Scrapbookpages Blog

September 26, 2013

The town of Dachau today — the shame of the concentration camp can never be overcome

In 2001, I went to the town of Dachau and stayed there for a week in a hotel.  At that time, Dachau was still a small, historic town, and I enjoyed my stay immensely. I asked the owner of the hotel which bus I should take to get to the former Dachau camp; she said she didn’t know, so I had to figure it out for myself. The town’s people seemed to be ignoring the former camp, and just living their lives in peace.

Catholic church in the town of Dachau

Catholic church in the town of Dachau

Today, I read in an article in The Independent, which said that young people from Munich are now moving to Dachau and the town has grown to be a city of 45,000 residents.

According to the article in The Independent, which you can read in full here, the town can never overcome its shame, due to the horror of the Dachau concentration camp, which had 800,000 visitors last year.

This quote is from the article in The Independent:

The horror of Dachau takes a little time to sink in. It hits home half way through the former camp’s permanent exhibition on Third Reich terror when visitors are confronted with a piece of slatted wooden furniture that resembles an innocuous child’s toboggan.

Closer inspection reveals that a 4ft-long “bull whip” is lying across the wooden slats. The toboggan, it turns out, is one of the concentration camp system’s notorious “whipping stools” that were used to ruthlessly inflict blood soaked punishment on hundreds of thousands of camp inmates during 12 years of Nazi rule.

Alfred Hübsch, a prisoner in Dachau from 1937 onwards, witnessed the whipping stool in action. His account is on display in the camp museum: “The prisoner’s screams could be heard everywhere,” he writes, “The delinquent had to count the strokes out loud. The numbers were blurted out in terrible pain so the tortured person would slur his words or misspeak. If that happened they would begin beating all over again,” he added.

The “whipping stools” were used for 12 years?  Who knew?

The photo below shows Rudolf Wolf, a former prisoner of the Dachau camp, demonstrating the whipping block during the American Military Tribunal proceedings, where the former SS men in the camp were put on trial.

Former Dachau prisoner demonstrates the whipping table at Dachau trial

Rudolf Wolf demonstrates the whipping table at Dachau trial

The photo below shows the whipping table on display in the Dachau Museum.

Photo of whipping table in the Dachau Museum

Photo of whipping table in the Dachau Museum

Notice that the “whipping block” which is on display in the Museum is a real whipping block, but the table that is being demonstrated by Rudolf Wolf during the AMT proceedings is an ordinary table.  The trial started in Noveber 1945, so why wasn’t the actual whipping block shown during the trial?

That is easily explained: All punishments at Dachau and at all the other concentration camps had to be approved by the WVHA economic office in Oranienburg, where Rudolf Hoess was a member of the staff after he was removed as the Commandant of Auschwitz in December 1943.

At the Nuremberg IMT, on April 15, 1946, Hoess testified that punishment on the whipping block was seldom used and that this punishment was discontinued in 1942 or 1943 because Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler had given a new order that the SS men were forbidden to strike the prisoners. Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler mentioned in his book entitled What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau? that this order was given by Himmler in 1942.

When the American liberators arrived in 1945, they found no whipping table because this seldom-used punishment had not been used for three years.  Are visitors to the Dachau Museum told this?  No, of course not.

This quote is from the article in The Independent:

The whipping stool is merely an introduction to Dachau’s  regime of inconceivable cruelty. Its victims were tortured by “Pole hanging” – a system whereby inmates in groups of 50 were strung up by their hands with their arms tied behind their backs for hours, causing them excruciating pain.

Groups of 50 were strung up?  Did the Nazis take a photo of the pole hanging?  Indeed, they did.  The photo below was shown in the Dachau Museum for years, until it was finally taken down because it was a fake.

Still photo from a Soviet film shows "pole-hanging" punishment

Still photo from a Soviet film shows “pole-hanging” punishment

The photograph above, which I took inside the old Dachau Museum in May 2001, shows a scene at Buchenwald that was created in 1958 for an East German DEFA film. (Source: H. Obenaus, “Das Foto vom Baumhängen: Ein Bild geht um die Welt,” in Stiftung Topographie des Terrors Berlin (ed.), Gedenkstätten-Rundbrief no. 68, Berlin, October 1995, pp. 3-8)

This fake photo was not included in the new Dachau Museum which opened in 2003, but all the tour guides at Dachau still dwell at length upon the hanging punishment.  I have not been to Dachau since 2008; perhaps the fake photo has been brought back.

But it gets worse.  This quote is from the article in The Independent:

[The prisoners] were locked in “standing cells” with no room to sit down or turn around for days on end. They were savaged by camp dogs, drowned, shot, worked to death or died from mass overcrowding and the successive outbreaks of disease which plagued the camp before it was finally liberated by American troops in April 1945. The soldiers found hundreds of “ sallow skeletons with large sad eyes”.

Ah, yes, the famous “standing cells.”  Where are they now?  The standing cells were torn down, and now there is only a photo of what they looked like. The photo is shown below.

A diagram of the standing cells in the Dachau bunker

A diagram of the standing cells in the Dachau bunker

Who tore down the standing cells at Dachau and why?  Did anyone take a photo of them before they were torn down?  Not that I know of.  The American liberators of Dachau found out about the standing cells from Eleanore Hodys, a prisoner who had been at Auschwitz, where she claimed that she had been confined to a “standing cell” for NINE WEEKS.  She also claimed that she had had an affair with Rudolf Hoess at Auschwitz.  Hoess had formerly been the Commandant at Dachau, so her story took up about a third of the book about Dachau, which was entitled Dachau Liberated, the Official Report.  Her story may have inspired the claim of standing cells at Dachau.

There was at least one American prisoner at Dachau when the camp was liberated.  What did he have to say about the standing cells, the whipping block and the pole hanging?  Did he write a book about the torture that he endured at Dachau?  Did he ever explain why he was not executed after he was caught, fighting with the French Resistance, in civilian clothes?

The American prisoner at Dachau, when the camp was liberated, was Rene Guiraud.

After being given intensive specialized training, Lt. Guiraud had been parachuted into Nazi-occupied France, along with a radio operator. His mission was to collect intelligence, harass German military units and occupation forces, sabotage critical war material facilities, and carry on other resistance activities. In other words, he was an illegal combatant, according to the Geneva Convention of 1929, and he could have been legally executed.

Guiraud had organized 1,500 guerrilla fighters and developed intelligence networks. During all this, Guiraud posed as a French citizen, wearing civilian clothing. He was captured and interrogated for two months by the Gestapo, but revealed nothing about his mission. After that, he was sent to Dachau where he participated in the camp resistance movement along with the captured British SOE men in the camp.

Two weeks after the liberation of the Dachau horror camp, Guirard “escaped” from the quarantined Dachau camp and went to Paris where he arrived in time to celebrate V-E day.  He never said a word about how he was treated badly at Dachau.

What about the five British SOE agents, who were prisoners in the Dachau camp when it was liberated?  What did they have to say about the horror at Dachau?

One of the prisoners at Dachau, when the camp was liberated, was Albert Guérisse, a British SOE agent from Belgium, who was hiding his identity by using the name Patrick O’Leary. He 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.

When the American liberators arrived at the gate into the Dachau camp, Guérisse greeted Lt. William P. Walsh and 1st Lt. Jack Bushyhead of the 45th Infantry Division and took them on a tour of the camp, showing them the gas chamber and the ovens in the crematorium. In his book  entitled The Day of the Americans, Nerin E. Gun wrote that Patrick O’Leary (real name Albert Guérisse) was the leader of the International Committee of Dachau, which was in charge of the camp.

What did Guérisse tell the Americans about the horror of Dachau, other than the gas chamber?  Nothing.  He escaped to Paris, along with Rene Guiard.

The information about the Dachau camp, which is told to visitors today, came from the Jewish prisoners, most of whom had only been in the Dachau camp for a few weeks.  They had been evacuated from the sub-camps and brought to the main camp, so that the prisoners could be surrendered to the Americans.  It was the Jewish prisoners who testified at the American Military Tribunal, and wrote books about the horror of Dachau.

Visitors to Dachau today don’t want to hear about what it was really like at Dachau.  They want to see a “horror camp” and a gas chamber. The Dachau Memorial Site caters to the desire of the tourists; it does not tell the true story of what Dachau was really like.

Few tourists visit the historic town of Dachau, which was in existence before America was a country.

 The Gable on the town hall in the historic town of Dachau


The Gable on the town hall in the historic town of Dachau

The photograph above shows a close-up of the emblem on the top of the old town hall. In the round window in the center of the picture, you can see a silver spur. A spur has been used in the Dachau town seal since as far back as 1374.  But who cares about that?  Tourists today only want to see the gas chamber at Dachau, not the historic buildings in the town.

You can see photos of the historic places in the town of Dachau on my website at http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauTown/HistoricPlaces/index.html