This news article tells one version of the Dachau massacre [aka “The liberation of Dachau”]:
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.
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 surrender of Dachau
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:
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.
Tower B is shown in the photo below.
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
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.