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October 21, 2010

Did Himmler really order all the prisoners at Dachau to be killed?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 3:25 pm

A few days before I suffered a stroke in July this year, there was a comment on one of my posts that I never answered because I was in no condition to argue about such things after being hospitalized.  The comment made a reference to a message from Reichsfürher-SS Heinrich Himmler, which he allegedly wrote by hand on a plain piece of paper on April 14, 1945 and sent to the commandant of the Dachau camp.  This note was stored in the files of the International Tracing Service in Germany and it was revealed to the public for the first time in March 2007.

The discovery of this note at the ITS in Arolsen, Germany, caused a media sensation in 2007. No order by Hitler or Himmler had ever been found and this note finally proved that the Nazis intended to kill all the prisoners in the concentration camps. On April 14, 1945, Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler had previously authorized SS Colonel Kurt Becher to negotiate the surrender of Dachau and other camps to the Allies because conditions in the overcrowded camps were now totally out of control.  Becher had been involved in negotiating with the Allies in the infamous “Blood for Goods” deal in which the Nazis offered to trade a million Jews for 10,000 trucks.

Allegedly, Himmler immediately RESCINDED his order to turn Dachau over to the Allies in a note hurriedly written by hand, dated 14 April 1945 and 18 April 1945.

Here is a quote from the reader’s comment in July 2010:

…. Because of Himmler’s orders not to let the prisoners survive. They could have been sent West to be handed over to the Allies (US & UK). Can you prove your claim that Himmler’s order in the archives is a fake? Probably not.

No, I can’t prove that “Himmler’s order in the archives” is fake.  However, I can use common sense in forming an opinion that the “order” is fake.

Here is the text of the message, allegedly written by Himmler on April 14, 1945:

A handover is out of the question. The camp must be evacuated immediately. No prisoner must be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy alive. The prisoners have behaved horribly to the civilian population of Buchenwald.

Buchenwald was the name of a concentration camp, not the name of a town, and there was no “civilian population of Buchenwald,” which Himmler would have known. On April 14th, there were around 25,000 prisoners at Dachau, with thousands more arriving every day, as the prisoners from the sub-camps were brought to the main camp. Keeping this mass of prisoners out of the “hands of the enemy” would have been virtually impossible.

Arthur Haulot, a Belgian political prisoner at Dachau, wrote in his diary that he heard about this order, one hour after it arrived in Dachau. Haulot referred to the order as a “pessimistic rumor.” He had heard about it from a German nurse in the camp, who was his lover.  So it seems that Arthur Haulot, who was a member of the prisoner’s organization called the Committee of Dachau, did not believe that the message allegedly from Himmler was genuine.

On April 14th, negotiations for the handover of the Bergen-Belsen camp to the British Army had already been in progress for several days. A cease fire had been ordered on April 12th. On the 14th, the date that Himmler allegedly rescinded his order for Dachau, he did not rescind the agreement to turn Bergen-Belsen over to the Allies on the 15th.  Why not?

Note that Himmler’s alleged hand written note read “The camp must be EVACUATED immediately. No prisoner must be allowed to fall into the hands of the enemy alive.”  The note did NOT order the prisoners to be killed.

On April 15, 1945, British soldiers entered the Bergen-Belsen camp, as per the negotiated surrender of the camp. Hungarian troops were sent to Bergen-Belsen to keep order during the transfer of the camp; they were promised that they could return to their lines after six days, but some of them were shot by the British.   Hungarian SS soldiers were also sent to Dachau to keep order during the surrender of the camp, and they were killed by the American liberators.

On my first visit to Dachau in 1997, I purchased a Handbook written by Barbara Distel who was the director of the Dachau Memorial Site at that time.

This quote is from the Handbook written by Barbara Distel, published in 1972:

Every day the prisoners saw the Allies’ bombers in the sky. The mood in the camp vacillated between hopeful impatience and anxious despair. The dominating questions became: What did the SS intend to do with the prisoners who numbered over 30,000? Would the prisoners all be slain before the arrival of the Allies?

After the war it was revealed that the plans had, indeed, existed to kill the inmates of the concentration camp by bombs and poison. On April 14, 1945, Himmler telegraphed the following command to the camp commanders of Dachau and Flossenburg: “There is to be no question of surrender. The camp must be evacuated immediately. Not a single living prisoner must fall into the hands of the enemy.” Representing various countries, the prisoners who had been working loosely together decided to organize an underground camp committee which would try to ensure the survival of the prisoners and, if necessary, organize resistance to SS plans of action.

On April 26th, the secret committee authorized two prisoners to escape from the camp and to find their way to the American troops whose approach could be heard by the roar of the guns. They were to ask them to come to Dachau as quickly as possible. The prisoners were successful and, two days later, the Americans, who had originally planned to capture Munich first, arrived in Dachau.

On that same day, April 26th, the command rang out in the camp to form up in the roll-call square; provisions and blankets were distributed and nearly 7,000 prisoners were forced, under SS guard, to march south.
On the march, hundreds were shot as soon as they could continue no longer, or they died from hunger, cold, and exhaustion as the marches through rain and snow lasted for days and the nights were passed out in the open. The American troops overtook those columns on the march at the beginning of May. Only then, just before the approach of the Americans, did the accompanying SS guards take to flight. Thus, only two days before the liberation of the camp, these prisoners fell victim to a fanatical ideology carried through to its ultimate consequences, in the name of which innocent people were driven relentlessly to their death.

By April 28th tension in the Dachau camp had risen even higher. No new evacuation marches had been made, and the prisoners discovered that the greater part of the SS had disappeared; only the machine guns on the guard towers were still manned.

The prisoners in the disinfection barracks suddenly heard, from their hidden radio receiver, appeals from the “Bavarian Action for Freedom” (Freiheitsaktion Bayern). Soldiers were told to lay down their arms. A short time later, shots and tank alarms could be heard from the town of Dachau. As the prisoners knew that fifty of their comrades from various branch detachments had escaped and were hiding in Dachau, they were full of concern and wondered what could have happened.

Not until after the liberation did they learn that these prisoners-in-hiding and some citizens of Dachau had taken the call of the “Bavarian Action for Freedom” as the signal for the occupation of the Dachau city hall. An SS unit, returning unexpectedly, forced them to give up their plan. In an exchange of shots in the city hall square, six resistance fighters were killed. The following morning, the first American tanks reached the city of Dachau.

Note that Ms. Distel wrote that “Himmler telegraphed” the order.  Arthur Haulot wrote in his diary that the order was sent by telex.  The order that is stored in the files of the International Tracing Service is a hand written order that was not signed by anyone.  We know what was written on paper, but not what was in the telegraphed message.  Note that Ms. Distel quoted the order with a different wording.

Barbara Distel might have been refering to the testimony of Bertus Gerdes at the Nuremberg IMT when she wrote:  “After the war it was revealed that the plans had, indeed, existed to kill the inmates of the concentration camp by bombs and poison.” Gerdes testified at Nuremberg that Ernst Kaltenbrunner had ordered the sub-camps at Landsberg am Lech and Mühldorf to be bombed to kill all the prisoners.  This plan was never carried out and the prisoners in these sub-camps were evacuated to the main camp.

We may never know the truth because Himmler allegedly committed suicide after he was captured by the British and the Commandant of the Dachau camp also allegedly committed suicide after he led a group of prisoners out of the Dachau main camp to a sub-camp called Schloss Itter.

September 1, 2010

Mystery solved: the dead body found at the Dachau gate on the day of liberation, April 29, 1945

Several accounts of the liberation of Dachau mention that there was a dead body lying just outside the only gate into the concentration camp when the 42nd Rainbow Division arrived at around 3 p.m. on April 29, 1945.  These accounts  do not say whether this was the body of a prisoner or an SS guard.  Now the mystery has been solved.  I have just learned that a book by Pierre Moulin entitled Dachau, Holocaust and US Samurais – Nisei Soldiers first in Dachau tells the history of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, and explains how the dead body came to be just outside the gate into the Dachau camp.

The 522nd Field Artillery Battalion of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which consisted entirely of Japanese-American soldiers, is acknowledged by the US Army as the liberators of one of the 123 sub-camps of Dachau, and also as the liberators, on May 2, 1945, of some of the prisoners who were on a death march out of the main Dachau camp. But according to Moulin’s book, Japanese-American soldiers in the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion were also the first Americans to see the main Dachau camp, on April 28th, the day before the official liberation.

Moulin says that he started the research for his book seven years ago when he talked with Eric Saul and Barbara Distel at the Dachau Memorial site. But it was a providential meeting with Mr. Zouzou Perez, who had been appointed by the Belgium government as President of the Survivors of Auschwitz, who gave him the answers to his questions. Mr. Perez, who was a friend of Moulin’s mother-in-law, put him in touch with Arthur Haulot, a former Belgian political prisoner at Dachau.

According to Moulin, Arthur Haulot was the Vice-President and founder of the International Committee of Dachau in 1944.  Haulot gave Moulin the following information about the DAY BEFORE the liberation:

On the morning of the April 28th 1945, around 10:00 a.m., a first alert very special : 5 times one minute sirens with a short break. This type of alert signified there were enemies in sight. Just a few minutes after it was a second alert of the same type.

But nothing happened. No Americans.

Moulin tells the story of what really happened that day:

As Arthur Haulot was with Pat O’Leary, the President of the International Committee, inside building A, looking out towards the only gate into the concentration camp, they spotted, around 3:00 p.m., an American jeep, followed soon by a second one that came to the gate.

The German guards remained quiet, but the Jeeps left immediately. A Polish detainee saw the Jeeps leaving. He couldn’t resist and ran through the gate after them. The German guards, who had gained confidence after the departure of the Jeeps, shot the Polish prisoner in the head and his corpse fell down against the outside of the gate.

Curiously, the gate into the concentration camp at Dachau had not been locked that day, and the main gate into the Dachau compound was also not locked or even guarded, so that the two Jeeps had entered the compound through the main gate and had driven up to the gate of the prison compound.

Arthur Haulot and Pat O’Leary witnessed the arrival of the American Jeeps, but said that the soldiers never went inside the camp.  According to Moulin, the 45th Thunderbird Division was then ordered to liberate the Dachau camp. Soldiers in the 45th Division arrived early the next morning and entered the SS garrison first.

According to Moulin, the two alerts were never explained as there were officially NO American troops in Dachau on April 28, 1945. The only unit claiming that they were there that day was the 522nd F.A. Battalion.

Moulin wrote: Why  did those men leave without trying to get inside the Dachau prison compound? Because they had received strict orders to leave at once.

This quote is from Moulin’s web site about the liberation of Dachau:

The US HQ had no option and ordered the 522nd Scouts to leave immediately and to keep their mouths shut under Court Martial Threat. The two alerts were provoked by the coming of the two jeeps. They could have pass to the SS camp gate due to the confusion when the SS guards left in a hurry and when the new troops under the command of Lt Heinrich Winker came in the camp.


So the 522nd F.A. bn of Japanese Ancestry were the first to reach Dachau Main gate on April 28th 1945, but never got inside the camp and couldn’t really be considered as the first liberators. The first official Americans liberators came on April 29th 1945, two journalists Peter Fuchs and Marguerite Higgins came with Will Cowling from the 42nd Rainbow Division and to get inside they have to remove the corps of a detainee against the door. That was the proof that they came after the 522nd F.A. jeeps.

The 45th Thunderbird Division, the 42nd Rainbow Division, and the 20th Armored Division are officially credited by the US Army and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with liberating Dachau on April 29, 1945, but according to Moulin, the first American soldiers to see the Dachau main camp were Japanese-Americans.

Read about which soldier entered Dachau first on April 29, 1945 here.