which was the Congressional building in Berlin, on the night of February 27, 1933, only four weeks after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. Hermann Goering accused the Communists of starting the fire in protest of the appointment of Hitler as the Chancellor and the scheduled Congressional election to confirm his appointment, but the Communists claimed that the Nazis had set the fire themselves in order to begin a reign of terror. The arrests of Communists and Social Democrats began even before the fire was put out.

After President Paul von Hindenburg was asked by the Nazi-controlled German Cabinet that night to use his emergency powers under Article 48 of the German Constitution to suspend certain civil rights, 2,000 leading Communists throughout Germany were imprisoned without formal charges being brought against them and without a trial. They were held in abandoned buildings such as the camp in an old brewery in Oranienburg; this camp was rebuilt in 1936 as the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. On March 21, 1933, Communists in the town of Dachau were imprisoned in the building which now houses the New Gallery for modern art. Other Communists were sent to prisons such as the federal prison at Landsberg am Lech, where Hitler himself had formerly been a prisoner after his failed Putsch in 1923.

The first prisoners brought to the old gunpowder factory at Dachau on March 22, 1933 were 200 Communists, including some of the members of the Reichstag, who had been taken into “protective custody” and had, at first, been sent to the Landsberg am Lech prison near Munich.

After the Reichstag fire, the Congressional election took place on March 5, 1933 as scheduled. The Nazis won the most seats and they were able to put together a coalition government to form a majority, which confirmed Hitler as the new Chancellor.

On March 7, 1933, an important law was passed by the newly-elected German Congress, which called for all high-level government officials in the German states to be appointed by the Nazis and for all state government positions to be supervised by the Nazis in the event of an emergency. Germany was already in an emergency situation and Article 48 of the German Constitution had already been invoked. Under this new law, Heinrich Himmler was appointed the acting Chief of Police in Munich, although his real job was Reichsführer-SS, the leader of Hitler’s elite private Army.

As the acting Police Chief, Himmler announced the opening of a Konzentrationslager (concentration camp) at Dachau in a news conference on March 20, 1933.

The concept of a concentration camp was not originated by the Nazis. The following quote is from Wikipedia:

Although the first modern concentration camps used to systematically dissuade rebels from fighting are usually attributed to the British during the Boer War, in the Spanish-American War, forts and camps were used by the Spanish in Cuba to separate rebels from their agricultural support bases.

Theodore Eicke, who became the second Commandant of Dachau in June 1933, is called the “father of the Nazi concentration camp system” because all subsequent camps used the rules and regulations which he wrote for the Dachau camp.

The first commander of Dachau, Hilmar Wäckerle, was dismissed from his position by Heinrich Himmler after charges of murder were brought against him by a Munich court for the deaths of several prisoners who had died after being severely punished. Another Dachau Commandant, Alex Piorkowski, was also dismissed by Himmler and was expelled from the Nazi party for breaking the strict rules set by Eicke.

An office was set up at Dachau in 1934 to administer all the camps; this office, called the WVHA, was later moved to Oranienburg near Berlin. All punishments of prisoners in all the Nazi camps had to approved by the WVHA. All punishments for women prisoners had to be approved by Heinrich Himmler himself.

On March 23, 1933, the German Congress passed another important law, called the Enabling Act, which gave Hitler the power to rule by decree in case of an emergency. On that day, Germany still had a President and as Chancellor, Hitler was not yet the undisputed leader of Germany. The next day, on March 24, 1933, front page headlines in The Daily Express of London read “Judea Declares War on Germany – Jews of All the World Unite – Boycott of German Goods – Mass Demonstrations.” The newspaper article mentioned that the boycott of German goods had already started.

The following is a quote from the Daily Express of London on March 24, 1933:

The whole of Israel throughout the world is uniting to declare an economic and financial war on Germany. The appearance of the Swastika as the symbol of the new Germany has revived the old war symbol of Judas to new life. Fourteen million Jews scattered over the entire world are tight to each other as if one man, in order to declare war against the German persecutors of their fellow believers. The Jewish wholesaler will quit his house, the banker his stock exchange, the merchant his business, and the beggar his humble hut, in order to join the holy war against Hitler’s people.

In America, the boycott of German goods was announced on March 23, 1933 as 20,000 Jews protested against Hitler’s government at the City Hall in New York City. On March 27, 1933, a mass rally, that had already been planned on March 12th, was held in Madison Square Garden; there were 40,000 Jewish protesters, according to the New York Daily News. The next day, on March 28, 1933 Hitler made a speech in which he deplored the stories of Nazi atrocities that were being published in the American press and announced a one-day boycott of Jewish stores in Germany on April 1, 1933 in retaliation.

The following is a quote from Hitler’s speech on March 28, 1933:

Lies and slander of positively hair-raising perversity are being launched about Germany. Horror stories of dismembered Jewish corpses, gouged out eyes and hacked off hands are circulating for the purpose of defaming the German Volk in the world for the second time, just as they had succeeded in doing once before in 1914.

In spite of the Jewish “holy war” against the Nazis, there were no Jews sent to a concentration camp solely because they were Jewish during the first five and a half years that the Nazi concentration camps were in existence. Jews were sent to Dachau from day one, but it was because they were Communists or trade union leaders, not because they were Jewish. The first Jews to be taken into “protective custody,” simply because they were Jews, were arrested during the pogrom on the night of November 9th & 10th in 1938, which the Nazis named Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass).

Kristallnacht was the night that German citizens smashed windows in Jewish shops and set fire to over 200 Jewish Synagogues throughout Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland in what is now the Czech Republic. Ninety-one people were killed during this uncontrolled riot which the police did not try to stop. That night, Hitler and his henchmen were gathered at the Bürgerbräukeller, a beer hall in Munich, celebrating the anniversary of Hitler’s attempt to take over the German government by force in 1923; Hitler’s failed Putsch had been organized at the Bürgerbräukeller.

Joseph Goebbels made a speech at the beer hall in which he said that he would not be surprised if the German people were so outraged by the assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a Polish Jew named Herschel Grynszpan that they would take the law into their own lands and attack Jewish businesses and Synagogues. Goebbels is generally credited with being the instigator of the pogrom. (Pogrom is a Polish word which means an event in which ordinary citizens use violence to drive the Jews out.)

Approximately 30,00 Jewish men were arrested during the pogrom, allegedly for their own protection, and taken to the 3 major concentration camps in Germany, including 10,911 who were brought to Dachau and held as prisoners while they were pressured to sign over their property and leave the country. The majority of these Jews were released within a few weeks, after they promised to leave Germany within six months; most of them wound up in Shanghai, the only place that did not require a visa, because other countries, except Great Britain, refused to take them.

In anticipation of such violence against the Jews by the Nazis, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had invited 32 countries to a Conference in Evian, France in July 1938 to discuss the problem of Jewish refugees. The only country which agreed to allow Jewish refugees as immigrants was the Dominican Republic; 5,000 German Jews emigrated to the Dominican Republic before the start of World War II. The American Congress refused to change the US immigration laws, passed in 1920 and 1921, to allow a higher quota of Jewish refugees from Germany to enter, although America did start filling the quota under the existing laws for the first time.

After the joint conquest of Poland, by Germany and the Soviet Union, in September 1939, numerous Polish resistance fighters were imprisoned, including 1,780 Catholic priests. When the Catholic Church complained about the harsh treatment the priests received in the concentration camps, all the priests were moved to Dachau because it was the mildest camp of all. Dachau was designated as the main camp for Catholic priests who had been arrested on various charges, including child molestation, and a total of 2,720 from 19 different nations were sent there. The priests did not have to work in the factories and were given special privileges.

The most famous priest at Dachau was Leonard Roth who was a prisoner there from 1943 to 1945.

Regarding Father Roth, the following was written by Harold Marcuse, the author of “Legacies of Dachau”:

The camp administration gave him the “black triangle” badge of the “asocials” because he was accused of homosexual conduct as well as anti-Nazi activity. He was one of the few priests imprisoned in the Dachau KZ to survive the work caring for inmates dying of highly infectious typhus at the end of the war. Roth remained in Dachau as a priest for the SS men interned there by the US Army after July 1945. When that internment camp was dissolved and the Bavarian government converted the camp to housing for German refugees from Czechoslovakia in 1948, Roth remained as their “curate” (he had been demoted from priest status). A stern but well-liked pastor, he worked tirelessly to better the living conditions of the refugees. Around 1957 he joined the Dachau camp survivors’ organization as a representative of the priests who had been imprisoned in the camp. By 1960 he was in heated conflict with the Catholic hierarchy in Bavaria. Relieved of his post in the refugee settlement, he took his own life.

Also among the Dachau inmates were 109 anti-Nazi Protestant clergymen, including the Reverend Martin Niemöller, one of the founders of the Protestant Confessional Church. Niemöller had been tried in a German court and convicted of treason; after being sentenced to time served, he was first sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, then later to Buchnwald and finally to Dachau. After the war, he continued to preach against the Nazi regime, including making a speech before the American Congress.

Niemöller is famous for the following words which he spoke many times:

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Kommunist.
Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.
Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.
Als sie die Juden holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Jude.
Als sie mich holten, gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Russian Prisoners of War were sent to Dachau. On Hitler’s orders, Russian POWs who were determined to be Communist Commissars were executed at Dachau and other major concentration camps in Germany. The Communist Soviet Union had both political Commissars and military Commissars whose job it was to keep their citizens or soldiers in line. The military Commissars were stationed behind the front lines in order to urge reluctant Soviet soldiers forward since only one out of every 5 men had been furnished with a rifle. The Soviet soldiers were expected to pick up a rifle after another soldier had been shot; those who tried to retreat were shot by the Commissars. If captured, the Commissars were under orders to organize an escape or otherwise create havoc in the POW camp.

Throughout its 12-year history, Dachau was predominantly a camp for non-Jewish adult males. At first, the few women who were sent to Dachau lived with German families in the town of Dachau and worked as servants. In 1944, Jewish women were brought to Dachau from Hungary, but most of them were then transferred to some of the 123 Dachau sub-camps to work in German factories. Other women at Dachau were non-Jewish prostitutes who worked in a camp brothel for the inmates, which was set up in 1943. There were 11 prostitutes at the camp when it was liberated.

Resistance fighters and high-ranking Communists from France, Belgium, Albania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and many other countries were also brought to Dachau. Several captured British SOE agents, and even one American in the OSS, a secret agent who was working with the French Resistance, were imprisoned at Dachau during the war.

According to Nerin E. Gun, a Turkish journalist who was a prisoner at Dachau, there were 11 Americans at Dachau at some time during its 12-year history.

Frank Cappabianca e-mailed us the information that his grandfather Frank Machnig spent some time as a POW at Dachau after he was captured by the Germans following the D-Day invasion.

Prisoners at Dachau and the other Nazi concentration camps wore badges which indicated their classification. Most of the prisoners at Dachau wore a red triangle to indicate that they were political prisoners. German criminals in the camp wore a green triangle.

The political prisoners at Dachau were the Resistance fighters from many countries which Germany had conquered, but there were also German Resistance fighters, according to a book entitled “That was Dachau” by former Dachau inmate Stanislav Zámecník

The following quote is from “That was Dachau” by Stanislav Zámecník

The anti-Hitler movement inside Germany, which included German communists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, was the largest indigenous resistance movement of any country during the whole war. Only in Germany was an attempt made to assassinate their leader. Around 800,000 were sent to prison at one time or another for active resistance to the regime. While the western allies did all in their power to help other resistance movements, ie in France and the Netherlands, they did nothing to help or encourage the movement in Germany which in all probability could have ended the war sooner. But the Allies were intent on unconditional surrender and refused to make any deals at all with Germans. Accordingly the Allies viewed all Germans as bad, not only Nazis.

Dachau was never a camp that was specifically intended for murdering the Jews; the Nazi plan was to consolidate all the Jews into ghettos, from which they were later sent to the death camps. German Jews were sent to the Lodz ghetto in what is now Poland where they worked in factories until 1944; those who could no longer work were sent to the Chelmno death camp. In 1942, the Jews who were still living in Germany were sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto in what is now the Czech Republic and from there to the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In January 1941, Dachau was designated a Class I camp and Buchenwald became a Class II camp; Mauthausen and Gusen in Austria were the only Class III camps in the Nazi system. The Class I designation meant that treatment of the inmates was less harsh and that prisoners had a better chance of being released. Dachau was the best of the Nazis camps, as far as the treatment of the prisoners was concerned.

According to testimony given at the Nuremberg IMT, approximately 150 Dachau inmates were forced to participate in medical experiments conducted by Dr. Sigmund Rascher for the German Air Force, and about half of them died as a result. The subjects for these experiments were allegedly German “professional criminals” and Soviet POWs who were Communist Commissars, sentenced to be executed on the orders of Adolf Hitler. One Jew, who had been condemned to death for breaking the law against race mixing, was used in these experiments.

Prof. Dr. Klaus Schilling, a renowned expert on malaria, was persuaded to come out of retirement in order to conduct medical experiments on approximately 1,200 Dachau prisoners in an attempt to find a cure for malaria after German troops began fighting the Allies in North Africa. Hundreds died as a result of Dr. Schilling’s experiments, including a few who died from malaria and others who died from other diseases after being weakened by malaria. The subjects for the malaria experiments were the Catholic priests in the camp because they were not required to work, and would not be missed in the labor force if they died.

In February 1942, the Nazis began systematically rounding up all the Jews in Germany and the Nazi-occupied countries, and transporting them to what is now Poland or the area that is now Belarus, in a program of extermination, which had been planned at the Wannsee conference on January 20, 1942. The title of the conference was “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question.”

After the evacuation process began in February 1942, there were only a few Jews left in any of the camps in Germany, including Dachau. On April 29, 1945 when Dachau was liberated, there were 2,539 Jews in the main camp, including 225 women, according to the US Army census. Most of them had arrived only weeks or even days before, after they were evacuated from the Dachau sub-camps, mainly the Kaufering camps near Landsberg am Lech, where they had been forced to work in building underground factories for the manufacture of Messerschmitt airplanes.

In April 1942, at the same time that the Jews were being sent to the death camps in the East, a new brick building called Baracke X was planned for the Dachau camp. It was designed to house a homicidal gas chamber, disguised as a shower room, and four cremation ovens. The new Baracke X also has four disinfection gas chambers, designed to kill lice in clothing with the use of Zyklon-B, the same poison gas that was used to kill the Jews in the homicidal gas chambers at Majdanek and Auschwitz. The clothing was disinfected in all the Nazi camps in an attempt to prevent typhus which is spread by lice.

Construction on Baracke X began in July 1942, using the labor of the Catholic priests who were the only prisoners not forced to work in the factories at Dachau. The building was finished in 1943, but a sign that was put in the gas chamber in 1965 inexplicably informed tourists that this room was never used for gassing people. By May 2003, the sign was gone and a poster on the wall of the undressing room next to the gas chamber said that the gas chamber “could have been used” to kill prisoners.

The Dachau museum mentions in one of its displays that 3,166 “terminally ill” prisoners were transported from Dachau to Hartheim Castle near Linz, Austria where they were murdered in a gas chamber there, beginning in February 1942.

A letter from Dr. Sigmund Rascher to Heinrich Himmler, the head of all the concentration camps, which makes a reference to a facility like the one at Hartheim which the Nazis were planning to build at Dachau, is the best proof that the fake shower room in Baracke X was actually a gas chamber. A copy of this letter was displayed in the gas chamber building in May 2001, but it was later moved to the Dachau Museum.

When the death camps in what is now Poland had to be abandoned, as the Soviet troops advanced westward, the Jewish survivors were brought back to Germany and crowded into camps such as Bergen-Belsen and Dachau, which did not have enough room to accommodate them properly.

Typhus, transmitted by body lice, which had been prevalent in the ghettos and death camps in occupied Poland throughout the war, now spread to the concentration camps in Germany. After January 1945, conditions in all of Germany and Austria, including the concentration camps, became intolerable due to the chaos caused by the intensive Allied bombing of civilian areas in all the major cities.

Just west of the concentration camp at Dachau, a large SS army garrison was set up in 1936 on the grounds of the former gunpowder factory. This facility, which was four or five times the size of the Dachau prison camp, included an officers’ training school where German SS soldiers were educated to be administrators. Some of the famous graduates of this school were Adolf Eichmann, who became the head of Hitler’s Race and Resettlement office, and Rudolf Hoess, the infamous Commandant of Auschwitz, who confessed that 2.5 million Jews had been gassed while he was in charge there, from May 1940 through November 1943.

Beginning in 1936, most of the old gunpowder factory buildings were torn down and the prisoners were forced to build a new camp with 34 barrack buildings, a gate house and a large service building. Two rows of poplar trees were planted along a main camp road; the service building and all the barrack buildings had flower beds in front of them.

Also in 1936, a new camp called Sachsenhausen was built to replace the former “wild camp” that had been set up in an abandoned brewery in Oranienburg in 1933. The camp in the old brewery was the place where the famous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign was first erected. When the new Dachau gate house was finished in June 1936, this slogan was put on the iron gate. The words mean “work will set you free.” According to Rudolf Hoess, who was on the Dachau staff in 1936, the slogan meant that work sets one free in the spiritual sense, not literally.

The existence of the Dachau concentration camp was far from a secret; visitors were frequently brought to the camp and given a tour in the years before World War II started, including some American prison officials. Heinrich Himmler even brought his small daughter, Gudrun, to visit the Dachau camp.

Himmler had a college degree in Agriculture and was interested in the health movement which began in Germany. He established a large farm just outside the Dachau camp where some of the prisoners worked. According to this news story, experiments were done on the farm to find out why potatoes had become so vulnerable to pests and early decay. Herbs were grown for use as medicine and vitamins were extracted from plants.

Fermented blackberry and raspberry leaves from the Dachau farm were used to create German tea, reducing dependency on imports. Work was done on growing German pepper and gladioli flowers were grown in great quantities for their vitamin C. The gladioli leaves were dried and pulverized, then combined with a mixture of spices, beef fat and cooking salt to make a food supplement for SS soldiers.

Himmler was way ahead of his time in his knowledge of plants that could be used as medicine; he planted fields of primroses in a first attempt to extract evening primrose oil for use as medication.

On the Dachau farm, there were herds of cows in 1,850 acres of pastures, tended by up to 800 inmates, whose task was to gather the dung for testing in the camp gardens. A special compost was devised to speed the growth of healing herbs, and there were also experiments using worms to improve the soil.

Beginning in 1943, a series of 123 sub-camps were set up near the Dachau main camp. The worst of these sub-camps were the 11 camps near Landsberg am Lech, which were named Kaufering I – XI; Kaufering was the name of the railroad station where the prisoners arrived by train. Beginning on June 18, 1944, Hungarian Jews from the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau were brought to the Kaufering camps to work on construction of underground factories where airplanes were to be built.

By March 9, 1945, a total of 28,838 prisoners had been brought to Dachau and then transferred to the 11 Landsberg sub-camps. Approximately 14,500 prisoners died in these camps. In April 1945, the Kaufering camps were evacuated, except for the Kaufering IV camp where sick prisoners were left behind. Kaufering IV was liberated by American soldiers two days before the main camp was liberated.

According to a book published by the US Seventh Army immediately after the war, entitled “Dachau Liberated, The Official Report by The U.S. Seventh Army,” there was a total of 29,138 Jews brought to Dachau from other camps between June 20, 1944 and November 23, 1944. This report says the Jews were brought to Dachau to be executed and that they were gassed in the gas chamber disguised as a shower room and also in the four smaller gas chambers, which were designed to be disinfection chambers. The report also says that 16,717 non-Jewish, German prisoners were executed at Dachau between October 1940 and March 1945.

On April 26, 1945, three days before the camp was liberated, there were 30,442 prisoners counted during roll call. On that same day, 1,759 Jews were put onto a train and evacuated, on the orders of Heinrich Himmler. Then 6,887 other Dachau prisoners, half of them Jews and half of them Russian POWs, were marched in the direction of the South Tyrol.

There were an additional 37,223 prisoners counted in the sub-camps near Dachau on April 26, 1945, the date of the last roll call. According to the US Army Report, there were approximately 7,000 prisoners who arrived at Dachau after April 26, 1945 who were not registered in the camp. They were prisoners from the sub-camps who had been evacuated to the main camp. One group of prisoners from a subcamp arrived on April 28th, escorted by Otto Moll, a notorious SS man who had formerly worked in the Auschwitz death camp.

Due to horrific overcrowding and the spread of contagious diseases brought from what is now Poland by new arrivals who had been evacuated from the death camps, the number of recorded deaths at Dachau in the last four chaotic months of the war jumped to 13,158. After the camp was liberated by the US Seventh Army on April 29, 1945, an additional 2,226 prisoners died from disease in the month of May and 196 more died in June.

The total number of deaths in the first five months of 1945 was almost half the total deaths in the 12-year history of the camp. The death rate in the other Nazi concentration camps also rose dramatically in the last months of the war, as the typhus epidemic spread throughout Germany. American POWs in German camps were saved from the epidemic by booster shots of typhus vaccine sent to them from America by the International Red Cross. The Germans were conducting experiments at the Buchenwald camp in an effort to develop a vaccine for typhus, but had not been successful. After the war, the doctors who had attempted to develop a typhus vaccine at Buchenwald were put on trial as war criminals at Nuremberg in the Doctor’s Trial conducted by Americans.

By October 1944, there was a shortage of coal in all of Germany and the dead could no longer be cremated. A new cemetery was opened on a hill north of the camp, called Leitenberg, where the last Dachau victims were buried in unmarked mass graves. Ashes of earlier unknown victims are buried in the area north of the new crematorium. Markers were placed on the sites of the mass graves of ashes between 1950 and 1964.

On April 28, 1945, the day before the liberation of the camp, Dachau citizens joined with escaped prisoners from the camp in an uprising led by Georg Scherer, a former prisoner who had been released, but was still working in a factory at the Dachau complex. Their attempt to take control of the town of Dachau failed; 3 of the prisoners and 4 of the locals were killed in a battle that took place in front of the Dachau town hall. Georg Scherer survived and later became the mayor of Dachau.

On April 29, 1945, Dachau became the second major Nazi concentration camp to be liberated by American troops, after Buchenwald was liberated on April 11, 1945 by the 6th Armored Division of General George S. Patton’s Third Army.

The last Commandant of the Dachau Concentration Camp was Wilhelm Eduard Weiter, who replaced Martin Gottfried Weiss on November 1, 1943; Weiss was transferred to the Majdanek death camp in Poland.

Eduard Weiter left the Dachau camp on April 26, 1945 with a prisoner transport to the Schloss Itter, a subcamp of Dachau in Austria. Weiter shot himself at Schloss Itter on May 6, 1945, according to Johannes Tuchel who wrote about The Commandants of the Dachau Concentration Camp in his book: Dachau and the Nazi Terror II, 1933-1945.

In May 1944, Martin Gottfried Weiss was appointed the department head of the Office Group D in the SS Main Office of Economic Administration (WVHA) at Oranienburg. That same year, Weiss became the commander of the five sub-camps of Dachau at Mühldorf; when the Mühldorf prisoners were evacuated and brought to the main camp in the Spring of 1945, Weiss returned to Dachau. Fourteen members of the staff at Mühldorf were put on trial at Dachau from April 1 through May 13, 1947 in the case of US vs. Franz Auer et al.

On April 28, 1945, Martin Gottfried Weiss escaped from the Dachau camp along with most of the regular guards; he had been the highest ranking SS officer and the acting Commandant for two days before the camp was liberated by the US Seventh Army on April 29, 1945.

Weiss had previously been the Commandant of the Neuengamme concentration camp from 1940 to 1942. From September 1942 until the end of October 1943, Weiss was the Commandant of Dachau. During his time as the Commandant of Dachau, some of the worst atrocities had occurred, including the building of the gas chamber and the medical experiments conducted for the German air force. In spite of this, several former prisoners testified in his defense when he was put on trial at Dachau in the first American Military Tribunal in November 1945.

Martin Gottfried Weiss should not be confused with another man named Martin Weiss, who was named by one of the prosecution witnesses at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal as the man that he saw killing Jews in Vilna, Lithuania in 1941. Martin Gottfried Weiss was the Commandant at Neuengamme during that time.

On April 29, 1945, SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker surrendered the camp to the 42nd Rainbow Division of the US Seventh Army, which had found the camp on its way to take the city of Munich, 18 kilometers to the south. Accompanied by Red Cross representative Victor Maurer, 2nd Lt. Wicker surrendered the Dachau concentration camp to Brigadier General Henning Linden, commander of the 42nd Rainbow Division, under a white flag of truce. The 45th Thunderbird Division of the US Seventh Army also participated in the liberation of Dachau, arriving at the nearby SS garrison before the 42nd Division approached the installations’s main entrance on the south side of the Dachau complex where 2nd Lt. Wicker was waiting to surrender the camp.

Before reaching the concentration camp, the 45th Thunderbird Division had discovered an abandoned train, with no engine, on a branch railroad line which at that time ran from the Dachau station along Freisinger Street in the direction of the camp. Inside the 39 train cars were the corpses of prisoners who had been evacuated from Buchenwald on April 7, 1945 and, because of heavy bombing and strafing by Allied planes in the last days of the war, had not reached Dachau until three weeks later, two days before the American soldiers arrived.

Most of the regular SS guards and the administrative staff had fled from the camp the next day and there was no one left to oversee the burial of the bodies. No precise figures are available, but the train had started out with approximately 4,500 to 6,000 prisoners on board and between 1,300 and 2,600 had made it to Dachau still alive. Some of the dead had been buried along the way, or left in rows alongside the tracks. The gruesome sight of the death train, with some of the corpses in the open cars riddled by bullets, so affected the young soldiers of the 45th Thunderbird Division that they executed Waffen-SS soldiers stationed at the Dachau garrison after they had surrendered.

SS soldiers in guard tower B on the west side of the concentration camp were ordered to come down and were then shot by the American liberators, even though the tower was flying the white flag of surrender and the guards in Tower A had already surrendered without incident.

After the regular guards had escaped from the camp on the day before the liberation, 128 SS soldiers who had been imprisoned in a special wing of the Dachau bunker were released and ordered to serve as guards until the Americans arrived to take over the camp. 2nd Lt. Wicker had stayed behind when the other guards escaped because his mother was staying at the Dachau garrison, visiting him. Wicker’s mother reported him missing after the war, and it is presumed that he was killed after he surrendered the camp to the Americans.

Prisoners in the camp were given guns by some of the liberators and were allowed to shoot or beat to death 40 of the German guards while American soldiers looked on. The German Sheppard guard dogs were shot in their kennels. The bodies of some the dead SS soldiers were later buried in unmarked graves inside the garrison, after their dog tags had been removed; their families were not notified of their deaths. Some of the bodies of the executed SS soldiers were burned in the ovens in the crematorium at Dachau.

Upon entering the camp after the surrender, the American liberators, and the news reporters accompanying them, were horrified to discover over 900 dying prisoners in the infirmary barracks. According to the court testimony of the camp doctor, as many as 400 prisoners were dying of disease each day in the final days before the liberation.

Accompanied by Communist political prisoners, who served as guides, the Americans toured the prison camp and were shown the building, just outside the barbed wire enclosure, which housed the homicidal gas chamber disguised as a shower room. The Americans heard eye-witness accounts from Dachau survivors who said that prisoners had been gassed to death in the fake shower room; they also heard stories of how prisoners had been shoved into the crematory ovens while still alive. Bodies of fully-clothed dead inmates were found piled inside the new crematorium building and many more naked corpses were piled up outside. Outside the disinfection chambers, there was a huge pile of clothing waiting to be fumigated with Zyklon-B gas pellets.

There were no charges of killing prisoners in a gas chamber brought against the accused in the proceedings against the staff members of the Dachau camp, which were conducted by an American Military Tribunal at Dachau in November 1945, although a film of the gas chamber was shown at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal on November 29, 1945, while the Dachau tribunal was in progress. This documentary film was taken by the Allies, under the direction of famed Hollywood director George Stevens; it showed the pipes through which the gas flowed into the gas chamber and the control wheels which regulated the flow of gas that came out of the shower heads.

The top Nazis on trial at Nuremberg were stunned and claimed that they were hearing about the Dachau gas chamber for the first time. Some of the footage from this film is currently being shown at the Dachau Museum, although in May 2003, the staff at the Memorial Site was telling visitors that the Dachau gas chamber had actually been designed so that the introduction of poison gas was done by pouring Zyklon-B pellets onto the floor of the gas chamber through two chutes on the outside wall of the building.

Several of the “special prisoners” in the bunker were shot just before the camp was liberated, including Dr. Sigmund Rascher, who had formerly conducted experiments on condemned prisoners in the camp for the German Air Force. Dr. Rascher had been arrested and imprisoned in Munich after it was learned that he had illegally adopted two children and told everyone that these were his own children.

Georg Elser, who was imprisoned at Dachau as a suspect in the attempted assassination of Hitler on November 8, 1939, was allegedly shot around the time that an Allied bomb hit the camp on April 9, 1945 and his death was blamed on the bombing. General Charles Delestraint, a Dachau prisoner who had been the leader of the French Secret Army in the Resistance, was allegedly executed at Dachau on April 19, 1945, although no execution order from Berlin was ever found. Four female British SOE agents were also allegedly executed Dachau, although the execution order was never found.

After the German surrender on May 7, 1945, the American Army took over the barracks of the SS garrison and set up a command post called Eastman which they occupied until 1973. On the orders of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, all available American soldiers were brought to Dachau so that they could be eye-witnesses to the existence of the homicidal gas chamber, disguised as a shower room.

Many of the naked corpses found in the camp were left out until May 13, two weeks after the liberation, so that American Congressmen, newspaper reporters and as many American soldiers as possible could view the horror. Thirty male citizens from the town of Dachau were brought to the camp and forced to view the rotting corpses, even though the typhus epidemic was still raging in the camp, and the Germans had not been vaccinated.

Young boys of the Hitler Youth were brought to see the dead bodies on the train. Mutilated corpses of SS guards, who had been killed by the Americans after discovering the train, were lying nearby. Before the corpses in the camp were finally given a decent burial, the stench could be smelled up to a mile away, according to the American liberators. When the bodies of the typhus victims were finally taken to the cemetery on a hill called Leitenberg for burial by the citizens of Dachau, the horse-drawn wagons had to be driven slowly though the town, on the orders of the American military, so that the town’s people would be forced to confront the horror of what the Nazis had done.

Rabbi Eli Bohnen was the Jewish Chaplain of the 42nd Rainbow Division; he arrived at Dachau on April 30, 1945 along with Rabbi David Max Eichhorn of the US Army XV Corps, who conducted the first Shabbat at Dachau on May 5, 1945.

After the liberation of Dachau, the commanding officer of the Rainbow division, Major General Harry J. Collins, made sure that the Jewish survivors were taken care of properly. Some of the Jewish survivors were given private housing in homes in the town of Dachau after their owners had been evicted. In some cases, the home owners were allowed to live in the attic of their homes, but they were forbidden to remove any of the linens, china or silverware, which had to be left for the use of the new occupants. A few of the Jewish survivors settled in Dachau permanently after the war.

In the first few days after the liberation, the town’s people were forced to scrounge for food and deliver it to the camp inmates. The two bakeries in Dachau had to deliver wagon loads of bread for the starving inmates. Major General Collins, with the help of Rabbi Bohnen, made sure that the former Jewish inmates of Dachau received the best rations, including kosher foods.

All of the food in the army warehouse of the SS garrison was given to the inmates, although there was a food shortage also in the town of Dachau. There were 1,268 prisoners, who died after the liberation, that were buried in individual graves by the Dachau residents at Waldfriedhof, the town cemetery, on the orders of the US Army.

The liberated inmates had to be kept in the camp until the typhus epidemic could be brought under control. The Americans used DDT, a new insecticide not being used in Germany, to kill the lice in the camp. When the epidemic ended, the concentration camp was immediately turned into War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 for 30,000 Germans who had been arrested as war criminals and were awaiting trial by an American Military Tribunal. Most of them were released by 1948 for lack of evidence, although some were transferred to France for trial.

Former concentration camp inmates of Dachau and Displaced Persons from other camps were housed at the Dachau army garrison, next door to the concentration camp; they were fed by the American Army. Former inmates were paid to be prosecution witnesses in a series of American Military Tribunals that were held on the grounds of the Dachau complex, beginning in November 1945.

In the first proceeding of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau in November 1945, 36 of the 40 accused staff members at Dachau were sentenced to death by hanging. Only 28 of the 36 condemned men were actually hanged.

The American Military Tribunal proceeding against the Waffen-SS soldiers who were accused of shooting American POWs at Malmédy was also held at Dachau, as were the proceedings against the accused guards and staff at the Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Flossenbürg and Nordhausen concentration camps. The proceedings against the infamous Ilse Koch, dubbed the “Bitch of Buchenwald” by the press, also took place in Dachau. As the wife of the Commandant at Buchenwald, she was accused of selecting tattooed prisoners to be killed by her alleged lover, Dr. Waldemar Hoven, so that their skin could be made into human lamp shades to decorate her home.

All of the Dachau proceedings were conducted by US Army Military Tribunals in which the accused were presumed to be guilty; most of the interrogators, prosecutors and judges were Jews, many of whom were foreign-born American citizens. After the Jewish interrogators in the Malmédy trial were accused of torturing the Waffen-SS soldiers into confessing, a Congressional investigation was conducted, and by December 1957, all of the convicted men in this case had been released.

Another Congressional investigation was conducted after General Lucius D. Clay commuted the sentence of Ilse Koch to time served. Gen. Clay claimed that the lamp shades, allegedly made from human skin, were actually made from goat skin.

Immediately after the war, Erich Preuss, a former Dachau prisoner, set up an exhibit in the crematory building, located just outside the barbed wire enclosure of the concentration camp. American soldiers stationed in Germany were brought to Dachau to see the gas chamber, which they were told had been used to murder innocent inmates of the concentration camp. Mannequins were used in a display that was set up to illustrate how the Dachau prisoners were punished on the whipping block. During this time, the former concentration camp itself was off limits to visitors because it was filled with accused German war criminals awaiting the proceedings of the American Military Tribunals at Dachau, and later by homeless German refugees.

The prisoner barracks at Dachau were renovated in 1948 and 5,000 refugees from Czechoslovakia, who were among the 12 to 18 million ethnic Germans that were expelled from their homes after the war, lived in the Dachau camp until 1964 when an organization of Communist camp survivors began demanding that they be removed so that a Memorial could be built in honor of the former concentration camp political prisoners.

A symbolic cornerstone for the International Memorial at Dachau had already been dedicated in 1956 by the International Committee of Dachau. The remaining 2,000 German refugees were moved in 1964 to Dachau East, a new suburb which was created for them.

The first Dachau Memorial building was erected in 1960; it is a Catholic chapel in honor of the priests who were imprisoned at Dachau, including Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, a Bishop from Munich, who was arrested for objecting to the policies of the Nazi government. With Neuhäusler’s help, a Carmelite convent was opened in 1964 on the site of the gravel pit just outside the north wall of the camp; the convent has an entrance through one of the guard towers. In the same year, the dilapidated barracks buildings, by now vacated by the refugees, were torn down.

A Protestant Church and a Jewish Memorial were dedicated in 1967. The International Memorial with its poignant sculpture, designed by Yugoslavian artist Nandor Glid, was dedicated on September 8, 1968.

A Museum was opened in the Administration building on May 9, 1965, after the original museum was closed in 1953 due to protests by the Bavarian government.

New Museum exhibits were under construction for two years, starting in 2001, and the special section on “The Final Solution” was not open from 2001 to 2003; the Museum was expanded to include the West wing of the administration building. The Museum now tells the complete story of Dachau and there is no section on Auschwitz or other death camps.

An exhibit in the former camp prison, called the bunker, was formally dedicated on January 27, 2000.

In 1973, the American Army left the Dachau complex for good and the former SS garrison area was turned over to the Bavarian government. Most of the beautiful stone SS barracks buildings, which had been used by the U.S. Army for 28 years, have been torn down, and the site of the former SS installation is now being used by the Bavarian Police.

Eicke Plaza, which was a formal garden in front of the main entrance to the Dachau complex, is now a soccer field. New homes and apartments have been built directly behind the south wall of the former concentration camp. There are some nice new homes also built on the street that borders the former SS garrison.

The Memorial Site is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Mondays and admission is free. It is located east of the town of Dachau, which can be reached from the main train station in Munich in 20 minutes via S-Bahn train number 2 going towards Petershausen.

Until 2005, the entrance to the former camp was located at Alte Römerstrasse 75, a few yards north of where Alte Römerstrasse intersects Sudetenlandstrasse. In May 2005, the entrance was changed so that visitors now enter the camp through the original gate with the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign, on the west side of the camp, opposite the old entrance.

The first thing that visitors are told by their tour guides at Dachau is that the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign was put up to taunt the prisoners who had no chance of being set free because the policy of the Dachau camp was extermination through work. Actually, the Arbeit Macht Frei sign was only put on Class 1 camps where prisoners had a good chance of being released. Buchenwald was a Class II camp where the sign on the gate said “Jedem das Seine,” which means “To each his own.” Mauthausen was a Class III camp where the prisoners were designated “Return unwanted” and there was no sign at all.

Bus number 726 runs from the train station in Dachau directly to the Memorial Site, following the route along Freisinger Street, the same street on which prisoners, arriving on transports, were forced to walk 3 kilometers to the concentration camp.

One of the alleged survivors of Dachau is Martin Zaidenstadt, a Polish Jew born in 1911, who settled in the town of Dachau after the war and married a German woman. He lives in a very nice house in the heart of Old Town Dachau, and up until May 2003 he would come to the Memorial Site every day to talk with the tourists. As many American tourists learned, he expected a donation and would get angry if he was handed less than $20. Although Martin told the tourists that he was a prisoner at Dachau for 3 years before the camp was liberated, the staff at the Museum claims that there is no record of him being incarcerated there.

German students over the age of 12 are required to tour a concentration camp as part of the on-going education of the present generation of German citizens in the evil perpetrated by the Nazi regime over 60 years ago. German soldiers are also required to tour the former concentration camps. Most visitors associate Dachau with the death of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, although the majority of the inmates at Dachau were Catholics.

Few visitors to the camp bother to visit the town of Dachau which has grown from 13,000 residents in 1945 to 50,000 residents. Dachau is now multicultural and has a diverse population which includes many people who are not ethnic German. Older residents of Dachau are quick to point out that the majority of the people in the town did not vote for Hitler when he ran for President of Germany in 1932.

Dachauers have accepted the fact that their town will always be reviled as the home of the best-known Nazi concentration camp, but they are sometimes resentful that the town of Dachau is always associated with Nazi atrocities. They refer to the town itself as “the other Dachau.” They have pretty much given up trying to persuade tourists to visit the town, since the Holocaust is the only thing that attracts visitors to Dachau today.

December 17, 2017

The story of Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — furtherglory @ 3:12 pm

If Dachau was in Germany and even Simon Wiesenthal says that it was not an extermination camp, why do thousands of army veterans in America say that it was an extermination camp?

The following quote is from Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s book entitled:

Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Ordinary Germans & the Holocaust

“During the Holocaust, Germans extinguished the lives of six million Jews and, had Germany not been defeated, would have annihilated millions more. The Holocaust was also the defining feature of German politics and political culture during the Nazi period, the most shocking event of the twentieth century, and the most difficult to understand in all of German history. The Germans’ persecution of the Jews culminating in the Holocaust is thus the central feature of Germany during the Nazi period. It is so not because we are retrospectively shocked by the most shocking event of the century, but because of what it meant to Germans at the time and why so many of them contributed to it.”

End quote

Gate into Dachau concentration camp, 1945

Dachau is a name that will be forever associated with Nazi atrocities and the Holocaust. Opened on March 22, 1933 in a former World War I gunpowder factory, just outside the 1200-year-old Bavarian town of Dachau, the Dachau concentration camp was one of the first installations in the Third Reich’s vast network of concentration camps and forced labor camps throughout Germany and the Nazi-occupied countries.

Although there were other spontaneous camps (wild camps) set up in Nazi Germany around the same time, Dachau was the first of these camps to be called a “concentration camp” and it was the first to use SS soldiers as the guards. The other camps used SA soldiers (Storm Troopers) as guards.

Throughout its history, Dachau was primarily a camp for men; it was used to incarcerate Communists, Social Democrats, trade union leaders, religious dissidents, common criminals, Gypsy men, homosexuals, asocials, spies, resistance fighters, and others who were considered “enemies of the state.” It was not a death camp for the genocide of the Jews, although there were Jewish prisoners at Dachau.

During its 12-year history, Dachau had 206,206 registered arrivals and there were 31,951 certified deaths. Many of the Dachau prisoners, including Jews, were released after serving an indeterminate sentence. The Jews were always kept isolated from the other prisoners and were treated far worse than the others.

Dachau was the place where many famous, high-level political opponents of the Nazi government were held near the end of the war. Just before the camp was liberated, there were 137 VIP prisoners at Dachau, including the former Chancellor of Austria, Kurt von Schuschnigg, and the former Jewish premier of France, Leon Blum. They were evacuated to the South Tyrol in April 1945 on three separate trips, shortly before soldiers of the American Seventh Army arrived to liberate the camp.

Although Dachau was in existence for 12 years, most people know only the horror described by the soldiers in the 42nd Rainbow Infantry Division and the 45th Thunderbird Infantry Division after they had liberated the camp on April 29, 1945. Three weeks before, on April 9, 1945, a bomb had hit the camp, knocking out a water main and the source of electricity. There was no running water in the camp and drinking water had to be brought in by trucks. There was no water for the showers, nor any water to flush the toilets. There was however, one last vestige of what the camp had been like before Germany was bombed back to the Stone age: fresh flowers in a vase in the undressing room for the gas chamber.

The prisoners were not starving because there were 5 truck loads of food, which had been brought in by the Red Cross, although it had to be cooked over wood-burning stoves. Just before the guards and SS officers left the camp on April 28th, they turned the food warehouses in the SS garrison over to the prisoners.

The evacuation of prisoners from the sub-camps to the main Dachau camp had begun in March 1945, in preparation for surrendering the prisoners to the Allies. The evacuated prisoners had to walk for several days to the main camp because Allied bombs were destroying the railroad tracks as fast as the Germans could repair them. The few trains that did bring prisoners to Dachau, including a train load of women and children, were bombed or strafed by American planes, killing many of the prisoners.

The first thing that the American liberators saw at Dachau was the “death train” filled with the dead bodies of prisoners who had been evacuated three weeks before from Buchenwald; the train had been strafed by American planes, but the soldiers assumed that these prisoners had been machine-gunned to death by the guards after the train arrived. After the war, Hans Merbach, the German soldier who was in charge of this train was put on trial by an American Military Tribunal at Dachau.

Most of the prisoners in the sub-camps of Dachau were Jews who had survived Auschwitz and had been brought on trains to Germany in January 1945 after a 50-kilometer death march out of the camp. By the time that the survivors staggered into the Dachau main camp in the last weeks of April, they were emaciated, sick and exhausted. Other Jews at Dachau in 1945 had been brought from the three Lithuanian ghettos in the Summer of 1944 to work in the Dachau sub-camps. The American liberators got most of their information about the Dachau camp from these Jews who had only recently arrived and were eager to tell their stories about abuse at the hands of the Nazis.

Since March 1945, around 15,000 new prisoners had been accommodated in a camp that was originally designed for 5,000 men. By the time the liberators arrived, there were over 30,000 prisoners in the camp. There was a typhus epidemic in the camp but the Germans had no DDT, nor typhus vaccine, available to stop it. Up to 400 prisoners per day were dying of typhus by the time that the Americans arrived. There was no coal to burn the bodies in the ovens and the staff could not keep up with burying the bodies in mass graves on a hill several miles from the camp.

At the Bergen-Belsen camp, a sign had been put up outside the gate to warn the British liberators that there was typhus in the camp, but there was no sign at Dachau since there was no danger to the Americans who had all been vaccinated against typhus and other diseases before going overseas. The American liberators assumed that the emaciated bodies that they found piled up in the camp were the bodies of prisoners who had been deliberately starved to death.

The name Dachau became a household word for Americans following World War II. This was because it was the only major Nazi concentration camp in the American occupation zone in western Germany. Bergen-Belsen was in the British zone of occupation and Natzweiler was in the French zone. Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen were in the Soviet zone of occupation in eastern Germany and Mauthausen was in the Soviet zone of Austria.

All the major death camps were behind the “Iron Curtain” and few Americans had even heard of them before the fall of Communism; the six death camps, Auschwitz, Majdanek, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec and Chelmno were all located in what is now Poland, and they were controlled by the Communists. For many years in America, Dachau was the name most associated with the Holocaust, not Auschwitz.

The excuse for setting up concentration camps, including the Dachau camp, was the hysteria following the burning of the Reichstag, which was the Congressional building in Berlin, on the night of February 27, 1933, only four weeks after Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. Hermann Goering accused the Communists of starting the fire in protest of the appointment of Hitler as the Chancellor and the scheduled Congressional election to confirm his appointment, but the Communists claimed that the Nazis had set the fire themselves in order to begin a reign of terror. The arrests of Communists and Social Democrats began even before the fire was put out.

After President Paul von Hindenburg was asked by the Nazi-controlled German Cabinet that night to use his emergency powers under Article 48 of the German Constitution to suspend certain civil rights, 2,000 leading Communists throughout Germany were imprisoned without formal charges being brought against them and without a trial. They were held in abandoned buildings such as the camp in an old brewery in Oranienburg; this camp was rebuilt in 1936 as the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. On March 21, 1933, Communists in the town of Dachau were imprisoned in the building which now houses the New Gallery for modern art. Other Communists were sent to prisons such as the federal prison at Landsberg am Lech, where Hitler himself had formerly been a prisoner after his failed Putsch in 1923.

The first prisoners brought to the old gunpowder factory at Dachau on March 22, 1933 were 200 Communists, including some of the members of the Reichstag, who had been taken into “protective custody” and had, at first, been sent to the Landsberg am Lech prison near Munich.

After the Reichstag fire, the Congressional election took place on March 5, 1933 as scheduled. The Nazis won the most seats and they were able to put together a coalition government to form a majority, which confirmed Hitler as the new Chancellor.

On March 7, 1933, an important law was passed by the newly-elected German Congress, which called for all high-level government officials in the German states to be appointed by the Nazis and for all state government positions to be supervised by the Nazis in the event of an emergency. Germany was already in an emergency situation and Article 48 of the German Constitution had already been invoked. Under this new law, Heinrich Himmler was appointed the acting Chief of Police in Munich, although his real job was Reichsführer-SS, the leader of Hitler’s elite private Army.

As the acting Police Chief, Himmler announced the opening of a Konzentrationslager (concentration camp) at Dachau in a news conference on March 20, 1933.

The concept of a concentration camp was not originated by the Nazis. The following quote is from Wikipedia:

Although the first modern concentration camps used to systematically dissuade rebels from fighting are usually attributed to the British during the Boer War, in the Spanish-American War, forts and camps were used by the Spanish in Cuba to separate rebels from their agricultural support bases.

Theodore Eicke, who became the second Commandant of Dachau in June 1933, is called the “father of the Nazi concentration camp system” because all subsequent camps used the rules and regulations which he wrote for the Dachau camp.

The first commander of Dachau, Hilmar Wäckerle, was dismissed from his position by Heinrich Himmler after charges of murder were brought against him by a Munich court for the deaths of several prisoners who had died after being severely punished. Another Dachau Commandant, Alex Piorkowski, was also dismissed by Himmler and was expelled from the Nazi party for breaking the strict rules set by Eicke.

An office was set up at Dachau in 1934 to administer all the camps; this office, called the WVHA, was later moved to Oranienburg near Berlin. All punishments of prisoners in all the Nazi camps had to approved by the WVHA. All punishments for women prisoners had to be approved by Heinrich Himmler himself.

On March 23, 1933, the German Congress passed another important law, called the Enabling Act, which gave Hitler the power to rule by decree in case of an emergency. On that day, Germany still had a President and as Chancellor, Hitler was not yet the undisputed leader of Germany. The next day, on March 24, 1933, front page headlines in The Daily Express of London read “Judea Declares War on Germany – Jews of All the World Unite – Boycott of German Goods – Mass Demonstrations.” The newspaper article mentioned that the boycott of German goods had already started.

The following is a quote from the Daily Express of London on March 24, 1933:

The whole of Israel throughout the world is uniting to declare an economic and financial war on Germany. The appearance of the Swastika as the symbol of the new Germany has revived the old war symbol of Judas to new life. Fourteen million Jews scattered over the entire world are tight to each other as if one man, in order to declare war against the German persecutors of their fellow believers. The Jewish wholesaler will quit his house, the banker his stock exchange, the merchant his business, and the beggar his humble hut, in order to join the holy war against Hitler’s people.

In America, the boycott of German goods was announced on March 23, 1933 as 20,000 Jews protested against Hitler’s government at the City Hall in New York City. On March 27, 1933, a mass rally, that had already been planned on March 12th, was held in Madison Square Garden; there were 40,000 Jewish protesters, according to the New York Daily News. The next day, on March 28, 1933 Hitler made a speech in which he deplored the stories of Nazi atrocities that were being published in the American press and announced a one-day boycott of Jewish stores in Germany on April 1, 1933 in retaliation.

The following is a quote from Hitler’s speech on March 28, 1933:

Lies and slander of positively hair-raising perversity are being launched about Germany. Horror stories of dismembered Jewish corpses, gouged out eyes and hacked off hands are circulating for the purpose of defaming the German Volk in the world for the second time, just as they had succeeded in doing once before in 1914.

In spite of the Jewish “holy war” against the Nazis, there were no Jews sent to a concentration camp solely because they were Jewish during the first five and a half years that the Nazi concentration camps were in existence. Jews were sent to Dachau from day one, but it was because they were Communists or trade union leaders, not because they were Jewish. The first Jews to be taken into “protective custody,” simply because they were Jews, were arrested during the pogrom on the night of November 9th & 10th in 1938, which the Nazis named Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass).

Kristallnacht was the night that German citizens smashed windows in Jewish shops and set fire to over 200 Jewish Synagogues throughout Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland in what is now the Czech Republic. Ninety-one people were killed during this uncontrolled riot which the police did not try to stop. That night, Hitler and his henchmen were gathered at the Bürgerbräukeller, a beer hall in Munich, celebrating the anniversary of Hitler’s attempt to take over the German government by force in 1923; Hitler’s failed Putsch had been organized at the Bürgerbräukeller.

Joseph Goebbels made a speech at the beer hall in which he said that he would not be surprised if the German people were so outraged by the assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by a Polish Jew named Herschel Grynszpan that they would take the law into their own lands and attack Jewish businesses and Synagogues. Goebbels is generally credited with being the instigator of the pogrom. (Pogrom is a Polish word which means an event in which ordinary citizens use violence to drive the Jews out.)

Approximately 30,00 Jewish men were arrested during the pogrom, allegedly for their own protection, and taken to the 3 major concentration camps in Germany, including 10,911 who were brought to Dachau and held as prisoners while they were pressured to sign over their property and leave the country. The majority of these Jews were released within a few weeks, after they promised to leave Germany within six months; most of them wound up in Shanghai, the only place that did not require a visa, because other countries, except Great Britain, refused to take them.

In anticipation of such violence against the Jews by the Nazis, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had invited 32 countries to a Conference in Evian, France in July 1938 to discuss the problem of Jewish refugees. The only country which agreed to allow Jewish refugees as immigrants was the Dominican Republic; 5,000 German Jews emigrated to the Dominican Republic before the start of World War II. The American Congress refused to change the US immigration laws, passed in 1920 and 1921, to allow a higher quota of Jewish refugees from Germany to enter, although America did start filling the quota under the existing laws for the first time.

After the joint conquest of Poland, by Germany and the Soviet Union, in September 1939, numerous Polish resistance fighters were imprisoned, including 1,780 Catholic priests. When the Catholic Church complained about the harsh treatment the priests received in the concentration camps, all the priests were moved to Dachau because it was the mildest camp of all. Dachau was designated as the main camp for Catholic priests who had been arrested on various charges, including child molestation, and a total of 2,720 from 19 different nations were sent there. The priests did not have to work in the factories and were given special privileges.

The most famous priest at Dachau was Leonard Roth who was a prisoner there from 1943 to 1945.

Regarding Father Roth, the following was written by Harold Marcuse, the author of “Legacies of Dachau”:

The camp administration gave him the “black triangle” badge of the “asocials” because he was accused of homosexual conduct as well as anti-Nazi activity. He was one of the few priests imprisoned in the Dachau KZ to survive the work caring for inmates dying of highly infectious typhus at the end of the war. Roth remained in Dachau as a priest for the SS men interned there by the US Army after July 1945. When that internment camp was dissolved and the Bavarian government converted the camp to housing for German refugees from Czechoslovakia in 1948, Roth remained as their “curate” (he had been demoted from priest status). A stern but well-liked pastor, he worked tirelessly to better the living conditions of the refugees. Around 1957 he joined the Dachau camp survivors’ organization as a representative of the priests who had been imprisoned in the camp. By 1960 he was in heated conflict with the Catholic hierarchy in Bavaria. Relieved of his post in the refugee settlement, he took his own life.

Also among the Dachau inmates were 109 anti-Nazi Protestant clergymen, including the Reverend Martin Niemöller, one of the founders of the Protestant Confessional Church. Niemöller had been tried in a German court and convicted of treason; after being sentenced to time served, he was first sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin, then later to Buchnwald and finally to Dachau. After the war, he continued to preach against the Nazi regime, including making a speech before the American Congress.

Niemöller is famous for the following words which he spoke many times:

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Kommunist.
Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.
Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.
Als sie die Juden holten, habe ich geschwiegen; ich war ja kein Jude.
Als sie mich holten, gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.

Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, Russian Prisoners of War were sent to Dachau. On Hitler’s orders, Russian POWs who were determined to be Communist Commissars were executed at Dachau and other major concentration camps in Germany. The Communist Soviet Union had both political Commissars and military Commissars whose job it was to keep their citizens or soldiers in line. The military Commissars were stationed behind the front lines in order to urge reluctant Soviet soldiers forward since only one out of every 5 men had been furnished with a rifle. The Soviet soldiers were expected to pick up a rifle after another soldier had been shot; those who tried to retreat were shot by the Commissars. If captured, the Commissars were under orders to organize an escape or otherwise create havoc in the POW camp.

Throughout its 12-year history, Dachau was predominantly a camp for non-Jewish adult males. At first, the few women who were sent to Dachau lived with German families in the town of Dachau and worked as servants. In 1944, Jewish women were brought to Dachau from Hungary, but most of them were then transferred to some of the 123 Dachau sub-camps to work in German factories. Other women at Dachau were non-Jewish prostitutes who worked in a camp brothel for the inmates, which was set up in 1943. There were 11 prostitutes at the camp when it was liberated.

Resistance fighters and high-ranking Communists from France, Belgium, Albania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and many other countries were also brought to Dachau. Several captured British SOE agents, and even one American in the OSS, a secret agent who was working with the French Resistance, were imprisoned at Dachau during the war.

According to Nerin E. Gun, a Turkish journalist who was a prisoner at Dachau, there were 11 Americans at Dachau at some time during its 12-year history.

Frank Cappabianca e-mailed us the information that his grandfather Frank Machnig spent some time as a POW at Dachau after he was captured by the Germans following the D-Day invasion.

Prisoners at Dachau and the other Nazi concentration camps wore badges which indicated their classification. Most of the prisoners at Dachau wore a red triangle to indicate that they were political prisoners. German criminals in the camp wore a green triangle.

The political prisoners at Dachau were the Resistance fighters from many countries which Germany had conquered, but there were also German Resistance fighters, according to a book entitled “That was Dachau” by former Dachau inmate Stanislav Zámecník

The following quote is from “That was Dachau” by Stanislav Zámecník

The anti-Hitler movement inside Germany, which included German communists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, was the largest indigenous resistance movement of any country during the whole war. Only in Germany was an attempt made to assassinate their leader. Around 800,000 were sent to prison at one time or another for active resistance to the regime. While the western allies did all in their power to help other resistance movements, ie in France and the Netherlands, they did nothing to help or encourage the movement in Germany which in all probability could have ended the war sooner. But the Allies were intent on unconditional surrender and refused to make any deals at all with Germans. Accordingly the Allies viewed all Germans as bad, not only Nazis.

Dachau was never a camp that was specifically intended for murdering the Jews; the Nazi plan was to consolidate all the Jews into ghettos, from which they were later sent to the death camps. German Jews were sent to the Lodz ghetto in what is now Poland where they worked in factories until 1944; those who could no longer work were sent to the Chelmno death camp. In 1942, the Jews who were still living in Germany were sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto in what is now the Czech Republic and from there to the gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

In January 1941, Dachau was designated a Class I camp and Buchenwald became a Class II camp; Mauthausen and Gusen in Austria were the only Class III camps in the Nazi system. The Class I designation meant that treatment of the inmates was less harsh and that prisoners had a better chance of being released. Dachau was the best of the Nazis camps, as far as the treatment of the prisoners was concerned.

According to testimony given at the Nuremberg IMT, approximately 150 Dachau inmates were forced to participate in medical experiments conducted by Dr. Sigmund Rascher for the German Air Force, and about half of them died as a result. The subjects for these experiments were allegedly German “professional criminals” and Soviet POWs who were Communist Commissars, sentenced to be executed on the orders of Adolf Hitler. One Jew, who had been condemned to death for breaking the law against race mixing, was used in these experiments.

Prof. Dr. Klaus Schilling, a renowned expert on malaria, was persuaded to come out of retirement in order to conduct medical experiments on approximately 1,200 Dachau prisoners in an attempt to find a cure for malaria after German troops began fighting the Allies in North Africa. Hundreds died as a result of Dr. Schilling’s experiments, including a few who died from malaria and others who died from other diseases after being weakened by malaria. The subjects for the malaria experiments were the Catholic priests in the camp because they were not required to work, and would not be missed in the labor force if they died.

In February 1942, the Nazis began systematically rounding up all the Jews in Germany and the Nazi-occupied countries, and transporting them to what is now Poland or the area that is now Belarus, in a program of extermination, which had been planned at the Wannsee conference on January 20, 1942. The title of the conference was “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question.”

After the evacuation process began in February 1942, there were only a few Jews left in any of the camps in Germany, including Dachau. On April 29, 1945 when Dachau was liberated, there were 2,539 Jews in the main camp, including 225 women, according to the US Army census. Most of them had arrived only weeks or even days before, after they were evacuated from the Dachau sub-camps, mainly the Kaufering camps near Landsberg am Lech, where they had been forced to work in building underground factories for the manufacture of Messerschmitt airplanes.

In April 1942, at the same time that the Jews were being sent to the death camps in the East, a new brick building called Baracke X was planned for the Dachau camp. It was designed to house a homicidal gas chamber, disguised as a shower room, and four cremation ovens. The new Baracke X also has four disinfection gas chambers, designed to kill lice in clothing with the use of Zyklon-B, the same poison gas that was used to kill the Jews in the homicidal gas chambers at Majdanek and Auschwitz. The clothing was disinfected in all the Nazi camps in an attempt to prevent typhus which is spread by lice.

Construction on Baracke X began in July 1942, using the labor of the Catholic priests who were the only prisoners not forced to work in the factories at Dachau. The building was finished in 1943, but a sign that was put in the gas chamber in 1965 inexplicably informed tourists that this room was never used for gassing people. By May 2003, the sign was gone and a poster on the wall of the undressing room next to the gas chamber said that the gas chamber “could have been used” to kill prisoners.

The Dachau museum mentions in one of its displays that 3,166 “terminally ill” prisoners were transported from Dachau to Hartheim Castle near Linz, Austria where they were murdered in a gas chamber there, beginning in February 1942.

A letter from Dr. Sigmund Rascher to Heinrich Himmler, the head of all the concentration camps, which makes a reference to a facility like the one at Hartheim which the Nazis were planning to build at Dachau, is the best proof that the fake shower room in Baracke X was actually a gas chamber. A copy of this letter was displayed in the gas chamber building in May 2001, but it was later moved to the Dachau Museum.

When the death camps in what is now Poland had to be abandoned, as the Soviet troops advanced westward, the Jewish survivors were brought back to Germany and crowded into camps such as Bergen-Belsen and Dachau, which did not have enough room to accommodate them properly.

Typhus, transmitted by body lice, which had been prevalent in the ghettos and death camps in occupied Poland throughout the war, now spread to the concentration camps in Germany. After January 1945, conditions in all of Germany and Austria, including the concentration camps, became intolerable due to the chaos caused by the intensive Allied bombing of civilian areas in all the major cities.

Just west of the concentration camp at Dachau, a large SS army garrison was set up in 1936 on the grounds of the former gunpowder factory. This facility, which was four or five times the size of the Dachau prison camp, included an officers’ training school where German SS soldiers were educated to be administrators. Some of the famous graduates of this school were Adolf Eichmann, who became the head of Hitler’s Race and Resettlement office, and Rudolf Hoess, the infamous Commandant of Auschwitz, who confessed that 2.5 million Jews had been gassed while he was in charge there, from May 1940 through November 1943.

Beginning in 1936, most of the old gunpowder factory buildings were torn down and the prisoners were forced to build a new camp with 34 barrack buildings, a gate house and a large service building. Two rows of poplar trees were planted along a main camp road; the service building and all the barrack buildings had flower beds in front of them.

Also in 1936, a new camp called Sachsenhausen was built to replace the former “wild camp” that had been set up in an abandoned brewery in Oranienburg in 1933. The camp in the old brewery was the place where the famous “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign was first erected. When the new Dachau gate house was finished in June 1936, this slogan was put on the iron gate. The words mean “work will set you free.” According to Rudolf Hoess, who was on the Dachau staff in 1936, the slogan meant that work sets one free in the spiritual sense, not literally.

The existence of the Dachau concentration camp was far from a secret; visitors were frequently brought to the camp and given a tour in the years before World War II started, including some American prison officials. Heinrich Himmler even brought his small daughter, Gudrun, to visit the Dachau camp.

Himmler had a college degree in Agriculture and was interested in the health movement which began in Germany. He established a large farm just outside the Dachau camp where some of the prisoners worked. According to this news story, experiments were done on the farm to find out why potatoes had become so vulnerable to pests and early decay. Herbs were grown for use as medicine and vitamins were extracted from plants.

Fermented blackberry and raspberry leaves from the Dachau farm were used to create German tea, reducing dependency on imports. Work was done on growing German pepper and gladioli flowers were grown in great quantities for their vitamin C. The gladioli leaves were dried and pulverized, then combined with a mixture of spices, beef fat and cooking salt to make a food supplement for SS soldiers.

Himmler was way ahead of his time in his knowledge of plants that could be used as medicine; he planted fields of primroses in a first attempt to extract evening primrose oil for use as medication.

On the Dachau farm, there were herds of cows in 1,850 acres of pastures, tended by up to 800 inmates, whose task was to gather the dung for testing in the camp gardens. A special compost was devised to speed the growth of healing herbs, and there were also experiments using worms to improve the soil.

Beginning in 1943, a series of 123 sub-camps were set up near the Dachau main camp. The worst of these sub-camps were the 11 camps near Landsberg am Lech, which were named Kaufering I – XI; Kaufering was the name of the railroad station where the prisoners arrived by train. Beginning on June 18, 1944, Hungarian Jews from the death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau were brought to the Kaufering camps to work on construction of underground factories where airplanes were to be built.

By March 9, 1945, a total of 28,838 prisoners had been brought to Dachau and then transferred to the 11 Landsberg sub-camps. Approximately 14,500 prisoners died in these camps. In April 1945, the Kaufering camps were evacuated, except for the Kaufering IV camp where sick prisoners were left behind. Kaufering IV was liberated by American soldiers two days before the main camp was liberated.

According to a book published by the US Seventh Army immediately after the war, entitled “Dachau Liberated, The Official Report by The U.S. Seventh Army,” there was a total of 29,138 Jews brought to Dachau from other camps between June 20, 1944 and November 23, 1944. This report says the Jews were brought to Dachau to be executed and that they were gassed in the gas chamber disguised as a shower room and also in the four smaller gas chambers, which were designed to be disinfection chambers. The report also says that 16,717 non-Jewish, German prisoners were executed at Dachau between October 1940 and March 1945.

On April 26, 1945, three days before the camp was liberated, there were 30,442 prisoners counted during roll call. On that same day, 1,759 Jews were put onto a train and evacuated, on the orders of Heinrich Himmler. Then 6,887 other Dachau prisoners, half of them Jews and half of them Russian POWs, were marched in the direction of the South Tyrol.

There were an additional 37,223 prisoners counted in the sub-camps near Dachau on April 26, 1945, the date of the last roll call. According to the US Army Report, there were approximately 7,000 prisoners who arrived at Dachau after April 26, 1945 who were not registered in the camp. They were prisoners from the sub-camps who had been evacuated to the main camp. One group of prisoners from a subcamp arrived on April 28th, escorted by Otto Moll, a notorious SS man who had formerly worked in the Auschwitz death camp.

Due to horrific overcrowding and the spread of contagious diseases brought from what is now Poland by new arrivals who had been evacuated from the death camps, the number of recorded deaths at Dachau in the last four chaotic months of the war jumped to 13,158. After the camp was liberated by the US Seventh Army on April 29, 1945, an additional 2,226 prisoners died from disease in the month of May and 196 more died in June.

The total number of deaths in the first five months of 1945 was almost half the total deaths in the 12-year history of the camp. The death rate in the other Nazi concentration camps also rose dramatically in the last months of the war, as the typhus epidemic spread throughout Germany. American POWs in German camps were saved from the epidemic by booster shots of typhus vaccine sent to them from America by the International Red Cross. The Germans were conducting experiments at the Buchenwald camp in an effort to develop a vaccine for typhus, but had not been successful. After the war, the doctors who had attempted to develop a typhus vaccine at Buchenwald were put on trial as war criminals at Nuremberg in the Doctor’s Trial conducted by Americans.

By October 1944, there was a shortage of coal in all of Germany and the dead could no longer be cremated. A new cemetery was opened on a hill north of the camp, called Leitenberg, where the last Dachau victims were buried in unmarked mass graves. Ashes of earlier unknown victims are buried in the area north of the new crematorium. Markers were placed on the sites of the mass graves of ashes between 1950 and 1964.

On April 28, 1945, the day before the liberation of the camp, Dachau citizens joined with escaped prisoners from the camp in an uprising led by Georg Scherer, a former prisoner who had been released, but was still working in a factory at the Dachau complex. Their attempt to take control of the town of Dachau failed; 3 of the prisoners and 4 of the locals were killed in a battle that took place in front of the Dachau town hall. Georg Scherer survived and later became the mayor of Dachau.

On April 29, 1945, Dachau became the second major Nazi concentration camp to be liberated by American troops, after Buchenwald was liberated on April 11, 1945 by the 6th Armored Division of General George S. Patton’s Third Army.

The last Commandant of the Dachau Concentration Camp was Wilhelm Eduard Weiter, who replaced Martin Gottfried Weiss on November 1, 1943; Weiss was transferred to the Majdanek death camp in Poland.

Eduard Weiter left the Dachau camp on April 26, 1945 with a prisoner transport to the Schloss Itter, a subcamp of Dachau in Austria. Weiter shot himself at Schloss Itter on May 6, 1945, according to Johannes Tuchel who wrote about The Commandants of the Dachau Concentration Camp in his book: Dachau and the Nazi Terror II, 1933-1945.

In May 1944, Martin Gottfried Weiss was appointed the department head of the Office Group D in the SS Main Office of Economic Administration (WVHA) at Oranienburg. That same year, Weiss became the commander of the five sub-camps of Dachau at Mühldorf; when the Mühldorf prisoners were evacuated and brought to the main camp in the Spring of 1945, Weiss returned to Dachau. Fourteen members of the staff at Mühldorf were put on trial at Dachau from April 1 through May 13, 1947 in the case of US vs. Franz Auer et al.

On April 28, 1945, Martin Gottfried Weiss escaped from the Dachau camp along with most of the regular guards; he had been the highest ranking SS officer and the acting Commandant for two days before the camp was liberated by the US Seventh Army on April 29, 1945.

Weiss had previously been the Commandant of the Neuengamme concentration camp from 1940 to 1942. From September 1942 until the end of October 1943, Weiss was the Commandant of Dachau. During his time as the Commandant of Dachau, some of the worst atrocities had occurred, including the building of the gas chamber and the medical experiments conducted for the German air force. In spite of this, several former prisoners testified in his defense when he was put on trial at Dachau in the first American Military Tribunal in November 1945.

Martin Gottfried Weiss should not be confused with another man named Martin Weiss, who was named by one of the prosecution witnesses at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal as the man that he saw killing Jews in Vilna, Lithuania in 1941. Martin Gottfried Weiss was the Commandant at Neuengamme during that time.

On April 29, 1945, SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker surrendered the camp to the 42nd Rainbow Division of the US Seventh Army, which had found the camp on its way to take the city of Munich, 18 kilometers to the south. Accompanied by Red Cross representative Victor Maurer, 2nd Lt. Wicker surrendered the Dachau concentration camp to Brigadier General Henning Linden, commander of the 42nd Rainbow Division, under a white flag of truce. The 45th Thunderbird Division of the US Seventh Army also participated in the liberation of Dachau, arriving at the nearby SS garrison before the 42nd Division approached the installations’s main entrance on the south side of the Dachau complex where 2nd Lt. Wicker was waiting to surrender the camp.

Before reaching the concentration camp, the 45th Thunderbird Division had discovered an abandoned train, with no engine, on a branch railroad line which at that time ran from the Dachau station along Freisinger Street in the direction of the camp. Inside the 39 train cars were the corpses of prisoners who had been evacuated from Buchenwald on April 7, 1945 and, because of heavy bombing and strafing by Allied planes in the last days of the war, had not reached Dachau until three weeks later, two days before the American soldiers arrived.

Most of the regular SS guards and the administrative staff had fled from the camp the next day and there was no one left to oversee the burial of the bodies. No precise figures are available, but the train had started out with approximately 4,500 to 6,000 prisoners on board and between 1,300 and 2,600 had made it to Dachau still alive. Some of the dead had been buried along the way, or left in rows alongside the tracks. The gruesome sight of the death train, with some of the corpses in the open cars riddled by bullets, so affected the young soldiers of the 45th Thunderbird Division that they executed Waffen-SS soldiers stationed at the Dachau garrison after they had surrendered.

SS soldiers in guard tower B on the west side of the concentration camp were ordered to come down and were then shot by the American liberators, even though the tower was flying the white flag of surrender and the guards in Tower A had already surrendered without incident.

After the regular guards had escaped from the camp on the day before the liberation, 128 SS soldiers who had been imprisoned in a special wing of the Dachau bunker were released and ordered to serve as guards until the Americans arrived to take over the camp. 2nd Lt. Wicker had stayed behind when the other guards escaped because his mother was staying at the Dachau garrison, visiting him. Wicker’s mother reported him missing after the war, and it is presumed that he was killed after he surrendered the camp to the Americans.

Prisoners in the camp were given guns by some of the liberators and were allowed to shoot or beat to death 40 of the German guards while American soldiers looked on. The German Sheppard guard dogs were shot in their kennels. The bodies of some the dead SS soldiers were later buried in unmarked graves inside the garrison, after their dog tags had been removed; their families were not notified of their deaths. Some of the bodies of the executed SS soldiers were burned in the ovens in the crematorium at Dachau.

Upon entering the camp after the surrender, the American liberators, and the news reporters accompanying them, were horrified to discover over 900 dying prisoners in the infirmary barracks. According to the court testimony of the camp doctor, as many as 400 prisoners were dying of disease each day in the final days before the liberation.

Accompanied by Communist political prisoners, who served as guides, the Americans toured the prison camp and were shown the building, just outside the barbed wire enclosure, which housed the homicidal gas chamber disguised as a shower room. The Americans heard eye-witness accounts from Dachau survivors who said that prisoners had been gassed to death in the fake shower room; they also heard stories of how prisoners had been shoved into the crematory ovens while still alive. Bodies of fully-clothed dead inmates were found piled inside the new crematorium building and many more naked corpses were piled up outside. Outside the disinfection chambers, there was a huge pile of clothing waiting to be fumigated with Zyklon-B gas pellets.

There were no charges of killing prisoners in a gas chamber brought against the accused in the proceedings against the staff members of the Dachau camp, which were conducted by an American Military Tribunal at Dachau in November 1945, although a film of the gas chamber was shown at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal on November 29, 1945, while the Dachau tribunal was in progress. This documentary film was taken by the Allies, under the direction of famed Hollywood director George Stevens; it showed the pipes through which the gas flowed into the gas chamber and the control wheels which regulated the flow of gas that came out of the shower heads.

The top Nazis on trial at Nuremberg were stunned and claimed that they were hearing about the Dachau gas chamber for the first time. Some of the footage from this film is currently being shown at the Dachau Museum, although in May 2003, the staff at the Memorial Site was telling visitors that the Dachau gas chamber had actually been designed so that the introduction of poison gas was done by pouring Zyklon-B pellets onto the floor of the gas chamber through two chutes on the outside wall of the building.

Several of the “special prisoners” in the bunker were shot just before the camp was liberated, including Dr. Sigmund Rascher, who had formerly conducted experiments on condemned prisoners in the camp for the German Air Force. Dr. Rascher had been arrested and imprisoned in Munich after it was learned that he had illegally adopted two children and told everyone that these were his own children.

Georg Elser, who was imprisoned at Dachau as a suspect in the attempted assassination of Hitler on November 8, 1939, was allegedly shot around the time that an Allied bomb hit the camp on April 9, 1945 and his death was blamed on the bombing. General Charles Delestraint, a Dachau prisoner who had been the leader of the French Secret Army in the Resistance, was allegedly executed at Dachau on April 19, 1945, although no execution order from Berlin was ever found. Four female British SOE agents were also allegedly executed Dachau, although the execution order was never found.

After the German surrender on May 7, 1945, the American Army took over the barracks of the SS garrison and set up a command post called Eastman which they occupied until 1973. On the orders of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, all available American soldiers were brought to Dachau so that they could be eye-witnesses to the existence of the homicidal gas chamber, disguised as a shower room.

Many of the naked corpses found in the camp were left out until May 13, two weeks after the liberation, so that American Congressmen, newspaper reporters and as many American soldiers as possible could view the horror. Thirty male citizens from the town of Dachau were brought to the camp and forced to view the rotting corpses, even though the typhus epidemic was still raging in the camp, and the Germans had not been vaccinated.

Young boys of the Hitler Youth were brought to see the dead bodies on the train. Mutilated corpses of SS guards, who had been killed by the Americans after discovering the train, were lying nearby. Before the corpses in the camp were finally given a decent burial, the stench could be smelled up to a mile away, according to the American liberators. When the bodies of the typhus victims were finally taken to the cemetery on a hill called Leitenberg for burial by the citizens of Dachau, the horse-drawn wagons had to be driven slowly though the town, on the orders of the American military, so that the town’s people would be forced to confront the horror of what the Nazis had done.

Rabbi Eli Bohnen was the Jewish Chaplain of the 42nd Rainbow Division; he arrived at Dachau on April 30, 1945 along with Rabbi David Max Eichhorn of the US Army XV Corps, who conducted the first Shabbat at Dachau on May 5, 1945.

After the liberation of Dachau, the commanding officer of the Rainbow division, Major General Harry J. Collins, made sure that the Jewish survivors were taken care of properly. Some of the Jewish survivors were given private housing in homes in the town of Dachau after their owners had been evicted. In some cases, the home owners were allowed to live in the attic of their homes, but they were forbidden to remove any of the linens, china or silverware, which had to be left for the use of the new occupants. A few of the Jewish survivors settled in Dachau permanently after the war.

In the first few days after the liberation, the town’s people were forced to scrounge for food and deliver it to the camp inmates. The two bakeries in Dachau had to deliver wagon loads of bread for the starving inmates. Major General Collins, with the help of Rabbi Bohnen, made sure that the former Jewish inmates of Dachau received the best rations, including kosher foods.

All of the food in the army warehouse of the SS garrison was given to the inmates, although there was a food shortage also in the town of Dachau. There were 1,268 prisoners, who died after the liberation, that were buried in individual graves by the Dachau residents at Waldfriedhof, the town cemetery, on the orders of the US Army.

The liberated inmates had to be kept in the camp until the typhus epidemic could be brought under control. The Americans used DDT, a new insecticide not being used in Germany, to kill the lice in the camp. When the epidemic ended, the concentration camp was immediately turned into War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 for 30,000 Germans who had been arrested as war criminals and were awaiting trial by an American Military Tribunal. Most of them were released by 1948 for lack of evidence, although some were transferred to France for trial.

Former concentration camp inmates of Dachau and Displaced Persons from other camps were housed at the Dachau army garrison, next door to the concentration camp; they were fed by the American Army. Former inmates were paid to be prosecution witnesses in a series of American Military Tribunals that were held on the grounds of the Dachau complex, beginning in November 1945.

In the first proceeding of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau in November 1945, 36 of the 40 accused staff members at Dachau were sentenced to death by hanging. Only 28 of the 36 condemned men were actually hanged.

The American Military Tribunal proceeding against the Waffen-SS soldiers who were accused of shooting American POWs at Malmédy was also held at Dachau, as were the proceedings against the accused guards and staff at the Buchenwald, Mauthausen, Flossenbürg and Nordhausen concentration camps. The proceedings against the infamous Ilse Koch, dubbed the “Bitch of Buchenwald” by the press, also took place in Dachau. As the wife of the Commandant at Buchenwald, she was accused of selecting tattooed prisoners to be killed by her alleged lover, Dr. Waldemar Hoven, so that their skin could be made into human lamp shades to decorate her home.

All of the Dachau proceedings were conducted by US Army Military Tribunals in which the accused were presumed to be guilty; most of the interrogators, prosecutors and judges were Jews, many of whom were foreign-born American citizens. After the Jewish interrogators in the Malmédy trial were accused of torturing the Waffen-SS soldiers into confessing, a Congressional investigation was conducted, and by December 1957, all of the convicted men in this case had been released.

Another Congressional investigation was conducted after General Lucius D. Clay commuted the sentence of Ilse Koch to time served. Gen. Clay claimed that the lamp shades, allegedly made from human skin, were actually made from goat skin.

Immediately after the war, Erich Preuss, a former Dachau prisoner, set up an exhibit in the crematory building, located just outside the barbed wire enclosure of the concentration camp. American soldiers stationed in Germany were brought to Dachau to see the gas chamber, which they were told had been used to murder innocent inmates of the concentration camp. Mannequins were used in a display that was set up to illustrate how the Dachau prisoners were punished on the whipping block. During this time, the former concentration camp itself was off limits to visitors because it was filled with accused German war criminals awaiting the proceedings of the American Military Tribunals at Dachau, and later by homeless German refugees.

The prisoner barracks at Dachau were renovated in 1948 and 5,000 refugees from Czechoslovakia, who were among the 12 to 18 million ethnic Germans that were expelled from their homes after the war, lived in the Dachau camp until 1964 when an organization of Communist camp survivors began demanding that they be removed so that a Memorial could be built in honor of the former concentration camp political prisoners.

A symbolic cornerstone for the International Memorial at Dachau had already been dedicated in 1956 by the International Committee of Dachau. The remaining 2,000 German refugees were moved in 1964 to Dachau East, a new suburb which was created for them.

The first Dachau Memorial building was erected in 1960; it is a Catholic chapel in honor of the priests who were imprisoned at Dachau, including Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, a Bishop from Munich, who was arrested for objecting to the policies of the Nazi government. With Neuhäusler’s help, a Carmelite convent was opened in 1964 on the site of the gravel pit just outside the north wall of the camp; the convent has an entrance through one of the guard towers. In the same year, the dilapidated barracks buildings, by now vacated by the refugees, were torn down.

A Protestant Church and a Jewish Memorial were dedicated in 1967. The International Memorial with its poignant sculpture, designed by Yugoslavian artist Nandor Glid, was dedicated on September 8, 1968.

A Museum was opened in the Administration building on May 9, 1965, after the original museum was closed in 1953 due to protests by the Bavarian government.

New Museum exhibits were under construction for two years, starting in 2001, and the special section on “The Final Solution” was not open from 2001 to 2003; the Museum was expanded to include the West wing of the administration building. The Museum now tells the complete story of Dachau and there is no section on Auschwitz or other death camps.

An exhibit in the former camp prison, called the bunker, was formally dedicated on January 27, 2000.

In 1973, the American Army left the Dachau complex for good and the former SS garrison area was turned over to the Bavarian government. Most of the beautiful stone SS barracks buildings, which had been used by the U.S. Army for 28 years, have been torn down, and the site of the former SS installation is now being used by the Bavarian Police.

Eicke Plaza, which was a formal garden in front of the main entrance to the Dachau complex, is now a soccer field. New homes and apartments have been built directly behind the south wall of the former concentration camp. There are some nice new homes also built on the street that borders the former SS garrison.

The Memorial Site is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Mondays and admission is free. It is located east of the town of Dachau, which can be reached from the main train station in Munich in 20 minutes via S-Bahn train number 2 going towards Petershausen.

Until 2005, the entrance to the former camp was located at Alte Römerstrasse 75, a few yards north of where Alte Römerstrasse intersects Sudetenlandstrasse. In May 2005, the entrance was changed so that visitors now enter the camp through the original gate with the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign, on the west side of the camp, opposite the old entrance.

The first thing that visitors are told by their tour guides at Dachau is that the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign was put up to taunt the prisoners who had no chance of being set free because the policy of the Dachau camp was extermination through work. Actually, the Arbeit Macht Frei sign was only put on Class 1 camps where prisoners had a good chance of being released. Buchenwald was a Class II camp where the sign on the gate said “Jedem das Seine,” which means “To each his own.” Mauthausen was a Class III camp where the prisoners were designated “Return unwanted” and there was no sign at all.

Bus number 726 runs from the train station in Dachau directly to the Memorial Site, following the route along Freisinger Street, the same street on which prisoners, arriving on transports, were forced to walk 3 kilometers to the concentration camp.

One of the alleged survivors of Dachau is Martin Zaidenstadt, a Polish Jew born in 1911, who settled in the town of Dachau after the war and married a German woman. He lives in a very nice house in the heart of Old Town Dachau, and up until May 2003 he would come to the Memorial Site every day to talk with the tourists. As many American tourists learned, he expected a donation and would get angry if he was handed less than $20. Although Martin told the tourists that he was a prisoner at Dachau for 3 years before the camp was liberated, the staff at the Museum claims that there is no record of him being incarcerated there.

German students over the age of 12 are required to tour a concentration camp as part of the on-going education of the present generation of German citizens in the evil perpetrated by the Nazi regime over 60 years ago. German soldiers are also required to tour the former concentration camps. Most visitors associate Dachau with the death of 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, although the majority of the inmates at Dachau were Catholics.

Few visitors to the camp bother to visit the town of Dachau which has grown from 13,000 residents in 1945 to 50,000 residents. Dachau is now multicultural and has a diverse population which includes many people who are not ethnic German. Older residents of Dachau are quick to point out that the majority of the people in the town did not vote for Hitler when he ran for President of Germany in 1932.

Dachauers have accepted the fact that their town will always be reviled as the home of the best-known Nazi concentration camp, but they are sometimes resentful that the town of Dachau is always associated with Nazi atrocities. They refer to the town itself as “the other Dachau.” They have pretty much given up trying to persuade tourists to visit the town, since the Holocaust is the only thing that attracts visitors to Dachau today.

November 23, 2016

The Hour of the Avenger — the story of the liberation of Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 6:57 am
Body of German guard at Dachau unlawfully killed by American soldiers

Body of German guard at Dachau unlawfully killed by American soldiers

The photo above shows a German guard at Dachau who was unlawfully killed, and his body mutilated, by American soldiers after the Dachau camp was voluntarily surrendered under a flag of truce.

Bodies of German guards killed at Dachau after the camp was surrendered

Bodies of German guards killed at Dachau after the camp was surrendered

A reader of my blog recently made the following comment:

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Probably the best book on the liberation of Dachau is “Hour of the avenger” [written by] Howard Buechner, where the author witnessed the unlawful execution of German guards and medical staff.

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I wrote about “The Hour of the Avenger” on this previous blog post: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/91-year-old-wwii-veteran-breaks-his-silence-about-the-dachau-massacre/

My blog post, cited above, starts with this quote:

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Most news articles, about the American soldiers who liberated the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945, mention that these veterans have never talked to their families about the horror of Dachau.  Now one of the Dachau liberators, Don Ritzenthaler, has broken his silence and has told his grandson about what really happened at Dachau when the camp was liberated [by American soldiers].

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I wrote about the surrender of the Dachau camp to American soldiers on this page of my website: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauLiberation/Surrender.html

 

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