Scrapbookpages Blog

May 3, 2017

The story of Dachau, as told to tourists

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 4:30 pm

In 2005, the entrance into the Dachau Memorial site was changed so that visitors can now see a section of the brick path upon which the prisoners walked as they neared the Arbeit Macht Frei gate into the prison camp.

My photo of the gate into the Dachau camp

 

New prisoners walked on this brick path into the Dachau concentration camp

The photo above shows the brick path and the grass covering the rubble of the factory buildings that were torn down after American troops took over the SS training camp and the Army garrison next door to the concentration camp.

Visitors can now see a few of the buildings inside the former SS garrison, including the Administration building which is the white building trimmed in yellow on the right in the photo above. When I visited in 2007, I was told that this building was the Commandant’s house, but I have since learned that his house was torn down in 1987.

On the left side of the photo, you can see the ramp upon which supplies for the camp were unloaded. Passenger trains did not enter the Dachau camp.

A new gravel path, [shown in the photo above] which leads from the bus stop to the Arbeit Macht Frei gate, was constructed in 2005 on the south side of the Dachau complex, which includes the former concentration camp and what is left of the former SS Army Garrison and Training Center for concentration camp administrators, which the Dachau tour guides refer to as a “school of violence” or a “school of terror.”

The entrance into the Dachau Memorial Site was changed again when a new Visitor’s Center was completed. New signs which tell the story of Dachau were added.

I have been to the town of Dachau, and to the concentration camp near the town, several times. The last time that I was there was in 2007.

I have a whole section about the Dachau camp on my scrapbookpages.com website: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/KZDachau/DachauLife01A.html

 

September 29, 2015

The American soldiers who liberated Dachau

Yesterday, a comment was made on my blog about an American soldier, named Jimmy Gentry, who claims to have participated in the liberation of Dachau. I wrote about Jimmy Gentry on this previous blog post:  https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/05/23/jimmy-gentry-liberator-of-dachau-concentration-camp/

You can read about the various claims regarding the liberation of Dachau on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauLiberation/LiberationDay3.html

I am answering the comment about Jimmy Gentry on my blog post today.

Begin quote of comment:

“I have no idea who this furtherglory person is, other than a faceless coward. If you are picking apart a story of a Patriot who served this country honorably, Jimmy Gentry, who also was my history teacher, then you are basically nothing more than a worm. Who are you to accuse him of lying? Apparently that’s what worms do. I know for a fact Coach Gentry would never attempt to draw attention to himself regarding his experiences during the War. You should be ashamed. For anyone coming across this blog- warning….it’s garbage journalism.”

End of comment

I went to the website of Jimmy Gentry in order to refresh my memory regarding his claim that he was a liberator of Dachau.

I copied the following quote from his website:

“Off in the distance I saw boxcars lined up with hundreds of dead bodies inside. They looked starved and tortured,” remembers Jimmy Gentry. “I asked another soldier, ‘Who are these people?’ He said, ‘They are Jews.’“

American infantryman Jimmy Gentry had seen combat at the Battle of the Bulge, but it paled in comparison to what he saw that day. “No one told us what we would find. No one explained what our mission was. We saw a wall and that was the entrance to a prison camp like I have never seen.” The camp was Dachau.
End quote from comment

Both the 45th Thunderbird Division and the 42nd Rainbow Division were advancing on April 29, 1945 toward Munich with the 20th Armored Division between them. Dachau was directly in their path, about 10 miles north of Munich.

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. to liberate the Dachau camp, and the soldiers of I Company were the first to arrive at the camp around 11 a.m. on April 29, 1945.

The 101st Tank Battalion was attached to the 45th Thunderbird Division.  The 101st arrived in the town of Dachau at 9:30 a.m. on April 29th.

Model of Dachau concentration camp shows that it was right next to an SS garrison

Model of Dachau concentration camp shows that it was right next to a large SS garrison where German soldiers were stationed.  There was no wall between the SS garrison and the concentration camp.

Fence around Dachau concentration camp

Fence around the Dachau concentration camp at the time that the camp was liberated (not a wall)

Main gate into the Dachau complex which included the concentration camp

Main gate into the Dachau complex which included the SS garrison and the concentration camp

The photo above shows SS men surrendering to American soldiers who liberated Dachau.  The concentration camp is a considerable distance from this spot.

Railroad track where trains entered the SS camp, not the concentration camp

Railroad track where trains entered the SS camp; trains did not enter the concentration camp

A short railroad branch line, or rail siding, shown in the photo above, was built in 1915 from the train station in Dachau to a gunpowder and munitions factory. In July 1936 when the Nazis acquired all the property of the abandoned gun powder factory, construction began on an SS training camp and garrison, which was built next to the concentration camp that had opened in 1933.

On September 23, 1936 the industrial railroad branch line, that had formerly served the munitions factory, became the property of the Nazis. It was used primarily to bring supplies into the SS camp, but a few transport trains carrying prisoners also arrived on this railroad line, which went a short distance inside the SS camp through a railroad gate on the southwest side of the complex. The railroad tracks did not extend into the concentration camp.

A short piece of the track on this branch line has been preserved as a memorial to the prisoners who entered the Dachau complex by train. The train tracks entered the SS garrison, but not the concentration camp.

The rest of the branch railroad line was ripped out in 1985. The English translation of the sign in the photo reads “Railroad track to the former SS camp where between 1933 and 1945 tens of thousands of prisoners were transported into the concentration camp.”

Railroad track at Dachau complex

Railroad track at Dachau complex did NOT enter the concentration camp

Train with dead prisoners was parked outside the Dachau camp

Train with dead prisoners was parked outside the Dachau complex which included the concentration camp

When the former Dachau concentration camp was turned into a Memorial Site in 1965, the US Army was still occupying the former SS Army Garrison, so a new entrance for tourists was made through an opening in the fence on the east side of the camp, which is shown in my photo below. At that time, there was a high wall which separated the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gatehouse building from the US Army garrison.  That wall was not there when American soldiers liberated Dachau.

Jimmy Gentry: We saw a wall and that was the entrance to a prison camp like I have never seen.” The camp was Dachau.

Entrance into Dachau Memorial Site in 2003 was through this fence

Entrance into Dachau Memorial Site in 2003 was through this fence

There was no wall between the concentration camp and the SS garrison when Jimmy Gentry was there in 1945.  The wall was built when American soldiers occupied the Army garrison for 17 years after the end of World War II.

Prisoners entered the Dachau concentration camp by going through the SS camp on this brick road

Prisoners entered the Dachau concentration camp by going through the SS camp on this brick road