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February 5, 2013

the elusive Lt. Heinrich Skodzensky, alleged Commandant of the SS garrison at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:12 am

This popular website begins the timeline of the surrender of the Dachau concentration camp with the story of Lt. Heinrich Skodzensky, who surrendered the SS garrison at the Dachau complex on April 29, 1945.  This quote is from the website:

06:00 Waffen SS-Obersturmführer (Lt.) Heinrich Skodzensky, the new, hastily designated Camp Commandant, holds morning roll call for the garrison now guarding Dachau. His roll call tallied 560 men, many of them in hospital. A mere lieutenant had never before commanded the massive concentration camp, but the real SS Commandant, Martin Gottfried Weiss, had “run off” the day before, along with more than a thousand of the Allgemeine and Death’s Head SS guards stationed at the camp prior to the American approach. Skodzensky’s orders were to surrender. (Dachau Archive)

Was there really a man named Heinrich Skodzensky at Dachau when the camp was liberated?  Of course! Several books written by eye-witnesses mention him.  For example, the book entitled The Day of the Americans, written by Nerin E. Gun, a Turkish journalist who was a political prisoner in the camp.

Regarding the liberation of Dachau, Nerin E. Gun  wrote the following about what happened when the Americans reached the gate house into the concentration camp prison compound:

Then came the first American jeeps: a GI got out and opened the gate. Machine-gun fire burst from the center watchtower, the very one which since morning had been flying the white flag! The jeeps turned about and an armored tank came on. With a few bursts, it silenced the fire from the watchtower. The body of an SS man fell off the platform and came crashing loudly to the asphalt of the little square.

Gun wrote that the International Committee of Dachau, headed by Patrick O’Leary, had set up its headquarters at 9 a.m. on April 29th in Block 1, the barracks building that was the closest to the gate house of the prison compound. This was the building that housed the camp library. Gun wrote that Lt. Heinrich Skodzensky had arrived at Dachau on April 27th and on April 29th, the day of the liberation, he had remained in the gate house all that day.

In his book The Day of the Americans, Gun quoted Patrick O’Leary (real name Albert Guérisse) as follows:

“I ascertain that the Americans are now masters of the situation. I go toward the officer who has come down from the tank, introduce myself and he embraces me. He is a major. His uniform is dusty, his shirt, open almost to the navel, is filthy, soaked with sweat, his helmet is on crooked, he is unshaven and his cigarette dangles from the left corner of his lip.

“At this point, the young Teutonic lieutenant, Heinrich Skodzensky, emerges from the guard post and comes to attention before the American officer. The German is blond, handsome, perfumed, his boots glistening, his uniform well-tailored. He reports, as if he were on the military parade grounds near the Unter den Linden during an exercise, then very properly raising his arm he salutes with a very respectful “Heil Hitler!” and clicks his heels.

[…]

“Am I dreaming? It seems that I can see before me the striking contrast of a beast and a god. Only that the Boche is the one who looks divine.

(Boche is a French derogatory term for a German person.)

[…]

“The major gave an order, the jeep with the young German officer in it went outside the camp again. A few minutes went by, my comrades had not yet dared to come out of their barracks, for at that distance they could not tell the outcome of the negotiations between the American officer and the SS men.

“Then I hear several shots.

“The bastard is dead! the American major says to me.

“He gives some orders, transmitted to the radiomen in the jeeps, and more officers start arriving, newspapermen, little trucks. Now the prisoners have understood, they jump on the Americans, embrace them, kiss their feet, their hands; the celebration is on.”

Did anyone else write about the death of Lt. Heinrich Skodensky?  Of course!  In a book entitled The Day the War Ended, Martin Gilbert wrote the following about the liberation of Dachau, based on the account given by British SOE agent Albert Guérisse who was usng the name Patrick O’Leary in the camp:

As the first American officer, a major, descended from his tank, “the young Teutonic lieutenant, Heinrich Skodzensky,” emerged from the guard post and came to attention before the American officer. The German is blond, handsome, perfumed, his boots glistening, his uniform well-tailored. He reports as if he were on the military parade grounds near Unter den Linden during an exercise, then very properly raising his arm he salutes with a very respectful “Heil Hitler!” and clicks his heels. “I hereby turn over to you the concentration camp of Dachau, 30,000 residents, 2,340 sick, 27,000 on the outside, 560 garrison troops.”

The American major did not return the German Lieutenant’s salute. He hesitates a moment as if he were trying to make sure he is remembering the adequate words. Then he spits into the face of the German, “Du Schweinehund!” And then, “Sit down here” – pointing to the rear seat of one of the jeeps which in the meantime have driven up. The major gave an order, the jeep with the young German officer in it went outside the camp again. A few minutes went by. Then I heard several shots.

Lieutenant Skodzensky was dead. Within an hour, all five hundred of his garrison troops were to be killed, some by the inmates themselves but more than three hundred of them by the American soldiers who had been literally sickened by what they saw of rotting corpses and desperate starving inmates. In one incident, an American lieutenant (1st Lt. Jack Bushyhead) machine gunned 346 of the SS guards after they had surrendered and were lined up against a wall. The lieutenant, who had entered Dachau a few moments earlier, had just seen the corpses of the inmates piled up around the camp crematorium and at the railway station.

Jack Bushyhead had just been given a tour of the crematorium area by Albert Guérisse, aka Patrick O’Leary.

In his book entitled Deliverance Day, Michael Selzer wrote that the American liberators marched 122 SS soldiers, who had surrendered at the Dachau Concentration Camp, to a wall and with their hands up, shot them with machine guns. Included among the 122 SS soldiers was the Commander of the SS garrison, Lt. Heinrich Skodzensky, who had only moments before surrendered the camp to Colonel Jackson of the 45th Thunderbird division, saying in English, “I am the commanding officer of the guard in the camp, and I herewith surrender the camp to your forces.” Skodzensky was shot along with the others, dressed in his immaculate black SS uniform, according to Selzer’s account.

Robert H. Abzug wrote in his book entitled Inside the Vicious Heart that the American soldiers had been enraged by Skodzensky’s clean uniform and shined boots in these squalid surroundings, and that is why he was killed.

Strangely, no records of an SS officer named Skodzensky have ever been found and the story of 122 SS soldiers being shot has never been corroborated by any of the American soldiers who were there. The Dachau Memorial Site has no record of Lt. Heinrich Skodzensky in its archives and there is no record of a man named Heinrich Skodzensky in the Berlin Bundesarchiv.

So was there really a man named Heinrich Skodzensky, who was shot down because his black SS uniform was too clean and his boots were too shiny?  What does Wikipedia have to say about it?

This quote is from the German Wikipedia:  “Ein Mann mit diesem Namen [Skodzensky] konnte jedoch nie ermittelt werden, vermutlich ist er identisch mit Heinrich Wicker.”  With my limited knowledge of the German language, I think that German Wikipedia is saying that the man who surrendered the camp was named Heinrich Wicker.

I have written extensively about the surrender of the Dachau camp to Heinrich Wicker.  You can read it in full at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauLiberation/Surrender.html

You can read more about Heinrich Wicker at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauLiberation/Wicker.html

So what actually happened on April 29, 1945, the day that the Dachau camp was liberated?

Dachau was mainly a camp for Communist political prisoners and anti-Fascist resistance fighters who had been captured in the Nazi-occupied countries. On the day of the famous liberation of Dachau, the political prisoners were in control of the concentration camp. The camp Commandant, Wilhelm Eduard Weiter, had left the camp on April 26, 1945, along with a transport of prisoners who were being evacuated to Schloss Itter, a subcamp of Dachau in Austria. Former Commandant Martin Gottfried Weiss was in charge of the camp for two days until he fled, along with most of the regular guards, on the night of April 28, 1945.

Before he left, Weiss had turned the camp over to the International Committee of Dachau, an organization of prisoners inside the camp. Albert Guérisse, a British SOE agent from Belgium, who was hiding his identity by using the name Patrick O’Leary was the head of the International Committee.  Albert Guérisse was one of five British SOE agents who had survived the Nazi concentration camps at Mauthausen in Austria and Natzweiler in Alsace before being transferred to Dachau.

After the 45th Division soldiers had left the Dachau SS garrison and proceeded to the concentration camp, Guérisse greeted Lt. William P. Walsh and 1st Lt. Jack Bushyhead of the 45th Infantry Division at the “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate.  He took them on a tour of the camp, showing them the gas chamber and the ovens in the crematorium.  At this time, the Dachau massacre had already happened.  It was the “Death Train” which triggered the massacre, not the gas chamber or the bodies in the crematorium.

August 31, 2010

jack-booted thugs

Filed under: Dachau, TV shows, World War II — Tags: , , , , , — furtherglory @ 12:17 pm

The ultimate insult is to call someone a “jack-booted thug.”  Last night, as I was watching a re-run of the Seinfeld TV show, I heard Kramer tell Jerry Seinfeld that mail carriers who had delivered unwanted Pottery Barn catalogs to his mail box were “jack-booted thugs.”  Jerry didn’t ask Kramer what he meant by that term; as everyone knows, “jack-booted thugs” is a reference to the Nazis, who were the worst!  The worst, Jerry, the worst!  But were the Nazis bad because they wore Jack boots, or are jack boots bad because the Nazis wore them?    (more…)