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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”]:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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

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:

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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:

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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.




May 28, 2013

a detailed analysis of Jimmy Gentry’s claim that he was one of the liberators of Dachau on April 29, 1945

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 1:55 am

Jimmy Gentry of Franklin, TN was a soldier with the 42nd Rainbow Division. In an interview with G. Petrone and M. Skinner on 2/25/2000, he recalled what it was like on April 29, 1945, the day that Dachau was liberated. Was he really there that day, or did he visit the camp days, or even years, after it was liberated? There is considerable disagreement about the liberation of Dachau, as I previously wrote in this blog post:

This is a detailed analysis of Jimmy Gentry’s story, as told in his own words.

The following quote is the words of Jimmy Gentry in his interview with Petrone and Skinner on 2/25/2000:

On that particular morning that we left for Dachau, not knowing that it was Dachau, we just, another day’s work. We left about dawn, which we always did, and on foot, and went South, Southeast towards Dachau. We arrived about 11 o’clock in the morning.

Jimmy Gentry was a soldier in the 42nd Division.  On the day that Dachau was liberated, a few 42nd Division soldiers arrived in jeeps at the gate into the Dachau complex at 3 p.m.  It was soldiers of the 45th Division that arrived at 11 a.m. on foot at the railroad gate, shown in the photo below.

A section of the tracks at the former railroad gate has been preserved

A section of the tracks at the former railroad gate has been preserved

Only a few 42nd Division soldiers were at Dachau on the day of liberation

Only a few 42nd Division soldiers were at Dachau on the day of liberation

The photo above shows a group of 42nd Division soldiers who accompanied Brig. Gen. Henning Linden to the Dachau camp on April 29, 1945, the day of the liberation.  From left to right, they are T/5 G.N. Oddi, T/5 J.G. Bauerlein, Pfc. C.E. Tinkham, Pfc. Stout, and Pfc. W.P. Donahue.

This quote from Gentry’s interview with Petrone and Skinner mentions the Death Train that was parked outside the Dachau complex:

Because the boxcars that entered the northwest corner of that huge camp were open and the train was partway in the camp, and partway out of the camp. Our and some others went around the end of the box car to enter on the right side, and some others entered on the left side, and we only had about 3 feet between the train and the gate to enter, and on my side when I went around there I saw for the first time literally hundreds of bodies that had been shot and they were dead, and they were spilled out of the boxcar as if you had as if you had taken it, and just turned it over and poured the people out onto the side of the tracks. Some of the bodies were still in the train, some were hanging out over the tops of the piles of people outside, and that’s what I saw for the first time and they were not soldiers. We were used to seeing soldiers, both American and German soldiers who had been killed, but we’d never seen anything like this, they were striped, dressed in striped clothes, their head was the largest part of their body, their eyes all sunken back, they were ashen white, almost a blue color also, their ribs would protrude their arms the size of broomsticks, legs the same, and we didn’t know; I didn’t know who they were.

The railroad gate was at the southwest corner of the Dachau complex, not the northwest corner.  Photos of the train show that there were only two or three bodies lying along the track, not hundreds.  Gentry was describing the “death train,” but the 42nd Division soldiers did not see the train immediately, since they arrived in jeeps at a location near the main gate of the Dachau complex, which was about a mile from the railroad gate.

The quote from Gentry’s interview with Petrone and Skinner continues:

So we climbed over the bodies, and went on into the camp, and inside when we first got inside [the SS garrison,] the buildings were quite large, they were warehouses for the German SS troops, the elite soldiers, and they had all their equipment in these buildings. Now when we went in there were small arms fire, that means rifle fire all to our right and to the front of us, and what had happened, we found out later, some other troops had entered through the main gate, we came in through the train gate, or back gate, and they came in through the front gate so that’s why what we were hearing up ahead of us [was the 45th Division soldiers killing SS men inside the garrison] and to our right, and as we secured the buildings and moved, oh, towards the middle of the camp we found a second wall [there was no second wall in 1945], and on this wall, it was not as, not as large as the outside wall, there was a moat in front of it, a watered moat, and then another barbed wire fence. So there was a barbed wire fence, a moat, and then another wall. And we realized then, after seeing the train and after seeing this that these people were not to come out of there.

The moat and barbed wire fence that 42nd Division soldiers saw

The moat and barbed wire fence that 42nd Division soldiers saw

There was no wall in front of this barbed wire fence when the 42nd Division soldiers arrived at Dachau on April 29, 1945.  The wall was built later to hide the crematorium and the SS garrison from the camp.  At the time that the camp was liberated, there was a line of poplar trees that hid the factory buildings from the camp, as shown in the old photo below.  The concentration camp enclosure is on the right, but not shown.  Note there is a the line of trees, but no wall.

German soldiers who have surrendered outside the Dachau camp

German soldiers surrendered outside the Dachau concentration camp enclosure

Dachau concentration camp with moat and poplar trees

Dachau concentration camp with moat and poplar trees, but no wall between the camp and the SS garrison

Wall in front of the moat was built after Dachau was liberated

Wall in front of the moat was built after Dachau was liberated

The photo above shows a bridge over the moat, which was built AFTER the camp was liberated, along with a wall that was built to hide the crematorium area from the Dachau concentration camp. On the day that Dachau was liberated, the concentration camp was surrounded by a solid wall on three sides with the Würm river forming a moat on the fourth side. Today there is a wall that separates the former prison enclosure from the crematorium area, but this wall was not there in 1945.

Lt. Col. Sparks, the highest ranking officer in the 45th Division at Dachau the day that the camp was liberated, told Flint Whitlock, author of The Rock of Anzio, From Sicily to Dachau: A History of the U.S. 45th Infantry Division, that he ordered his men to enter the railroad gate, while he and a few soldiers climbed over the ten-foot wall around the SS garrison. Sparks said that he deliberately avoided the main gate because, if the SS was planning to defend the camp, that’s where they would do it.

The Dachau camp was surrendered to Brig. Gen. Henning Linden outside one of the gates into the concentration camp

The Dachau camp was surrendered to Brig. Gen. Henning Linden near the main gate into the Dachau complex, which the 45th Division was avoiding

Jimmy Gentry wrote a book entitled An American Life in which he included drawings that he made of the Dachau camp, as it looked on liberation day. He claimed that he entered the Dachau complex through the railroad gate at the “northwest corner” of the camp around 11 a.m. that day.

The railroad gate was actually at the southwest corner of the Dachau complex. Most accounts of the liberation say that it was the 45th Division which arrived at Dachau at 11 a.m. and entered through the railroad gate, and that the 42nd Division arrived around 3 p.m. at the gate near the southwest corner of the complex where SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker was waiting to surrender the camp. After accepting the surrender of the concentration camp, the 42nd Division soldiers then entered the complex through the main gate.

This quote is from the Gentry’s interview with Petrone and Skinner:

And this sea of faces [of the prisoners in the camp] seemed to be, every one of them seemed to be dead, but they were still alive. They looked like they were dead. So we released them [from the SS garrison] and entered the [concentration] camp, a separate compound where the prisoners were kept.

There were no prisoners released from Dachau on the day of the liberation, April 29, 1945.  Apparently Gentry is claiming that prisoners were released from the the SS garrison next to the camp.  There were no prisoners in the SS garrison.

The quote from Gentry’s interview continues:

There was not a lot of screaming and yelling and jubilation, not at all. [The prisoners] were blank faced, they were stunned. They did come up to ya and hug ya and someone, I don’t know who said it, someone in my squad said “don’t let ’em kiss you on the mouth.” And that meant, thank goodness that meant that they had diseases, typhus fever for example, and they would fall down to their knees and hug ya around the legs, and kiss your legs and kiss your boots. And of course we didn’t know enough German to know what they were saying and some of them were not German, foreign languages and we didn’t know, we just knew that they were happy to be released, but they were a pitiful sight. We worked our way through the camp and the German guards that had stayed there, none of them left. They were all killed while they were there in the camp, either by the soldiers, American soldiers, or by the prisoners themselves in some cases. So none of them ever left that camp once we entered.

In the quote above, Gentry is describing the “Dachau massacre” when SS soldiers were killed in the SS garrison, not in the Dachau concentration camp.  Not all of the SS soldiers in the garrison were killed.  There were SS men who were survivors of the “Dachau massacre.”  The “German guards” in the concentration camp had left the camp the night before, and Hungarian SS soldiers had been brought in to keep order while the camp was surrendered to the Americans.  Many of the SS soldiers were killed by the prisoners and the American liberators, but some of them did survive.

Dachau farmers were forced to bury the bodies at Dachau

Dachau farmers were forced to haul the bodies out of the Dachau camp for burial

Civilians from the town of Dachau were forced to bury the bodies at Leitenberg

Civilians from the town of Dachau were forced to bury the bodies of Dachau prisoners at Leitenberg

Gentry stated in his 2/25/2000 interview that his outfit stayed in the Dachau camp and buried the bodies.

The following quote is from the interview with Petrone and Skinner:

We stayed there in that camp, about three days, trying to help secure the camp and to get rid of literally thousands of dead bodies. Load them onto trucks, get them out of there, this awful smell. And we were able to do that and after about three days we left the camp and went out and had all the hair on our bodies shaved off because of the typhus fever.

Numerous other sources claim that no bodies were buried until May 7th. On May 13th, 1945, Dachau farmers were forced to haul the bodies out of the Dachau camp and take them to Leitenberg to be buried in mass graves. The 42nd Division soldiers had left immediately, bound for Munich.

Jimmy Gentry may have been among the first soldiers brought to Dachau in trucks after the liberation, on the orders of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and he may have pieced together his story from other accounts told by 45th Division soldiers.  If he was actually there on the day of liberation, how did he make so many mistakes in his account of the liberation?

May 23, 2010

Jimmy Gentry, liberator of Dachau concentration camp

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, TV shows, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:49 am

Last night I saw a TV show about the Holocaust survivors who live in the state of Tennessee and the American liberators of the Nazi concentration camps who also live in Tennessee. Among the survivors who spoke on camera were Eva Rosenfeld and Hedy Lustig. Some of the survivors were in the Lodz ghetto until late in the war when they were sent to Auschwitz.  One of the American liberators was Jimmy Gentry who was with the 42nd Rainbow Division of the US Seventh Army during World War II. (more…)

April 26, 2010

Newspaper accounts of the liberation of Dachau on April 29, 1945

Mon., April 30, 1945***** Chicago Herald-American


DACHAU, Germany, April 30. –(AP)–

The U.S. 42nd and 45th divisions captured the infamous Dachau prison camp today and freed its 32,000 captives.

Two columns of infantry, riding tanks, bulldozers and Long Tom rifles – anything with wheels – rolled down from the northwest and surprised the S S (Elite Corps) guards in the extermination camp shortly after the lunch hour. (more…)