Scrapbookpages Blog

May 19, 2017

91 year old Richard Dutro remembers the liberation of Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:16 am

91-year-old Richard Dutro is on the far right in the photo above

I have a section about the liberation of Dachau on my website at https://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/DachauLiberation/index.html

Richard Dutro was among the American soldiers who liberated Dachau.

You can read about the liberation of Dachau in this news article:

http://www.clevelandjewishnews.com/news/local_news/ohio-governor-s-th-annual-holocaust-commemoration/article_6846b618-3b36-11e7-b6f3-370fd3b9814f.amp.html

Dutro’s unit, the 42nd Infantry under the direction of Gen. George Patton, had left France to head east toward Munich. However, along the way, his unit happened upon what they soon learned was Dachau.

“We came upon something that smelled like a slaughterhouse,” Dutro said. “I grew up in Zanesville, where we had slaughterhouses. But this was a slaughterhouse of human beings.”

The scene that Dutro described was gruesome and gut-wrenching. He recalled 114 train cars at the nearby train station full of dead prisoners the Germans did not have time to burn in the crematorium before the Allies invaded. Barrels full of personal items such as eyeglasses and teeth, things that do not incinerate in a gas chamber, were abundant and strewn about.

As it happened, one of Dutro’s fellow soldiers owned a Brownie camera. The soldier took photos of various scenes, and Dutro ended up with eight of those black-and-white photos. Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich assisted Dutro by holding each photo up so attendees at the commemoration could see them for themselves as the liberator spoke of them. Dutro said the photographs would be donated to a Holocaust museum upon his death.

Here is the full story of the liberation of Dachau:

The infamous Nazi concentration camp at Dachau was liberated on Sunday, April 29, 1945, just one week before the end of World War II in Europe. Two divisions of the US Seventh Army, the 42nd Rainbow Division and the 45th Thunderbird Division, participated in the liberation, while the 20th Armored Division provided support.

On the day of the liberation, Dachau consisted of a main camp just outside the town of Dachau and 123 sub-camps and factories in the vicinity of the town. The next day, on 30 April 1945, at around 9 o’clock in the morning, one of the major Dachau sub-camps at Allach was liberated by the 42nd Division.

On the day before the liberation of the main camp, the acting Commandant, Martin Gottfried Weiss, had turned everything over to a group of prisoners called the International Committee of Dachau and had then fled along with most of the regular guards that night. According to Arthur Haulot, a member of the International Committee, German and Hungarian Waffen-SS soldiers were then brought to the camp in order to surrender the prisoners to the U.S. Army.

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.

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

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. that day.

Nerin E. Gun, a Turkish journalist who was a prisoner at Dachau, wrote that “The Americans were not simply advancing; they were running, flying, breaking all the rules of military conduct, mounting their pieces on captured trucks, using tractors, bicycles, carts, trailers, anything on wheels that they could get their hands on. The Second Battation, 222nd Reigment, 42nd Divison, was coming brazenly, impudently down the highway, its general in the lead.”

On their way to Munich, the 42nd Division soldiers had met some newspaper reporters and photographers who told them about the camp and offered to show them the way. Lt. William Cowling was with Brig. Gen. Henning Linden when the first soldiers of the 42nd Division arrived at the camp and were met by 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker who was waiting near a gate on the south side, ready to surrender.

 

May 25, 2010

SS soldiers have an undeserved bad reputation

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:08 am

I am posting today in answer to a comment made by “tampalam” on my post about the scene in Shutter Island where SS soldiers are killed by the American liberators of Dachau.

“Tampalam” wrote: “I have no pity for any member of the SS. They knew what they were doing and they knew about the holocaust. There is no distinction between regular and Waffen SS. However, the summary execution of any person who has surrendered is wrong.”

This opinion of the SS seems to be shared by many people who believe Allied propaganda about the SS, which is totally wrong with regard to the true nature of the SS.

Dead Waffen-SS soldier whose head was blown off by American liberators

First of all, there was a distinction between “regular” and Waffen-SS.  I assume that “tampalam” was referring to the Totenkopfverbände as the “regular” SS.  Totenkopfverbände means Death’s Head unit; these were the SS soldiers who guarded the camps.  However, “tampalam” is right that the guards and the Waffen-SS soldiers were interchangeable: the Death’s Head SS soldiers could be sent to the battle front at any time, and Waffen-SS soldiers could be sent to the camps for guard duty when they were wounded in battle and could no longer fight.

The letters SS stand for Schutzstaffel, which means protection squad.  The SS started in 1925 with 8 men who were Hitler’s personal body guards. The Waffen-SS was the combat unit of the SS; the term Waffen-SS literally means “Weapons SS.”

The Waffen-SS was founded in 1939 after the SS was split into two units. The title of Waffen-SS became official on 2 March, 1940. Although nominally under the leadership of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, the Waffen-SS saw action during World War II under the de facto operational control of the Wehrmacht, which was the regular German army. By the end of World War II, the Waffen-SS had grown to 39 Divisions, which served as elite combat troops alongside the Wehrmacht.

In American terms, the Waffen-SS was comparable to the US Marines, but unlike the Marines, the Waffen-SS had volunteer divisions from many other countries. In 1944, there were 910,000 soldiers fighting on the side of Germany in the Waffen-SS, but less than half of these SS men had been born in Germany; there were 310,000 ethnic Germans from other countries such as Rumania, Yugoslavia and Hungary who were fighting with the Waffen-SS.

Dachau prisoner threatens Hungarian SS soldier

The photo above shows a Polish prisoner at Dachau who was given a rifle by the American liberators and allowed to confront a Hungarian SS soldier, who was sent from the battlefield to surrender the Dachau camp. Notice the cap that the Hungarian soldier is wearing. This same Polish prisoner, who was a member of the Polish Resistance, is shown in the center of the photo below, celebrating the killing of  Waffen-SS soldiers at Dachau. Notice that he has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth in both photos.

Polish Resistance fighters celebrate their victory at Dachau

Altogether, there were 200,000 volunteers in the SS from other countries including Great Britain.  There were 40,000 Spanish volunteers in the Waffen-SS, and another 40,000 volunteers from Belgium. The Dutch volunteers numbered 50,000. There were 20,000 Frenchmen in the Charlemagne Division from France, and there was a Flemish Division from Flanders.

The Waffen-SS included three Divisions from Finland, and volunteers from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Denmark. There were also Waffen-SS units from the Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia and Armenia.

So why were soldiers from other countries fighting on the side of Germany?  Because the Germans were fighting the Communists, and these soldiers did not want Europe to be taken over by the Communists.  America fought on the side of Communism and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave half of Europe to the Communists at the Yalta Conference.  It was not until 1989, with the fall of the Soviet Union, that Europe was freed from Communism.

John Toland wrote in his book entitled Adolf Hitler, that Himmler wanted his SS soldiers “to be hard but not hardened.” Regarding Himmler’s reason for establishing SS training centers, such as the one at Dachau, Toland wrote the following:

He imbued the SS, therefore, not only with a sense of racial superiority but with the hard virtues of loyalty, comradeship, duty, truth, diligence, honesty and knighthood. His SS, as the elite of the party, was the elite of the German Volk, and therefore the elite of the entire world. By establishing castles of the order to indoctrinate SS members in his ideals, he hoped to breed a New Man, “far finer and more valuable than the world had yet seen.”

The “castle of the order” referred to in the paragraph above was located at Wewelsburg, Germany. You can read all about the Wewelsburg castle here.

Death’s Head Emblem of the SS

The words on the SS emblem, translated into English, are “My Honor is named Loyalty.”

The SS soldiers were held to higher standards than regular Wehrmacht soldiers in the German Army and the SS was subjected to the strictest discipline. Sentences handed down by SS courts were more severe than sentences passed by other courts for the same offense.

A separate wing on the east side of the bunker (camp prison) at Dachau was reserved for SS soldiers who had committed a criminal act. This section has been torn down and can no longer be seen at the Dachau Memorial Site. When Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, there were 128 SS men incarcerated in the Dachau bunker. They were released and given the job of guarding the prisoners until the American liberators arrived.  Most of the regular guards at Dachau had fled the night before the camp was liberated.

At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, SS Lt. General Ernst Kaltenbrunner testified that there were 13 Stammlager (main concentration camps) in the Nazi camp system. One of these camps was Matzgau, located near Danzig; it was a camp where SS guards were imprisoned for offenses such as physical mistreatment of concentration camp prisoners, embezzlement, or theft.  Yet tour guides at Dachau routinely tell visitors that the guards could do anything they wanted to with regard to abusing or killing the prisoners.

In 1943,  a Waffen-SS officer named Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, who was also an attorney, was authorized by Himmler to conduct investigations into corruption and brutality in the concentration camps. Around 800 investigations of the SS were conducted, which resulted in around 200 indictments.

Among those who were indicted by Morgen was Amon Goeth, the Commandant who was featured in the film, Schindler’s List. Goeth was arrested and was awaiting trial when World War II ended.  Dr. Morgen spent two months at Dachau doing an investigation of the camp but found no crimes that had been committed by the SS men at Dachau.  The Dachau commandant, Martin Gottfried Weiss, was given a good report.  Yet he was prosecuted by an American Military Tribunal and hanged after he was convicted.  His crime was that he was the Commandant of a Nazi concentration camp and as such, he was a war criminal.

Even before Morgen started his investigations, two of the Commandants of Dachau, Hilmar Wäckerle and Alex Piorkowski, had been dismissed from their jobs by Himmler, after accusations of murder in the camp were brought to his attention.  The common belief that the SS guards at Dachau and other camps were allowed to abuse or kill the prisoners is completely unfounded. In spite of this, tour guides at Dachau tell visitors that the SS men were trained in a “school of terror” at Dachau, when they were actually trained to be concentration camp administrators.

You can read more about the history of the SS on my web site here.

A former German SS soldier, who is now an American citizen, wrote a book entitled SS Panzergrenadier: A True Story of World War II, about his army service when he was a teen-aged volunteer in the 1st SS Leibstandarte Division of the Waffen-SS.  In his book, Schmidt defends the SS and describes the life of an SS soldier in World War II.  He also writes about his days as a member of the Hitler Youth.

The photo below is from the cover of his book.

Hans Schmidt as a teen-aged Waffen-SS soldier

March 19, 2010

The Dachau Uprising, 28 April 1945

Today I am writing about the “Dachau Uprising” in answer to a comment that was made by Taff, who says he is a Dachau tour guide.  Taff commented on my post about the “Dachau Massacre” when Waffen-SS soldiers, who had been sent from the battlefield to surrender the Dachau concentration camp, were killed by the American liberators after they had surrendered.

An excerpt from Taff’s comment is quoted below:

“The photographic evidence shows SS men wearing spotty cammo uniforms which were not worn by the camp guard staff so it is entirely likely that at least some of the executed were indeed Waffen-SS. You are going to cry over an error of this magnitude which took place only 200 metres away from the abomination that was KZ Dachau? Put things in perpspective. […] Those jolly, innocent lads of the Waffen-SS had not listened to demands for mercy during the Dachau Uprising on the 28th of April 1945.”

Equating the killing of unarmed Prisoners of War, in violation of the Geneva Convention, with the killing of civilians in a battle between soldiers and citizens of a town, really got me riled up.  So I am going to tell you about the Dachau Uprising, in which Taff implies that the civilians demanded mercy and were nevertheless killed by Waffen-SS soldiers. (more…)

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