Scrapbookpages Blog

January 21, 2016

Just what we need …. another book about the liberation of Dachau

Cover of new book about the liberation of Dachau

The photo above shows the cover of a new book about Dachau. In the photo, American soldiers are examining dead bodies that they had found on a train that was parked on a railroad track just outside the Dachau concentration camp.  These American soldiers assumed that the bodies were the bodies of Jews that had been shot by the evil Nazis.

Actually, these bodies were the bodies of Jews that had been killed when American planes had strafed this train just before it reached the Dachau camp. The prisoners were being taken to Dachau in order to turn them over to the American liberators, who were on their way. You can read all about the “death train” on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauLiberation/DeathTrain.html

In my humble opinion, I don’t think that this is a suitable photo to use on the cover of a book about Dachau. I would have used the photo below for a cover of a book about the American liberation of Dachau; the photo shows an SS man surrendering the Dachau camp to the Americans.

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

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

The photo below would also be appropriate for a book about the liberation of Dachau. This photo shows Dachau prisoners celebrating after killing some of the guards in the camp. The American liberators allowed, and even even encouraged this, by joining in the killing.

Dachau priosoners celebrate after killing SS men at Dachau

Dachau priosoners celebrate after killing SS men at Dachau

The main Dachau camp was surrendered, on April 29, 1945, to Brigadier General Henning Linden of the 42nd Rainbow Division, by SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker, who is the second man from the right in the first photo 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, the arrow points to Marguerite Higgins, one of the reporters, who was covering the war.

The surrender of the Dachau camp took place near a gate into the SS garrison that was right next to the prison enclosure.

The following quote is at the very end of the news article:

Anyone found guilty of denying the Holocaust should be locked up for a year with nothing to read but this book.

Actually, the news article, which you can read in full here starts with the following quote:

Begin quote

“Hell Before Their Very Eyes” is John McManus‘ third book about World War II. The Curators’ Professor of History at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, Mr. McManus writes that he chose this topic because, having written often about combat, he was “struck by the frequency with which combat veterans ventured the opinion that the most unforgettable, and sometimes traumatic, aspect of their wartime service was the experience of liberating or witnessing a concentration camp.”

Historians estimate that there were as many as 20,000 camps of several different types, but Mr. McManus has chosen to focus on the liberation of just three camps — Ohrdruf, Buchenwald and Dachau, which were liberated in that order in April, 1945. Although the American troops knew of the camps’ existence, none of them were prepared for what they found. “These men discovered,” Mr. McManus writes, ” the very depths of human-imposed cruelty and depravity . For the Americans who witnessed such powerful evidence of Nazi crimes, the experience was life altering. Most reacted with anger, revulsion and abject disgust … . Almost all were haunted for the rest of their lives by what they had seen.”

[…]

Obviously, this is not a book for the squeamish, so it’s important to note that the author presents the gruesome material, of which there is a great deal, with both care and compassion. For example, he spends several pages on the discovery of the “Dachau death train,” 39 boxcars filled with prisoners’ corpses. Of all the horrific sights seen by the G.I.s who liberated the various camps, this one in particular would haunt many of them for life.

[…]

Eisenhower also encouraged journalists to visit the camps. One reporter who quickly accepted Ike’s invitation was Marguerite Higgins of the New York Herald-Tribune. Mr. McManus writes that, initially, when questioning survivors, “Her tone was distrustful and brusque” but after having been shown around the camp, and seeing “the ovens and the stacks of bodies, she softened considerably. (Later in life she would feel great shame at her initial insensitivity.)”

End quote

Marguerite Higgins did not “accept Eisenhower’s invitation to visit the camps.”  She was a reporter who was a war correspondent; she was following the troops. She was at Dachau on the day when the camp was surrendered to the American troops.

After Dachau was surrendered, the American liberators proceeded to kill SS men in the camp, who had surredered. You can read about the “Dachau massacre” on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauLiberation/SoldiersKilled.html

 

December 2, 2015

African-American soldiers who liberated the Nazi death camps in WWII

One of the regular readers of my blog made a comment about black soldiers in the US Army and I am expanding on this subject in my new blog post today.

The following quote is from the comment:

The genie of the Black Liberators Hoax was already out of the bottle in 1993…

The U.S. Army credits the 45th Thunderbird Division, the 42nd Rainbow Division and the 20th Armored Division as the liberators of the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945. There were no African-American soldiers in these three divisions because the American Army was segregated during World War II.

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

SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker surrendered the Dachau camp to Brig. Gen. Henning Linden on April 29, 1945

A few African-American veterans have claimed that they were there when the main Dachau concentration camp was liberated. Other veterans, including Lt. Col. Felix Sparks of the 45th Thunderbird Division, maintain that there were no black soldiers among the liberators of Dachau.

On November 11, 1992, a TV documentary was aired by PBS on nationwide TV in honor of Veterans’ Day. The title of the documentary was the same as the title of the book on which it was based: Liberators: Fighting On Two Fronts In WWII.

The book was written by Lou Potter with some help from William Miles and Nina Rosenblum, the co-producers who made the film and the theatrical version. The film was produced by Miles Educational Film Production in New York City. The book was published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in late 1992. Also included in this lavish project was a workbook for High School students.

The book entitled Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II was exposed as a fraud within weeks of its debut, but the story still lives on.

The documentary, which was touted as historically accurate, claimed that the 761st Tank Battalion, attached to the 71st Division, liberated both Buchenwald and Dachau.

Veterans who participated in the liberation of these camps deny that the soldiers of the 761st Tank Battalion were there, and the US Army does not recognize the 761st as liberators of any of the Nazi camps.

Only divisions can be officially honored as liberators; the 71st Division is credited with being the liberators of a Mauthausen sub-camp in Austria, called Gunskirchen, where starving prisoners were set free and allowed to plunder the nearby town of Lambach.

The soldiers in the 761st Tank Battalion were all African-Americans; the title of the book and the PBS film refers to the fact that black soldiers had to fight discrimination by Americans on the home front, while at the same time, they were fighting on the battle front in Europe to end the racial discrimination by the Nazis.

German soldiers at Dachau were executed after they surrendered

German soldiers at Dachau were executed  by the American liberators after they had surrendered

After the Dachau camp was voluntarily turned over to the Americans, the German soldiers who had remained in the camp were murdered by the Americans.

You can read about the Dachau massacre on my website at http://scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauLiberation/SoldiersKilled.html

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.

April 30, 2011

the US 7th Army IG Report on the killing of guards in Tower B at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:48 am

Dead guards at Tower B in the Dachau camp

The infamous Dachau concentration camp was liberated on April 29, 1945 by the 42nd Infantry Division, along with the 45th Infantry Division, of the US Seventh Army. Yesterday, on the 66th anniversary of the liberation, newspapers were filled with the stories of 42nd Division veterans who recalled the the horror of what they saw and did that day.  The photo above shows the bodies of Dachau guards who were killed at Tower  B on the day that Dachau was liberated.

The shooting of disarmed German soldiers during the Dachau liberation 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 was eventually made public, around 40 years later, 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.

Tower B as it looks today

On the day that Dachau was liberated, white flags had been flying from all seven of the Dachau guard towers since 7 o’clock in the morning, according to Nerin E. Gun, a Turkish journalist who was a prisoner at Dachau. When American soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division first entered the prison enclosure of the Dachau concentration camp, eight SS men descended from Tower G, the one closest to the gatehouse, and then surrendered with their hands in the air. One of the guards in Tower G was an SS man named Stahl, who survived to tell the story.

Eight guards from Tower A, which is on top of the gatehouse, then came down the stairs and surrendered to the Americans.  The photo below shows the Waffen SS soldiers with their hands in the air after they had come down from the towers.

Guards in the guard towers at Dachau surrendered with their hands in the air

The dead bodies of some of the guards from Tower B were thrown into the canal which borders the western side of the Dachau camp.  American soldiers continued to shoot at the bodies.  The photo below shows one of the bodies being pulled out of the canal.

Body of dead German soldier, who was killed by American liberators, being pulled out of Dachau moat

Here is the back story on the liberation of the Dachau camp:

Victor Maurer, a Red Cross representative from Switzerland, had arrived at the Dachau prison compound on April 27, 1945, two days before the liberation. Maurer had tried to persuade Obersturmführer Johannes Otto, the Adjutant to the last Commandant, Edward Weiter, to leave guards in the towers in order to secure the camp until the Americans arrived, but most of the regular guards left on April 28th, along with Martin Gottfried Weiss, the acting Commandant. The Commandant of the camp, Eduard Weiter, had already left on April 26th with a transport of prisoners headed toward Austria.

Finally, Maurer convinced SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker not to abandon the camp, but to leave guards posted in the towers to keep order until the prisoners could be turned over to armed American soldiers. Wicker was in charge of a group of SS men who had recently arrived at Dachau; they were former guards in three sub-camps of the Natzweiler-Struthof camp in Alsace. The guards, who were gunned down by Wells and the other American soldiers, had only been at Dachau for a few weeks and they were, in no way, responsible for the conditions in the camp.

Maurer knew that there were around 800 common criminals, including convicted murderers, who had been imprisoned at Dachau. He was fearful that an estimated 40,000 vengeful Dachau inmates would be released to wreak havoc in the surrounding area which was still a battle zone. There was also a typhus epidemic in the camp and Maurer did not want the prisoners to be released until the epidemic could be brought under control.

When an advance party from the 42nd Division arrived in a jeep on the street that borders the south side of the SS complex, they saw Maurer and Wicker waiting to surrender the camp under a white flag of truce. By that time, I Company of the 157th Regiment of the 45th Division had already arrived at the railroad gate into the SS camp, on the west side of the complex, almost a mile from the prison enclosure. Waffen-SS soldiers who had surrendered to I Company were immediately gunned down in the coal yard of the SS camp; this incident is usually referred to as the “Dachau massacre.”

You can see a color video of the liberation of Dachau here.

February 10, 2011

An American Jewish soldier’s letter to his wife about the Dachau “death train”

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:57 am

On May 1, 1945, a Jewish soldier in the American Army saw the “death train” outside the Dachau concentration camp; a few days later, he wrote home about it. Dachau had been liberated on April 29, 1945, but on May 1st, this soldier did not know whether the train, filled with dead bodies, had just arrived or if it was just leaving.

This is a quote from the letter written by 1st Lt. Fritz Schnaittacher to his wife; you can read the full text of the letter here.

… the most striking picture I saw was the “death train” — I say picture, no not picture, but carload and carload full of corpses, once upon a time people, who were alive, who were happy and people who had convictions or were Jews — then slowly but methodically they were killed. Death has an ugly face on these people — they were starved to death — the positions they were lying in show that they succumbed slowly — they made one move, fell, were too weak to make another move, and there are hundreds of such lifeless skeletons covered by some skin. I tried to find out the origin of this train. Some of the stories corresponded — whether this train was to leave Dachau or had just arrived is not essential — essential is that they were locked into these cattle cars without sanitation and without food. The SS had to take off in a hurry — we came too fast — it was too late to cover up their atrocities.

Note that he “tried to find out the origin of this train,”  but it was of no importance to him whether the train was coming or going; the “essential” part of the story is that the prisoners were locked in the cars without food.

The infamous “death train” parked outside the Dachau camp

Young German boys forced to view the bodies on the Dachau “death train”

The photo above shows American soldiers forcing German boys in the Hitler Youth, some as young as 12 years old, to look at the dead bodies on the train.

The prisoners had been on the train for 19 days, from the time that the train left Buchenwald until it arrived at Dachau. Out of around 4,500 or 5,000 prisoners, who had been put on the train, there were 1,300 survivors who had been able to walk the short distance from the railroad spur line into the Dachau prison compound, according to two of the survivors, as told to Sam Dann, who wrote Dachau 29 April 1945.

Why didn’t 1st Lt. Fritz Schnaittacher talk with some of the 1300 survivors?  He was fluent in German, having been born in Germany, and he had lived in Germany until 1933.  Why didn’t he talk with Martin Rosenfeld, a Jewish survivor, who testified before an American Military Tribunal that some of the prisoners had been killed by American planes which had strafed the train? Why didn’t he talk with some of the members of the International Committee of Dachau, a prisoners’ organization that was in charge of the camp after the SS guards had left on April 28th?

Maybe he did talk with some of the survivors of the “death train,” and he knew the truth about the train, but he could not write home about it because this information was being kept secret.

It is interesting that 1st Lt. Schnaittacher did mention the liberation of Dachau, although he left out the part about Waffen-SS soldiers being gunned down with their hands in the air, after they had surrendered the camp.

Here is a quote from his letter about the liberation of Dachau:

Our regiment took Dachau or should I say liberated the human wreckage which was left there. This I consider one of the most glorious pages in the history of our regiment, not because the fighting was tough, it wasn’t, but because it finally opened the gates of one of the world’s most hellish places.

According to Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, the commander of the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Thunderbird Division, he received orders at 10:15 a.m. on April 29, 1945 to liberate the Dachau camp, and the soldiers of I Company were the first to arrive at the camp around 11 a.m. that day.

Is this the “regiment” to which 1st Lt. Schnaittacher was referring?  If he was with the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Division, then there is no way that he would not have known about the Dachau massacre when these German Prisoners of War were shot with their hands in the air.  Is that what he was referring to when he wrote about “one of the most glorious pages in the history of our regiment” and that the fighting wasn’t “tough”?  He was right about that; it is not a tough fight when you shoot unarmed soldiers who have surrendered.  Of course, he was not allowed to tell his wife the truth about the Dachau massacre because the Army kept this violation of the Geneva Convention a secret for over 40 years.

Here is the back story on the “death train” which 1st Lt. Schnaittacher didn’t tell his wife:

In April 1945, while the US Seventh Army was fighting its way across southern Germany, capturing one town after another with little resistance, the prisoners, who had been evacuated from the abandoned Ohrdruf forced labor camp to the Buchenwald main camp, were starting on the journey which would end on a railroad track just outside the Dachau concentration camp. On April 7th, the prisoners had been marched 5 kilometers from the Buchenwald camp to the city of Weimar. At 9 p.m. on April 8th, they were put onto a southbound train, headed to the Flossenbürg concentration camp.

The prisoners were guarded by 20 SS soldiers under the command of Hans Merbach. For their journey, which was expected to be relatively short, they were given “a handful of boiled potatoes, 500 grams of bread, 50 grams of sausage and 25 grams of margarine” according to Merbach, who was quoted by Hans-Günther Richardi in his book, Dachau, A Guide to its Contemporary History. According to Richardi, the train which left Weimar on April 8th was filled with 4,500 prisoners who were French, Italian, Austrian, Polish, Russian and Jewish.

According to Dachau author Hans-Günther Richardi, five hours after the train departed from Weimar, Hans Merbach, the transport leader, was informed that the Flossenbürg concentration camp had already been liberated by the Americans. Before the Americans arrived, the prisoners at Flossenbürg had been evacuated and death marched to Dachau. The train from Buchenwald had to be rerouted to Dachau but it took almost three weeks to get there because of numerous delays caused by American planes bombing the railroad tracks.

The train had to take several very long detours through Leipzig, Dresden and finally through the town of Pilsen in Czechoslovakia. In the village of Nammering in Upper Bavaria, the train was delayed for four days while the track was repaired, and the mayor of the town brought bread and potatoes for the prisoners, according to Harold Marcuse in his book Legacies of Dachau. Continuing on via Pocking, the train was attacked by American planes because they thought it was a military transport, according to Richardi. Many of the prisoners were riding in open freight cars with no protection from the hail of bullets.

The final leg of the journey was another detour through Mühldorf and then Munich, arriving in Dachau early on the afternoon of April 26th, three days before the liberation of the camp.

According to Gleb Rahr, one of the survivors, the prisoners were then taken to the Quarantine Barracks and given “hot oat soup,” which he said was “the first food of any kind” that was given to them since the start of the trip. In his account of the trip, Rahr said that the only food the prisoners got for the whole trip was one loaf of bread on the first day. He mentioned the four-day stop in Nammering, but did not say that the prisoners were given any food, as claimed by the mayor of the town. Rahr told about the bodies from the train that were burned at Nammering. The burning was unsuccessful and the prisoners had to bury the bodies, according to Rahr.

By the time that the 45th Thunderbird Infantry Division soldiers arrived in the town of Dachau, the locomotive had been removed from the abandoned train and 39 cars, half of them with dead prisoners, had been left standing on a siding on Friedenstrasse, just outside the railroad gate into the SS Garrison. Inside the SS camp, another freight train stood on the tracks, but this one was empty.

Among the survivors on the Death Train was a Jewish prisoner named Martin Rosenfeld, who testified before an American Military Tribunal in the proceedings against Hans Merbach. Rosenfeld testified that there were 1,100 survivors out of 5,000 who had boarded the train. According to Rosenfeld’s account, the train arrived at Dachau on April 26, 1945, although Gleb Rahr and Joseph Knoll both told author Sam Dann that the date of arrival was April 27, 1945.

In his testimony before the American Military Tribunal in 1947, Hans Merbach said the train had arrived on April 26, 1945. The confusion about the date may have been caused by the fact that there were actually two trains that arrived at Dachau. One of them was parked inside the SS camp complex and it was empty.

Survivor of the “death train” at Dachau

The American liberators of Dachau never missed an opportunity to turn the tragedy of the “death train” into propaganda.  The photo above shows a prisoner being removed from the train by American soldiers.  This scene was re-enacted by the Americans with the claim that this was the one and only survivor of the “death train.”

The alleged “lone survivor” of the Dachau “death train” poses for a publicity photo

The photograph directly above shows Lt. Col. Donald E. Downard on the right and Captain Roy Welbourn on the left, in a posed shot of the rescue of a survivor of the “death train.” Lt. Col. Downard personally took the survivor to the Aid Station, but on the way there, his driver wrecked the jeep in which they were riding. and Downard suffered a concussion. Downard was then ordered to continue on to Munich while Col. “Mickey” Fellenz was ordered to take charge of the concentration camp.

Regarding the train outside the Dachau camp, Michael W. Perry wrote the following in his Editor’s Preface to the book entitled The Official Report, written by the U.S. Seventh Army:

For many of the soldiers who stumbled onto the camp that day, their first glimpse into its horrors came as they walked along a rail spur outside the camp. Crammed into railroad cars and scattered along the tracks were the bodies of men who had been alive when they had begun the long journey during which their captors fully expected them to die of thirst and starvation. At the end of that journey, Dachau’s crematory stood eagerly waiting.

According to the US Army, there were 2,310 dead bodies on the “death train,” although Red Cross representative Victor Maurer estimated that there were only 500 bodies. The train had taken almost three weeks to travel 220 miles from the Buchenwald camp to Dachau because the tracks had been bombed by American planes. Prisoners riding in open gondola cars had been killed when American planes strafed the train, according to Pvt. John Lee, a soldier with the 45th Division who saw the train.

The sight of the dead bodies on the train enraged the soldiers of I Company in the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Division and it was understood that they would take no prisoners. The first four SS soldiers who came forward carrying a white flag of surrender were ordered into an empty box car by Lt. William Walsh and shot.

Then Lt. Walsh “segregated from surrendered prisoners of war those who were identified as SS Troops,” according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General of the Seventh Army, dated June 8, 1945.

The following is a quote from the I.G. report:

“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.”

These were Waffen-SS soldiers, who had been sent from the battlefield to surrender the Dachau concentration camp. They had offered no resistance to the liberators. According to Ted Hibbard, who works at the 45th Division Museum, the freed inmates were given 45 caliber pistols by soldiers in the 45th Division and allowed to shoot and beat the SS men who had been sent to surrender the camp.

No Americans were ever put on trial for killing soldiers who had surrendered at Dachau, but Hans Merbach, the man who was in charge of the guards of the “death train,” was prosecuted as a “war  criminal” by an American Military Tribunal.

The interrogation of Hans Merbach, by the Americans, took place at Freising on July 11, 1945 at which time Merbach later testified during his trial that “Officers were beaten with a piece of cable in the face. And that, I suppose, is why the most incredible stories came out, particularly concerning this transport.”

Hans Merbach, the leader of the “death train”

(click on the photo to enlarge)

On August 14, 1947, Hans Merbach was convicted by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau and sentenced to death. He was the last of the war criminals in the main Buchenwald trial to be hanged; the date of his execution was January 14, 1949.

It is commonly believed today by Holocaust experts that the prisoners on the death train were put onto the train in order to kill them by starving them as they rode around Germany and Czechoslovakia during the last days  of the war.  Some sources claim that dead bodies had been brought to Dachau to be burned, although the Dachau camp had run out of coal months ago.

In his testimony before the American Military Tribunal in 1947, Merbach explained that the purpose of evacuating these prisoners from the Buchenwald camp had been to keep them from being released by American troops who were nearing Buchenwald. After Buchenwald was liberated, the Americans did provide the liberated prisoners with guns and American jeeps and the prisoners went down to Weimar where they engaged in an orgy of raping, looting and killing innocent German civilians.  Elie Wiesel wrote about this in his original version of “Night,” so it must be true.

In his defense, Merbach claimed that he had gone out of his way to get additional food for the prisoners after he realized that the train would be delayed because the tracks had been bombed by Allied planes. He said that when he tried to get more food, he was told that there was “barely any bread left” at Buchenwald.

When the train stopped at Dresden, the captain of the police there told Merbach that “it was impossible to get a piece of bread because the city was overrun with refugees.” The refugees were German women and children who were trying to escape from the advancing Russian soldiers. Dresden had been fire bombed by American and British planes, only 8 week before, and thousands of civilians had been killed.

Merbach testified that at every stop, he sent four prisoners to the National Socialist Welfare Association to get buckets of water for the other prisoners. The photo below shows one of the box cars with a bucket in it.

A water bucket in one of the cars on the death train

In his defense, Merbach testified that the citizens of Pilsen in Czechoslovakia had not brought food to the train. The next stop was Namering, a town in Upper Bavaria. There the prisoners did receive rations from the people in the town, according to Merbach. This was confirmed by the mayor of Namering.

Merbach testified that some of the prisoners had escaped from the train, which sounds plausible since they were riding in open boxcars. Merbach’s “war crime” was that he had participated in the Nazi “common plan” to commit war crimes because he had prevented the escape of most of the prisoners from the train. Merbach said that he could not release the prisoners because “every time a prisoner escaped the most incredible things were happening among the civilian population.”

It is now almost 66 years since the “death train” was discovered at Dachau, but the truth is still not being told.  Instead, the letter written by a Jewish soldier is published and the lies continue.

May 19, 2010

Photos of SS soldiers killed at Dachau

Someone brought it to my attention that one of the 42nd Rainbow Division soldiers who helped to liberate Dachau was Staff Sgt. John N. Petro, 232 Infantry, E Company. He brought home photos which can be seen here on a web site put up by Bill Petro in John Petro’s honor. (more…)

April 16, 2010

65 years ago, Americans accepted the surrender of the Dachau concentration camp…

April 29, 2010 will be the 65th anniversary of the surrender of the Dachau concentration camp to Brig. Gen. Henning Linden of the 42nd Infantry Division of the US Seventh Army by SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker, accompanied by Red Cross representative Victor Maurer, holding a white flag. (more…)

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