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On 27th February, 1933, someone set fire to the Reichstag. Several people were arrested including a leading, Georgi Dimitrov, general secretary of the Comintern, the international communist organization. Dimitrov was eventually acquitted but a young man from the Netherlands, Marianus van der Lubbe, was eventually executed for the crime. As a teenager Lubbe had been a communist and Hermann Goering used this information to claim that the Reichstag Fire was part of a KPD plot to overthrow the government.
Adolf Hitler gave orders that all leaders of the German Communist Party (KPD) should "be hanged that very night." Paul von Hindenburg vetoed this decision but did agree that Hitler should take "dictatorial powers". KPD candidates in the election were arrested and Goering announced that the Nazi Party planned "to exterminate" German communists. Thousands of members of the Social Democrat Party and KPD were arrested and sent to Germany's first concentration camp at Dachau, a village a few miles from Munich. The head of the Schutzstaffel (SS), Heinrich Himmler was placed in charge of the operation, whereas Theodor Eicke became commandant of the first camp and was staffed by members of the SS Death's Head units.
Originally called re-education centres the Schutzstaffel (SS) soon began describing them as concentration camps. They were called this because they were "concentrating" the enemy into a restricted area. Hitler argued that the camps were modeled on those used by the British during the Boer War. According to Andrew Mollo, the author of To The Death's Head: The Story of the SS (1982): "Theodor Eicke, a rough unstable character whose violent and unruly behaviour had already given Himmler many headaches. At last Himmler found an ideal backwater for his troublesome subordinate and sent him off to Dachau."
Theodor Eicke later recalled: "There were times when we has no coats, no boots, no socks. Without so much as a murmur, our men wore their own clothes on duty. We were generally regarded as a necessary evil that only cost money; little men of no consequence standing guard behind barbed wire. The pay of my officers and men, meagre though it was, I had to beg from the various State Finance Offices. As Oberführer I earned in Dachau 230 Reichmark per month and was fortunate because I enjoyed the confidence of my Reichsführer (Himmler). At the beginning there was not a single cartridge, not a single rifle, let alone machine guns. Only three of my men knew how to operate a machine gun. They slept in draughty factory halls. Everywhere there was poverty and want. At the time these men belonged to SS District South. They left it to me to take care of my men's troubles but, unasked, sent men they wanted to be rid of in Munich for some reason or another. These misfits polluted my unit and troubled its state of mind. I had to contend with disloyalty, embezzlement and corruption."
With the support of Heinrich Himmler things began to improve: "From now on progress was unimpeded. I set to work unreservedly and joyfully; I trained soldiers as non-commissioned officers, and non-commissioned officers as leaders. United in our readiness for sacrifice and suffering and in cordial comradeship we created in a few weeks an excellent discipline which produced an outstanding esprit de corps. We did not become megalomaniacs, because we were all poor. Behind the barbed-wire fence we quietly did our duty, and without pity cast out from our ranks anyone who showed the least sign of disloyalty. Thus moulded and thus trained, the camp guard unit grew in the quietness of the concentration camp.
Rudolf Hoess, one of the guards at Dachau, later recalled: "I can clearly remember the first flogging that I witnessed. Eicke had issued orders that a minimum of one company from the guard unit must attend the infliction of these corporal punishments. Two prisoners who had stolen cigarettes from the canteen were sentenced to twenty-five lashes each with the whip. The troops under arms were formed up in an open square in the centre of which stood the Whipping block.Two prisoners were led forward by their block leaders. Then the commandant arrived. The commander of the protective custody compound and the senior company commander reported to him. The Rapportfiihrer read out the sentence and the first prisoner, a small impenitent malingerer, was made to lie along; the length of the block. Two soldiers held his head and hands and two block leaders carried out the punishment, delivering alternate strokes. The prisoner uttered no sound. The other prisoner, a professional politician of strong physique, behaved quite differently. He cried out at the very first stroke and tried to break free. He went on screaming to the end, although the commandant yelled at him to keep quiet. I was standing in the first rank and was compelled to watch the whole procedure. I say compelled, because if I had been in the rear I would not have looked. When the man began to scream I went hot and cold all over. In fact the whole thing, even the beating of the first prisoner made me shudder. Later on, at the beginning of the war, I attended my first execution, but it did not affect me nearly so much as witnessing that first corporal punishment."
Hermann Langbein arrived in Dachau on 1st May 1941. He later wrote in Against All Hope (1992): "On May 1, 1941, I arrived in Dachau together with many other Austrian veterans of the Spanish Civil War. For over two years, we had been interned in camps in southern France, and only internees who live together day and night can get to know one another as well as we did... The general expressions of support from the old political prisoners that greeted us, the first large group of veterans of the Spanish Civil War to arrive in Dachau, did us good morally and in some instances helped us concretely as well."
Langbein was shocked by conditions in the camp. "We had to march out at dawn onto the parade ground for early morning roll call. It was always a dreadful military ceremony. Everyone had to stand bolt upright in rows. The order hats off had to be done with total precision. If there was some mistake or other, then there were punishment exercises. Then the SS took the roll call - to check whether the numbers tallied. That was always the most important thing in every concentration camp - the numbers had to be right at every roll call. No one was allowed to be absent. It made no difference if someone had died during the night - the body would be laid out and included in the roll. And then, when roll call was over, we had to form up into our working parties. And every working party had its own assembly area, which one had to know in order to line up. And then the parties set off for work - depending on whether one was working inside the camp or outside. The outside parties were escorted by SS men. The working day was determined by the time of year. Work was determined by hours of daylight, not the clock. The parties could only leave camp when it was already half-light, so that people couldn't escape under cover of darkness."
Langbein was able to survive the experience by gaining a job in the camp hospital: "A German Communist who had been interned for many years - presented me to his SS boss, who had a request for a clerk from the prison hospital... The Work Assignments man told him that no other inmates were available who had the proper qualifications - the ability to spell correctly, use a typewriter, and take shorthand. He had prepared me in advance to answer the SS questions in such a way that I made a positive impression. With surprising speed, I was placed on a detail with exceptionally good working conditions. Because we also slept in the infirmary, we were not subject to the harassing checks in the blocks. We did not need to show up for the morning and evening roll calls, and we had a roof over our heads as we did our physically undemanding work."
By 1943 Dachau controlled a vast network of camps stretching into Austria. Although not an extermination camp, a large number of inmates were murdered. Others died during medical experiments. Prisoners at Dachau included Leon Blum, Martin Niemoller, Kurt von Schuschnigg, Franz Halder and Hjalmar Schacht.
As well as the one built at Dachau concentration camps were also built at Belsen and Buchenwald (Germany), Mautausen (Austria), Theresienstadt (Czechoslovakia) and Auschwitz (Poland).
The capture of the notorious concentration camp near Dachau, where approximately 32,000 persons were liberated, was announce in yesterday's S.H.A.E.F. communiqué. Three hundred S.S. guards at the camp were quickly overcome it said.
A whole battalion of Allied troops was needed to restrain the prisoners from excesses. Fifty railway trucks crammed with bodies and the discovery of gas chambers, torture rooms, whipping posts, and crematoria strongly support report which had leaked out of the camp.
An Associated Press correspondent with the Seventh Army says that many of the prisoners seized the guards' weapons and revenged themselves on the SS men. Many of the well-known prisoners, it was said, had been recently removed to a new camp in the Tyrol.
Prisoners with access to the records said that 9,000 died of hunger and disease, or were shot in the past three months and 4,000 more perished last winter.
I have not talked about how it was the day the American Army arrived, though the prisoners told me. In their joy to be free, and longing to see their friends who had come at last, many prisoners rushed to the fence and died electrocuted. There were those who died cheering, because that effort of happiness was more than their bodies could endure. There were those who died because now they had food, and they ate before they could be stopped, and it killed them. I do not know words to describe the men who have survived this horror for years, three years, five years, ten years, and whose minds are as clear and unafraid as the day they entered.
I was in Dachau when the German armies surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. We sat in that room, in that accursed cemetery prison, and no one had anything more to say. Still, Dachau seemed to me the most suitable place in Europe to hear the news of victory. For surely this war was made to abolish Dachau, and all the other places like Dachau, and everything that Dachau stood for, and to abolish it for ever.
Dachau - History
Wikimedia Commons Polish prisoners in Dachau toast their liberation from the camp.
Dachau concentration camp, located in the state of Bavaria, Germany, was the first concentration camp established by the Nazi regime.
On April 29, 1945, Dachau was liberated by the U.S seventh Army’s 45th Infantry Division.
Wikimedia Commons Corpses of prisoners in the Dachau death trains. 1945.
But it wasn’t just liberated. Reports indicated that, appalled by what they saw, members of the U.S army were driven to take revenge. They allegedly murdered the SS officers and guards who were responsible for the Holocaust horrors that took place at Dachau.
The troops arrived at the Dachau concentration camp in the afternoon. They were on their way to Munich which was just over ten miles from Dachau. Though the troops passed through Dachau, it wasn’t initially a part of the attack zones they were headed for.
Wikimedia Commons American soldiers execute SS camp guards who have been lined up against a wall during the liberation of Dachau concentration camp.
There was a railway siding en route to the entrance of Dachau, along which there were 40 railway wagons. All of the wagons were filled entirely with emaciated human corpses. According to the U.S. Army, there were 2,310 dead bodies.
Nearby was the kiln of burning bodies. The stench of death permeated the air.
The actual events that took place after Dachau was liberated are shrouded in mystery. This can be attested to the fact that soldiers who were present during the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp recounted the events of the day in very different ways.
After word of American soldiers killing SS Guards at Dachau spread, an investigation was ordered by Lt. Col. Joseph Whitaker. The “Investigation of Alleged Mistreatment of German Guards at Dachau” as it was called produced documents that were marked “secret.” Soldiers spoke under sworn testimony and in the aftermath were inclined to speak little more of whatever happened at the Dachau Concentration Camp after it was liberated.
Felix L. Sparks was a general who wrote a personal account of the events.
General Sparks wrote that, despite more exaggerated claims, “the total number of German guards killed at Dachau during that day most certainly not exceed fifty, with thirty probably being a more accurate figure.”
Wikimedia Commons Closeup of the bodies of SS personnel lying at the base of the tower from which American soldiers had initially come under attack by a German machine gun.
Col. Howard A. Buechner was a medical officer with the 3rd Battalion for the 45th division and in 1986 he put out a book, The Hour of the Avenger. In his book, Buechner recounts his own version of what happened on April 29, 1945. Specifically the “deliberate killing of 520 Prisoners of War by American soldiers.” Buechner paints the picture of a mass execution in direct violation of the Geneva Convention.
In the book, Buechner’s states that there were only 19 American soldiers who witnessed the Dachau massacre, and at the time of the book’s publishing, only three were certain to be alive.
However, when reports from the initial investigation were made public in 1991, it came to light that Beuchner’s account did not match the sworn testimony he gave.
Another account of the day came from Abram Sachar, who in the book The Day of the Americans said:
“Some of the Nazis were rounded up and summarily executed along with the guard dogs. Two of the most notorious prison guards had been stripped naked before the Americans arrived to prevent them from slipping away unnoticed. They, too, were cut down.”
It wasn’t just the American soldiers who reportedly took revenge on the SS guards. It was the inmates too.
One of the prisoners, Walenty Lenarczyk, said that immediately following the liberation the prisoners gained a newfound sense of courage. They caught the SS men “and knocked them down and nobody could see whether they were stomped or what, but they were killed.” As Lenarczyk put it, “We were, all these years, animals to them and it was our birthday.”
There’s a reporting of two liberated prisoners beating a German guard to death with a shovel and another witnessed account of a liberated prisoner stomping repeatedly on the face of a guard.
Like stories from many wars, it may never be made entirely clear what transpired after Dachau was liberated.
U.S. Holocaust Museum/Wikimedia Commons View of prisoners’ barracks in Dachau concentration camp. 1945.
Due to the extensive records kept by the Nazis during the Holocaust, there is a great deal of public knowledge available on the Dachau Concentration Camp itself.
We know that it was divided into two sections: the camp area made up of 32 barracks and the crematoria area.
The records show that there were extensive medical experiments done on prisoners at Dachau, which included tests for halting excessive bleeding, and high-altitude experiments using a decompression chamber.
A few days before the liberation, 7,000 prisons were ordered on a death march from Dachau to Tegernsee. Anyone who couldn’t keep up was shot by German soldiers. Many perished from exhaustion and hunger along the way.
Between 1933 and 1945, there were over 188,000 prisoners at Dachau. A number of unregistered prisoners were there as well though, thus the total number of prisoners and victims who died will likely remain unknown.
30,000 prisoners were liberated. Jack Goldman was liberated at Dachau and became a U.S. Veteran of the Korean War. His father was killed in Auschwitz.
Goldman reflected on the Dachau liberation, the subsequent events that transpired, and the idea of vengeance. Though he doesn’t preach hatred, he understood the feelings of those prisoners.
“I knew men in camp who had sworn by everything that was holy to them that if they ever got out that they would kill every German in sight. They had to watch their wives mutilated. They had to watch their babies tossed in the air and shot.”
One vivid memory Goldman recalled from the liberation was the American troops taking their names. He said, “For the first time, we were no longer numbers.”
After learning of the Dachau massacre following its liberation, you may want to read about the database that puts human faces to the guards at Auschwitz. Then take a look at heartbreaking photos inside the only all-female concentration camp.
Built in 1933, Dachau was one of the first Nazi concentration camps. Though a large number of prisoners were executed, the camp was more of a large scale prison and internment camp and not part of the complex of the extermination camps such as the Auschwitz concentration camp. In the final phase of the Second World War, the living conditions of the prisoners in Dachau concentration camp drastically deteriorated, causing the death rate in the camp to rise rapidly. Many inmates of the overcrowded camp suffered from malnutrition and the untenable hygienic conditions. Evacuation transports from other concentration camps and a rampant typhus epidemic exacerbated the catastrophic camp conditions. From January to April 1945 alone, more than 13,000 prisoners died of disease or exhaustion in the Dachau concentration camp and the affiliated subcamps many of the bodies remained unburied on the grounds. In addition, thousands of prisoners lost their lives on death marches to the south. Shortly before the arrival of the US Army, there were more than 32,000 emaciated prisoners in Dachau concentration camp about 8,000 of whom were bedridden. 
After the Dachau concentration camp was liberated on 29 April 1945 by units of the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions of the Seventh United States Army, the liberators found 3,000 corpses and several thousand people vegetating. In addition, there was a strong smell of decay lying on the camp.  Even before entering the camp grounds, the US soldiers had discovered hundreds of dead concentration camp prisoners in the death train from Buchenwald parked on a siding, most of whom had died of hunger, debilitation or disease during transport to Dachau concentration camp.   Battalion commander Felix Sparks later reported: 
During the early period of our entry into the camp, a number of company men all battle hardened veterans, became extremely distraught. Some cried, while others raged.
Upset by these traumatic experiences, spontaneous shootings of captured SS men by US soldiers occurred. 
When Colonel William Wilson Quinn, Assistant Chief of Staff of the G2 Military Intelligence of the 7th US Army, learned of the shocking and indescribable impressions of his comrades after the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, he immediately went to the site to see the situation for himself. He remarked that the mass crimes found there were beyond his imagination,  and that no one would have believed the atrocities committed in the camp at the time. As a result, he decided to immediately document what he had experienced, resulting in this investigative report.  The preface, signed by Quinn, states: 
DACHAU, 1933-1945, will stand for all time as one of history’s most gruesome symbols of inhumanity. There our troops found (. ) cruelties so enormous as to be incomprehensible to the normal mind. Dachau and death were synonymous.
Quinn formed several teams to gather information about what happened in the camp, including taking statements from former prisoners. In particular, he was also interested in finding out what the population of the nearby town of Dachau knew about the concentration camp and what they thought about it.  Involved in the report were the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) and the Psychological Warfare Branch (PWB) of the 7th US Army. The report is based primarily on interviews with liberated detainees by US intelligence officers and on field investigations. Members of the unofficial International Prisoner Administration of the liberated camp, which had been formed shortly before the liberation, assisted in this.
The report was completed rather quickly, within the span one to two weeks.   The report is divided into four parts, listed in a table of contents on the third page of the document. Part I features the foreword by William Wilson Quinn while Part II was prepared by the Office of Strategic Services. Part III was prepared by the Psychological Warfare Branch and Part IV prepared by the Counter Intelligence Corps. Parts II to IV partly overlap thematically, since they were prepared as individual reports that were largely independent of each other. According to the preface, the reports were deliberately not combined into a common document with a uniform style, as doing so would have "seriously weaken[ed] [their] realism".  In the summary preceding the second part of the report, it noted that the report does not intend to be a comprehensive or exhaustive account of Dachau Concentration Camp, and that work was already being done on further, more comprehensive reports.  Thus, in preparation for the War Crimes Trial Program, American investigators conducted investigations from April 30, 1945 to August 7, 1945 to determine who was responsible for the crimes associated with the Dachau complex. This investigation report, completed on 31 August 1945, was the basis for the Dachau Camp Trial. 
The 649th Engineer Topographic Battalion of the U.S. Army took over the printing and duplication of the report, which was published in typewritten form.  By May 1945, 10,000 copies had aready been circulated.  The Dachau Report was, according to the memoirs of William W. Quinn  initially intended only as an internal report for use in the US Army, but then got to journalists unplanned through display in a press room, making it known to the public. [ citation needed ] It soon circulated among US soldiers and members of the press.  
The public was promptly informed about the conditions found in Dachau concentration camp. Several journalists accompanied the US soldiers during the liberation of Dachau concentration camp, including Marguerite Higgins, who was a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. She wrote the "first, though belatedly transmitted, report from Dachau."  As early as 1 May 1945, many newspapers published articles to this effect. Film crews also arrived at the liberated camp. At the invitation of Dwight D. Eisenhower, delegations of American politicians as well as editors-in-chief and publishers went to the site on 2nd and 3rd of May 1945 respectively to get a picture of the situation. According to Harold Marcuse, the aim was "to convince the American public of the extent and authenticity of the atrocities through their reporting". 
The report presents the Dachau concentration camp complex comprehensively and from different perspectives. Since the American investigators were in the camp as liberators, they were able to rely on a high level of cooperation and willingness to testify  from the liberated prisoners a part of the report conisists of eyewitness accounts of the inmates, as well as occasional longer excerpts from diaries and personal accounts of the experiences of individual prisoners.  A large part of the report conists of factual analysis and summaries by the authors of the report.
The sociology and social psychology of the system of prisoners and prisoner groups, their interactions with each other  the commanding SS, and the so-called prisoner administration or labour administration  are detailed through an organizational chart.  The report also contains statistical listings of prisoner numbers and the proportion of different nationalities  and the crimes charged, as well as figures on deaths in the camp, which rose sharply from autumn 1944 onwards.  Accounts of the social dynamics among the prisoners  also make up a large part of the report, such as the interaction between prisoner groups of different nationalities, and how these differences were deliberately instrumentalised by the SS for purposes of control and oppression for example, German inmates were placed in administrative positions in order to stir anti-German sentiment among non-German inmates. 
Another section deals with the pseudoscientific, inhumane human experiments. These included, for example, the deliberate infection of healthy inmates with serious, potentially deadly infectious diseases without subsequent treatment. In other "experiments", prisoners were forcefully immersed in tanks filled with icy water at about 1 °C (34 °F) for long periods of time until they became unconscious. 
Throughout the report there are descriptions of various aspects of the extremely harsh living conditions, both physical and psychological, which were forced upon the inmates and determined their struggle for survival.  The OSS wrote in section I of the report: 
These factors dividing people in a normal type of society are totally inapplicable to the situation at Dachau where people lived the most abnormal kind of existence imaginable. Regardless of origin, education, wealth, politics, or religion, people living in Dachau for a certain time were gradually reduced to the most primitive and cruel form of existence – motivated almost exclusively by fear of death. They no longer acted as former bankers, workers, priests, Communists, intellectuals or artists, but primarily as individuals trying to survive in the physical conditions of Dachau, i.e., trying to escape the constantly threatening death by starvation, freezing, or execution.
A large section is also dedicated to the description of the control, repression and terror system that the SS had set up in Dachau, just as in all other German concentration camps.  Selected inmates who were in the camp for criminal offences such as murder or robbery were known as "criminals" and given special positions in the hierarchy of the camp. They were used by the SS to suppress and control the larger number of people imprisoned for political reasons ("politicals") through psychological and physical terror.  This included, for example, reducing or depriving food rations, threats, harassment and physical violence up to torture and murder of political prisoners by "criminals".  These acts were usually directly ordered by the SS or done to accomplish a particular goal set out by the SS for one or more criminal inmates.  Several pages also document the various ways inmates were executed at Dachau. 
Dachau also discusses the history of the Dachau concentration camp, which existed as early as 1933 and is considered the first camp of its kind in Nazi Germany.  The US investigators also conducted extensive interviews with residents of the town of Dachau, which was located near the camp. While doing so, they particularly tried to find individuals among the mass of allegedly unsuspecting and innocent residents who had in some way politically resisted. Their statements, including their assessment of their fellow residents' attitudes, were documented. 
Other sections deal with the liberation of the camp by the US Army and the events that followed  as well as with the physical structure or organization of the camp  along with the daily routine of the prisoners. 
Aerial photograph of the camp by an American reconnaissance plane, p. 2
Bodies of prisoners who died of conditions in the camp, p. 41
Picture of three liberated inmates, two wearing the black and white striped concentration camp inmate clothing, p. 13
Introduction Part III (p. 16): "(. ) the first impression comes as a complete, a stunning shock." Picture of murdered prisoners of the Außenlager Kaufering IV on the railway line Kaufering-Landsberg 
Part I. Foreword Edit
The three-paragraph preface by Colonel William W. Quinn includes the following statement:
No words or pictures can carry the full impact of these unbelievable scenes but this report presents some of the outstanding facts and photographs in order to emphasize the type of crime which elements of the SS committed thousands of times a day, to remind us of the ghastly capabilities of certain classes of men, to strengthen our determination that they and their work shall vanish from the earth. 
Part II. Dachau, Concentration Camp - OSS Section Edit
The OSS section, introduced by a Summary (pp. 3, 4), comprises twelve pages and is divided into the sections History (pp. 5 to 6), Composition (pp. 6 to 8), Organization (pp. 9 to 11) and Groupings of Prisoners (pp. 11 to 15). The summary is followed by a brief outline of the history of Dachau Concentration Camp from 1933 to 1945, describing the increasing number of prisoners in the camp, the expansion of the groups of prisoners admitted and the constantly expanding network of affiliated subcamps. Furthermore, the chapter describes the increasing overcrowding of the camp during the Second World War, exacerbated by incoming evacuation transports from other camps, which led to a considerable increase in the death rate among the prisoners due to hunger and disease in the final phase of the camp.
The following section is devoted to the composition of the prisoner groups, whereby nationality and the reason for admission are mentioned as the main distinguishing features. Furthermore, the identification of prisoners in the concentration camps and the contrast between political (Reds) and so-called criminal prisoners (Greens) are explained. Finally, the section notes the irrelvance of previous social distictions given the camp's poor conditions, leading to prisoners being "gradually reduced to the most primitive and cruel form of existence—motivated almost exclusively by fear of death." In the Organization section, the terror system in the camp is explained, which consisted of external control by the camp SS and internal control by the function prisoners appointed by the SS. The following Prisoner Groups section describes functional posts for prisoners and, within the framework of internal organization, the key position of the Labour Deployment Department is emphasized. The second part concludes with a description of prisoner groups fromed on the basis of nationality and the International Prisoners' Committee.
Part III. Dachau, Concentration Camp and Town - PWS Section Edit
The third part of the report is from the PWS section is eleven pages long. It is divided into the Introduction (pp. 16 to 18), The Camp (pp. 18 to 21), The Townspeople (pp. 22 to 25) and Conclusion (pp. 25 to 26) sections. In the introduction, the subject of the study is derived by prefacing the following remarks with two questions: What is currently known about the situation in the camp, and what did the Dachau townspeople know about the events in the camp, and what was their corresponding attitude towards it? To answer the first question, 20 former political prisoners were interviewed. The Dachau camp survivors told the American interrogators about everyday life in the camp, which was characterized by hunger, illness and punishment, mass crimes. They further detailed the role of the SS guards and the prisoner functionaries, camp hierarchies and the poor medical care. On the other hand, citizens of the nearby town of Dachau were interviewed to the second question. The questioning of the Dachau citizens revealed that the existence of the camp was known however, many of them remarked to the interrogators that they had known nothing about what was going on in the camp and the mass crimes. This section also lists some of the explanations given in German, such as "Wir sind aberall belogen worden" (We were all lied to) or "Was konnten wir tun?" (What could we do?). However, some political opponents to the Nazi regime from the town of Dachau stated that the events in the camp had been known in the town. The interrogators concluded that the overwhelming majority of the town population had brought guilt upon themselves through alleged ignorance and lack of civil courage.
Part IV. Dachau, Concentration Camp - CIC Detachment Edit
The main part of the report, prepared by the CIC, comprises forty pages. This part is divided into the Memorandum (pp. 27 and 28), Liberation (pp. 28 to 30), Life at Dachau (pp. 30 to 34), Diary of E.K. (pp. 35 to 45), Statement by E.H. (pp. 35 to 45), Special Case Reports (pp. 61 to 63) and Miscellaneous (p. 63ff.) sections. The Memorandum leads on to the next section, which deals with the circumstances of the liberation of the camp. The section Life at Dachau deals with the transport of prisoners to the camp, the admission procedure after arrival, and the harsh everyday life in the camp. The following pages contain a detailed account of the cruel human experiments on prisoners and of the types of executions in the camp.
The special case reports focus on people with connections to Dachau concentration camp, including the camp medical doctor Claus Schilling, who was executed for his crimes against the Dachau prisoners in 1946, and the SS members of the camp, Wilhelm Welter, Franz Böttger and Johann Kick. The report concludes with the section Miscellaneous, where the structure of the camp SS is detailed. Several tables showing the list of Dachau survivors by nationality, the number of prisoners who passed through the Dachau concentration camp, the list of the number of deaths and executions by year, and the composition of the International Prisoners Committee are also included.
Diary of Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz (Diary of E. K.) Edit
Ten pages of the Dachau report are devoted to a diary that was partially translated from German into English during the writing the report. These are excerpts from the diary of the Dachau survivor Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, which he risked his life to write secretly during his imprisonment in the camp from November 1942 to spring 1945. In the diary, Kupfer-Koberwitz recorded his personal experiences and those of his prisoner friends. The excerpts from the diary are meant to illustrate and serve as evidence for crimes committed in the Dachau concentration camp. The CIC Detachment investigators considered this diary to be "one of the most interesting documents" they had obtained on the Dachau crime complex. Because Kupfer-Koberwitz was seen to be at risk of German reprisals, only his initials are given as the author in the Dachau report.  Kupfer-Koberwitz, who managed to hide the diary until the camp's liberation, published excerpts from it in 1957 under the title "The Powerful and the Helpless". His unabridged diary was published in 1997, under the title "Dachau Diaries". 
Statement by Eleonore Hodys (Statement by E. H.) Edit
The section Statement by E.H. covers 15 pages in the Dachau report (pp. 46 to 60) and is thus the longest thematically continuous section in the report. It contains the testimony of a female concentration camp inmate with the initials E.H., who reports on her experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp and incriminates members of the SS assigned there. She gave a detailed account of events in the Auschwitz concentration camp and in particular of the violent crimes committed by the SS in the "bunker", the camp prison in Block 11 of the main camp in Auschwitz, where, according to her own statements, she was imprisoned for nine months. Among other things, she stated that after being admitted to the Auschwitz concentration camp, she initially had a privileged position among the prisoners. For example, she had been employed as an embroiderer in the villa of the camp commander Rudolf Höss, where she was well fed and lived in a single room. She also reports that the camp commandant made advances to her. In October 1942 she was locked up in the bunker (Block 11) and initially received preferential treatment there. Along with other members of the Auschwitz camp SS, she also incriminated camp commander Höss. He had secretly visited her in the bunker and had sexual intercourse with her. Höss is said to have impregnated Hodys, whereupon she was taken to a standing cell to die of starvation to cover up the affair.  
Background and subsequent use Edit
Why the E. H. statement was included in the Dachau report, given it has no connection with the Dachau crime complex, is unclear. The "Statement by E.H." contains the transcript of the testimony of the female prisoner Eleonore Hodys, also known as Nora Mattaliano-Hodys, about her experiences in the Auschwitz concentration camp, as recorded by the SS judge Konrad Morgen in October 1944. Morgen headed an SS commission of internal enquiry that was supposed to uncover and bring to trial corruption in concentration camps in particular. The members of the investigating commission were made aware of Hodys by a member of the SS in the Auschwitz concentration camp who was in custody and had testified as a witness in the proceedings against the former head of the political department in Auschwitz, Max Grabner, before the SS and police court in Weimar. Morgen stated after the end of the war that he had taken Hodys out of the bunker to provide witness protection. Physically weakened and ill, he had her taken to a Munich clinic for convalescence at the end of July 1944, until she could finally be questioned by Morgen in October 1944 about events in the Auschwitz concentration camp. 
A copy of this protocol was given to US investigators by Gerhard Wiebeck, who worked under Morgen, immediately after the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. The Hodys' transcript was translated from German into English and included in the Dachau Report.  Wiebeck, who was taken into American internment custody in the course of the liberation of Dachau concentration camp, is also listed with a short vita in the Dachau report.  A back-translation of this protocol into German made by Wiebeck also played a role as evidence in the first Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial, on which he provided comprehensive information during his testimony in October 1964.  Transcripts of the protocols of Hody's interrogation are kept in the Institute of Contemporary History and are available in digitalised form. 
British historian Dan Stone considers the report to be one of the first post-war publications on the German concentration camps, which would represent a combination of careful scientific observation and "burning rage" which resulted from the disturbing conditions which were documented photographically. 
German historian Ludwig Eiber classifies the US Army report as the "first overview" of the Dachau concentration camp crime complex. However, he believes the report would also contain "some significant errors", because the interrogators would not have distinguished enough the reports of prisoners that applied to Dachau from those that referred to Auschwitz.  According to his assessment, the Dachau Report focused on the mass crimes committed in this concentration camp. Eiber cites the report as an example of one of the first post-war publications on the subject. He believes the report set out to document such crimes as to "create a basis for punishment". 
Several surviving originals of the report are stored in the library of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. 
Furthermore, the report paints a very negative overall picture of the group of "criminal" prisoners. According to the current state of research, the collective stigmatisation of the "criminal" prisoners as helpers of the SS is, however, no longer tenable. 
Dachau gas chamber Edit
Under the heading "Executions" on page 33, the report describes a large gas chamber at the camp, which had a capacity of 200 people, in addition to five smaller chambers. It bore the inscription "Brausebad" (shower bath) above the door and inside there were 15 shower heads through which poisonous gas was introduced. The report describes the gassing of unsuspecting prisoners who died within 10 minutes as if this actually took place at Dachau. 
The account of gassing prisoners in Dachau is not corroborated in other sources. In fact, the construction of a new crematorium was completed in Dachau in the spring of 1943. Known as "Barrack X", the crematorium had four small chambers for clothing disinfestation using Zyklon B  and a larger gas chamber. However, the latter was never used for executions.  The only evidence that existed involved plans to use the gas chamber to test combat gases on humans. Whether these experiments, planned by medical doctor and SS member Sigmund Rascher, were in fact carried out is not known as of 2011 [update] .  Some Holocaust deniers have cited the incorrect reports of gassing at Dachau in order to falsely claim that the Nazis did not systematically exterminate Jews using poison gas at other camps such as Auschwitz–Birkenau. 
E. H. statement Edit
The Auschwitz survivor and camp chronicler Hermann Langbein classifies Hody's statements in the report as mixture of "memories with fantasies of an insane person".  In addition to incidents that were true, certain details could also be untrue, especially those regarding time. In his view, the protocol should be subjected to a critical review within the framework of a historical evaluation. 
Dachau - History
by Harold Marcuse
(Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2000)
Dachau: Past, Present, Future (Introduction without notes)
brief history visit 2001 book overview Each of the three ways of dealing with the past is suited to one kind of soil and one climate only: in every other context it turns into a destructive weed. If the creators of great things need the past at all, they will take control of it by means of monumental historiography. Someone who, in contrast, likes to remain in familiar, venerable settings will care for the past as an antiquarian historian. Only someone who feels crushed by a present concern and wants to throw off the burden at any cost has a need for critical, that is judging and condemning historiography.
Friedrich Nietzsche, in On the Uses and Abuses of History for the Present , 1874
Historians have long known that each age creates its own history out of the raw material of the past, according to what it sees as its own present needs and future goals. As the Nazi concentration camps were liberated in the spring of 1945, they became part of that raw material of the past. Although in many of the former concentration camps some efforts were made to preserve a few remains as a record of what had happened there, most of them were first devoted to other purposes, such as emergency housing for liberated inmates and refugees, or internment camps for German suspects. Not until the 1950s did concerted efforts begin to preserve them for educational purposes, and those efforts often did not bear fruit until the 1960s, in some cases until the 1970s or 1980s. Depending on the political situation at the time, as well as on the influence and composition of the groups and agencies vying for control of the sites, the end results varied widely. Thus the history of each former concentration camp reflects not only the political and cultural history of its host country, but also more specifically the changing values and goals held by various groups in that society.
From the outset, the Dachau concentration camp occupied an especially prominent place in the Nazi concentration camp system. It was the first camp to be set up in 1933, and it was the first to be under the direct supervision of Heinrich Himmler, who later controlled the entire concentration and extermination camp network. In April 1934, when Dachau's commandant was appointed "Inspector of Concentration Camps," the Dachau system became a model for all other Nazi concentration camps. The flagship concentration camp also served as a "school of violence" for concentration camp leaders, with 18 of the top concentration camp commandants and Lagerführer (head of the prisoner camp) receiving their initial training there, including Adolf Eichmann, the bureaucrat who masterminded the industrially organized extermination of the Jews, and Rudolf Höss, the infamous commandant of Auschwitz.
Dachau was also the camp where the Nazi regime's most prominent prisoners, including chancellors and cabinet ministers from occupied countries, as well as high-ranking religious leaders, were incarcerated. Dachau's postwar notoriety was ensured by its liberation a week before the end of the war, before it could be destroyed or evacuated, and just after an intensive Allied media blitz to publicize the atrocities in the Nazi camps had begun. Finally, since Dachau was located on the western side of the postwar "Iron Curtain," it was accessible to tourists from all over the world, and susceptible to the lobbying efforts of local, regional and international groups. (In eastern Europe, governments held a monopoly on the forms of memorialization.) For all of these reasons, Dachau is especially suited to serve as a representative case study of broader Western and particularly West German uses and abuses of the Nazi past after 1945.
In the first 50 years since the Dachau concentration camp was liberated in April 1945, more than 21 million people visited the site, 19 million of them-90%-since the former Nazi camp was designated as a memorial in 1965. Visitors go to Dachau to learn more about the history of the concentration camp, and they find a museum and terrain that have been designed to convey certain lessons about it. Few of them know how the site was used in the 20 years before it was turned into a memorial, nor are they aware of the many choices that were made in the creation and modification of the present memorial site. How did the Dachau memorial site come to be? What are the lessons it teaches, and who decided how to convey them? How are the site's messages received by visitors, and what short- and long-term effects does a visit to the site have upon them? This book was written to provide answers to those questions.
Before delving into the specifics of the Dachau memorial site's past, an overview of the history and layout of the site reveals important aspects of its reconstruction.
The origins of the Dachau concentration camp reach back to World War I, when the Bavarian government decided to locate a gunpowder and munitions factory on the outskirts of this town, on a railroad connection about 15 km from downtown Munich (see map 1). The factories, company housing, and workers' barracks were shut down under the disarmament terms of the Versailles Treaty, and they stood unused during the 1920s. When Hitler's Nazi party was looking for facilities to locate camps to neutralize its opponents after it gained control of the national government in early 1933, the abandoned armaments works near the birthplace and headquarters of the party offered an ideal solution. Two years later Hitler and Himmler decided to make the concentration camp system a permanent feature of their new state. A number of new camps were constructed from scratch, beginning with Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald. In 1937-38 the Dachau prisoners compound was completely rebuilt, and new barracks were added to the SS portion of the camp to house two divisions of SS military troops (ill. 3). Thus by the end of the war the Dachau concentration camp was a huge complex, more than one square kilometer in size.
The Dachau camp's postwar history can be divided into five main phases. The first was the shortest, lasting only three years, from July 1945 until the summer of 1948. During that time the U.S. army used the concentration and SS camps to intern up to 30,000 officers from Nazi party organizations and the German army (ill. 8). During that time, the U.S. army conducted a series of trials of the personnel of various concentration camps (ill. 11). In early 1948, as the wartime alliance between the Soviet Union and the Western powers broke down, the United States quickly brought its program of "denazification" to an end in order to increase German support for the West.
The second phase of the former concentration camp's history began when the U.S. military government returned the compound to the Bavarian government in 1948. The Bavarian government first decided to use its portion of the former concentration camp as a "correctional institution," but soon changed its mind. Faced with a refugee crisis as ethnic Germans were expelled and fled from the Soviet bloc, in April 1948 the Bavarian parliament decided instead to convert the prison camp into a residential settlement. Thus in the fall of 1948 the prisoners' barracks were transformed into apartments and stores for about 2000 Germans from Czechoslovakia (ill. 3, 23-25). This settlement, officially named Dachau-East, remained in the former prison camp for 15 years, until 1964. Its infrastructure evolved gradually. The prison walls and barbed wire were replaced by storage sheds, and some of the watchtowers were torn down (ill. 26). The main camp street was paved and street lights installed (ill. 27). Only the crematorium compound remained accessible as a designated relic of the camp. However, Bavarian government officials removed an exhibition on display in the larger of the two crematorium buildings in 1953, and attempted-unsuccessfully-to have the building torn down in 1955 (ill. 5, 18).
Increasing public interest in the site during the late 1950s and early 1960s helped to facilitate the transition to the Dachau camp's third postwar function: a memorial site. In 1962, after the annual number of visitors had tripled from about 100,000 to over 300,000 (see ill. 73), the Bavarian government finally yielded to pressure from a lobby of surviving camp inmates and agreed to maintain the former camp as a memorial site. During the conversion into a memorial site, completed in 1965, the government had all of the prisoners barracks and several other historical buildings torn down, and new monuments and buildings erected in their place. Only a few icons of the camp remained: the gatehouse and watchtowers, the service building with a tract of individual cells, two reconstructed barracks, and the crematorium-gas chamber building (ill. 4). With the dedication of Protestant and Jewish memorial buildings in 1967 and a large memorial sculpture in 1968, the memorial site and museum designed by survivors within constraints dictated by the Bavarian government reached its final form.
The decades from 1968 to 1998 build a fourth phase of Dachau's postwar history. It is characterized by stagnation in the physical appearance of the site, but by dramatic changes in the visitor demographics. During the 1970s the total number of visitors tripled again to nearly one million. At the same time, the average age dropped precipitously, with the age group under 25-born long after the end of the war-comprising a majority of visitors. Except for the addition to the tiny administrative staff of nine secondary school teachers on a rotating basis in 1983, few changes were made to accommodate this group until 1996. By that time a sufficient number of members of the postwar generations had become established in local, state and national political life. At the end of the 1990s a radical revision of the infrastructure at the site was begun. A visitors center in one of the few remaining World War I munitions factory buildings, and additional bus lines improved public access, an overnight youth center was chartered and built, and a new multimedia museum with supplementary exhibitions and classrooms was created. This book concludes with a glimpse forward to a new, fifth phase of Dachau's postwar history: the memorial site experience as an integral element in the German educational curriculum.
What will visitors find when they travel to the Dachau memorial site after the current construction is completed in 2001? Especially for foreigners, who make up about 2/3 of Dachau's visitors, a trip to the memorial site begins with the discovery that the name Dachau signifies more than just a Nazi concentration camp. Dachau is also a city of about 35,000 residents that was established more than 1000 years before it became home to one of Germany's most notorious concentration camps. (Its pre-camp history is briefly recounted in chapter 1.) This "other Dachau," as some of its residents call it, dominates the approach to the memorial site. Whether visitors take the S-Bahn from Munich (line 2 of the fast and efficient commuter train departs every 20 minutes for the 20 minute trip) and arrive at Dachau station, or whether they drive from Munich on local roads or the Autobahn, they find adequate signage directing their way (ill. 77).
This was not always the case: For decades local and regional officials tried to make the former Dachau camp difficult to find (ill. 78). The local populace's changing opinions of the memorial site is one of the important narrative threads running through this book. For instance, in 1955 Dachau district's representative in the Bavarian parliament tried to have the crematorium torn down in order to discourage visitors. When his initiative failed, he had all directional signs to the former camp removed. Visitors in the 1950s and 60s often reported receiving evasive answers to their requests for directions to the former Dachau camp. From the 1950s to the 1990s the single bus line traversing the three kilometers between Dachau's train station and the camp made only nine round trips between 9am and 5pm, with gaps of more than an hour during the peak midday period.
In 2001 the new entrance to the memorial site will lead past the site of the commandant's villa, built in 1938 and torn down in 1987, to a visitors reception center in one of the few remaining buildings from the World War I munitions factory that was converted to create the original Dachau camp in 1933. The relocation of the entrance reflects an important feature of what West Germans learned about Nazi atrocities after 1945: except for the first short period immediately after the war, the perpetrators of those atrocities were hidden or ignored until the 1990s. The Dachau concentration camp was originally four times larger than the prison compound that has become the memorial site (see ill. 1). The huge SS camp adjacent to the prisoners compound included housing and facilities not only for hundreds of camp guards, but for many thousands of SS military troops as well. For example, a major SS hospital, the payroll office for more than a million SS men, and numerous production facilities were located there. (The SS, short for Schutzstaffel or "protective formation," was founded as Hitler's personal bodyguard detachment in the 1920s. In the 1940s it grew to an organization of over a million men. The two most notorious of its many branches were the "death's head" division-the concentration camp guards, and the Waffen or weapon SS-the fighting troops.)
For decades this SS section of the original concentration camp was concealed behind a cement wall and a high earthen barrier. From 1945 to 1971 the former SS camp served as the U.S. Army's Eastman Barracks. Since 1971 it has been the home of a detachment of the Bavarian state police. The original entrance to the prisoners compound, which came through the SS camp, was accessible only from inside the memorial site. From 1965 to 2001 visitors had to enter the memorial site through a breach in the wall on the opposite side of the camp (see ill. 4, 80). For the 2001 renovation, the Bavarian police gave up a corner of their installation so that the original entrance situation could be restored.
Even though the Bavarian police demolished a majority of the buildings between 1978 and 1992, the SS part of the camp still contains far more original buildings than the memorial site itself. The central SS pay processing bunker, the dispensary, and several factory halls and warehouses are all still there, as is the triangular swimming pond that is now stocked for recreational fishing (ill. 1). What astonished me most, when a retired state policeman showed me around the complex in the 1991, was the Holländerhalle , a large hall named for the Dutch rag-cutting machines used when the complex was a munitions plant during World War I. Inside, in neat rows angled to drive out the wide doors in a hurry, were dozens of riot police vans and imposing trucks with water cannon (ill. 67). But this adjacent historical site is off limits to the visitors of the memorial site. Its presence is only revealed in rare incidents such as in 1981, when tear gas from a house-storming exercise drifted over to the museum (ill. 68).
From the reception center at the edge of the former SS camp visitors go on to the Jourhaus , the entrance building of the prisoners compound, through the iron gate inscribed " Arbeit macht frei ," "Work makes free" (see cover and ill. 15). This is one of the last surviving relics of what I call the "clean" concentration camp, a Nazi fiction that situated the concentration camps in their plan to create a pure Germanic master race by using hard labor to "educate" recalcitrant Aryans.
The guiding principle of the latest renovation was to recreate as closely as possible the path taken by inmates entering the camp. Traversing that same path is indeed a powerful way to help visitors to imagine and identify with the inmates' horrific experience, and thus be motivated to avoid the behaviors that made the atrocities of KZ Dachau possible. However, except for this entrance inscription, all traces of this Nazi fiction have been effaced, including the prison library and several didactic sayings painted on roofs and walls throughout the camp.
Entering visitors see a large expanse of barren, stony ground straight ahead, an angular black monument and the museum building on the right, and two drab gray barracks with more bare pebbled ground on the left (ill. 2, 4). The impression of a barren, sanitized place predominates. A closer look to the left reveals two long rows of low concrete rectangles behind the two barracks. Between them two rows of poplar trees sway in the wind, and another couple of hundred meters further back rise the geometric shapes of Protestant, Catholic and Jewish memorial buildings at the northern edge of the site.
After 2001 some of the concrete rectangles will carry black poles marking the outlines of a few barracks. The memorial site redesigners of 1998 deemed the functions of those particular barracks especially noteworthy: for example the infirmary barrack where prisoners were used as guinea pigs in medical experiments. In the early 1960s the Dachau survivors designing the first memorial site wanted to leave all of the original barracks intact, but the Bavarian government demolished them in 1964 to save renovation and upkeep costs. In order to document some of the specific features of the site, in 1985 and again in 1999-2001 a total of about 35 large signboards with maps and historical photographs were placed around the camp (ill. 83). They are a feeble attempt to convey a sense of the original appearance of this barren expanse.
Dachau has changed a great deal since its concentration camp days. There are no corpses, no inmates, no dogs, no guards, no living relics at this site. Antiseptic gray with a few touches of green and black predominate. There are no smells-of sweat, excrement, or death, so prominent in the narratives of the liberators, and no sounds except the trodding feet of other tourists on the gravel, or perhaps an occasional guide giving explanations to a tour group. Barely a handful of camp survivors still give tours, and their voices will fall silent soon. Survivors, local volunteers, and a few public school teachers on special assignment began giving regular tours in the early 1980s. By the end of the millennium, many hundreds of tours were offered each year, the vast majority of them by volunteers. Before that individuals and groups were left to themselves to explore the terrain. In 2001 visitors will be able to rent tape-recorded tours in several languages at the reception center.
The tour of the site usually begins with the main museum in the former service building at this end of the camp. The almost 200 meter long, C-shaped building with its 70 meter long east and west wings was built when the Dachau concentration camp was remade in 1937-38. Originally, on the gate house side it contained workshops and rooms for registering and shaving incoming prisoners (ill. 2). In the long middle tract were the boiler room, showers, kitchen and laundry. Clothing and belongings taken from prisoners upon entry were stored in the east wing. The new 2001 exhibition illustrates an important feature of Dachau's postwar history: As the past recedes in time, it becomes increasingly necessary to provide explicit recreations of that past. When the first exhibition in this building was designed in 1965, experts deemed it sufficient to present enlargements of documents and photographs illustrating important characteristics of the concentration camp system as exemplified by Dachau. In the 1999 redesign, the original functions of the buildings and individual rooms within them were explicitly marked in order to integrate and thematically coordinate them with the documentation. Care was taken to allow visitors to retrace the route traversed by inmates arriving at the camp. This required reversing the usual right-to-left direction of the museum. Additionally, great pains were taken to personalize the history through representative inmate and perpetrator biographies.
Another 2001 innovation was the inclusion of information about hitherto marginalized groups of prisoners, such as Romany and Sinti (gypsies), homosexuals, Jews, Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian clergy. Exemplary individual biographies help visitors to empathize with their values, fates, and the choices they made. Corresponding to the great public respect accorded to camp survivors since the 1990s (their status climbed steeply in the 1980s after a very slow ascent from rock bottom in the 1950s), a permanent exhibit of artistic creations by former camp inmates was mounted as well. As a final 2001 innovation, in consideration of the decades that had passed since 1945, the museum now also includes a section retracing the postwar history of the site.
A memorial site exists to document a specific period of history, but it also uses the power of authenticity and location to help its visitors form an emotional connection to that history. Unfortunately, most opportunities to document the postwar uses of the Dachau camp were lost. For instance, a church built by interned SS men in November 1945 stood in front of the entry gate until 1963 (ill. 3, 42). It was torn down because it had not been a part of the concentration camp, and probably also because it presented a potentially confusing aspect of the perpetrators' biographies: their rapid postwar conversion into pious men. If this church had been left standing, it might have helped future generations to understand their own relationship to the concentration camp. For Germans that relationship includes having parents and grandparents who grew up in a time when dedicated Nazi henchmen metamorphosed en masse to nominal West German democrats. In 1998, in contrast to the indiscriminate bulldozing of 1963-64, consideration of the mediating power of postwar relics dictated the preservation, in the west wing of the museum building, of a mural painted by U.S. soldiers after the war. It depicts the Manhattan skyline and thus documents little more than the homesickness of the occupation soldiers. (Nazi-era inscriptions were also preserved, see ill. 87.)
After exiting the museum and walking past the jagged black bronze international memorial, most visitors walk down the tree-lined central camp street to the back, where the religious memorials and the crematorium compound are. These poplar trees were planted along the central street in the 1970s to replace the aged camp-era originals that were felled in 1964 (ill. 27, 29). Visitors walk between 32 long, narrow, rock-filled concrete rectangles, often referred to as barrack foundations, although they were poured in 1965. The original barracks, built in 1937-38, were only designed to last 15 years and had no foundations worth mentioning. By the early 1950s, according to SS-chief Himmler's calculation, Nazi Germany would have won the war and "purified" its domain of unwanted people, making concentration camps unnecessary.
Until 1999, visitors were not given any information about the different functions and residents of the individual barracks (see ill. 2). The first four barracks at the end nearest the museum are not numbered. On the left was the camp canteen, where "privileged" prisoners could buy overpriced food and a few necessities, the camp office, where the index cards for each inmate were kept, and the camp library, where privileged inmates could check out books. Old photographs reveal that the canteen had a porchlike entrance in the front, which has not been reconstructed. For a time Kurt Schumacher, a Social Democratic politician who narrowly missed becoming West Germany's first chancellor in 1949, was the prisoner librarian. On the east side were the two infirmary barracks the last quarter section of the second one was the morgue where each day's harvest of dead was collected for transportation to the crematorium.
There was also a clear hierarchy among the barracks, depending on the distance to the roll-call square. Germans were housed in "blocks" (as the barracks were called in camp jargon) two and four, where the walk to the kitchen with the heavy vats of soup was not so long. On the right, block 15 was known as the "punishment block." Enclosed by a separate barbed wire cage, it was for the true unfortunates in the camp, mostly Jews while Jews were still allowed to subsist in Germany. One used to see flowers left at some barracks numbers by survivors who had spent time in them. As the ranks of the survivors dwindled, so too did this living tradition. All the way in the back, block 30 was used as a "dying block" for inmates terminally afflicted with typhus or spotted fever, spread by the ubiquitous lice. Blocks 26 and 28 were the priests' barracks. Block 26, with its own chapel (ill. 41), housed a few hundred German clergymen, block 28 about three times as many Polish priests.
Visitors arrive next at the ensemble of religious memorials at the north end of the memorial site. These buildings illustrate another important feature of the memorial site's history, which is also a fundamental principle of memorialization: Memorials reflect the concerns of the living, not the history of the dead. The creation of this religious ensemble began with the dedication of a tall cylindrical Catholic chapel "of Christ's Mortal Agony" in 1960 and the opening of a Carmelite convent outside the north wall in 1964 (ill. 60chap-63conv). The ring of trees and grass around the chapel is a last testimony to the plan to turn the memorial site into a park (ill. 46). The two Catholic memorials were followed in 1967 by a half-underground concrete Protestant "Church of Reconciliation" and a cavernous, semi-subterranean Jewish memorial (ills. 63, 64).
The towering Catholic chapel symbolizes the transcendence of earthly suffering through Christ's sacrifice, while the Protestant church seeks to foster reconciliation through spiritual and intellectual reflection (it contains a reading room staffed by full-time volunteers). The Jewish building is not a house of God, but merely a place to mourn the dead. The international memorial in front of the museum, too, reflects the interpretation of its makers as much or more than it does the history of the camp (ill. 59). The memorial sculpture is composed of sticklike figures stretched between the strands of a barbed wire fence. It embodies the camp as a site of senseless mass death, the way most of Dachau's predominantly non-German inmates experienced it in the 1940s. German survivors, most of them incarcerated for political reasons, wished to erect a tall but fragile spire of resistance, but they were overruled by survivors from other countries (ill. 60).
At the back of the memorial site on the left, a sign directs visitors to the "Crematorium, open 9-5." In 1970 artist Jochen Gerz took photographs of many such signs in the Dachau memorial site. He used them to create an installation documenting the incongruity between their banal meaning today as part of a memorial site, and what they signify when read in the context of the concentration camp. Entitled "Exit: The Dachau Project," the name played on the multiple meanings of the "exit" signs in the memorial site: the direction to go in order to exit the site today, the frequent "exit" of death during the camp era, and the departure from civilized norms that made the murderous camp system possible.
A concrete path crosses a strip of grass and a stream flowing in a concrete channel to a gate in a barbed wire fence. This grassy band marks the former no-man's-land: the strip of ground in front of the electrified fence, barbed-wire barriers, and ditch or moat (compare ill. 84). Nothing documents what transpired here, a site of suicides and lethal SS amusement. Guards are known to have tossed inmates caps into the zone, so that the men would be shot when they retrieved them. At liberation in 1945, corpses of SS guards floated in this stream during a protest sit-in in the hot summer of 1993 Sinti children frolicked in it (compare ill. 93sinti).
The crematorium compound itself has been landscaped as a park since the 1940s. Its lush, well-kept vegetation stands in sharp contrast to the stony gray of the rest of the memorial site. The serenity of the surroundings of the murder installation highlights the tension between the two primary functions of the memorial site: commemoration of the victims, and education about the circumstances of their deaths. Scattered throughout the park are various memorials: a diminutive statue of a shorn "unknown concentration camp inmate" on a high pedestal (ill. 38), and tablets with trilingual inscriptions such as "execution range with blood ditch," and "grave of thousands unknown." Another much smaller crematorium building with only one small oven and no morgue or ancillary rooms is hidden among the trees.
Since 1945 the large crematorium-gas chamber building, erected in 1942, has been a central attraction for most visitors (ill. 5, 52, 53). After the war it housed the first exhibitions about the concentration camp (ills. 17, 18, 50, 51). It contains more than a half-dozen different rooms: gassing chambers for infested clothing, an undressing room, a gas chamber for people, a morgue, a large incinerator room with four cremation chambers, and offices for the crematory personnel. From 1965 until the 1998 renovation, these rooms were bare except for the briefest of signs, in the gas chamber for example the cryptic "GAS CHAMBER / disguised as a 'shower room' / -never used as a gas chamber" (ill. 53, 54). In this case the sanctity of the space was given priority over the site's educational mission. Didactic original murals in one of the back rooms were destroyed or painted over for the same reason. One depicted, for instance, a man riding on a pig. The inscription beneath it read: "Wash your hands, cleanliness is your duty."
After completing this tour visitors are left to ponder the multitude of impressions and messages conveyed by the memorial site. This history is not easy to sort out. The memorial site focuses the victim experience, with a strong emphasis on death, not day to day survival. The perpetrators are remain in the background as the creators of the site and authors of many of its documents and photographs. Visitors, however, enter as bystanders, a group that is essentially ignored. How can we heed the imperatives spelled out on the various monuments: "Remember those who died here," "Never again"? What significance does this place have for us, for our lives here and now? Should we go to Munich or Berlin tomorrow, or Rome or Paris instead?
This book is divided into four parts. The first recounts the history of Dachau from its beginnings as a market town and dynastic residence centuries ago through its repressive and genocidal phase, 1933 to1945. Dachau's histories as a town, a camp, and a symbol of genocide are the background for its reincarnations after the war.
Three phases of the camp's history after 1945 are examined in the next three parts. Part II focuses on the decade from 1945 to 1955. It begins with a portrayal of the three primary responses to the crimes symbolized by "Dachau:" the myth that the German people had been victimized by "the Nazis," the myth that most Germans had been ignorant of the crimes their neighbors, friends and relatives were committing, and the myth that most Germans had been upright citizens who resisted Nazism as much as possible without taking inordinate risks. Since the early 1950s those myths of victimization, ignorance and resistance were expressed by three inversions of historical fact (that do not correspond one-to-one with the myths, but amalgamate them). Those inversions are the subject of this part's three chapters, which show the development and effects of the conception that Nazis had been "good," the consequences of the feeling that concentration camp survivors had been and still were "bad," and the transformation of Dachau and other former concentration camps into "clean" camps. These three historical myths and the resulting mythic inversions played an important role in the establishment of the West German state and the peculiar nature of its politics from the late 1940s until the turn of the millennium-they are thus referred to as the three founding myths.
Part III traces the images of Dachau embraced and propagated by the groups most involved in shaping its postwar history. It focuses on the period 1955-1970, although it begins with a survey of the first impulses to memorialize the Dachau camp after the war. Subsequent chapters examine how the camp survivors, German Catholics, Jews and Protestants worked to represent their own present conceptions of the meaning of the concentration camp's past. The final chapter of part III introduces a theory of generational cohorts to demonstrate how, at the end of the 1960s, a generation of Germans born between roughly 1937 and 1953 began openly to challenge the veracity of the three founding myths. However, those children of the "generation of the perpetrators" were themselves enmeshed in the distortions of their parents' myths. While they denied their parents' claim of victimization, they saw themselves as victims. While they rejected their elders' professions of ignorance and sought knowledge about the Nazi past, their own understanding remained abstract, intangible, and unconnected to real life. And while they scoffed at claims of resistance during the Nazi years, their own resistance against present injustices was at times motivated more by a desire to compensate for past injustices, than justified by the consistent application of moral principles.
Finally, Part IV outlines the process of overcoming, since 1970, the mythically distorted collective images of the Nazi era. It examines how the perpetrator and first postwar generations' legacies of victim-identification, historical ignorance, and overblown resistance have been challenged and even overcome by members of younger age cohorts. Taken together, the three founding myths had served to establish Germans' innocence of Nazi crimes. Overcoming them entailed recognizing guilt and accepting responsibility for those crimes, as well as correcting the inversions that emerged from the three founding myths during the 1950s. At the close of the twentieth century Nazi-era Germans are once again becoming "bad" (or at least informed and accepting of horrendous crimes), Hitler's victims are regaining their "good" standing (additional groups are being compensated for their losses and persecution), and the former concentration camps are losing their "cleanliness" as recent historiography and renovations seek to recreate long-destroyed or ignored aspects of the past.
This book concludes with an examination of the renovation of Dachau slated for completion in 2001. It explores in detail some of the questions of commemoration, pedagogy and meaning raised above. Specifically, it looks at ways in which the founding myths and their legacies have found expression in the current redesign plans, and suggests ways in which uses by a post-millennial generation might be considered, in order to avoid the distortions of past abuses.
Before we turn to the historical Dachau, a few remarks about the terminology of individual and group memories are in order. Historical icons such as "Dachau" are situated at the border between concrete individual experiences and broader public understandings. Of late much has been written about historical consciousness, collective memory, public commemoration, and the like. I will not explicate these terms in detail here, but it is important to note that I distinguish between remembering as the individual act of recalling experiences and knowledge to the conscious mind, and recollection as the group process of collecting, creating, and propagating information about the past. Public commemorations are merely one way of practicing recollection (as are history teaching, historical films, historical tours, etc.).
While historical consciousness can be understood as a general awareness of the present as a product of the past, the popular but vague term collective memory can be used to refer to a set of more specific images of and opinions about the past held by members of what I call a " memory group ." Such groups usually share common experiences, values and goals as well as images of the past. Jewish Holocaust survivors from eastern Europe, German SS veterans, and members of the French resistance would be examples of memory groups. Other groups with common but unarticulated historical experiences, such as victims of forced sterilization, army deserters or forced laborers, only become memory groups when they begin to share their memories. Individuals who accept the memories, values and aspirations become part of a memory group members who no longer share them, leave it. However, the term collective memory is sometimes used to denote the aggregate of historical images present in one place at a given time. Thus the collective memories held by German veterans, German refugees, German intellectuals, German concentration camp survivors, German Protestants, German Catholics, German Jews, etc. can be called "German collective memory." I think it is better to avoid this usage and refer instead to " public recollection ."
When private memories are offered publicly, they often challenge the ideas about the past held by others, including members of memory groups. New groups can thus form, dissolve, and reconstitute themselves. This process of public negotiation of conflicting images of the past is recollection. It takes place simultaneously in the local and regional public spheres and in the broadest reaches of the national and international public arenas, wherever different images of the past vie for recognition and acceptance.
Dachau was the first regular Nazi concentration camp.
Frame Your Search
Dachau, concentration camp, Munich, Bavaria, factory, Nazi, communist, prisoners
On March 22, 1933 , Dachau opened as the first regular Nazi concentration camp. It was located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near the town of Dachau , about 10 miles northwest of Munich in Bavaria (in southern Germany). Dachau was established initially to incarcerate political prisoners, primarily German Communists , Social Democrats, trade unionists , and other political opponents of the Nazi regime. During its first year, the camp held about 4,800 prisoners.
Though it was not one of the extermination camps later established by the Germans to kill European Jews during World War II, Dachau was a training center for SS concentration camp guards the camp's organization and routine became a model for all Nazi concentration camps.
Dates to Check
Typically, daily newspapers reported news the morning after it occurred. However, some papers were printed in multiple editions, including evening news. If you are using an evening paper, begin your search on the same day as the event being researched.
March 20-27, 1933 News articles about opening of Dachau concentration camp.
March 1 - August 30, 1933 News, editorials, op-eds, letters to the editor, and cartoons reacting to early Nazi persecution and Dachau.
Berben, Paul. Dachau, 1933-1945: The Official History. London: Norfolk Press, 1975.
International Dachau Committee. The Dachau Concentration Camp, 1933 to 1945: Text and Photo Documents from the Exhibition. Dachau: Comite´ International de Dachau, 2005.
Marcuse, Harold. Legacies of Dachau: The Uses and Abuses of a Concentration Camp, 1933-2001. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Neurath, Paul. The Society of Terror: Inside the Dachau and Buchenwald Concentration Camps. Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2005.
Survivor recalls Dachau, where SS terror began 80 years ago
Max Mannheimer will never forget the words of his block leader when he entered the gates of Dachau concentration camp on 6 August 1944. "You're veterans at this by now," said the prisoner, a communist. "You know that the most important thing is not to draw attention to yourselves if you want to survive."
Behind Max, then aged 24, and his younger brother Edgar had lain a long and gruelling trudge through Nazi concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Theresienstadt, and the Warsaw ghetto, during which the siblings had lost their entire family, most of them in Auschwitz, simply for being Jewish.
In Dachau, Mannheimer was assigned the prisoner number 87098. "It was the last camp number I would ever have," the 93-year-old said. "But I took the block leader's message on board: 'You've got this far, just keep your head down, as the SS will pounce on you for the smallest violation'." He was liberated nine months later by US troops from a Dachau sub-camp, where one of his last jobs had been to cart the corpses of prisoners into the mortuary. Stricken with typhus, he had been reduced to skin and bones, weighing just 47kg. "I was a skeleton," he said. "I cried with both joy and despair."
Mannheimer returned to the camp with the smattering of fellow survivors still able to make the journey, to mark the 80th anniversary of the first and one of the most notorious of the Nazi camps. In a memorial service they remembered the estimated 41,000 victims, mostly Jews, who perished in the main camp and its many satellite sites.
On 22 March 1933, just weeks after Adolf Hitler came to power, the first political prisoners were interned in Dachau. The world was informed of the fact by the SS chief, Heinrich Himmler, who, as the Manchester Guardian reported, called a press conference in Munich to say that it would be used to keep in custody "communists, Marxists and Reichsbanner leaders who endangered the security of the state".
Five days later the Observer's correspondent in Munich, quoting a local eyewitness, reported that "preparations are going on apace with the new concentration camp in the neighbourhood of Dachau, a village not far from here".
The location, near Munich, was chosen because of the derelict first world war munitions factory on the site, most of the machinery from which had been destroyed under the terms of the Versailles treaty. The Observer reported: "One hundred and forty prisoners are now there, but after alterations have been made there are to be 2,500." Its inmates would sleep on straw, it remarked.
Dachau's establishment was something of an experiment, the first "branch" of the Nazi network that would eventually cover a large swath of Europe that a recent US study included as many as 42,400 camps and ghettos in a network that claimed the lives of between 15 and 20 million people.
While there were widespread denials by ordinary Germans that they had known about the existence of internment and death camps, Mannheimer said the Nazis had published the facts themselves. "The population of Dachau and the whole of Germany knew through newspaper articles that the concentration camp existed."
Not only did the Nazi publication, the Völkischer Beobachter, deliver the news, but also the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten (MNN), which reported matter of factly: "On Wednesday the first concentration camp was opened. It has the holding capacity for 5,000 people." What few knew, Mannheimer insists, is what went on behind its highly fortified walls. "They did not know about the torture and medical experiments that happened here," he believes.
He witnessed the punishments meted out by SS guards – Dachau was used as a school for torture techniques – as well as the widespread medical experimentation carried out by doctors of tropical medicine, aviation experts and creators of poisonous gases. "Dachau was the nucleus of National Socialist terror," said historian Wolfgang Benz.
Details of some of the atrocities must have begun leaking out to local people early on, if a report on 18 August 1933 from the Manchester Guardian's correspondent is anything to go by. The Bavarians, it said, had a "new prayer", which ran: "Dear Lord, O make me dumb,/ Lest to Dachau camp I come!"
Work to convert the buildings of the former munitions factory into what would become the blueprint for all concentration camps had begun on the night of 13 March, when light and water supplies were installed. At 10am on 22 March, the first 50 prisoners, who had been rounded up in Bavaria two weeks before and held in a workhouse, were brought to Dachau by lorry. It arrived around midday to be greeted by a small gathering of onlookers, according to a report in the MNN.
Prisoner number one was a law clerk called Claus Bastian, the founder of a Marxist students' club. Around 209,000 people, including political prisoners, Jews, gypsies and Jehovah's Witnesses would follow him through the camp's gates during its 12 years' existence.
Mannheimer remained deeply traumatised by his experiences for nearly 40 years, a situation not helped by the fact that in Germany – "the land of the perpetrators", as he calls it, where he reluctantly chose to settle near Munich with his new German wife – "no one wanted to know anything about former concentration camp prisoners there were no discussions about the Nazi era".
For years he suffered from panic attacks, depression and "survivor's guilt". Then in the 1980s he started telling his story to German schoolchildren and leading tours of Dachau.
"At the start I had to take pills to calm my nerves," he said, "because all my fears, the indignities I'd suffered, the pain, came to the fore again. I could not enter the crematorium." Now, despite his age, he holds several tours and talks a week.
"I have no intention of lecturing people on the sins of their fathers and grandfathers," he says. "I don't see myself as a judge I am simply an eyewitness and want to enlighten them. No one is better placed to do that than someone who has personally experienced the camps."
Category Archives: Dachau
The question ‘Is it acceptable to use data from Nazi experiments?’ is one of the most difficult ethical questions to answer. At least for me it is, I am a man who bases a lot of his decisions on his gut feeling. In this case my gut feeling says no.
However if I keep my opinion of this devoid of all emotion, it throws up another question ‘Is it acceptable to use data from Nazi experiments, to safe someone in your family?’. In that case I more then likely would come to a different answer.
I am not going to tell anyone what their answer should be. I will just highlight some of the experiments and how they were conducted. But I’ll start with one experiment and its conclusion.
At the start of August 1942, at Dachau concentration camp, prisoners were forced to sit in tanks of freezing water for up to three hours. After subjects were frozen, they then underwent different methods for rewarming. Many subjects died in this process. The data of this experiment did reveal that body-temperature recovery was fastest with immersion in warm water, but that rewarming and presumably survival were achieved with the other methods, too.
The horizontal axis shows minutes, and the vertical axis temperature (°C). The German title can be translated as “Effect of combined rewarming treatment: warm bath, massage and light box.” The water temperature was 8°C. The arrows and numbers (1 to 6) were superimposed by the present author. Translations of the corresponding notations from the German are: 1, in water 2, period out of bath (no German notation) 3, warm bath 4, massage 5, light box and 6, response to speech (regaining of consciousness).
Sterilization Experiments: Himmler’s interest in Dr Clauberg’s Cell Block 10 was sterilization. He convinced Clauberg to begin experiments on reversing his infertility treatments and to discover ways to block the fallopian tubes. Clauberg redirected all of his energies toward the single goal of effective mass sterilization. Thousands of inmates had their genitals mutilated in order to discover cheap methods of sterilization. The Nazis hoped that these methods could ultimately be applied to millions of “unwanted” prisoners. Women at Auschwitz were sterilized by injections of caustic substances into their cervix or uterus, producing horrible pain, inflamed ovaries, bursting spasms in the stomach, and bleeding. Young men had their testicles subjected to large doses of radiation and were subsequently castrated to ascertain the pathological change in their testes.
Mustard gas experiments: Between September 1939 and April 1945, many experiments were conducted at Sachsenhausen, Natzweiler, and other camps to investigate the most effective treatment of wounds caused by mustard gas. Test subjects were deliberately exposed to mustard gas and other vesicants (e.g. Lewisite) which inflicted severe chemical burns. The victims’ wounds were then tested to find the most effective treatment for the mustard gas burn.
Poison Experiments: A research team at Buchenwald developed a method of individual execution through the intravenous injections of phenol gasoline and cyanide on Russian prisoners. The experiments were designed to see how fast the subjects would die.
Tuberculosis Experiments: The Nazis conducted experiments to determine whether there were any natural immunities to Tuberculosis (“TB”) and to develop a vaccination serum against TB. Doctor Heissmeyer sought to disprove the popular belief that TB was an infectious disease. Doctor Heissmeyer claimed that only an “exhaustive” organism was receptive to such infection, most of all the racially “inferior organism of the Jews.” Heissmeyer injected live tubercle bacilli into the subjects’ lungs to immunize against TB. He also removed the lymph glands from the arms of twenty Jewish children. About 200 adult subjects perished, and twenty children were hanged at the Bullenhauser Dam in Heissmeyer’s effort to hide the experiments from the approaching Allied Army.
Malaria experiments: Between February 1942 to about April 1945, experiments were conducted at the Dachau concentration camp in order to investigate immunization for treatment of malaria. Healthy inmates were infected by mosquitoes or by injections of extracts of the mucous glands of female mosquitoes. After contracting the disease, the subjects were treated with various drugs to test their relative efficacy. Over 1,200 people were used in these experiments and more than half died as a result .Other test subjects were left with permanent disabilities.
Malaria card of Father Bruno Stachowski from Claus Schilling’s research at Dachau. Approximately 1000 cards were kept back from destruction by the prisoner assistant Eugène Ost.
Epidemic Jaundice experiments: From about June 1943 to about January 1945 experiments were conducted at the Sachsenhausen and Natzweiler concentration camps, for the benefit of the German Armed Forces, to investigate the causes of, and inoculations against, epidemic jaundice. Experimental subjects were deliberately infected with epidemic jaundice, some of whom died as a result, and others were caused great pain and suffering.
Every prisoner of the regime was deemded to be a potential subject for inhuman research. Helpless victims, the inmates of psychiatric hospitals and concentration camps, were available for exploitation while alive. Leading scientists and professors took an active part in this ruthless abuse. Every university anatomical institute in Germany — and probably Austria — was the recipient of the cadavers of victims of Nazi terror, in particular, political victims executed by the Gestapo.
After the war, West Germany allowed Doctor Baron Otmar Von Verschuer to continue his professional career. Doctor Von Verschuer was the mentor, inspiration and sponsor of Mengele. After he executed his victims. Mengele would personally remove the victims’ eyes, while there were still warm, and ship them to Von Verschuer to analyze. n 1951, Verschuer was awarded the prestigious professorship of human genetics at the University of Münster, where he established one of the largest centers of genetics research in West Germany.
The question ‘Is it acceptable to use data from Nazi experiments?’ will remain a controversial one.
DACHAU AND LIBERATION Personal account by Felix L. Sparks Brigadier General, AUS(Retired)
At 0730 on the morning of April 29th, the task force had resumed the attack with companies L and K and the tank battalion as the assault force. The attack zone assigned to company L was through the city of Dachau, but did not include the concentration camp, a short distance outside of the city. Company I was designated as the reserve unit, with the mission of mopping up any resistance bypassed by the assault forces. Shortly after the attack began, I received a radio message from the Regimental Commander ordering me to proceed immediately to take the Dachau concentration camp. The order also stated: “Upon capture, post an airtight guard and allow no one to enter or leave.”
As the main gate to the camp was closed and locked, we scaled the brick wall surrounding the camp. As I climbed over the wall following the advancing soldiers, I heard rifle fire to my right front. The lead elements of the company had reached the confinement area and were disposing of the SS troops manning th guard towers, along with a number of vicious guard dogs. By the time I neared the confinement area, the brief battle was almost over.
After I entered the camp over the wall, I was not able to see the confinement area, and had no idea where it was. My vision was obscured by the many buildings and barracks which were outside the confinement area. The confinement area itself occupied only a small portion of the total camp area. As I went further into the camp, I saw some men from company I collecting German prisoners. Next to the camp hospital, there was a L-shaped masonry wall, about eight feet high, which had been used as a coal bin. The ground was covered with coal dust, and a narrow gauge railroad track, laid on top of the ground, lead into the area. The prisoners were being collected in the semi-enclosed area.
As I watched about fifty German troops were brought in from various directions. A machine gun squad from company I was guarding the prisoners.After watching for a few minutes, I started for the confinement area. After I had walked away for a short distance, I hear the machine gun guarding the prisoners open fire. I immediately ran back to the gun and kicked the gunner off the gun with my boot. I then grabbed him by the collar and said: “what the hell are you doing?” He was a young private about 19 years old and was crying hysterically. His reply to me was: “Colonel, they were trying to get away.” I doubt that they were, but in any event he killed about twelve of the prisoners and wounded several more. I placed a non-com on the gun, and headed toward the confinement area.
It was the forgoing incident which has given rise to wild claims in various publications that most or all of the German prisoners captured at Dachau were executed. Nothing could be further from the truth. The total number of German guards killed at Dachau during that day most certainly not exceed fifty, with thirty probably being a more accurate figure. The regimental records for that date indicate that over a thousand German prisoners were brought to the regimental collecting point. Since my task force was leading the regimental attack, almost all the prisoners were taken by the task force, including several hundred from Dachau.
During the early period of our entry into the camp, a number of company men all battle hardened veterans, became extremely distraught. Some cried, while others raged. Some thirty minutes passed before I could restore order and discipline. During that time, the over thirty thousand camp prisoners still alive began to grasp the significance of the events taking place. They streamed from their crowded barracks by the hundreds and were soon pressing at the confining barbed wire fence. They began to shout in unison, which soon became a chilling roar. At the same time several bodies were being tossed about and torn apart by hundreds of hands. I was told later that those being killed at the time were “informers.” After about ten minutes of screaming and shouting, the prisoners quieted down. At that point, a man came forward at the gate and identified himself as an American soldier. We immediately let him out. He turned out to be Major Rene Guiraud of our OSS. He informed me that he had been captured earlier while on an intelligence mission and sentenced to death, but the sentence was never carried out.
Within about an hour of our entry, events were under control. Guard posts were set up, and communications were established with the inmates. We informed them that we could not release them immediately but that food and medical assistance would arrive soon. The dead, numbering about nine thousand, were later buried with the forced assistance of the good citizens of the city of Dachau.
On the morning of April 30, our first battalion resumed the attack towards Munich.
At this point, I should point out that Seventh Army Headquarters took over the actual camp administration on the day following the liberation. The camp occupation by combat troops after that time was solely for security purposes. On the morning of April 30, several trucks arrived from Seventh Army carrying food and medical supplies. The following day, the 116th and 127th Evacuation Hospitals arrived and took over the care and feeding of the prisoners.
In a letter from General Sparks mailed to me from his home in Lakewood,Colorado on March 13, 1997, the General writes: “Note: The actual body count of dead German guards killed at Dachau (by machine gun fire) was 30. This count was made by the Inspector General who conducted the investigation. The wall at which the men were killed contained 22 bullet holes. This count was also made by the Inspector General.”
“Let any doubter, in all the generations to come, contemplate what it would be like to live in a world dominated by Hitler, the Japanese warlords, or any other cruel dictator or despot.”
Holocaust revisionists and deniers claim that the “Survivors Recollections Are Unreliable.“
This statement used often by those who would deny proven historical facts, overlooks the Testimony of thousands of Soldiers: Americans, British, Russians, and others who Liberated hundreds of the gruesome Nazi concentration camps, all over Europe. Some of these Liberators literally fought and died while freeing thousands upon thousands of victims from the grasp of the Nazis. A “Liberator” by definition is a military person who entered a Nazi concentration camp, within the first 24 hours of it’s seizure from Nazi control. In some cases SS guards resisted, and fought the Liberators. In most cases the cowardly SS had fled, knowing they faced an enemy committed to freeing the victims of Nazi terrorism.
Most Liberators feel uncomfortable discussing their role gaining entrance into the miserable prisons, where they usually discovered macabre conditions many corpses scattered around the grounds, cadaverous inmates, terrified on the one hand, yet overjoyed to be free at last, on the other. Liberators find it difficult to describe the horrors they saw, as they entered these hells on earth. Many men who entered the Nazi camps, and freed the helpless inmates refuse to discuss the subject at all.
Forty years passed in the life of one such man. A Liberator named Glenn Edward Belcher, who wrote his daughter the following letter a few years before his death. Typically, Mr. Belcher had not told his wife about the letter to his daughter, but she wanted to know.
A Secret Diary Chronicled the ‘Satanic World’ That Was Dachau
The final article from &ldquoBeyond the World War II We Know,&rdquo a series by The Times that documents lesser-known stories from the war, remembers Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, a prisoner at Dachau who secretly documented everything he observed in the concentration camp in a diary, which he then buried until the American liberation.
His cheekbones stuck out like mountaintops from a barren valley. Gnawing hunger had tortured him for months. Day and night, his thoughts vacillated between fantasies of his favorite foods &mdash of chewing even &mdash to how he might take his own life. A prisoner&rsquos existence in Neuengamme concentration camp, in the wet and the cold near the German port city of Hamburg, he later explained, was like walking a tightrope. The only way to keep from falling was to focus on yourself and avert your eyes from the unimaginable misery all around you.
Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz wasn&rsquot Jewish or a Communist &mdash categories of people who were incarcerated mercilessly in Nazi Germany &mdash but in November 1940 he was sent to the concentration camp at Dachau, apparently for the crime of being a pacifist. When he was transferred to Neuengamme, he thought there was no place on Earth worse than Dachau. He was wrong. In four months of crushing labor and near-starvation rations at Neuengamme, he lost nearly 100 pounds. When he was sent back to Dachau, in late April, with about 500 other sick prisoners, the comrades he knew there just a few months previously no longer recognized him. He no longer recognized himself.
Just over a year and a half later, Edgar was assigned to work as an office manager in a screw factory just outside where most of Dachau&rsquos inmates were housed. This new position spared him from some of the arbitrary violence that befell other prisoners, and it also provided him clandestine opportunities to keep a secret diary.
&ldquoSome comrades spoke to me about writing yesterday evening,&rdquo he wrote on Feb. 12, 1943. &ldquoThey expect a book from me about Dachau, a book that says everything, that illuminates everything correctly and does not hide anything.&rdquo By the time Dachau was liberated by American forces, in April 1945, Edgar had written more than 1,800 pages.
Part of what makes Edgar&rsquos diary so astonishing &mdash other than its sheer size and scope &mdash is that it survived the war at all. While the number of postwar memoirs written by survivors of the Holocaust is enormous, the number of testimonies that were actually written inside German concentration camps is far smaller. The ones that do exist are often fragmentary, and almost none show Edgar&rsquos extraordinary powers of observation in analyzing the unique and hellish universe that was the Nazi concentration camp.