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Dachau Concentration Camp


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Dachau concentration camp (GermanKonzentrationslager (KZ) Dachau, IPA:[?daxa?]) was the first Nazi concentration camp opened in Germany, located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near the medieval town of Dachau, about 16 km (9.9 mi) northwest of Munich in the state of Bavaria, which is located in southern Germany. Opened 22 March 1933 (51 days after Hitler took power), it was the first regular concentration camp established by the coalition government of the National Socialist Party (Nazi Party) and the German Nationalist People's Party (dissolved on 6 July 1933). Heinrich Himmler, then Chief of Police of Munich, officially described the camp as "the first concentration camp for political prisoners."

Aerial photo of the camp

Dachau served as a prototype and model for the other Nazi concentration camps that followed. Almost every community in Germany had members taken away to these camps. Newspapers continually reported of "the removal of the enemies of the Reich to concentration camps", and as early as 1935 there were jingles warning: "Dear God, make me dumb, that I may not to Dachau come" ("Lieber Gott, mach mich dumm, damit ich nicht nach Dachau kumm").[2]

The camp's basic organization: layout as well as building plans, were developed by Kommandant Theodor Eicke and were applied to all later camps. He had a separate secure camp near the command center, which consisted of living quarters, administration, and army camps. Eicke himself became the chief inspector for all concentration camps, responsible for molding the others according to his model.

The entrance gate to this concentration camp carries the words "Arbeit macht frei", meaning "work will liberate".

The camp was in use from 1933 to 1960, the first twelve years as an internment center of the Third Reich. From 1933 to 1938 the prisoners were mainly German nationals detained for political reasons. Subsequently the camp was used for prisoners of all sorts from every nation occupied by the forces of the Third Reich. From 1945 through 1948 the camp was used as a prison for SS officers awaiting trial. After 1948 the German population expelled from Czechoslovakia were housed there and it was also a base of the United States. It was closed in 1960 and thereafter, at the insistence of ex-prisoners, various memorials began to be constructed there.

Crematorium in operation

Estimates of the demographic statistics vary but they are in the same general range. History may never know how many people were interned there or died there, due to periods of disruption. One source gives a general estimate of over 200,000 prisoners from more than 30 countries for the Third Reich's years, of whom two-thirds were political prisoners and nearly one-third were Jews. 25,613 prisoners are believed to have died in the camp and almost another 10,000 in its subcamps, primarily from disease, malnutrition and suicide. In early 1945, there was a typhus epidemic in the camp due to influx from other camps causing overcrowding, followed by an evacuation, in which large numbers of the weaker prisoners died. Toward the end of the war death marches to and from the camp caused the expiration of large but unknown numbers of prisoners. Even after liberation, prisoners weakened beyond recovery continued to die.

Over its twelve years as a concentration camp, the Dachau administration recorded the intake of 206,206 prisoners and 31,951 deaths. Crematoria were constructed to dispose of the deceased. These numbers do not tell the entire story, however. Although there is no evidence of mass murder within the camp — by methods other than poor sanitation, deprivation of medical care, withholding of nutrients, medical experiments, or beatings and shootings for infractions of the rules or at random — beginning in 1942 more than 3166 prisoners in weakened condition were transported to Hartheim Castle near Linz and there were executed by poison gas for reason of their unfitness. In 1941 and 1942 an unknown number of prisoners of war from the Soviet Union were executed by shooting at the camp's surrounding firing ranges, some for target practice and for sport.

Together with the much larger Auschwitz, Dachau has come to symbolize the Nazi concentration camps to many people. Konzentrationslager (KZ) Dachau holds a significant place in public memory because it was the second camp to be liberated by British or American forces. Therefore, it was one of the first places where these previously unknown Nazi practices were exposed to the Western world through firsthand journalist accounts and through newsreels.

Main camp Purpose The Dachau camp was created for holding political opponents. Around Christmas 1933, roughly 6,000 of the inmates were released as part of a pardoning action. The picture depicts a speech by the camp commander to prisoners about to be released.

Once the Nazis came to power they quickly moved to ruthlessly suppress all real or potential opposition. For example, between 1933 and 1945, the Sondergerichte which were "special courts" set up by the Nazi regime killed 12,000 Germans. Especially during the first years of their existence these courts "had a strong deterrent effect" against opposition to the Nazis, the German public was intimidated through "arbitrary psychological terror".

Use of the word concentration comes from the idea of concentrating a group of people who are in some way undesirable in one place, where they can be watched by those who incarcerated them. Concentration camps had in the past been used by the U.S. against native Americans, the British in the Boer Wars, and others. The term originated in the "reconcentration camps" set up in Cuba by General Valeriano Weyler in 1897.

Dachau was opened in March 1933, The press statement given at the opening stated:

"On Wednesday the first concentration camp is to be opened in Dachau with an accommodation for 5000 people. 'All Communists and—where necessary—Reichsbanner andSocial Democratic functionaries who endanger state security are to be concentrated here, as in the long run it is not possible to keep individual functionaries in the state prisons without overburdening these prisons, and on the other hand these people cannot be released because attempts have shown that they persist in their efforts to agitate and organise as soon as they are released.' Inspection by the Nazi party and Himmlerat Dachau on 8 May 1936. Roll-call of prisoners (wearingStar of David badges), 20 July 1938

Dachau was the first regular concentration camp established by the coalition government of National Socialist Party (Nazi Party) and the German Nationalist People's Party (dissolved on 6 July 1933). Heinrich HimmlerChief of Police of Munich, officially described the camp as "the first concentration camp for political prisoners."

Between the years 1933 and 1945 more than 3.5 million Germans would be forced to spend time in these concentration camps or prison for political reasons, and approximately 77,000 Germans were killed for one or another form of resistance by Special Courtscourts martial, and the civil justice system. Many of these Germans had served in government, the military, or in civil positions, which enabled them to engage in subversion and conspiracy against the Nazis.

Following the Holocaust, the term "concentration camp" carries many of the connotations of "extermination camp" and is sometimes used synonymously. Because of these negative connotations, the term "concentration camp", originally itself a euphemism, has been replaced by newer euphemisms such as internment camp, resettlement camp, detention facility, etc., regardless of the actual circumstances of the camp, which can vary a great deal.

Organization Prisoners' barracks in 1945

The camp was divided into two sections: the camp area and the crematorium. The camp area consisted of 69 barracks, including one for clergy imprisoned for opposing the Nazi regime and one reserved for medical experiments. The courtyard between the prison and the central kitchen was used for the summary execution of prisoners. The camp was surrounded by an electrified barbed-wire gate, a ditch, and a wall with seven guard towers.

In early 1937, the SS, using prisoner labor, initiated construction of a large complex of buildings on the grounds of the original camp. The construction was officially completed in mid-August 1938 and the camp remained essentially unchanged and in operation until 1945. Dachau thus was the longest running concentration camp of the Third Reich. The area in Dachau included other SS facilities beside the concentration camp—a leader school[ of the economic and civil service, the medical school[citation needed] of the SS, etc. The KZ at that time was called a "protective custody camp,"[citation needed] and occupied less than half of the area of the entire complex.

Demographics Polish prisoners in Dachau toast their liberation from the camp. Poles constituted the largest ethnic group in the camp during the war, followed by Russians, French, Yugoslavs, Jews, and Czechs.

The camp was originally designed for holding German political prisoners and Jews, but in 1935 it also began to hold ordinary criminals. During the war it came to also include other nationalities such as French, in 1940 Poles, 1941 people from the Balkans, and in 1942 Russians.

Before the war the biggest groups of inmates were Germans, Austrians, and Jews. During the War the biggest groups were, in order of size; Poles, Russians, French, Yugoslavs, Jews, and Czechs.

Inside the camp there was a sharp division between the two groups of prisoners; those who were there for political reasons and therefore wore a red tag, and the criminals, who wore a green tag.

The average number of Germans in the camp during the war was 3000. Just before the liberation many German prisoners were evacuated, but 2000 of these Germans died during the evacuation transport. Evacuated prisoners included famous political and religious hostages held in Dachau,[13]such as Martin NiemöllerKurt von SchuschniggÉdouard DaladierLéon BlumFranz Halder and Hjalmar Schacht.

At the time of liberation the death rate had peaked at 200 per day, after the liberation by U.S. forces this was eventually reduced to between 50 and 80 deaths per day. The cause of these deaths was, besides the murderous SS policies, typhus epidemics and starvation which claimed thousands of lives. The number of inmates had peaked in 1944 with transports from evacuated camps in the east (such as Auschwitz) and the resulting overcrowding led to an increase in the death rate.

Dachau also served as the central camp for Christian religious prisoners. At least 3,000 Catholic priests, deacons, and bishops were imprisoned there.

In August 1944 a women's camp opened inside Dachau. In the last months of the war, the conditions at Dachau became even worse. As Allied forces advanced toward Germany, the Germans began to move prisoners in concentration camps near the front to more centrally located camps. They hoped to prevent the liberation of large numbers of prisoners. Transports from the evacuated camps arrived continuously at Dachau. After days of travel with little or no food or water, the prisoners arrived weak and exhausted, often near death. Typhus epidemics became a serious problem as a result of overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, insufficient provisions, and the weakened state of the prisoners.

Owing to continual new transportations from the front, the camp was constantly overcrowded and the hygiene conditions were beneath human dignity. Starting from the end of 1944 up to the day of liberation, 15,000 people died, about half of all victims in KZ Dachau. Five hundred Soviet POWs were executed by firing squad. Its first shipment of women came from Auschwitz Birkenau. Only 19 women guards served at Dachau, most of them until liberation.[15] Sources show the names of sixteen of the nineteen women guarding the camp; Fanny Baur, Leopoldine Bittermann, Ernestine BrennerAnna BuckRosa DolaschkoMaria EderRosa GrassmannBetty HanneschalegerRuth Elfriede HildnerJosefa KellerBerta KimplingerLieselotte Klaudat, Theresia Kopp, Rosalie Leimboeck, and Thea Miesl. Women guards were also staffed at the Augsburg Michelwerke, Burgau, Kaufering, Mühldorf, and Munich Agfa Camera Werke subcamps. In mid-April 1945 many female subcamps at Kaufering, Augsburg and Munich closed, and the SS women stationed at Dachau. It is reported that female SS guards gave prisoners guns before liberation to save them from postwar prosecution.[citation needed]

Satellite camps and sub-camps

By 1944, Dachau had many satellite camps separate from the main camp, mostly to produce armaments. A website has been created about the eleven "Kaufering" camps, but states there were as many as 200 "Sub camps". There is also a site, for an association of survivors of the camps. See also Kaufering concentration camp

Liberation] Bodies in the Dachau death train Liberated female prisoners at Dachau wave to their liberators.

On 24 April 1945, about 140 prominent inmates, such as Léon BlumMartin NiemöllerDan Hartzman, and Franz Halder, weretransferred to Tyrol, where the SS left the prisoners behind. They were later liberated by the Fifth U.S. Army on 5 May 1945 inNiederdorf, South Tyrol.[18]

On 27 April 1945, Victor Maurer, delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, was allowed to enter camps and distribute food. In the evening of the same day a prisoner transport arrived from Buchenwald. Only 800 survivors were brought from the original 4,480 to 4,800 prisoners in transit. Over 2,300 corpses were left lying in and around the train. The last regular commander of the KZ, Obersturmbannführer Eduard Weiter, had fled on 26 April. He probably followed Obersturmbannführer Martin Gottfried Weiss, who had led the camp from September 1942 until November 1943.

On 28 April 1945, the day before the surrender, Camp Commandant Martin Gottfried Weiss had left the Dachau camp, along with most of the regular guards and administrators in the camp. On that same day, Victor Maurer, a representative of the Red Cross, had tried to persuade Untersturmführer Johannes Otto, the adjutant of Commandant Weiss, not to abandon the camp, but to leave guards posted to keep the prisoners inside until the Americans arrived. Maurer feared that the prisoners would escapeen masse and spread the active typhus fever epidemic. Lt. Otto declined to remain and fled.

On 29 April 1945, the watchtowers of the Dachau camp remained occupied and a white flag was hoisted. Red Cross representative Maurer persuaded SS-Untersturmführer Heinrich Wicker, an NCO in the SS-Totenkopfverbände, to accompany him to the main gate of the complex to surrender the camp formally.

American soldiers of the U.S. 7th Army force boys, believed to be Hitler youth, to examine boxcars containing bodies of prisoners starved to death by the SS.

Late in the afternoon of 29 April 1945, KZ Dachau was surrendered to the American Army by SS-Untersturmführer Heinrich Wicker. A vivid description of the surrender appears in Brig. Gen. Henning Linden's official "Report on Surrender of Dachau Concentration Camp":

"As we moved down along the west side of the concentration camp and approached the southwest corner, three people approached down the road under a flag of truce. We met these people about 75 yards north of the southwest entrance to the camp. These three people were a Swiss Red Cross representative and two SS troopers who said they were the camp commander and assistant camp commander and that they had come into the camp on the night of the 28th to take over from the regular camp personnel for the purpose of turning the camp over to the advancing Americans. The Swiss Red Cross representative acted as interpreter and stated that there were about 100 SS guards in the camp who had their arms stacked except for the people in the tower. He said he had given instructions that there would be no shots fired and it would take about 50 men to relieve the guards, as there were 42,000 half-crazed prisoners of war in the camp, many of them typhus infected. He asked if I were an officer of the American army, to which I replied, "Yes, I am Assistant Division Commander of the 42nd Division and will accept the surrender of the camp in the name of the Rainbow Division for the American army."

Tablet dedicated to the 42nd Division

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, issued a communique over the capture of Dachau concentration camp: "Our forces liberated and mopped up the infamous concentration camp at Dachau. Approximately 32,000 prisoners were liberated; 300 SS camp guards were quickly neutralized."

A tablet at the camp commemorates the liberation of Dachau by the 42nd Infantry Division of the U.S. Seventh Army on 29 April 1945. Others claim that the first forces to enter the main camp were a battalion of the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division commanded by Felix L. Sparks. Both the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions are recognized by the U.S. Army as liberators of Dachau. General Patton visited the Buchenwald camp after it was liberated, but not Dachau.

The Americans found approximately 32,000 prisoners, crammed 1,600 to each of 20 barracks, which had been designed to house 250 people each.

Satellite camps

During the liberation of the sub-camps surrounding Dachau (which happened on the same day as the main camp's surrender on 29 April) the advance scouts of the US Army's 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, a Nisei-manned segregated Japanese-American Allied military unit, liberated the 3,000 prisoners of the "Kaufering IV Hurlach" slave labor camp.

Perisco describes an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) team (code name LUXE) leading Army Intelligence to a "Camp IV" on 29 April. "they found the camp afire and a stack of some four hundred bodies burning... American soldiers then went into Landsberg and rounded up all the male civilians they could find and marched them out to the camp. The former commandant was forced to lie amidst a pile of corpses. The male population of Landsberg was then ordered to walk by, and ordered to spit on the commandant as they passed. The commandant was then turned over to a group of liberated camp survivors." 


Killing of camp guards See also: Dachau massacre

The American troops were so horrified by conditions at the camp that a few killed some of the camp guards after they had surrendered in what is called the Dachau massacre. The number massacred is disputed as some Germans were killed in combat, some were shot while attempting to surrender, and others were killed after their surrender was accepted. Felix L. Sparks, the commander of a battalion that captured the camp, has stated:

Moments after American soldiers executed SS troops in the coalyard at Dachau

The total number of German guards killed at Dachau during that day most certainly does not exceed fifty, with thirty probably being a more accurate figure. The regimental records of the 157th Infantry Regiment (United States) 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.

The "American Army Investigation of Alleged Mistreatment of German Guards at Dachau" found that about 15 Germans were killed (with another 4 or 5 wounded) after their surrender had been accepted. Two other reports collated years after the incident put the figure between 122 and 520 Germans murdered after their surrender had been accepted.

As a result of the American Army investigation court-martial, charges were drawn up against Sparks and several other men under his command but, as General George S. Patton (the then recently appointed military governor of Bavaria) chose to dismiss the charges, the witnesses to the massacre were never cross-examined in court and no one was found guilty. Many guards were also killed by the liberated prisoners, which made the issue more complex. Lee Miller visited the camp just after liberation, and photographed several guards who died at the prisoners' hands.

American troops also forced local citizens to the camp to see for themselves the conditions there and to help clean the facilities. Many local residents were shocked about the experience and claimed no knowledge of the activities at the camp.

Post-liberation Easter Liberated Dachau camp prisoners cheer U.S. troops

May 6 (23 April on the Orthodox calendar) was the day of Pascha, Orthodox Easter. In a cell block used by Catholic priests to say daily Mass, several Greek, Serbian and Russian priests and one Serbian deacon, wearing makeshift vestments made from towels of the SS guard, gathered with several hundred Greek, Serbian and Russian prisoners to celebrate the Paschal Vigil. A prisoner named Rahr described the scene:

In the entire history of the Orthodox Church there has probably never been an Easter service like the one at Dachau in 1945. Greek and Serbian priests together with a Serbian deacon adorned the make-shift 'vestments' over their blue and gray-striped prisoners' uniforms. Then they began to chant, changing from Greek to Slavonic, and then back again to Greek. The Easter Canon, the Easter Sticheras—everything was recited from memory. The Gospel—In the beginning was the Word—also from memory. And finally, the Homily of Saint John—also from memory. A young Greek monk from the Holy Mountain stood up in front of us and recited it with such infectious enthusiasm that we shall never forget him as long as we live. Saint John Chrysostomos himself seemed to speak through him to us and to the rest of the world as well!

Cheering crowds of liberated survivors

There is a Russian Orthodox chapel at the camp today, and it is well known for its icon of Christ leading the prisoners out of the camp gates.

The U.S. 7th Army's version of the events of the Dachau Liberation is available in Report of Operations of the Seventh United States Army, Vol. 3, page 382.

After liberation

After liberation, the camp was used by the US Army as an internment camp. It was also the site of the Dachau Trials, a site chosen for its symbolism. In 1948 the Bavarian government established housing for refugees on the site, and this remained for many years. The Kaserne quarters and other buildings used by the guards and trainee guards served as an American military post for many years. It had its own elementary school: Dachau American Elementary School, a part of the Department of Defense dependent school system.

The memorial site Memorial at the camp in 1997 Aerial photo of the memorial in 2010

Between 1945 and 1948 when the camp was handed over to the Bavarian authorities, many accused war criminals and members of the SS were imprisoned at the camp.

Owing to the severe refugee crisis mainly caused by the expulsions of ethnic Germans, the camp was from late 1948 used to house 2000 Germans from Czechoslovakia (mainly from theSudetenland). This settlement was called Dachau-East, and remained until the mid 1960s ]During this time, former prisoners banded together to erect a memorial on the site of the camp, finding it unbelievable that there were still people (refugees) living in the former camp.

The display, which was reworked in 2003, takes the visitor through the path of new arrivals to the camp. Special presentations of some of the notable prisoners are also provided. Two of the barracks have been rebuilt and one shows a cross-section of the entire history of the camp, since the original barracks had to be torn down due to their poor condition when the memorial was built. The other 32 barracks are indicated by concrete foundations.

The memorial includes four chapels for the various religions represented among the prisoners.

The local government resisted designating the complete site a memorial. The former SS barracks adjacent to the camp are now occupied by the Bavarian Bereitschaftspolizei (rapid response police unit).

Hilmar Wäckerle

Hilmar Wäckerle 

(born 24 November 1899 in Forchheim - died 2 July 1941 near Lemberg)

was a German soldier in both the German Imperial Army and the Waffen-SS and the first commandant of Dachau concentration camp.

The son of a Munich notary public, Wäckerle was sent to the Bavarian Army officer school at the age of 14 in order to pursue his chosen career. Having completed his three years as a cadet he was assigned to the Bavarian Infantry Battalion in August 1917 and by the following year was a Sergeant on the Western Front. Seriously wounded in September 1918 he was not able to return to the front before the armistice and as such his chance to matriculate and become an officer was lost.

Unable to continue in the army, Wäckerle enrolled in the Technical University Munich to study agricuture. Like his classmate Heinrich Himmler he joined the anti-communist Freikorps Oberland and was an early member of the Nazi Party. Wäckerle was present during theBeer Hall Putsch as well as the January 1924 assassination attempt on Franz Josef Heinz, the prime minister of the French-administeredSaar. After his graduation aged 25 Wäckerle scaled back his direct involvement in Nazi politics to become manager of a cattle ranch.However he rejoined the Nazi Party in 1925 following its reorganisation and regularly attended party rallies whilst also helping to draft Nazi agricultural policy. He also signed up with the SS volunteer regiment based in Kempten

In 1933 he was picked by his old ally Himmler to be commandant of the newly established Dachau concentration camp. Under orders from Himmler he established 'special' rules for dealing with prisoners that instituted terror as a way of life at the camp. His initiatives includedexecution of prisoners for 'violent insubordination' and 'incitement to disobedience'. He left the post a few months later with Theodor Eicketaking his place.

He was an early member of the units that became the Waffen-SS and finally got to be an officer with this group, serving in the Netherlandsand the Soviet Union. His service was spent with the 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking. He had reached the rank of Standartenführer by the time he was killed in action near Lviv in 1941.

Following his death Wäckerle's widow Elfriede was expected to devote her life to mourning her husband but instead she moved in with a man named Johann Herzog. Outraged by this break from protocol, Himmler personally had Herzog sent to a concentration camp where he was denied any contact with Elfriede Wäckerle.


  • 24 November 1899 ~ 2 July 1941

Theodor Eicke

Theodor Eicke 

(17 October 1892 – 26 February 1943)

was a SS Obergruppenführer(German General), commander of the SS-Division (mot) Totenkopf of the Waffen-SSand one of the key figures in the establishment of concentration camps in Nazi Germany. His Nazi Party number was 114,901 and his SS number was 2,921. Together with SS-Obersturmbannführer Michael Lippert, Eicke executed SA ChiefErnst Röhm following the Night of the Long Knives


Eicke, the son of a station master, was born in Hudingen (Hampont), near Château-Salins (then in the German province of Elsass-Lothringen) into a lower middle-class family. The youngest of 11 children, he did not do well in school and dropped out at the age of 17 before graduation. He joined the 23rd Bavarian Infantry Regiment as a volunteer; later on, in World War I, he took the office of paymaster for the 3rd — and, from 1916 on, the 22nd Bavarian Infantry Regiment. He won the Iron Cross, Second Class in 1914 for bravery.

Eicke resigned from his position of army paymaster in 1919. He began studying in his wife's hometown of Ilmenau. However, he dropped out of school again in 1920 intending to pursue a police career. He initially worked as an informer and later as a regular policeman. His career in the police came to an end because of his fervent hatred for the Weimar Republic and his repeated participation in violent political demonstrations. He finally managed to find work in 1923 at IG Farben inLudwigshafen, soon rising to the rank of leader of the company's internal intelligence service.

Eicke's views on the Weimar Republic mirrored those of the Nazi Party and he joined Ernst Röhm's SA on 1 December 1928. He left the SA in August 1930 for the SS, where he quickly rose in rank after recruiting new members and building up the SS organization in the Bavarianpalatinate. In 1931, Eicke was promoted to the rank of SS-Standartenführer (Colonel) by Heinrich Himmler.

His political activities caught the attention of his employer and in early 1932 he was laid off by IG Farben. At the same time, he was caught preparing bomb attacks on political enemies in Bavaria for which he received a two year prison sentence in July 1932. However, due to protection received from Franz Gürtner, who would later serve as minister of justice under Adolf Hitler, he was able to flee to Italy on orders from Heinrich Himmler, where he took over responsibility for a camp for exiled SS members.

SS and concentration camps Crematorium at Dachau in operation

Eicke then returned to Germany in March 1933 following Hitler's rise to power. Eicke had political quarrels with Gauleiter Joseph Bürckel, who had him arrested and he spent several months in amental asylumHeinrich Himmler eventually had him released in June 1933. After promotion to anOberführer, Eicke was made commandant of the Dachau concentration camp on June 26, after complaints and criminal proceedings against former commandant SS-Sturmbannführer Hilmar Wäckerle following the murder of several detainees under the "guise of punishment".

Promoted on 30 January 1934 to SS-Brigadeführer (equivalent to Major-general in the Waffen-SS), Eicke as commander of Dachau began new reforms. He reorganized the SS camp, establishingnew guarding provisions, which included rigid disciple, total obedience to orders, and tighteningdisciplinary and punishment regulations for detainees, which were adopted by all concentration camps of the Third Reich on 1 January 1934. Eicke detested weakness and instructed his men that any SS man with a soft heart should "...retire at once to a monastery".

Eicke's anti-semitism and anti-bolshevism as well as his insistence on unconditional obedience towards him as the camp's commander as well as the SS and Hitler made an impression on Himmler. In May 1934, he was appointed Concentration Camps Inspector, a position which he began working in on 4 July 1934. Although technically responsible to the SS-Hauptamt, Eicke in fact reported directly to Himmler.[citation needed]

Arbeit Macht Frei gate atSachsenhausen

Eicke also was involved in the Night of the Long Knives at the end of June 1934; together with hand-chosen members of the Dachau concentration camp guards (SS-TV), he assisted Sepp Dietrich's SS-Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler to imprison SA commanders on June 30. To show his obedience to Himmler and Hitler, Eicke (together with his adjutant, Michael Lippert) shot Ernst Röhm on 1 July 1934. Eicke was promoted to SS-Gruppenführer. As a result of the Night of the Long Knives, the remaining SA-run camps were taken over by the SS.[citation needed]

In his role as the Concentration Camps Inspector, Eicke began a large reorganisation of the camps in 1935, which consisted of the dismantling of the smaller camps. Dachau remained, thenSachsenhausen concentration camp opened in summer 1936, Buchenwald in summer 1937 andRavensbrück (near Lichtenburg) in May 1939. There were other new camps in Austria, such asMauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, opened in 1938. All SS camps' regulations, both for guards and prisoners, followed the Dachau camp model.

Eicke's reorganizations and the introduction of forced labour made the camps one of the SS's most powerful tools; this earned him the enmity of (among others) Reinhard Heydrich, who had already unsuccessfully attempted to take control of the Dachau concentration camp in his position as chief of the SD. Eicke prevailed with support from Himmler. When, in 1940, the Concentration Camps Inspectorate (CCI) was turned into Amt D of the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt under Oswald Pohl, he assured that the command structure he had introduced would not fall to the jurisdiction of the Gestapo and SD. The CCI and later Amt D were subordinate to the SD and Gestapo only in regards to who was admitted to the camps and who was released. However, what happened inside the camps was under the command of Amt D.

Totenkopf Division Theodor Eicke and SS Division Totenkopf on the Eastern Front in 1941.

The success of the Totenkopf's sister formations the SS-Infanterie-Regiment (mot)Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler and the three Standarten of the SS-Verfügungstruppe led toHitler approving Himmler's recommendation for the creation of three Waffen SS-divisions in October 1939.

Eicke's Totenkopf units were to form SS-Division Totenkopf and Eicke was given command.Totenkopf was to become one of the most effective German fighting formations on the Eastern Front, often serving as "Hitler's firemen", rushed to the scene of Soviet breakthroughs. His career now deviated from Concentration Camps and he was not involved with the camp service after 1940. His replacement as Inspector of Concentration Camps wasRichard Glücks who answered to Oswald Pohl in the SS Office of Economics and Administration.

During the course of the war, Eicke and his division became known for unmatched brutality and several war crimes, including the murder of British POWs in Le Paradis in 1940, the murder of captured Soviet soldiers and the plundering and pillaging of several Soviet villages. The Totenkopf continued to show an unmatched ferocity, during the advance in 1941 as well as the summer offensive in 1942, the conquest of Kharkov, the Demyansk Pocket, and the defense of Warsaw and Budapest in early 1945.[citation needed]


Eicke was killed on 26 February 1943, several months after being promoted to SS-Obergruppenführer (equivalent to general in the Allgemeine SS and also General in the Waffen-SS). While performing a battlefield reconnaissance during the opening stages of the Third Battle of Kharkov, his Fieseler Fi 156 Storch was shot down by Soviet troops 1 kilometer southwest of Artelnoje (near Lozovaya). An assault group from the division recovered the bodies of Eicke, the pilot and SS-Hauptsturmführer Friedrich from enemy territory.

Eicke was portrayed in the Axis press as a hero, and soon after his death one of the Totenkopf's infantry regiments received the honorific cuff-title Theodor Eicke.

Eicke married Bertha Schwebel on 26 December 1914. They had two children, Irma (born 5 April 1916) and Hermann (born 4 May 1920).

  • 17 October 1892 – 26 February 1943

Heinrich Deubel

Heinrich Deubel 

(19 February 1890 – 2 October 1962)

was a German soldier, civil servant and officer in the Schutzstaffel who served as commandant of Dachau concentration camp.

Deubel was born in Ortenburg (Bavaria). The son of a postman, he joined the German Imperial Army and spent 12 years in the service, although he was to spend most of the First World War in a British prisoner of war camp. Right-wing by inclination, Deubel had been involved with the Freikorps and other rightist and anti-Semitic groups from an early age. He became involved with the Nazis in the early 1920s at the same time as Egon Zill and was amongst the first 200 members of the SS. Deubel was a civil servant with the customs office and actually took a leave of absence to join the SS rather than forgo his civil service pension.

Deubel was an inspector at Dachau concentration camp in 1934 when commandant Theodor Eicke was promoted to a role overseeing all concentration camps. Deubel, by then an Oberfuehrer in the SS, was nominated by Eiche as his successor. Deubel commanded the camp from 1 May 1934 until 20 April 1936 with detainees describing his regime as fairly liberal, especially when compared to that of his successor in the role, Hans Loritz.

During his time as commandant, Deubel did fall foul of Heinrich Himmler due to a public incident of violence at a time when the SS was developing a reputation for cruelty in Germany and beyond. On Christmas Eve 1934, Deubel was present at Passau train station when an SS private got into a scuffle with a number of people after delaying the line at a ticket window. When a policeman stepped in to arrest the private, Deubel intervened, threatening to drag a policeman to the camp to be "whipped as he deserved". Deubel would later claim that the incident had happened because he felt it was his duty to defend his fellow SS member as the policeman had forcibly pulled him from the ticket window. However the incident earned Deubel a rebuke from Himmler as it was widely discussed in Germany and even reported in sections of the overseas press.

After the Second World War, Deubel was interned until 1948 although ultimately no charges were brought against him by the government ofWest Germany. He died in Dingolfing.

  • 19 February 1890 – 2 October 1962

Hans Loritz


Oberführer (Senior Colonel) Hans Loritz 

(December 12, 1895, Augsburg - January 31, 1946)

joined the SS in 1930 and in 1933, began work as an officer at the Dachau concentration camp. In July 1934 he became the commander of KZ Esterwegen where he was the Commandant for two years before being transferred back to serve as Commandant of Dachau until 1939. He became a section leader of the General SS inKlagenfurt. In 1940 Himmler posted him to Sachsenhausen, to replace Walter Eisfeld.[1] That lasted until 1942, when he was removed by the suggestion of Oswald Pohl, leader of the SS-WVHA  He was then sent to oversee a camp in Norway.

After the war, he was arrested and imprisoned at the internment camp in Neumünster to await trial by the Soviets; he committed suicide, however, in January 1946


  • December 12, 1895~January 31, 1946

Martin Gottfried Weiss

SS-Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Martin Gottfried Weiss, alternatively spelled Weiß (3 June 1905 – 29 May 1946) was the Commandant of Dachau concentration camp in 1945. He also served as the commandant of Neuengamme concentration camp from April 1940 until September 1942.

Weiss was born in Weiden in der Oberpfalz. He was tried during the Dachau Trials of 15 November — 13 December 1945, found guilty, and was executed on 29 May 1946.

Dr. Franz Blaha identifies Martin Gottfried Weiss

In the courtroom of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau, Martin Gottfried Weiss wore a card with the number 1 around his neck. He was the main one of the accused by virtue of having been the highest ranking SS officer and the acting Commandant for two days before the camp was liberated by the US Seventh Army on April 29, 1945.

In the photograph above, the man on the right is Martin Gottfried Weiss. The star witness for the prosecution at Dachau was Dr. Franz Blaha, who is shown on the left in the photo above.

Dr. Blaha was a 50-year-old Czech surgeon who had been imprisoned by the Gestapo for two years before being brought to Dachau in 1941. He was a member of the International Committee at Dachau which consisted of prominent and privileged Communist prisoners. The Committee had taken charge of the concentration camp just before the liberation and afterwards, they were the administrators of the camp under the authority of the US Army. The original Museum at Dachau was set up in 1965 under the direction and control of the Committee. It was the Committee that was credited with bringing the Dachau atrocities, including the gas chamber, to the attention of the American liberators.

In his direct testimony, Dr. Blaha described the "air pressure" and "cold water" experiments that had been conducted by Dr. Sigmund Rascher at Dachau. Dr. Rascher was not on trial, but Martin Gottfried Weiss was held to be responsible for the experiments because he was the Commandant of the camp during the time that the experiments were done.

Dr. Blaha identified Martin Gottfried Weiss in the courtroom after he testified that Weiss was the Commandant at Dachau during the time that Dr. Sigmund Rascher and Dr. Klaus Karl Schilling had conducted medical experiments there. He also testified that Dr. Walter and Dr. Brachtel had been the chief doctors who were in charge of all the medical experiments at Dachau. Because neither of them was on trial, the defense moved to strike this testimony from the record, but Lt. Col. Denson argued that the testimony should stand and the court agreed.

The prosecution argument was that Weiss was equally guilty for the alleged crimes committed by Dr. Walter and Dr. Brachtel, which had not been proved in a court of law, because he had been the Commandant in the camp during the time that the alleged crimes had taken place.

According to Martin Weiss's testimony at Dachau, the subjects used in the medical experiments were German "professional criminals" and Russian Commissars who had been condemned to death by order of Adolf Hitler.

Below is an excerpt quoted from an account in a German newspaper called the Suddeutsche Zeitung, dated December 1,1945, in which Weiss tries to explain to the court that he was not involved in the medical experiments carried out at Dachau:

"I was absolutely powerless in the face of experiments of Dr. Rascher and Prof. Dr. Schilling. I had already heard in Berlin of Prof. Dr. Schilling's malaria department and the cold water experiments for the air force led by Dr. Rascher. I was told in Berlin that Reichsführer SS Himmler was personally responsible for these two experimental departments and that I should not interfere. On Nov 10, 1942, Himmler made a personal appearance in Dachau and visited the Rascher department. He sent for me and I was made to attend an experiment which had already begun. Afterwards Himmler said: Rascher and Shilling are responsible to me personally for their experiments and you must obey their orders."

Dr. Blaha's testimony that Martin Weiss was the Commandant at Dachau when these experiments were conducted was enough to convict Weiss of participating in a "common design" to violate the Laws and Usages of War because the Russian Commissars, used as subjects, were POWs who came under the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1929, even though the Soviet Union had not signed the convention and was not following it with regard to German POWs.

Weiss had previously been the Commandant of the Neuengamme concentration camp from 1940 to 1942. From September 1942 until the end of October 1943, Weiss was the Commandant of Dachau until he was transferred to the Majdanek camp in Lublin on November 1, 1943. During his time as the Commandant of Dachau, some of the worst atrocities had occurred, including the building of the gas chamber and the medical experiments conducted for the German air force.

Martin Gottfried Weiss should not be confused with another man named Martin Weiss, who was named by one of the prosecution witnesses at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal as the man that he saw killing Jews in Vilna, Lithuania in 1941. Martin Gottfried Weiss was the Commandant at Neuengamme during that time.

The last Commandant of the Dachau Concentration Camp was Wilhelm Eduard Weiter, who replaced Martin Weiss on November 1, 1943. Weiter left the Dachau camp on April 26, 1945 with a prisoner transport to the Schloss Itter, a subcamp of Dachau in Austria. Weiter shot himself at Schloss Itter on May 6, 1945, according to Johannes Tuchel who wrote about The Commandants of the Dachau Concentration Camp in his book: Dachau and the Nazi Terror II, 1933-1945.




Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler testifies against Dachau staff members


In the photograph above, Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, a Munich bishop who was a former prisoner at Dachau, testifies for the prosecution. Dr. Neuhäusler was one of the VIP prisoners who had a private cell in the bunker and was allowed to receive visitors; he did not have to work and was allowed the freedom to walk around the camp. He wrote a book about Dachau called "What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?" in which he described the harsh treatment suffered by the other prisoners.

In his book, Neuhäusler wrote the following about Martin Gottfried Weiss, who was the camp commandant from September 1, 1942 until he was replaced by Wilhelm Eduard Weiter at the end of October 1943:

Some of the commandants were not a (sic) all interested in the affairs of the prisoners and gave full power to their deputies, the camp leaders. I mention the commandant Weiss out of gratitude and as a proof that among the despots of the concentration camp there were also some with human feelings. He introduced many pleasant changes in the camp and checked personally if his regulations and orders were observed. He forbade the deliberate beating of the prisoners by the Capos and camp seniors, he personally inspected criminal reports, he himself determined the punishment and was present when it was carried out, lest abuses were introduced. He also removed an abuse, namely that the prisoners had to be close-cropped and had to have a still shorter strip, the so-called "path" in the middle of the head. To preserve the prisoners strength for the armaments industry, Weiss permitted them to receive food parcels which made it possible for a large number of prisoners to keep alive in the camp until the end. Often he also showed a fundamentally good heart to us "special prisoners" and procured manifold facilities for us. In the last phase he became inspector of the concentration camps.

A book by former Dachau prisoner Paul Berben, which was commissioned by the International Committee of Dachau for sale at the Dachau Museum, entitled "Dachau: 1933-45, The Official History" describes Weiss in the following quote from page 49:

Some people emphasized that he introduced a number of humane changes in camp administration and that he took a personal interest in seeing that his orders were carried out. He forbade Kapos and Seniors to strike other prisoners arbitrarily; he personally inspected reports of punishments; he decided the level of these sanctions and was present when they were administered so as to prevent abuses. According to "privileged" prisoners, he often showed consideration and obtained a good deal of relief for them.

In his book, Berben wrote that:

In spite of the great number of witnesses who spoke for him during the postwar Dachau trial, Weiss was condemned to death and executed.

Martin Gottfried Weiss was given the job of the Commandant of Dachau after Alex Piorkowski had been dismissed by Heinrich Himmler for alleged mistreatment of the prisoners. Alex Piorkowski was tried and convicted in another American Military Tribunal proceeding at Dachau.

On November 1, 1943, Weiss became the Commandant of the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland, replacing Karl Otto Koch, who was put on trial in 1943 in an SS court for crimes he had committed while serving as the Commandant of Buchenwald. Wilhelm Eduard Weiter became the new Commandant of Dachau. In May 1944, Martin Weiss was appointed department head of the Office Group D in the SS Main Office of Economic Administration (WVHA) and in the same year, he was ordered to supervise the Dachau subcamp complex at Mühldorf. Wilhelm Eduard Weiter was still serving as the Commandant of Dachau in the Spring of 1945 when Weiss came back to the main camp along with a transport of Mühldorf prisoners who had been evacuated.

Fourteen members of the staff at Mühldorf were put on trial at Dachau from April 1 through May 13, 1947 in the case of US vs. Franz Auer et al.


Martin Gottfried Weiss on the witness stand at Dachau


Martin Gottfried Weiss was finally called to the witness stand to defend himself on December 10, 1945, almost a month after the trial began. The photograph above shows him sitting on a chair on a raised platform, facing the 8-man tribunal that served as both judge and jury.

Under direct examination by defense attorney Douglas T. Bates, Weiss said that he was born in 1905 and had worked as an electrical engineer before joining the German army in 1933. Weiss told about how he had improved conditions at the Dachau concentration camp when he became the Commandant in 1942. He said that he had abolished the cruel punishment where prisoners were hung up by their arms, and also the standing punishment where prisoners had to stand outside for days without food.

The photograph below, taken in the Dachau Museum in May 2001, shows a scene that was created in 1958 for an East German DEFA film. (Source: H. Obenaus, "Das Foto vom Baumhängen: Ein Bild geht um die Welt," in Stiftung Topographie des Terrors Berlin (ed.), Gedenkstätten-Rundbrief no. 68, Berlin, October 1995, pp. 3-8) This photo was removed from the Dachau Museum because it is a recreation, not an authentic photo.




Photo in Dachau Museum, May 2001, shows hanging punishment


Martin Sommer, the alleged innovator of this punishment, was one of the men indicted by Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen after an investigation of the Buchenwald camp in 1943. After being acquitted in Morgen's court, Sommer was sent to the Russian front where he was wounded in battle. After the war he was imprisoned for years by the Russians; he was finally brought to trial by the West German government in 1958 and convicted of killing 25 prisoners by lethal injection at Buchenwald.

At Dachau, prisoners were hung up on a tree near the crematorium, and sometimes in the shower room, or on a pole set up in the courtyard between the administration building and the camp prison, called the bunker. Dr. Blaha testified that he was punished by being hung up by a chain for an hour. He said that the prisoners who were punished in this manner couldn't move their hands for at least three days, and couldn't work. Dr. Blaha said that after he was punished in this way, he had blood clots on his hands, and swollen feet which caused him great pain.

An SS man, Josef Jarolin, was charged with the crime of punishing Dr. Blaha because he was present when the punishment was carried out, and he had adjusted the ropes when Dr. Blaha's feet touched the ground. That was enough to convict him, although he had not ordered this punishment for Dr. Blaha.

Weiss testified that there were no executions of any of the inmates while he was the Commandant from September 1942 until November 1, 1943 when he was replaced by Eduard Weiter. According to Weiss, the only prisoners who were executed at Dachau were condemned prisoners that were brought in by the State Police. Weiss claimed that no prisoners were shot while he was the Commandant, except for four or five who were shot "while trying to escape."

In his direct testimony, Weiss said that many of the prisoners who died from disease at Dachau had been brought to the camp already sick, and some were dead upon arrival. He claimed that he had stopped "invalid transports" from being sent out of the Dachau camp after he complained to headquarters in Oranienburg that "it made no sense for such transports to be sent from Dachau when we were expected to receive other invalid transports coming in."

Regarding transports from Dachau, Weiss addressed the tribunal with the following statement, as quoted in "Justice at Dachau":

There seems to be a mistaken idea among the prisoners who have appeared before this court that any transports which left for other work camps were so-called liquidation transports. The fact is that small and big transports left Dachau all the time for Augsberg, Haunstetten, Kempten, Kotteren, different by-camps, delivering workers. And these were supplemented with invalid prisoners only after those prisoners had been nursed back to health.

On the night of April 28, 1945, just hours before the Dachau complex was liberated by American troops on April 29th, Weiss left the camp along with most of the regular guards. Weiss and his henchmen were dressed in civilian clothes and carried false identification papers.

Neuhäusler credits Weiss with saving the prisoners at Dachau by refusing to carry out the command to kill all the prisoners and destroy the camp. In his book, Neuhäusler wrote the following:

Because (Weiss) foresaw the complete collapse of Hitler's power, he did not permit the carrying out of Himmler's command to shell and burn the camp at Dachau together with all its inmates on the night of 28/29 April 1945.

The next day, on April 29, 1945, Waffen-SS soldiers, who had been recently brought from the front, surrendered the SS training camp and garrison to the US Seventh Army and 520 of them were then summarily executed, according to Col. Howard Buechner, an American medical officer, who was there.

The Dachau concentration camp was surrendered by 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker, who was later reported missing by his family and is presumed to have been murdered after the surrender. Weiss had escaped summary execution by the liberators, but on May 2, 1945 he was arrested and charged with being a war criminal because of his position as the former Commandant of Dachau and the commander of the Mühldorf sub camp.

Wilhelm Eduard Weiter had left the Dachau camp on April 26th, along with a transport of prisoners. Weiter escaped justice by committing suicide; he shot himself at the Schloss Itter, a sub camp of Dachau in Austria on 6 May 1945, according to Johannes Tuchel who wrote about The Commandants of the Dachau Concentration Camp in his book: Dachau and the Nazi Terror II, 1933-1945.

Martin Gottfried Weiss might have eluded justice altogether if it had not been for two escaped Dachau prisoners, who had made their way to Munich, 18 kilometers south of the camp. These two prisoners had made contact with American soldiers of the 292nd Field Artillery Observation Battalion in Munich and they pointed out Weiss and his adjutant, Rudolf Heinrich Suttrop, to Henry Senger, a 19-year-old Corporal from Brooklyn, who captured them.

  • (3 June 1905 – 29 May 1946

Adolf Eichmann

Adolf Otto Eichmann

 (March 19, 1906 – May 31, 1962) was a German Naziand SS-Obersturmbannführer (equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel in Wehrmacht) and one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. Because of his organizational talents and ideological reliability, Eichmann was charged by Obergruppenführer (General)Reinhard Heydrich with the task of facilitating and managing the logistics of massdeportation of Jews to ghettos and extermination camps in German-occupiedEastern Europe.

After the war, he fled to Argentina using a fraudulently obtained laissez-passerissued by the International Red Cross. He lived in Argentina under a false identity, working for Mercedes-Benz until 1960. He was captured by Mossad operatives in Argentina and taken to Israel to face trial in an Israeli court on 15 criminal charges, including crimes against humanity and war crimes. He was found guilty and executed by hanging in 1962. He is the only person to have been executed in Israel on conviction by a civilian court.

Work with the Nazi Party and the SS Adolf Eichmann's Lebenslauf (i.e.,curriculum vitae) for his application for promotion from SS-Hauptscharführer to SS-Untersturmführer in 1937

On the advice of family friend Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Eichmann joined the Austrian branch of theNSDAP—member number 889,895—and the Schutzstaffel (SS).[11] He enlisted on April 1, 1932, as an SS-Anwärter (Candidate). He was accepted as a full SS member that November, appointed an SS-Mann (Man), and assigned the SS number 45326.

For the next year, Eichmann was a member of the Allgemeine SS (General SS) and served in a mustering formation operating from Salzburg. In 1933 when the Nazis came to power, Eichmann returned to Germany and submitted an application to join the active duty SS regiments. He was accepted, and in November 1933, was promoted to Scharführer (Squad Leader) and assigned to the administrative staff of Dachau concentration camp.

By 1934, Eichmann requested transfer into the Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service) of the SS, to escape the "monotony" of military training in SS-Standarte Deutschland at Dachau. Eichmann was accepted into the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) and assigned to the sub-office on "Freemasons" that was run by SS-Sturmbannführer Prof. Schwarz-Bostowitsch.[13] After a short time, Eichmann had a meeting in the Wilhelmstrasse with Leopold von Mildenstein, a fellow Austrian, and was invited to join Mildenstein's "Jews Section", or Section II/112, of the SD at its Berlin headquarters. He later came to see this as his "big break".[14] Eichmann's transfer was granted in November 1934. In 1935, he was promoted toHauptscharführer (Head Squad Leader) and later commissioned as an SS-Untersturmführer in 1937.

In 1937, Eichmann was sent to the British Mandate of Palestine with his superior Herbert Hagen to assess the possibilities of massive Jewishemigration from Germany to Palestine. They landed in Haifa but could obtain only a transit visa so they went on to Cairo. There they metFeival Polkes, an agent of the Haganah, who discussed with them the plans of the Zionists and tried to enlist their assistance in facilitating Jewish emigration from Europe. According to an answer Eichmann gave at his trial, he had also planned to meet Arab leaders in Palestine, but this never happened because entry to Palestine was refused by the British authorities.

In 1938, Eichmann was assigned to Austria to help organize SS Security Forces in Vienna after the Anschluss of Austria with Germany. Through this effort, Eichmann was promoted to SS-Obersturmführer (1st Lieutenant) and, by the end of 1938, Eichmann had been selected by the SS leadership to form the Central Office for Jewish Emigration, charged with forcibly deporting and expelling Jews from Austria.

World War II Participation of the Eichmannreferatduring deportations: woman with children on the way to the gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau (May/June 1944), photo by SSBernhard Walter, with permission of Eichmann (Auschwitz Album).

At the start of World War II, Eichmann had been promoted to SS-Hauptsturmführer (captain) and had made a name for himself with his Office for Jewish Emigration. Through this work Eichmann made several contacts in the Zionist movement, which he worked with to speed up Jewish emigration from the Third Reich.

Eichmann returned to Berlin in 1939 after the formation of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Main Security Office, RSHA). In December 1939, he was assigned to head RSHA Referat IV B4 (RSHA Sub-Department IV-B4), which dealt with Jewish affairs and evacuation, where he reported to Heinrich Müller. In August 1940, he released his Reichssicherheitshauptamt: Madagaskar Projekt (Reich Main Security Office: Madagascar Project), a plan for forced Jewish deportation that never materialized. He was promoted to the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer(Major) in late 1940, and less than a year later to Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel).

Reinhard Heydrich disclosed to Eichmann in autumn 1941 that all the Jews in German-controlled Europe were to be murdered.[20] In 1942, Heydrich ordered Eichmann to attend the Wannsee Conference as recording secretary, where Germany's anti-Semitic measures were set down into an official policy of genocide. Eichmann was given the position of Transportation Administrator of the "Final Solution to the Jewish Question", which put him in charge of all the trains that would carry Jews to the death camps in the territory of occupied Poland.

In 1944, he was sent to Hungary after Germany had occupied that country prior to a Soviet invasion. Eichmann at first made an offer throughJoel Brand (who was to act as an intermediary) to trade captive European Jews to the Western Allies for trucks and other goods (see Blood for goods). When there was no positive response to this offer, Eichmann started deporting Jews, sending 430,000 Hungarians to their deaths in the gas chambers.

By 1945, Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had ordered Jewish extermination to be halted and evidence of the Final Solution to be destroyed. Eichmann was appalled by Himmler's turnabout, and continued his work in Hungary against official orders. Eichmann was also working to avoid being called up in the last-ditch German military effort, since a year before he had been commissioned as a ReserveUntersturmführer in the Waffen-SS and was now being ordered to active combat duty.

Eichmann fled Hungary in 1945 as the Soviets entered, and he returned to Austria, where he met up with his old friend Ernst Kaltenbrunner. Kaltenbrunner, however, refused to associate with Eichmann since Eichmann's duties as an extermination administrator had left him a marked man by the Allies.

After World War II Adolf Eichmann's Red Cross–issued passport

At the end of World War II, Eichmann was captured by the U.S. Army, which was not aware of Eichmann's true identity as he presented himself as "Otto Eckmann." Early in 1946, he escaped from U.S. custody and hid in Altensalzkoth, an obscure hamlet on the Lüneburg Heath, for a few years. In 1948 he obtained a landing permit for Argentina, but did not use it immediately.

At the beginning of 1950, Eichmann went to Italy, where he posed as a refugee named Riccardo Klement. With the help of a Franciscan friar who had connections to Bishop Alois Hudal, who organized one of the first postwar escape routes for Axis personnel, Eichmann obtained anInternational Committee of the Red Cross humanitarian passport, issued in Genoa, and an Argentine visa. Both of these issued to "Ricardo Klement, technician." However, Hannah Arendtclaims that Eichmann was assisted in his escape by ODESSA, "a clandestine organization of SSveterans". In early May 2007, this passport was discovered in court archives in Argentina by a student doing research on Eichmann's capture. Eichmann boarded a ship heading for Argentina on July 14, 1950. For the next 10 years, he worked in several odd jobs in the Buenos Aires area—from factory foreman, to junior water engineer and professional rabbit farmer. Eichmann also brought his family to Argentina.

]BND and CIA inaction

In June 2006, old CIA documents about Nazis and stay-behind networks dedicated to anti-communism were released. Among the 27,000 documents was a March 1958 memo from the German BND agency to the CIA, which stated that Eichmann was reported to have lived in Argentina since 1952 using the alias "Clemens". The CIA took no action on this information, because Eichmann's arrest could embarrass the US and Germany by turning public attention to the former Nazis they had recruited after World War II. For example, the West Germangovernment, headed by Konrad Adenauer, was worried about what Eichmann might say, especially about the past of Hans Globke, Adenauer's national security adviser, who had worked with Eichmann in the Jewish Affairs department and helped draft the 1935 Nuremberg Laws.

At the request of the West German government the CIA persuaded Life magazine to delete any reference to Globke from Eichmann's memoirs, which it had bought from his family. By the time the CIA and the BND had this information, Israel had temporarily given up looking for Eichmann in Argentina because they could not discover his alias. Neither the CIA nor the US government as a whole at that time had a policy of pursuing Nazi war criminals. In addition to protecting Eichmann's and Globke's past, the CIA also protected Reinhard Gehlen, who recruited hundreds of former German spies for the CIA.

n 1948, the State of Israel was established. In 1949, its official intelligence agencyMossad, was formed. One of Mossad's principal assigned tasks was to hunt down accused Nazi war criminals. Throughout the 1950s, many Jews and other victims of the Holocaust also dedicated themselves to finding Eichmann and other notorious Nazis. Among them was the Jewish Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. In 1954, Wiesenthal received a postcard from an associate living in Buenos Aires, saying Eichmann was in Argentina. The message read in part:

Ich sah jenes schmutzige Schwein Eichmann. ("I saw that filthy pig Eichmann.") Er wohnt in der Nähe von Buenos Aires und arbeitet für ein Wassergeschäft. ("He lives near Buenos Aires and works for a water company.")

With this and other information collected by Wiesenthal, Israel had solid leads about Eichmann's whereabouts. However, Isser Harel, the head of Mossad, later claimed in an unpublished manuscript that Wiesenthal "had no role whatsoever" in Eichmann's apprehension but in fact had endangered the entire Eichmann operation and aborted the planned capture of Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele.

Eichmann changed his name but never changed those of his wife and sons. It was this that led to his capture.

Also instrumental in exposing Eichmann's identity was Lothar Hermann. He was a worker of Jewish descent who fled from Germany to Argentina following his incarceration in the Dachau concentration camp, where Eichmann had served at one time on the administrative staff. By the 1950s, Hermann had settled into life in Buenos Aires with his family. His daughter Sylvia became acquainted with Eichmann's family and romantically involved with Eichmann's son, Klaus Eichmann. Klaus made boastful remarks about his father's life as a Nazi and direct responsibility for the Holocaust. In 1957, Hermann realized who Eichmann was after reading a newspaper report about German war criminals—of whom Eichmann was one.

Soon after, he sent Sylvia to the Eichmanns' home on a fact-finding mission. She was met at the door by Eichmann himself who identified himself as Klaus' uncle. Sylvia asked for Klaus, and, after learning that he was not home, sat down to wait and made small talk with the man. On Klaus' return home, he immediately took Sylvia to the bus stop, but upon leaving his home, he addressed Eichmann as 'Father'.Hermann soon began a correspondence with Fritz Bauer, chief prosecutor for the West German state of Hessen, and provided details about Eichmann's person and life. Bauer contacted Israeli officials, who worked sporadically with Hermann over the next several years trying to discover if this was really Eichmann.

In 1959, the Mossad was informed that Eichmann was in Buenos Aires under the name Ricardo Klement (Clement) and then began an effort to locate his exact whereabouts.[33] Through relentless surveillance, it was concluded that Ricardo Klement was, in fact, Adolf Eichmann. The Israeli government then approved a covert operation to capture Eichmann and bring him to Jerusalem for trial as a war criminal. It was to be a joint operation, carried out by the Mossad and Shin Bet, the Israel Security Agency. The Israelis continued their surveillance of Eichmann through the first months of 1960 until it was judged safe to take him.

Eichmann was captured by a team of Mossad and Shin Bet agents in a suburb of Buenos Aires on May 11, 1960. The Mossad agents had arrived in Buenos Aires in April 1960 after Eichmann's identity was confirmed. After observing Eichmann extensively, a team of Mossad agents waited for him as he arrived home from his work as foreman at a Mercedes Benz factory.

The Mossad developed a strategy (practiced in their hideout) that they would ambush Eichmann when he was walking from the bus stop to his house at 14 Garibaldi St (now 4261 Garibaldi Street) in San Fernando, Buenos Aires, an industrial community 20 km north of the center of Buenos Aires. A backup car was involved, should their primary transportation break down. The Israelis also had forged license plates attached to their car. It was crucial that Eichmann couldn't be tipped off; otherwise he might vanish again.

The plan was almost abandoned when Eichmann was not present on the bus he usually took home. Tension rose when many passers-by inquired of the disguised Mossad agent who pretended to be fixing their broken down vehicle. Finally, almost a half hour later, Eichmann got off a bus. A Mossad agent engaged him, asking him in Spanish if he had a moment. Eichmann was frightened and attempted to leave while blinded by Mossad headlights. Two Mossad men wrestled him to the ground and he was brought to the car. While in the car he reportedly told the Mossad, "I have already surrendered to my fate"

Then the Mossad agents ran into a police checkpoint and managed to evade the police when they checked their license plates. He was then brought to the Mossad safe house. There, he was tied to a chair, ungagged, and interrogated. It was concluded that Klement (Clement) was undoubtedly Eichmann. Eichmann was given a choice between instant death or trial in Israel. He chose to stand trial. The agents kept him in a safe house until they judged that he could be taken to Israel without being detected by Argentine authorities.[citation needed]

Eichmann was drugged to make him appear drunk and dressed as a flight attendant. They smuggled Eichmann out of Argentina on board anEl Al Bristol Britannia flight from Argentina to Dakar and then to Israel on May 21, 1960. Eichmann arrived heavily sedated, and like the agents, disguised in the uniform of the El Al crew.

There had been a backup plan in case the apprehension did not go as planned. If the police happened to intervene, one of the agents was to handcuff himself to Eichmann and make full explanations and disclosure.

For some time the Israeli government denied involvement in Eichmann's capture, claiming that he had been taken by Jewish volunteers who eagerly turned him over to Israeli authorities. Negotiations followed between Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion and Argentine president Arturo Frondizi, while the abduction was met from radical right sectors in Argentina with a violent wave of antisemitism, carried on the streets by theTacuara Nationalist Movement—including assaults, torture and bombings.

Ben-Gurion then announced Eichmann's capture to the Knesset—Israel's parliament—on May 23, receiving a standing ovation in return. Isser Harel, head of the Mossad at the time of the operation, wrote the book The House on Garibaldi Street about Eichmann's capture, which was made into the 1979 American television movie of the same name.

When Eichmann was brought to Israel for trial, the Israeli police officer Avner Less, was Eichmann's interrogator. Extracts from Less's interrogation of Eichmann have been published in the book Eichmann Interrogated (ISBN 0-88619-017-7), and the 2007 film Eichmanndramatizes Eichmann's interrogation.

Some years later, Peter Malkin, a member of the kidnapping team, wrote Eichmann in My Hands, which explores Eichmann's character and motivations, but its veracity has been questioned.[citation needed]

International dispute over capture

In June 1960, after unsuccessful secret negotiations with Israel, Argentina requested an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council, to protest what Argentina regarded as the "violation of the sovereign rights of the Argentine Republic". In the ensuing debate, Israeli representative Golda Meir claimed that the abductors were not Israeli agents but private individuals and so the incident was only an "isolated violation of Argentine law"  Eventually the Council passed Resolution 138, which requested Israel "to make appropriate reparation", while stating that "Eichmann should be brought to appropriate justice for the crimes of which he is accused" and that "this resolution should in no way be interpreted as condoning the odious crimes of which Eichmann is accused."

After further negotiations, on August 3, Israel and Argentina agreed to end their dispute with a joint statement that "the Governments of Israel and the Republic of the Argentine, imbued with the wish to give effect to the resolution of the Security Council of June 23, 1960, in which the hope was expressed that the traditionally friendly relations between the two countries will be advanced, have decided to regard as closed the incident that arose out of the action taken by Israel nationals which infringed fundamental rights of the State of Argentina."

In the subsequent trial and appeal, the Israeli courts avoided the issue of the legality of Eichmann's capture, relying instead on legal precedents that the circumstances of his capture had no bearing on the legality of his trial. The Israeli Court also determined that because "Argentina has condoned the violation of her sovereignty and has waived her claims, including that for the return of the Appellant, any violation of international law that may have been involved in this incident has thus been remedied.'

Josef Mengele

Isser Harel, Chief Executive of the Secret Services of Israel (1952–1963), who headed the successful capture of Eichmann in Buenos Aires in 1960, feels they almost apprehended Josef Mengele. As he claims to have told the co-pilot that transported Eichmann at the time: "had it been possible to start the operation several weeks earlier Mengele might also have been on the plane." When they checked on the last known location for the "murderous doctor" in Argentina, he had apparently moved on just two weeks earlier.


  • March 19, 1906 – May 31, 1962


Eichmann's trial in Jerusalem before the Jerusalem District Court began on April 11, 1961. He was indicted on 15 criminal charges, including crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes against the Jewish people, and membership in an outlawed organization. In accordance with Israeli criminal procedure, the trial was presided over by three judges: Moshe LandauBenjamin Halevyand Yitzhak Raveh. The chief prosecutor was Gideon Hausner, the Israeli Attorney General. The three judges sat high atop a plain dais. The trial was held at the Beit Ha'am—today known as the Gerard Behar Center—an auditorium in downtown Jerusalem. Eichmann sat inside a bulletproof glass booth to protect him from victims' families. This image inspired the novel, stage play, and filmThe Man in the Glass Booth, although the plot of the drama has nothing to do with the actual events of the Eichmann trial.

The legal basis of the charges against Eichmann was the 1950 "Nazi and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law".

The trial caused huge international controversy, as well as an international sensation. The Israeli government allowed news programs all over the world to broadcast the trial live with few restrictions. The trial began with various witnesses, including many Holocaust survivors, who testified against Eichmann and his role in transporting victims to the extermination camps. One key witness for the prosecution was an American judge named Michael A. Musmanno, who was a U.S. naval officer in 1945. Musmanno had questioned the Nuremberg defendants and would later go on to become a Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He testified that the late Hermann Göring "made it very clear that Eichmann was the man to determine, in what order, in what countries, the Jews were to die."

When the prosecution rested, Eichmann's defense lawyers, Robert Servatius and Dieter Wechtenbruch, opened up the defense by explaining why they did not cross-examine any of the prosecution witnesses. Eichmann, speaking in his own defense, said that he did not dispute the facts of what happened during the Holocaust. During the whole trial, Eichmann insisted that he was only "following orders"—the sameNuremberg Defense used by some of the Nazi war criminals during the 1945–1946 Nuremberg Trials. He explicitly declared that he had abdicated his conscience in order to follow the Führerprinzip. Eichmann claimed that he was merely a "transmitter" with very little power. He testified that: "I never did anything, great or small, without obtaining in advance express instructions from Adolf Hitler or any of my superiors."

During cross-examination, prosecutor Hausner asked Eichmann if he considered himself guilty of the murder of millions of Jews. Eichmann replied: "Legally not, but in the human sense ... yes, for I am guilty of having deported them". When Hausner produced as evidence a quote by Eichmann in 1945 stating: "I will leap into my grave laughing because the feeling that I have five million human beings on my conscience is for me a source of extraordinary satisfaction." Eichmann countered the claim saying that he was referring only to "enemies of the Reich".

Witnesses for the defense, all of them former high-ranking Nazis, were promised immunity and safe conduct from their German and Austrian homes to testify in Jerusalem on Eichmann's behalf. All of them refused to travel to Israel, but they sent the court depositions. However, almost none of the depositions supported Eichmann's "following orders" defense. One deposition was from Otto Winkelmann, a former senior SS police leader in Budapest in 1944. His memo stated that "(Eichmann) had the nature of a subaltern, which means a fellow who uses his power recklessly, without moral restraints. He would certainly overstep his authority if he thought he was acting in the spirit of his commander [Adolf Hitler]". Franz Six, a former SS brigadier general in the German security service, who was assigned the supervision of the occupation of the United Kingdom had Operation Sea Lion been successful, said in his deposition that Eichmann was an absolute believer in National Socialism and would act to the most extreme of the party doctrine, and that Eichmann had greater power than other department chiefs.

After 14 weeks of testimony with more than 1,500 documents, 100 prosecution witnesses (90 of whom were Nazi concentration camp survivors) and dozens of defense depositions delivered by diplomatic couriers from 16 different countries, the Eichmann trial ended on August 14. At that point, the judges began deliberations in seclusion. On December 11, the three judges announced their verdict: Eichmann was convicted on all counts. Eichmann had said to the court that he expected the death penalty. On December 15, the court imposed a death sentence. Eichmann appealed the verdict, mostly relying on legal arguments about Israel's jurisdiction and the legality of the laws under which he was charged. He also claimed that he was protected by the principle of "Acts of State" and repeated his "following orders" defense.

On May 29, 1962 Israel's Supreme Court, sitting as a Court of Criminal Appeal, rejected the appeal and upheld the District Court's judgment on all counts. In rejecting his appeal again claiming that he was only "following orders", the court stated that, "Eichmann received no superior orders at all. He was his own superior and he gave all orders in matters that concerned Jewish affairs ... the so-called Final Solution would never have assumed the infernal forms of the flayed skin and tortured flesh of millions of Jews without the fanatical zeal and the unquenchable blood thirst of the appellant and his associates." A large number of prominent persons sent requests for clemency.] On May 31, Israeli President Yitzhak Ben-Zvi turned down Eichmann's petition for mercy. On the telegram that Eichmann's wife, Vera, sent in support of the clemency, Ben-Zvi added in his handwriting a passage from the First Book of Samuel: "As your sword bereaved women, so will your mother be bereaved among women." (1 Samuel 15:33, Samuel's words to Agag, king of the Amalekites).

In 1999, 128 minutes of the original video recordings made during court sessions of the Eichmann trial were released to cinemas and later to home video under the title Un spécialiste (The Specialist in the US). The title is related to Eichmann's wartime reputation as a "specialist" in logistics regarding the expatriation, expropriation, and deportation of Jewish people.

In 2011 Yad Vashem has uploaded the entire trial to YouTube (link).

West German government attempts to influence the trial

Secret German documents made available in 2011 to the German periodical Der Spiegel indicate that the Adenauer government was in a panic after the arrest of Eichmann. There was fear that a trial would highlight a number of former high level government officials who had served the Nazis, particularly Hans Globke who was the Chancellery Chief of Staff and a close advisor to Chancellor Adenauer. An agent from the German Intelligence Service, Rolf Vogel, was sent to the trial in the guise of a reporter for the German newspaper, Deutsche Zeitung. Vogel worked closely with the Israeli prosecutors, making sure that there would be no implication of Globke and other former Nazis. He even arranged a meeting with David Ben-Gurion, the Israeli Prime Minister where he expressed the German concern. Vogel came away with the impression that the names of people like Globke would not be raised at the trial. At the same time, negotiations for a large arms purchase by Israel from the FRG were taking place. In the event, no mention was made during the trial nor were there any reference which were made public from the interrogations of Eichmann to former Nazi German officials. In 1962, military aid worth some 240 million DM was approved by the German government.


Eichmann was hanged shortly before midnight on May 31, 1962, at a prison in Ramla, Israel. This remains the only civil execution ever carried out in Israel, which has a general policy of not enforcing the death penalty. Eichmann allegedly refused a last meal, preferring instead a bottle of Carmel, a dry red Israeli wine, consuming about half the bottle. He also refused to don the traditional black hood for his execution.

There is some dispute over Eichmann's last words. One account states that these were:

Long live Germany. Long live Austria. Long live Argentina. These are the countries with which I have been most closely associated and I shall not forget them. I had to obey the rules of war and my flag. I am ready.

According to David Cesarani, a leading Holocaust historian and Research Professor in History of the Royal HollowayUniversity of London, Eichmann is quoted thus:

Long live Germany. Long live Argentina. Long live Austria. These are the three countries with which I have been most connected and which I will not forget. I greet my wife, my family, and my friends. I am ready. We'll meet again soon, as is the fate of all men. I die believing in God.

Shortly after the execution, Eichmann's body was cremated in a specially designed furnace, and a stretcher on tracks was used to place the body into it. The next morning, June 1, his ashes were scattered at sea over the Mediterranean, beyond the territorial waters of Israel by an Israeli Navy patrol boat. This was to ensure that there could be no future memorial and that no country would serve as his final resting place.


Rudolf Höss

Rudolf Höss in prison

Rudolf Franz Ferdinand Höss 

(also spelled Höß, sometimes spelled in English as Hoess; 25 November 1900 – 16 April 1947) was an SS-Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel), and from 4 May 1940 to November 1943, the first commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp, where it is estimated that more than a million people were murdered. Höss joined the Nazi Party in 1922, the SS in 1934. He was hanged in 1947 following his trial at Warsaw.

Höss formally renounced his membership in the Catholic Church in 1922 and soon joined the Nazi Party (Party Member #3240) after hearing Hitler speak in Munich. A year later on 31 May 1923, in Mecklenburg, Höss and members of the Freikorps beat suspected CommunistWalther Kadow to death on the wishes of the local farm supervisor, Martin Bormann, who later became Hitler's private secretary. Kadow was believed to have tipped off the French occupational authorities that Höss's fellow Nazi, a paramilitary soldier named Albert Leo Schlageter, was carrying out sabotage operations against French supply lines. Schlageter was arrested and executed on 26 May 1923; soon afterwards Höss and several accomplices, including Martin Bormann, took their revenge on Kadow.

In 1923, after one of the killers gave the tale of the murder to a local newspaper, Höss was arrested and tried as the ring leader. Although he later claimed that another man was actually in charge, Höss said he accepted the blame as the group's leader; he was found guilty and sentenced (on 15 or 17 May 1924) to 10 years in Brandenburg Penitentiary for the crime. Bormann received a one-year sentence.

Höss was released in July 1928 as part of a general amnesty and joined the völkisch Artamanen-Gesellschaft ("Artaman League") a nationalist back-to-the-land movement that promoted clean living and a farm-based lifestyle. On 17 August 1929, he married Hedwig Hensel (3 March 1908–1989), whom he met in the Artaman League. They would have five children together—two sons and three daughters, born between 1930 and 1943: Ingebrigitt, Klaus, Hans-Rudolf, Heidetraut and Annegret.

Joining the SS

He applied for SS membership on 20 September 1933, and his application as a member of the SS was accepted on 1 April 1934. "In June 1934 came Himmler's call to join the ranks of the active SS-Mann." (Höss had first met Himmler in 1929.) That same year, Höss moved up to the SS-Totenkopfverbände (Death's Head Units) and in December he was assigned to the Dachau concentration camp, where he held the post of Blockführer. Höss excelled in his duties and was recommended by his superiors for further responsibility and promotion. By the end of his four years at Dachau, he was serving as administrator of the property of prisoners.

By his own admission in his autobiography, Höss disliked the corporal punishment carried out by the guards of the camps on the prisoners (he avoided them as much as he could), but when he saw his first execution it did not affect him as much; he could not explain why that was.

In 1938 he received a promotion to SS-Hauptsturmführer (a paramilitary rank equivalent to captain) and was made adjutant to Hermann Baranowski in the Sachsenhausen camp. He joined the Waffen-SS in 1939.

Auschwitz command

On 1 May 1940, Höss was appointed commandant of a prison camp in western Poland, a territory Germany had annexed outright and incorporated into the province of Upper Silesia. The camp was built around an old Austro-Hungarian (and later Polish) army barracks near the town of O?wi?cim; its German name was Auschwitz. Höss would command the camp for three and a half years, during which he expanded the original facility into a sprawling complex, the place now known as the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Höss lived at Auschwitz together with his wife and children.

At its peak size, Auschwitz was actually three separate facilities (Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II/Birkenau, and Auschwitz III/Monowitz) and was constructed on 8,100 ha (20,000 acres) that had been cleared of all inhabitants. Its earliest inmates were Polish prisoners, including peasants and intellectuals, as well as Soviet prisoners-of-war. Auschwitz I was the administrative center for the complex; Birkenau was the extermination camp, where most of the killing took place.

In June 1941, according to Höss's later trial testimony, he was summoned to Berlin for a meeting with Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler "to receive personal orders". Himmler told Höss that Hitler had given the order for the physical extermination of Europe's Jews. Himmler had selected Auschwitz for this purpose, he said, "on account of its easy access by rail and also because the extensive site offered space for measures ensuring isolation". Himmler told Höss that he would be receiving all operational orders from Adolf Eichmann. Himmler described the project as a "secret Reich matter", meaning that "no one was allowed to speak about these matters with any person and that everyone promised upon his life to keep the utmost secrecy". Höss said he kept that secret until the end of 1942, when he told one person about the camp's purpose: his wife.

After visiting Treblinka extermination camp (which didn't become operational until July 1942) to study its methods of human extermination, beginning on the 3 September 1941, tested and perfected the techniques of mass killing that made Auschwitz the most efficiently murderous instrument of the Final Solution and the most potent symbol of the Holocaust. According to Höss, during standard camp operations, two to three trains carrying 2,000 prisoners each would arrive daily for periods of four to six weeks. The prisoners were unloaded in the Birkenau camp; those fit for labor were marched to barracks in either Birkenau or one of the Auschwitz camps, while those unsuitable for work were driven into the gas chambers. At first, small gassing bunkers were located deep in the woods, to avoid detection. Later, four large gas chambers and crematoria were constructed in Birkenau to make the killing more efficient and to handle the increasing rate of exterminations.

Höss improved on the methods at Treblinka by building his gas chambers 10 times larger, so that they could kill 2,000 people at once rather than 200. He commented,

“ Still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be exterminated and at Auschwitz we endeavored to fool the victims into thinking that they were to go through a delousingprocess. Of course, frequently they realized our true intentions and we sometimes had riots and difficulties due to that fact. Very frequently women would hide their children under the clothes but of course when we found them we would send the children in to be exterminated.

Höss experimented with various methods of gassing. According to Eichmann's trial testimony in 1961, Höss told him that he used cotton filters soaked in sulfuric acid in early killings. Höss later introduced hydrogen cyanide, produced from the pesticide Zyklon B, into the killing process, after his deputy Karl Fritzsch tested it on a group of Russian prisoners in 1941. With Zyklon B, he said that it took 3–15 minutes for the victims to die and that "we knew when the people were dead because they stopped screaming".

Höss explained how 10,000 people were exterminated in one 24-hour period:

“ Technically [it] wasn't so hard—it would not have been hard to exterminate even greater numbers.... The killing itself took the least time. You could dispose of 2,000 head in half an hour, but it was the burning that took all the time. The killing was easy; you didn't even need guards to drive them into the chambers; they just went in expecting to take showers and, instead of water, we turned on poison gas. The whole thing went very quickly.

Höss later testified that Himmler himself visited the camp in 1942 and "watched in detail one processing from beginning to end". Eichmann, Höss said, visited the camp and observed its operations frequently.

In his affidavit prepared for the Nuremberg trials in 1946, Höss asserted that local residents were well aware of the camp's purpose:

“ We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy but of course the foul and nauseating stench from the continuous burning of bodies permeated the entire area and all of the people living in the surrounding communities knew that exterminations were going on at Auschwitz.
File:Mengele Hoess Kramer Thumann.jpg From left: Josef Mengele, Rudolf Höss, Josef Kramer and Anton Thumann After Auschwitz

After being replaced as the Auschwitz commander by Arthur Liebehenschel, on 10 November 1943 Höss assumed Liebehenschel's former position as the chairman of Amt D I in Amtsgruppe D of the SS-Wirtschafts-Verwaltungshauptamt (WVHA); he also was appointed deputy of the inspector of the concentrations camps Richard Glücks.

On 8 May 1944, however, Höss returned to Auschwitz to supervise the operation, known as Aktion Höss, by which 430,000 Hungarian Jews were transported to the camp and killed during 56 days  between May and July of that year. Even Höss' expanded facility couldn't handle the huge number of victims' corpses, and the camp staff had to dispose of thousands of bodies by burning them in open pits.

Capture, trial and execution Rudolf Höss at the Supreme National Tribunal of Poland Höss immediately before being hanged The gallows on which Höss was hanged The location where Höss was hanged, with plaque

In the last days of the war, Höss was advised by Himmler to disguise himself among German Navypersonnel. He evaded arrest for nearly a year. When he was captured by British troops—some of whom were Jews born in Germany—on 11 March 1946, he was disguised as a farmer and called himself Franz Lang. His wife told the British where he could be found, fearing that her son, Klaus, would be shipped off to the Soviet Union, where he surely would, at minimum, be sent to the gulagand be tortured. After being questioned and allegedly beaten severely by his captors Höss confessed his real identity.

During the Nuremberg Trials, he appeared as a witness in the trials of Ernst KaltenbrunnerOswald Pohl, and the IG Farben corporation. There he gave detailed testimony of his crimes:

“ I commanded Auschwitz until 1 December 1943, and estimate that at least 2,500,000 victims were executed and exterminated there by gassing and burning, and at least another half million succumbed to starvation and disease, making a total dead of about 3,000,000. This figure represents about 70% or 80% of all persons sent to Auschwitz as prisoners, the remainder having been selected and used for slave labor in the concentration camp industries. Included among the executed and burnt were approximately 20,000 Russian prisoners of war (previously screened out of Prisoner of War cages by the Gestapo) who were delivered at Auschwitz in Wehrmacht transports operated by regular Wehrmachtofficers and men. The remainder of the total number of victims included about 100,000 German Jews, and great numbers of citizens (mostly Jewish) from Holland, France, Belgium, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Greece, or other countries. We executed about 400,000 Hungarian Jews alone at Auschwitz in the summer of 1944.

On 25 May 1946, he was handed over to Polish authorities and the Supreme National Tribunal in Poland tried him for murder.

During his trial, when accused of murdering three and a half million people, Höss replied, "No. Only two and one half million — the rest died from disease and starvation."

Höss was sentenced to death on 2 April 1947. The sentence was carried out on 16 April immediately adjacent to the crematorium of the former Auschwitz I concentration camp. He was hanged on gallows constructed specifically for that purpose, at the former location of the campGestapo. The message on the board reads:

This is where the camp Gestapo was located. Prisoners suspected of involvement in the camp's underground resistance movement or of preparing to escape were interrogated here. Many prisoners died as a result of being beaten or tortured. The first commandant of Auschwitz, SS-Obersturmbannführer Rudolf Höss, who was tried and sentenced to death after the war by the Polish Supreme National Tribunal, was hanged here on 16 April 1947.

Höss wrote his autobiography while awaiting execution; it was published in 1958 as Kommandant in Auschwitz; autobiographische Aufzeichnungen and later as Death Dealer: the Memoirs of the SS Kommandant at Auschwitz (among other editions).

After discussions with Höss during the Nuremberg trials at which Höss testified, the American military psychologist Gustave Gilbert wrote the following:

“ In all of the discussions, Höss is quite matter-of-fact and apathetic, shows some belated interest in the enormity of his crime, but gives the impression that it never would have occurred to him if somebody hadn't asked him. There is too much apathy to leave any suggestion of remorse and even the prospect of hanging does not unduly stress him. One gets the general impression of a man who is intellectually normal, but with the schizoid apathy, insensitivity and lack ofempathy that could hardly be more extreme in a frank psychotic. ”

Four days before he was executed, Höss sent a message to the state prosecutor, including these comments:

“ My conscience compels me to make the following declaration. In the solitude of my prison cell I have come to the bitter recognition that I have sinned gravely against humanity. As Commandant of Auschwitz I was responsible for carrying out part of the cruel plans of the 'Third Reich' for human destruction. In so doing I have inflicted terrible wounds on humanity. I caused unspeakable suffering for the Polish people in particular. I am to pay for this with my life. May the Lord God forgive one day what I have done.

  • 25 November 1900~16 April 1947

Max Koegel

Otto Max Koegel 

(16 October 1895 in Füssen – 27 June 1946 in Schwabach)

was aNazi officer who served as a commander at LichtenburgRavensbrückMajdanek andFlossenbürg concentration camps.

Koegel became adjutant of the Dachau concentration camp commander in 1937. From 1938 to 1942 he was first "Direktor" (managing director) and then commander of the labour camp for women in Lichtenburg at Ravensbrück in the rank ofSturmbannführer (Major). In 1942 he was commander of the extermination campMajdanek and involved in the installation of gas chambers at this site. From 1943 to 1945 he was commander at Flossenbürg concentration camp.

After the war, Koegel was on the run and was not arrested until June 1946 inSchwabach, a town near Nürnberg. He committed suicide through hanging in his prison cell only a day later on June 27, 1946.

  • 16 October 1895 ~27 June 1946

Johannes Heesters

Johan Marius Nicolaas "Johannes" Heesters

 (born 5 December 1903) is a Dutch actor, singer and entertainer with a 90-year career, almost exclusively in the German-speaking world. In Germany and Austria, Heesters is mainly known for his acting career. As of 2011, aged 107, Heesters is the oldest performer worldwide who is still active, both on the stage and on television.

Heesters in 1919, (age 15).

Heesters was born in Amersfoort, Netherlands, the youngest of four sons. His father Jacobus Heesters (1865–1946) was a salesman and his mother Geertruida Jacoba van den Heuvel (1866–1951), a homemaker. Heesters decided to become an actor and a singer at the age of sixteen and began vocal training. Heesters very early in his career specialized in Viennese operetta, making his Viennese stage debut in 1934 in Carl Millöcker's Der Bettelstudent (The Beggar Student) after having relocated to Germany for career. Heesters was fluent in German from a very early age having lived for several years in the household of a German grand-uncle from Bavaria.

During the War Heesters after a performance on stage in 1923, aged 19.

Heesters permanently moved to Germany with his wife and daughters in 1935 aged 32. During his time there, he performed for Adolf Hitler and visited the Dachau concentration camp which has made him a controversial figure amongst some Dutch. 

Goebbels placed Heesters on the Gottbegnadeten list as an artist considered crucial toNazi culture. He has been known to have funded the German war machine by donating money to the weapon industry For this, Heesters became a very controversial figure in the late 1970s. Heesters, however, has always denied these accusations despite the existence of proof.

Heesters befriended several highranking Nazi-officials and SS-officers. Mr. "Jopie" also performed regularly for people such as Hitler and Goering, the first of whom was known to be an avid admirer of his acting skills. Throughout the war Heester kept performing for German soldiers in camps and barracks. He has always denied having visited concentration camps, although he did have knowledge of their existence.

According to German author Volker Kühn, Heesters did in fact perform for the SS in Dachau concentration camp. For this claim he uses as evidence the testimony of Dachau inmate Viktor Matejka who worked for the SS and told Kühn he pulled the curtain when Heesters performed in 1941. According to German writer Jürgen Trimborn however, the interview with Matejka may not be reliable as it occurred some fifty years after the performance was said to have taken place. In December 2009, Heesters lost his libel suit against Kühn. While acknowledging having visited the camp, Heesters denies having performed as entertainment for the SS troops. In its ruling, the German court did not find that Kühn's allegations were true, but rather that too much time had passed for an accurate determination of fact to be made.

After the War Heesters with his wife Louisa Ghijs in 1928

Heesters worked extensively for UFA until almost the end of the Second World War (his last wartime movie being Die Fledermaus, produced in 1945) and easily made the transition from the Nazi-controlled cultural scene to post-war Germany and Austria, appearing again in a number of films. These included Die Jungfrau auf dem Dach and the 1957 version of Viktor und Viktoria. Heesters stopped making movies around 1960 to concentrate on stage and television appearances and on producing records.

Heesters' signature tune is Count Danilo Danilovitch's entrance song "Da geh' ich ins Maxim" fromFranz Lehár's Die Lustige Witwe (The Merry Widow). He met Hitler several times and was reportedly Hitler's favorite actor for the part of Danilo.

In recent years Heesters has spoken fondly of Hitler as a person, but has condemned his political stance. In the 1990s, he and his wife toured Germany and Austria with Curth Flatow's play Ein gesegnetes Alter (A Blessed Age), which was also televised in 1996. On 5 December 2003, he celebrated his 100th birthday with a television special "Eine Legende wird 100" ("A legend turns 100") on the ARD television channel.

In December 2004, aged 101, Heesters appeared in Stuttgart at the Komödie im Marquardt theatre in a show commissioned on the occasion of his 100th birthdayHeesters – eine musikalische Hommage. In 2005 aged 102 he was featured as a soloist in a major concert tour with theDeutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg under the direction of Scott Lawton.

On 5 December 2006 Heesters celebrated his 103rd birthday with a concert at the Wiener Konzerthaus. On 5 December 2007 he celebrated his 104th birthday with a concert at the Admiralspalast, Berlin, and in February 2008 he performed in his home country for the first time in four decades amidst protests against his Nazi associations.

Heesters is less active in his latest years and mostly plays smaller roles as he cannot be on stage for a long period of time due to his health. He is currently almost completely blind due to glaucoma and macular degeneration. He still sings and plays small roles in musicals and is still capable of learning his lines.

Johannes Heesters as Franz Joseph I of Austria

Heesters has two daughters by his first wife Louisa Ghijs, whom he married in 1930. After her death in 1985, he remarried in 1992; his second wife, Simone Rethel (born 1949), is a German actress, painter, and photographer. His younger daughter Nicole Heesters is a well-known actress in the German-speaking world as is his granddaughter Saskia Fischer. As of 2011, Heesters has five grandchildren, eleven great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.

In December 2010 aged 107, Heesters announced that he had quit smoking for his then 61 year old wife: "She should have me as long as possible"

  • 5 December 1903~



An SS-Untersturmführer serving as a concentration camp guard in KZ Mauthausen. Identified as Johann Beck or August Blei. 

Untersturmführer was a paramilitary rank of the German Schutzstaffel first created in July 1934. The rank can trace its origins to the older SA rank of Sturmführer which had existed since the founding of theSA in 1921. The rank of Untersturmführer was senior to Hauptscharführer (or Sturmscharführer in theWaffen-SS) and junior to the rank of Obersturmführer.

Untersturmführer was the first commissioned SS officer rank, equivalent to a Second Lieutenant in other military organizations. The insignia consisted of a three silver pip collar patch with the shoulder boards of an Army Leutnant. Because of the emphasis the SS placed on the leadership of their organization, obtaining the rank of Untersturmführer required a screening and training process different from the standard promotion system in the enlisted ranks.

In the early days of the SS, promotion to Untersturmführer was simply a matter of course as an SS member rose within the enlisted ranks to a position where they were ready to assume the duties of an officer. Untersturmführer was also occasionally an appointed position, given to an SS member so that they would be able to immediately begin as an officer in the organization. This was typically the case in security organizations, such as the Gestapo and Sicherheitsdienst (SD).

By 1938, the size and logistics of the SS brought about the need for an established system of becoming an SS officer with this system different for both the Waffen-SS (military SS) and the general mustering formations of the Allgemeine-SS.

\General-SS Commissions

Within the Allgemeine, or “General” SS, promotion to the rank of Untersturmführer required satisfactory service in the enlisted SS ranks with an SS member holding the rank ofHauptscharführer before consideration could be given for an officer’s commission. Those so eligible were required to obtain a recommendation from their SS chain of command followed by submission of a document known as the "Lebenslauf". A résumé of the SS member’s career, the "Lebenslauf" stated why the SS member felt they should be commissioned as an officer and gave, as evidence, a list of chronological accomplishments both within the SS and before joining.

Adolf Eichmann's "Lebenslauf" (i.e. Curriculum Vitae) for his application for promotion from SS-Hauptscharführer to SS-Untersturmführer in 1937

Following a racial and political background check, the SS member’s service record would be reviewed, with the Lebenslauf and all SS evaluations screened by the SS Personnel Office (known as the SS Personalhauptamt). If found eligible for promotion, the potential SS officer’s name would be forwarded to Heinrich Himmler for final approval of commission.

Between 1934 and 1938, Himmler personally reviewed all candidates for promotion to the rank of Untersturmführer. However, during theSecond World War, manpower constraints and logistics prevented Himmler from screening all SS officer applicants and the task typically fell to subordinates.

Waffen-SS Commissions

As the Waffen-SS was considered the elite of the German Armed Forces, becoming an officer in the organization was a difficult and time consuming process. All candidates for commissions in the Waffen-SS were required to attend SS-Junkerschulen which were training academies established to train future officers of the Waffen-SS. The most famous of these academies was located at Bad Tölz, Bavaria .

To be admitted entry into an SS-Junkerschule a prospective officer must have served in the enlisted ranks of the Waffen-SS and must have been recommended for a commission by his superiors. Those so recommended were physically screened as well as politically and racially investigated to ensure pure Germanic and Aryan heritage. If approved for admittance to an SS-Junkerschule, the SS member was appointed to the first of a series of SS-Officer Candidate ranks which displayed the same insignia as senior SS-non-commissioned officers. The following was the promotion tier of Waffen-SS officer candidate ranks:

SS Officer Candidate Rank SS Enlisted Equivalent   Standartenoberjunker Hauptscharführer   Standartenjunker Oberscharführer   Oberjunker Scharführer   Junker Unterscharführer

Advancement through the SS officer candidate ranks required passing physical screenings, written examinations, and displaying military tactical and leadership traits under observation. Upon reaching the rank of Standartenoberjunker, an SS officer candidate was permitted to wear the silver chin strap of an SS officer, and was assigned to a field unit for final field training and evaluation.

Upon completion of all training, the SS officer candidate was incorporated (introduced) into the SS officer corps in a special ceremony with officer insignia and SS sword presented. The entire process of training to become a Waffen-SS officer typically required ten to sixteen months to complete.

Field Commissions

As World War II drew to a close, and losses within the armed forces began to rise, the strictness of admission to the SS officer corps began to grow lax. By 1945, it was a common occurrence for local Waffen-SS field commanders to grant promotions to the rank of Untersturmführerwhen battlefield manpower needs required it. Within the Allgemeine-SS, in particular the security forces of the RSHA, promotions toUntersturmführer still required careful scrutiny and there were SS members awaiting approval of commissions as late as April 1945.

Junior Rank
Hauptscharführer (Allgemeine-SS)
Sturmscharführer (Waffen-SS) SS rank
Untersturmführer Senior Rank

Sigmund Rascher

Sigmund Rascher

 (born February 12, 1909 in Munich, executed April 26, 1945 in the Dachau concentration camp) was a German SS doctor.

His deadly experiments on humans, planned and executed in the Nazi concentration camp of Dachau, were judged inhumane and criminal during the Nuremberg Trials.

In 1939 Rascher denounced his father, joined the SS, and was conscripted into the Luftwaffe. A relationship and eventually marriage to former singer Nini Diehl gained him direct access to Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Rascher's connection with Himmler gave him immense influence, even over his superiors. It is thought Diehl may have been one of Himmler's former lovers; she frequently corresponded with Himmler and interceded with him on her husband's behalf.

In 1939 Rascher denounced his father, joined the SS, and was conscripted into the Luftwaffe. A relationship and eventually marriage to former singer Nini Diehl gained him direct access to Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Rascher's connection with Himmler gave him immense influence, even over his superiors. It is thought Diehl may have been one of Himmler's former lovers; she frequently corresponded with Himmler and interceded with him on her husband's behalf.

A week after their first meeting, Rascher presented a paper titled "Report on the Development and Solution to Some of the Reichsfuehrer's Assigned Tasks During a Discussion Held on April 24, 1939". Rascher became involved in testing a plant extract as a cancer treatment.Kurt Blome, deputy of the Reich Health Leader (Reichsgesundheitsführer) and Plenipotentiary for Cancer Research in the Reich Research Council, favoured testing the extract on rodents, but Rascher insisted on using human test subjects. Himmler took Rascher's side and a Human Cancer Testing Station was established at Dachau. Blome worked on the project.

High altitude experiments

Rascher suggested in early 1941, while a captain in the Luftwaffe's Medical Service, that high-altitude/low-pressure experiments be carried out on human beings. While taking a course in aviation medicine at Munich, he wrote a letter to Himmler in which he said that his course included research into high-altitude flight and it was regretted that no tests with humans had been possible as such experiments were highly dangerous and nobody volunteered for them. Rascher asked Himmler to place human subjects at his disposal, stating quite frankly that the experiments might prove fatal, but that previous tests made with monkeys had been unsatisfactory. The letter was answered by Rudolf Brandt, Himmler's adjutant, who informed Rascher that prisoners would be made available.

Rascher subsequently wrote back to Brandt, asking for permission to carry out his experiments at Dachau, and plans for the experiments were developed at a conference in early 1942 attended by Rascher and members of the Luftwaffe Medical Service. The experiments themselves were carried out in the spring and summer of the same year, using a portable pressure chamber supplied by the Luftwaffe. The victims were locked in the chamber, whose pressure was then lowered to a level corresponding to very high altitudes. The pressure could be very quickly altered, allowing Rascher to simulate the conditions which would be experienced by a pilot freefalling from altitude without oxygen. After viewing a report of one of the fatal experiments, Himmler remarked that if a subject should survive such treatment, he should be "pardoned" to life imprisonment. Rascher replied to Himmler that the victims had to date been merely Poles and Russians, and that he believed they should be given no amnesty of any sort.

Freezing experiments

Rascher also conducted so-called "freezing experiments" on behalf of the Luftwaffe, in which three hundred test subjects were used against their will, one third of them dying. These were also conducted at Dachau after the high-altitude experiments had concluded. The purpose was to determine the best way of warming German pilots who had been forced down in the North Sea and suffered hypothermia. Rascher's victims were forced to remain out of doors naked in freezing weather for up to 14 hours, or kept in a tank of icewater for 3 hours, their pulse and internal temperature measured through a series of electrodes. Warming of the victims was then attempted by different methods, most usually and successfully by immersion in very hot water.

Himmler attended some of the experiments, and told Rascher he should go the North Sea and find out how the ordinary people there warmed victims of extreme cold. Himmler reportedly said he thought "that a fisherwoman could well take her half-frozen husband into her bed and revive him in that manner" and added that everyone believed "animal warmth" had a different effect than artificial warmth. Four Romany women were sent from Ravensbrück concentration camp and warming was attempted by placing the hypothermic victim between two naked women.

In October 1942 a medical conference took place in Nuremberg at which the results of the experiments were presented under the headings "Prevention and Treatment of Freezing", and "Warming Up After Freezing to the Danger Point".

Rascher, who had by now been transferred to the Waffen-SS, was eager to obtain the academic credentials necessary for a high level university position. A Habilitation which was to be based on his research failed, however, at Munich, Marburg, and Frankfurt, due to the formal requirement that results be made available for public scrutiny. US investigators later concluded that Rascher had been merely a convenient front for Luftwaffe chief surgeon Erich Hippke, who had been the true source of the ideas for Rascher's experiments.

Similar experiments were conducted from July to September 1944, as the Ahnenerbe provided space and materials to doctors at Dachau to undertake “seawater experiments”, chiefly through Wolfram Sievers. Sievers is known to have visited Dachau on July 20, to speak with Ploetner and the non-Ahnenerbe Wilhelm Beiglboeck, who ultimately carried out the experiments.

While at Dachau, Rascher also developed the standard cyanide capsules, which could be easily bitten through, either deliberately or accidentally. Ironically, this became the means by which Himmler committed suicide.

Blood coagulation experiments

Rascher also experimented with the effects of Polygal, a substance made from beet and apple pectin, which aided blood clotting. He predicted that the preventative use of Polygal tablets would reduce bleeding from gunshot wounds sustained during combat or during surgery. Subjects were given a Polygal tablet, and shot through the neck or chest, or their limbs amputated without anaesthesia. Rascher published an article on his experience of using Polygal, without detailing the nature of the human trials and also set up a company to manufacture the substance, staffed by prisoners.

Personal life and execution

In an attempt to please Himmler by demonstrating that population growth could be accelerated by extending the childbearing age, Rascher publicized the fact that his wife had given birth to three children even after becoming 48 years of age, and Himmler used a photograph of Rascher's family as propaganda material. However, during her fourth "pregnancy", Mrs. Rascher was arrested for trying to kidnap a baby and an investigation revealed that her other three children had been either bought or kidnapped. Himmler felt personally betrayed by this conduct, and Rascher was arrested in April 1944. As well as complicity in the kidnappings of the three infants, Rascher was accused of financial irregularities, the murder of one of his assistants, and scientific fraud, and he and his wife were executed. Rascher was executed in Dachau shortly before its liberation by American forces, and his wife was hanged at an unknown location.


There were many mysterious executions and suicides in Nazi Germany during the last days of World War II, but none more mysterious than the execution of Dr. Sigmund Rascher, who was allegedly shot on April 26, 1945 inside a prison cell at Dachau on the direct orders of the Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Himmler allegedly committed suicide shortly after he was captured by the British so we will never know if or how Dr. Rascher was executed.




Dr. Sigmund Rascher (on the right) conducting a freezing experiment


Dr. Sigmund Rascher had conducted medical experiments for the Luftwaffe at Dachau, starting in May 1942, with the consent and approval of Himmler. Then in May 1944, Dr. Rascher and his wife were arrested because they had illegally adopted a child and registered it as their own, according to an affidavit signed by Dr. Friedrich Karl Rascher, the uncle of Dr. Sigmund Rascher, which was entered into the proceedings of the Nuremberg IMT.

During the Nuremberg Doctors Trial conducted by American prosecutors in 1946 to 1947, in which Nazi doctors were accused of committing war crimes while doing medical experiments, the following testimony was given by Freiherr Von Eberstein, the SS officer and Police President of Munich, who had arrested Dr. Rascher:

VON EBERSTEIN: Yes. In the spring of 1944, in the course of Criminal Police investigations against an SS Hauptsturmführer, Dr. Rascher, a physician, and his wife. The Raschers were accused of Kindesunterschiebung. That is a word which is very difficult to translate. In our law it means the illegal appropriation of other people's children.

Secondly, Rascher was accused of financial irregularities in connection with the research station at Dachau, where these biological experiments were carried on. This research station was directly subordinate to Himmler, without any intermediate authority.




Dr. Sigmund Rascher with his illegally adopted child


The following quote is from the book entitled "The SS, Alibi of a Nation, 1922 - 1945" by Gerald Reitlinger:

Rascher remained at work in Dachau til May 1944, when Freiherr von Eberstein, higher SS and police leader for Munich, came to arrest him -- but not for his experiments. It had been discovered that the children whom Frau Rascher had borne after the age of forty-eight had in reality been kidnapped from orphanages. The camp commandant and the chief medical officer at Dachau thereupon discharged a flood of complaints against Rascher, whom they described as a dangerous, incredible person who had been under Himmler's personal protection for years, performing unspeakable horrors. Himmler naturally refused to have the Raschers tried, but they were confined in the political bunkers of Dachau and Ravensbrueck, the fate under the Third Reich of people who knew too much. Captain Payne-Best met Sigmund Rascher during the southward evacuation of the Dachau political bunker at the beginning of May 1945. He found Rascher garrulous and sympathetic. One of Rascher's boasts to Captain Payne-Best was that he had invented the gas chamber. Perhaps that was why Sigmund Rascher disappeared soon afterwards, and likewise Frau Rascher who was last seen in Ravensbrueck.

According to British intelligence agent Captain Sigismund Payne Best, who had been arrested on November 9, 1939 as a suspect in an alleged British plot to kill Hitler, Dr. Rascher was imprisoned in a cell next to his at the Buchenwald concentration camp. Before he was moved to Buchenwald in August 1944, Captain Payne Best had previously been a prisoner at Sachsenhausen where Georg Elser, the man who had tried to kill Hitler with a bomb planted at the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich on November 8, 1939, was also a prisoner. Both Elser and Captain Payne Best were awaiting a trial during which Hitler expected to prove that the British intelligence service (MI6) was involved in Elser's failed assassination attempt.

After his arrest, Dr. Rascher and his wife were not put on trial. At some point, Dr. Rascher was imprisoned in the Dachau bunker which had private cells for the VIP prisoners. Captain Payne Best was transferred from Buchenwald to Dachau on April 9, 1945 and also imprisoned in the bunker.

Dr. Rascher's wife was Karoline "Nini" Diehl, a Munich concert singer, who was a good friend of Heinrich Himmler and possibly his mistress before she married Dr. Rascher. Nini Rascher recommended Dr. Rascher to Himmler, "as early as April 1939," according to Himmler's biographer Peter Padfield who wrote: "Rascher was enrolled in Ahnenerbe, given the honorary rank of SS-Untersturmführer and assisted with funds for private cancer research."

When World War II started, Dr. Sigmund Rascher joined the Luftwaffe (German air force) where he became involved with high altitude research in which animals were being used as experimental subjects. Dr. Rascher wrote to Himmler and asked if he could be provided with "two or three professional criminals" to be used as subjects and Himmler agreed. The experiments were conducted at the Dachau concentration camp where there were German prisoners who were in the category of "professional criminal."

According to Himmler's biographer Peter Padfield, the information that Dr. Sigmund Rascher and his wife were both executed on the direct orders of Heinrich Himmler came from Dr. Leo Alexander who wrote a paper entitled "Miscellaneous Aviation Medical Matters," SHAEF 1945, subtitled "The Treatment of Shock from Prolonged Exposure to Cold," SHAEF 1945.

Dr. Leo Alexander, a native of Austria who fled to China and then to America when the Nazis came to power, worked as an investigator for the prosecution in the War Crimes Commission at Nuremberg from 1946 to 1947, gathering information for the Nuremberg Doctors Trial. If Dr. Sigmund Rascher had lived, he would have been put on trial as a war criminal for his work on medical experiments. Dr. Alexander's papers are kept in the Guide to the 65th General Hospital Collection in the Archives and Memorabilia Department at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Dr. Alexander's report on the Prolonged Exposure to Cold evaluated the Nazi hypothermia experiments conducted by Dr. Rascher at Dachau; he found inconsistencies in Dr. Rascher's lab notes which led him to believe that Dr. Rascher had deceived Himmler about his results. According to Dr. Alexander, Rascher reported to Himmler that it took from 53 minutes to 100 minutes for the prisoners to die in the freezing water. However, Dr. Alexander's inspection of Dr. Rascher's personal lab notes revealed that some of the subjects had suffered from 80 minutes to five or six hours before they died. According to Dr. Alexander, Himmler had discovered that Dr. Rascher lied in his reports and Dr. Rascher's deception was the reason that Himmler ordered the execution of both Dr. Rascher and his wife. Nini Rascher had helped with the experiments by taking color photographs during the autopsies of the subjects.

Regarding the execution of Dr. Rascher's wife Nini, the following information was obtained from the staff at the Dachau Museum on 11 July 2006:

Sigmund Rascher's wife, Nini Rascher, was imprisoned in a jail in Munich at first. After attacking a female warder, she was brought to Ravensbrück Concentration Camp. There she once again attacked a female warder and was shot a few days before the camp's liberation.

In his book entitled "The Venlo Incident," Captain Sigismund Payne Best wrote the following regarding a conversation he had with Dr. Rascher while both were prisoners at Buchenwald:

Next morning when I went to wash, there was a little man with a ginger moustache in the lavatory who introduced himself as Dr. Rascher saying that he was half English and that his mother was related to the Chamberlain family. When I told him my name he was much interested saying that he knew about my case and that he had also met Stevens (R. H. Stevens was another British intelligence agent who had been arrested along with Payne Best.) when he was medical officer in Dachau. ... He was a queer fellow; possibly the queerest character which has ever come my way.

Almost at our first meeting he told me that he had belonged to Himmler's personal staff, and that it was he who had planned and supervised the construction of the gas chambers and was responsible for the use of prisoners as guinea pigs in medical research. Obviously he saw nothing wrong in this and considered it merely a matter of expediency. As regards the gas chambers he said that Himmler, a very kind-hearted man, was most anxious that prisoners should be exterminated in a manner which caused them least anxiety and suffering, and the greatest trouble had been taken to design a gas chamber so camouflaged that its purpose would not be apparent, and to regulate the flow of the lethal gas so that the patients might fall asleep without recognizing that they would never wake. Unfortunately, Rascher said, they had never quite succeeded in solving the problem caused by the varying resistance of different people to the effects of poison gases, and always there had been a few who lived longer than others and recognized where they were and what was happening. Rascher said that the main difficulty was that the numbers to be killed were so great that it was impossible to prevent the gas chambers being overfilled, which greatly impeded any attempts to ensure a regular and simultaneous death-rate.

Did Dr. Rascher really tell Captain Payne Best about prisoners being gassed at Dachau? With Dr. Rascher dead and gone, no one would know if this conversation had actually taken place. Or did Himmler order Rascher's execution just three days before Dachau was liberated because he didn't want Dr. Rascher to tell the Allies about the gas chamber at Dachau?

Captain Payne Best also mentioned in his book, "The Venlo Incident," that he and Dr. Rascher had discussed the attempt by Georg Elser to assassinate Adolf Hitler on November 8, 1939, and that Dr. Rascher was of the opinion that it was an inside job, staged by the Nazis.

In his book entitled "The Venlo Incident," Captain S. Payne Best wrote the following regarding Georg Elser who was brought to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in January 1941:

Then we heard that a new and very secret prisoner had been brought to the Bunker and occupied a very large cell, which had been made by knocking Nos. 11, 12 and 13 into one. Like me, he had guards with him day and night, but they slept in his cell and were forbidden to associate with Steven's guards and mine. It was all very well to make regulations such as these, but even if the guards were not allowed to fraternize while in the Bunker, there was nothing to prevent them doing so in the canteen and elsewhere outside, so not many days passed before we knew quite a lot about No. 13 as he was called.

The first news was that, as the guards put it, he was a "Todes Kandidat", meaning a man condemned to death; next his identity was established; he was Georg Elser, the man who, according to press and radio, was guilty of the attempt to assassinate the Führer on the 8th November, 1939, by a bomb built into one of the pillars in the Bürgerbraukeller at Munich. What did this mean? Why had he not been executed? We were all greatly intrigued, particularly because, in the papers, my name had been coupled with his and the suggestion made that I had been his employer. If it were true that he had been condemned to death, what about me - was I in the same boat? Bit by bit information leaked out and my guards came to me with the story that I was to be tried for complicity in the attempt on Hitler's life, and that Elser would give evidence that he had acted on my instructions. Of course I had had nothing to do with the business at all, and all I knew about the story was limited to the short report which I had read in the Dutch paper on the morning of my capture. As for Elser, all that I knew about him was that I had seen in one of the German illustrated papers which a guard was reading, his photograph next to mine; this was at the time when I was not allowed to read, and I had only caught a glimpse of it as I passed the guard on my promenade up and down the cell.

In the course of time I was able to establish relations with Elser and although we never met or spoke to each other, a sort of friendship developed between us. From what he communicated to me himself, and from information which I picked up from a number of other sources, I was eventually able to piece together his very strange story which I will tell at the appropriate time.

Is it possible that Captain Payne Best had told Dr. Rascher that British intelligence was behind Georg Elser's attempt on the life of Adolf Hitler and that's why Dr. Rascher had to be silenced?

In any case, if illegal adoption and registration of a child was a capital offense, why did Himmler wait until April 26, 1945 to execute Dr. and Frau Rascher?

According to an article on this web site, illegal adoption was a serious crime in Nazi Germany, so why were Dr. Rascher and Frau Rascher never put on trial?

The following quote is from an article entitled "Medical experiments of the Holocaust and Nazi Medicine":

The Nordic or Aryan Race was the most important goal of the Nazis. It was the largest part of the over all plan. The blonde hair, blue eye, super men were to be the only race. The Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals and anyone else that did not meet the race requirements were to by cleansed from society through genocide. Hitler and the German High command made a list of rules for the fellow Nazis to follow. The new rules required all SS before marriage must submit to general testing to insure racial purity. The rules for marriage were unbelievably complex. Thousands of marriages were denied. If the laws for marriage were broken it could mean the death penalty.

Dr. Sigmund Rascher and his wife learned what not following the marriage laws would hold for their lives. Mrs. Rascher was sterile. They were not illegally married; they adopted two children. They were later investigated by the Gestapo and executed for the crime. In this case, after his medical experimentation, it seems fitting that this killer was caught up by his own party.

In the last days of World War II, Himmler had a lot on his mind. He was desperately trying to negotiate with the Allies for a German surrender to the Americans and the British, but not to the Soviet Union. There were rumors that he planned to use the VIP prisoners, who had been transferred to Dachau in April 1945, as hostages in his negotiations.

After the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 11th, Adolf Hitler had given the order to evacuate the Sachsenhausen and Dachau camps to prevent the prisoners from being released by the Americans. According to testimony given at the Nuremberg IMT, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the head of the Security SD forces, had ordered that the prisoners should be "liquidated" in the event that it was impossible to evacuate the Dachau camp.

On April 26, 1945, the day that Dr. Sigmund Rascher was allegedly executed, there was complete chaos and confusion in the Dachau concentration camp, according to a book entitled "The Last Days of Dachau," written jointly by Arthur Haulot, a Belgian prisoner, and Dr. Ali Kuci, an Albanian prisoner. Reischführer-SS Heinrich Himmler had given the order that the Dachau camp was to be immediately evacuated and that "No prisoner should fall into the hands of the enemy alive..." This message was received in the camp in response to a query sent to Berlin by the camp commandant, according to Kuci and Haulot. At 9 a.m. on April 26th, the order was given by the camp Commandant to evacuate the entire camp, but according to Haulot and Kuci, the prisoners acted quickly to sabotage the evacuation plan.

According to the book by Haulot and Kuci, the SS had assembled 6,700 prisoners for evacuation by 8 p.m. on April 26th. At 10 p.m. that day, a total of 6,887 prisoners left the camp on foot, marching south toward the mountains of the South Tyrol. According to testimony given at the Nuremberg IMT, the march to the South Tyrol was part of a plan, devised by Ernst Kaltenbrunner, to kill all the concentration camp prisoners. A transport of 1,735 Jewish prisoners had already left that day on a train bound for the mountains in southern Germany.

With so much going on at Dachau on April 26, 1945, it would have been easy for one of the prisoners to kill Dr. Sigmund Rascher without attracting much attention. It would also have been easy for Dr. Rascher to sneak away that day from the group of VIP prisoners in the bunker, which was near the main gate at Dachau, and join the group of 6,887 prisoners who were being marched out of the camp that same day.




Jews and Russian POWs from Dachau on death march to the South Tyrol


The death march of Jewish prisoners and Russian POWs to the South Tyrol on April 26, 1945 is shown in the photograph above. These prisoners were finally overtaken by American troops and liberated on May 2, 1945.




Door into prison cell in the Dachau bunker


According to the Dachau Museum, "documents from the preliminary proceedings concerning the death of Sigmund Rascher" show that "Rascher was killed in cell No. 73; his murderer was the SS-Hauptscharführer Theodor Bongartz."

Dr. Rascher was allegedly killed in the Dachau bunker on April 26, 1945, on the very day that the other special prisoners were marched to the South Tyrol under the supervision of Edgar Stiller, the SS man in charge of the bunker. According to Captain Payne Best, all the important prisoners were being taken to the South Tyrol in order to kill them, but Edgar Stiller had turned the prisoners over to him as soon as they arrived at their destination.

The Reverend Martin Niemöller and the Catholic clergymen in the bunker were released from Dachau before the evacuation began. Is it possible that Himmler's good friend Dr. Sigmund Rascher was also released at the same time? Could he have escaped to Paraguay? Or maybe he ended up in America, working with the U.S. Air Force under a new identity.

Several of the Nazi doctors who worked on medical experiments for the German air force were brought to America after the war, including Prof. Dr. Hubertus Strunghold, the head of the Luftwaffe research department, who handed over important information about the medical experiments at Dachau to the Americans. Strunghold was not charged as a war criminal, and instead his assistants Dr. Hermann Becker-Freyseng, Dr. Georg August Weltz and Dr. Konrad Schäfer were put in the dock at the Doctors Trial. After Weltz and Schäfer were acquitted, they were brought to America to work on medical research. Dr. Becker-Freyseng was convicted and sent to prison, but he was released early so that he could come to American and do research for the U.S. Air Force.

If the plan was to kill all the prisoners in the bunker, except for the religious leaders, why was Dr. Rascher singled out to be murdered before the evacuation began? And why wasn't Dr. Rascher taken to the execution wall north of the crematorium where executions normally took place, instead of having SS-Hauptscharführer Theodor Bongartz blow Dr. Rascher's brains out in a prison cell? Why leave behind the gory evidence in a prison cell when it would have been so easy to execute Dr. Rascher at the spot in the woods behind the crematorium, shown in the photo below.




Execution site at Dachau where condemned prisoners were shot.


When the Nuremberg Doctors Trial started on December 9, 1946, it was apparently not yet known for sure that Dr. Rascher had been executed. In his opening statement for the prosecution at the Doctors Trial, General Telford Taylor said the following:

There were many co-conspirators who are not in the dock. Among the planners and leaders of this plot were Conti and Grawitz, and Hippke whose whereabouts is unknown. Among the actual executioners, Dr. Ding is dead and Rascher is thought to be dead. There were many others.

Taylor was referring to the Doctors who were involved as "co-conspirators" in the Nazi "plot" to do experiments, but were not on trial for one reason or another. The defendants in the Doctors Trial were accused of committing crimes under the guise of scientific research. The "executioners" were the Doctors who did the actual experiments, including Dr. Rascher. They were called "executioners" because the subjects had been prisoners who were classified as "professional criminals," but instead of having a humane execution, they had been tortured to death.

Curiously, it was not known for certain by the American prosecutors at the Doctors Trial, whether Dr. Sigmund Rascher was alive or dead, 18 months after his alleged demise, even though Dr. Leo Alexander had supposedly deduced the reason for Dr. Rascher's execution during the course of his investigation prior to the start of the trial.

The following testimony was given at the Doctors Trial by a member of the German nobility, Freiherr von Eberstein, who was the Police President in Munich, when he was asked about Dr. Rascher by prosecution attorney, Herr Pelckmann:

VON EBERSTEIN: Yes. Rascher remained under arrest in the detention house of the SS barracks, Munich-Freimann, to all appearances until the barracks, at least the detention house, was evacuated because of the approach of the American troops. He was then sent to Dachau and I learned from the press that he must have been shot during the last few days. I cannot give any further information about this, since I was relieved of my post on 20 April 1945."

He was "sent to Dachau?" "Because of the approach of the American troops?" What about Dr. Rascher's time in Buchenwald when he supposedly had incriminating conversations with Captain Payne Best?

Did Captain Payne Best actually meet Dr. Rascher for the first time on the march from Dachau to the South Tyrol, as reported by Gerald Reitlinger, a highly respected historian? Shortly after he arrived at Dachau, Captain Payne Best was transferred from the Dachau bunker to the barrack building that was formerly used as a brothel, and it is possible that he didn't meet Dr. Rascher until the bunker was evacuated on April 26, 1945. It is possible that Dr. Rascher was never a prisoner at Buchenwald, and Captain Payne Best just assumed that he was, since Dr. Rascher was brought to Dachau around the same time that the VIP prisoners at Buchenwald were transferred to Dachau.

In his 1143-page book entitled "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich," William L. Shirer wrote this about Dr. and Frau Rascher: "Neither survived, and it is believed that Himmler himself, in one of the last acts of his life, ordered their execution." In other words, no one knows for certain who ordered the murder of Dr. Sigmund Rascher.

Dr. Rascher's execution had been ordered by Himmler, according to the Dachau Museum, and carried out by Theodor Bongartz, the man in charge of the crematorium where the bodies were disposed of. The execution had taken place, not at the usual place at the execution wall in the woods, but in the bunker in the presence of witnesses who would have heard the shot fired in Cell #73 and seen the brains spattered on the wall of the cell. A prisoner, who had been sent to Dachau because he was a Jehovah's Witness, was in charge of cleaning the bunker and he would have been a witness to the aftermath of the shooting.

If Himmler had given an execution order, it would normally have been given to the Gestapo chief in Berlin and the order would then have been sent by telegram to Johann Kick, the Gestapo department head at Dachau, who would have given the order to Wilhelm Ruppert, the officer in charge of executions at Dachau who would have then ordered Theodor Bongartz to shoot Dr. Rascher at the execution wall. Apparently none of this happened and there is no record of an execution order.

Theodor Bongartz, who allegedly executed Dr. Rascher, died on May 15, 1945 in an American POW camp at Heilbronn-Böckingen, according to author Hellmut G. Haasis, who wrote a book entitled "Den Hitler jag' ich in die Luft: Der Attentäter Georg Elser, Eine Biografie" published in Berlin in 1999. Haasis wrote that Bongartz had the rank of SS-Oberscharführer. Bongartz was also credited with the murder of Georg Elser around the time that an Allied bomb hit Dachau on April 9, 1945. Elser had been arrested as a suspect in the alleged British plot to kill Hitler on November 8, 1938.

According to Haasis, Bongartz was captured while wearing a Wehrmacht uniform and he died of natural causes in the POW camp before it became known that he was an SS man on the staff of the Dachau concentration camp. As a result of the convenient death of Bongartz by "natural causes," the world will never know for sure who killed Dr. Sigmund Rascher, Georg Elser and General Charles Delestraint, all three of whom were allegedly shot by Theodor Bongartz and burned in the ovens at Dachau.

May 6, 1945, the day that Dachau Commandant Eduard Weiter allegedly committed suicide at Schloss Itter in Austria, was the same day that the 137 Dachau VIP prisoners that had been evacuated from Dachau, were liberated by American soldiers at Innsbruck. However, Nerin E. Gun wrote in his book "The Day of the Americans" that Weiter was killed by an SS officer at Schloss Itter.

According to Nerin E. Gun, an SS man named Fritz had thrown a grenade at the American liberators in Innsbruck. Regarding the American retaliation for the grenade attack, Gun wrote the following:

The Americans were furious and shot down all the guards posted around the village. The Resistance, during this time, had not sat on its hands. The six Gestapo functionaries, the professional killers who had joined the convoy at Innsbruck, were hanging from the trees in the village square.

In a book entitled "Das Ahnenerbe der SS 1933-1945. Ein Beitrag zur Kulturpolitik des Dritten Reiches," published in Stuttgart in 1974, the author, Michael H. Kater, quoted documents from preliminary German court proceedings concerning the death of Rascher, dated 17 September 1963, which stated that Dr. Sigmund Rascher was shot in the Dachau bunker in Cell No. 73 by SS-Hauptscharführer Theodor Bongartz.

However, Nerin E. Gun, a journalist who was a prisoner at Dachau, wrote in his book "The Day of the Americans," published in 1966, that Dr. Sigmund Rascher was with the other prisoners that had been evacuated from Dachau and taken to the South Tyrol, and that Dr. Rascher was shot in Innsbruck. Upon arrival in Innsbruck, Edgar Stiller had turned the VIP prisoners over to Captain Payne Best, according to his own account in his book "The Venlo Incident."

According to Nerin E. Gun, Captain Sigismund Payne Best was the most privileged of all the privileged prisoners. The following quote is from his book entitled "The Day of the Americans":

Captain Best, who was fifty at the time of his arrest, had all the leisure he wanted in prison and was even allowed a typewriter. He was able to write a book in which he related all the tiresome details of his captivity. But he carefully avoided explaining what he was really doing in Holland at the time, or how much, if at all, he was implicated in the unfortunate affair at the Burgerbrau.

Best himself, in his book, admits that if he had remained free he would have known greater deprivation in wartime England, not to mention the risk of being buried under a German bomb.

According to Nerin E. Gun's book, Captain Payne Best was allowed to keep his monocle and his personal possessions while in prison and he was given a radio capable of receiving London broadcasts. All the prisoners in the bunker were fed from the SS kitchens, but Captain Payne Best was given "double the normal SS ration of food," according to Gun.

In his book, Nerin E. Gun wrote that when you read the memoirs of Captain Payne Best, "you feel that he had more affection for his SS guards, whom he considered to be nice everyday people who had somehow been forced to don a uniform, and worried more about what would happen to them than he did about the poor prisoners dying all around him."

The following quote is from "The Day of the Americans":

One even gets the impression that our temporarily unemployed chief of the British Intelligence served as an advisor at times to commander Keindl (Commandant of Sachsenhausen) and in a way helped him win the governing of Sachsenhausen. Perhaps there is a professional solidarity which is hard to overcome, even when you are at war.

From Nerin E. Gun's description of Captain Payne Best's close relationship with the SS guards, it is clear that he might have had the means and the opportunity to get rid of a fellow prisoner in the last chaotic days of the Dachau camp if that prisoner knew any secrets that were best kept hidden.


  • February 12, 1909~April 26, 1945

Horst Schumann

Horst Schumann 

(1 May 1906 – 5 May 1983), 

SS-Sturmbannführer (Major) and medical doctor, conducted cruel sterilization and castration experiments at Auschwitz and was particularly interested in the mass sterilization of Jews by means of X-rays.

From 1934, Schumann was employed in the Public Health Office in Halle. He was recruited to the air force as a physician in 1939. He joined the Aktion T4 Euthanasia program in early October 1939, after a meeting with Dr. Viktor Brack in Hitler's chancellery. In January 1940, Schumann became head of the Grafeneck euthanasia centre in Wurttemberg, where mentally ill people were gassed with carbon monoxidein the first gas chamber. In the early summer of 1940, he was ordered to the Sonnenstein Euthanasia Centre. Schumann also belonged to a commission of doctors, the famous "Action 14f13", who transferred weak and sick prisoners from AuschwitzBuchenwaldDachauFlossenbürgGross-RosenMauthausen,Neuengamme and Niederhangen concentration camps to the euthanasia killing centers.

Auschwitz Remains of the building at Auschwitz II (Birkenau) where Schuman committed his medical atrocities.

On 28 July 1941, Schumann arrived in Auschwitz. He worked at Block 30 in the women's hospital, where he set up an x-ray station in 1942. Here men and women were forcibly sterilized by being positioned repeatedly for several minutes between two x-ray machines, the rays aiming at their sexual organs. Most subjects died after great suffering, or were gassed immediately because the radiation burns from which they suffered rendered them unfit for work. Men's testicles were removed and sent to Breslau for histopathological examination. Schumann "...chose his test persons himself. They were always young, healthy, good-looking Jewish men, women and girls who looked like old people afterwards. The parts of the body that were treated with the rays were burnt, suppurating. Often the intestines were also affected. Many died. Part of Schumann's control tests, to check whether the radiation had worked, was the so-called semen check: a stick covered with a rubber hose was inserted into the rectum of the victim and the glands stimulated until ejaculation occurred so that the ejaculate could be tested for sperm..." (Klee, 53) Both kinds of samples were sent to the University of Breslau (today Wroc?aw) for examination.

Schumann also performed typhus experiments by injecting people with blood from typhus patients and then attempting to cure the newly infected subjects. Schumann left Auschwitz in September 1944 and was appointed to the Sonnenstein Clinic in Saxony which had earlier been converted into a military hospital.

Medical career after the war

While serving as a military doctor on the Western Front, he was captured by the Americans in January 1945. He was released from captivity in October 1945. In April 1946, he began to work as a sports doctor for the city of Gladbeck. An application for a license for a hunting gun led to his being identified in 1951 so the GDR issued an arrest warrant. According to his own statement, Schumann served as a ship’s doctor for three years and because he did not have a German passport, he applied for one in Japan in 1954 and received it under his own name. Schumann then fled, first to Egypt and eventually settled in Khartoum in the Sudan as head of a hospital. He was forced to flee from Sudan in 1962 after being recognised by an Auschwitz survivor. Then he went to Ghana, where he received the protection of the head of state, Kwame Nkrumah.

In 1966, he was extradited from Ghana to West Germany where the trial against him was opened in Frankfurt on 23 September 1970. However, Schumann was released from prison on 29 July 1972 due to his heart condition and generally deteriorating health. However, he did not die until 5 May 1983, 11 years after he had been released. As Robert Jay Lifton has observed "...Schumann has great importance for us because of what he did – intense involvement in both direct medical killing and unusually brutal Auschwitz experiments – and what he was – an ordinary, but highly Nazified man and doctor..." 

  • (1 May 1906 – 5 May 1983

Hocker Photos

Karl Hocker (on left, looking at the camera) relaxes with SS physicians, including Dr. Fritz Klein (far left), Dr. Horst Schumann (partially obscured next to Klein, identified from other photographs), and Dr. Eduard Wirths (third from right, wearing tie).

The photographs depict Hocker with other SS officers in Auschwitz in the summer and fall of 1944 and provide us with a new understanding of their lives and activities in the camp.  Even in the final months of the war, after Soviet troops had liberated concentration camps and labor camps to the east, SS officers stationed at Auschwitz enjoyed social functions and formal ceremonies.  The album shows Auschwitz at a pivotal time – the period during which the gas chambers were operating at maximum efficiency – as the Hungarian Jews arrived and during the last months before evacuation of the camp.  The only other known album of photographs taken at Auschwitz, published as the “Auschwitz Album” (first published in 1980), specifically depicts the arrival of the Hungarian Jews and the selection process that the SS imposed upon them.

Karl Hocker, the original caption reads “Sommer 1944″.


Bruno Bettelheim

Bruno Bettelheim 

(August 28, 1903 – March 13, 1990)

was an Austrian-born Americanchild psychologist and writer. He gained an international reputation for his work on Freud,psychoanalysis, and emotionally disturbed children.

Bettelheim arrived by ship as a refugee in New York City in the fall of 1939 to join his wife Gina, who had already emigrated. They divorced because she had become involved with someone else during their separation. He soon moved to Chicago and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1944 and remarried to an American.

The University of Chicago appointed Bettelheim as a professor of psychology and he taught there from 1944 until his retirement in 1973. He had trained in philosophy, but stated also that the Viennese psychoanalyst Richard Sterba had analyzed him.

Bettelheim also served as Director of the University of Chicago's Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School, a home that treats emotionally disturbed children. He made changes and set up an environment for milieu therapy, in which children could form strong attachments with adults within a structured but caring environment. He claimed considerable success in treating some of the emotionally disturbed children. He wrote books on both normal and abnormal child psychology and became a major influence in the field, widely respected during his lifetime. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1971.

Among numerous other works, Bruno Bettelheim wrote The Uses of Enchantment, published in 1976. In this book he analyzed fairy tales in terms of Freudian psychology. The book won the U.S. Critic's Choice Prize for criticism in 1976 and the National Book Award in the category of Contemporary Thought in 1977. Bettelheim discussed the emotional and symbolic importance of fairy tales for children, including traditional tales at one time considered too dark, such as those collected and published by the Brothers Grimm. Bettelheim suggested that traditional fairy tales, with the darkness of abandonment, death, witches, and injuries, allowed children to grapple with their fears in remote, symbolicterms. If they could read and interpret these fairy tales in their own way, he believed, they would get a greater sense of meaning and purpose. Bettelheim thought that by engaging with these socially-evolved stories, children would go through emotional growth that would better prepare them for their own futures.

His writings covered a wide range of topics, beginning shortly after he arrived in the United States with an essay on concentration camps and their dynamics. He long had a reputation as an authority on these topics.

At the end of his life Bettelheim suffered from depression. He appeared to have had difficulties with depression for much of his life. In 1990, widowed, in failing physical health, and suffering from the effects of a stroke which impaired his mental abilities and paralyzed part of his body, he committed suicide as a result of self-induced asphyxiation by placing a plastic bag over his head.

  • August 28, 1903 – March 13, 1990

Hans Litten

Hans Achim Litten (June 19, 1903 – February 5, 1938) was a German lawyer who represented opponents of the Nazis at important political trials between 1929 and 1932, defending the rights of workers during the Weimar Republic. During one trial in 1931, Litten subpoenaed Adolf Hitler, to appear as a witness, where Litten then cross-examined Hitler for three hours. Hitler was so rattled by the experience that, years later, he would not allow Litten's name to be mentioned in his presence. In retaliation, Litten was arrested on the night of the Reichstag Fire along with other progressive lawyers and leftists. Litten spent the rest of his life in one Nazi concentration camp or another, enduring torture and many interrogations. After five years and a move toDachau, where his treatment worsened and he was cut off from all outside communication, he committed suicide. A number of memorials to him exist in Germany, but Litten was largely ignored for decades because his politics did not fit comfortably in either the west or the communist postwar propaganda. Not until 2011 was Litten finally portrayed in the mass media, when the BBC broadcast The Man Who Crossed Hitler, a television film set in Berlin in summer 1931.

Politically Litten was on the left, though independent. He valued his independence and once said, “two people would be one too many for my party.” Culturally, Litten was conservative, enjoying classical music and poetry, such as that of Rainer Maria Rilke, whose work he could recite. He was an internationalist and was able to read English, Italian, and Sanskrit and enjoyed the music of the Middle East. He had a photographic memory and was considered to have a brilliant intellect.

Cross-examination of Hitler

In May 1931, Litten summoned Adolf Hitler to testify in the Tanzpalast Eden Trial, a court case involving two workers stabbed by four stormtroopers. Litten cross examined Hitler for three hours, finding many points of contradiction and proving that Hitler had exhorted the SA to embark on a systematic campaign of violence against the Nazis' enemies. This was crucial because Hitler was meanwhile trying to pose as a conventional politician to middle class voters and he was insisting that the Nazi Party was "strictly legal". Though a judge halted Litten's questioning, thus saving Hitler from further damning exposure and eventual conviction, newspapers at the time reported on the trial in detail and Hitler was investigated for perjury that summer. He survived the investigation intact, but was rattled by the experience.

The Nazis seize power

By 1932, the Nazi party was in ascendancy. Litten's mother and friends were urging him to leave Germany, but he stayed. He said, "The millions of workers can't leave here, so I must stay too". Hitler's hatred for Litten was not forgotten and in the early hours of February 28, 1933, the night of the Reichstag fire, he was rousted from his bed, arrested and taken into protective custody. Litten's colleagues Ludwig Barbasch and Professor Felix Halle were also arrested.

The "bunker", Dachau's prison

Litten was first sent – without trial – to Spandau Prison. From there, he was moved from camp to camp, despite efforts to free him by his mother, jurists and prominent people from in and outside Germany, such as Clifford Allen and the "European Conference for Rights and Freedom", which had members from several countries. Litten was sent to Sonnenburg concentration camp,Brandenburg-Görden Prison, where he was tortured, along with anarchist Erich Mühsam. In February 1934, he was moved to the MoorlagerEsterwegen concentration camp in Emsland and a few months later, he was sent to Lichtenburg.

The treatment Litten suffered was later described to his mother by an eyewitness. Very early on, he was beaten so badly that the Nazis refused to let even his fellow prisoners see him. He was tortured and forced into hard labor. He attempted suicide in 1933 in an attempt to avoid endangering his former clients, but he was revived by the Nazis so that they could interrogate him further. Litten's suicide attempt came at Spandau Prison, after he buckled under torture administered to extract information about the Felsenecke trial (see below). After revealing some information, he was immediately accused in the press as an accomplice to the murder of an SA man. Litten then wrote a letter to the Gestapo, saying that evidence gained in such a manner was not true and that he recanted. Knowing what awaited him, he then attempted to take his life.

Litten's mother wrote about his ordeal, recounting how injuries sustained by him early on left his health permanently damaged. One eye and one leg were injured, never recovering; his jawbone fractured; inner ear damaged; and many teeth knocked out. She also related how, despite her access to many important people in Germany at that time, including Reichswehrminister Werner von Blomberg, Prince Wilhelm of PrussiaReichsbischof Ludwig Müller, Minister of Justice Franz Gürtner and even then-State Secretary Roland Freisler, she was unable to secure her son's release.

Despite his injuries and suffering, Litten strove to maintain his spirits. At one point, in 1934, his situation improved a little bit when he was moved to Lichtenburg. Initially, it was the same, with more beatings, but then he was allowed to work in the book bindery and the library. On occasion, he was able to listen to music on the radio on Sundays. He was well liked and respected by his fellow prisoners for his knowledge, inner strength and courage.[1] One prisoner wrote about a party (allowed by the SS) at which, a number of SS men were in attendance. Unafraid of their presence, Litten recited the lyrics of a song that had meant a lot to him in his youth, "Thoughts are free" (in German, Die Gedanken sind frei). The prisoner said that apparently, the SS men did not grasp the significance of the words.

Dachau and death

In summer 1937, Litten was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp for a month, before finally being sent to Dachau. He arrived on October 16, 1937 and was put in the Jewish barracks. The Jewish prisoners were isolated from others because Jews in other countries were then spreading the grim news about Dachau. Litten's last letter to his family, written in November 1937, spoke of the situation, adding that the Jewish prisoners were soon to be denied mail privileges until further notice. All letters from Jewish prisoners at Dachau ceased at this time.

In the face of their depressing situation, the Jews at Dachau made efforts to have culture and discussion in their lives, to keep their spirits up. Litten would recite Rilke for hours and he impressed the other prisoners with his knowledge on many subjects. Underneath, however, Litten was losing hope. On February 5, 1938, after five years of interrogation and torture and a failed escape attempt, Litten was found by several friends from his barracks, hanging in the lavatory, a suicide.

The day before his suicide, one of Litten's friends, Alfred Dreifuß found a noose under Litten's pillow. He showed it to the blockälteste, who said it wasn't the first that had been found in Litten's possession. At the time, Litten was under interrogation in the "bunker" (see photo). When he came back, he was clearly in a suicidal frame of mind, repeating several times that he "must speak with Heinz Eschen", a prisoner who had just died. He also had recently told his friends that he'd had enough of being imprisoned. Another of Litten's Dachau friends, Alfred Grünebaum, said later that Litten was in constant fear of more brutal interrogations and that Litten had given up on ever being free. On the evening of February 4, 1938, it was clear what Litten had in mind, but no one kept watch. In the middle of the night, his bed was discovered empty and his friends found him hanging in the lavatory. Litten wrote a few parting words and that he had decided to take his life.


Viktor Frankl

Viktor Emil Frankl M.D.Ph.D.

 (March 26, 1905, LeopoldstadtVienna – September 2, 1997,Vienna)

was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. Frankl was the founder of logotherapy, which is a form of Existential Analysis, the "Third Viennese School ofPsychotherapy". His best-selling book, Man's Search for Meaning (published under a different title in 1959: From Death-Camp to Existentialism, and originally published in 1946 as trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager), chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate based on his psychotherapeutic method of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus a reason to continue living. Frankl was one of the key figures in existential therapy and a prominent source of inspiration for humanistic psychologists.

In 1924 he became the president of the Sozialistische Mittelschüler Österreich. In this position he offered a special program to counsel students during the time they were to receive their grades (Zeugnis). During his tenure, not a single Viennese student committed suicide. The success of this program grabbed the attention of the likes of Wilhelm Reich who invited him to Berlin.

From 1933-1937 he headed the so-called Selbstmörderpavillon, or "suicide pavilion", of the General Hospital in Vienna. Here, he treated over 30,000 women prone to suicide. Yet, starting from the Nazi takeover of Austria in 1938, he was prohibited from treating "Aryan" patients due to his Jewish identity. He moved into private practice until starting work in 1940 at the Rothschild Hospital, where he headed its neurological department, and practiced as a brain surgeon. This hospital, at the time, was the only one in Vienna to which Jews were still admitted. Several times, his medical opinions saved patients from being euthanised via the Nazi euthanasia program. In December 1941 he married Tilly Grosser.

On September 25, 1942 he, along with his wife, and his parents were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. There Frankl worked as a general practitioner in a clinic until his skill in psychiatry was noticed, when he was asked to establish a special unit to help newcomers to the camp overcome shock and grief. He later set up a suicide watch unit,[4] and all intimations of suicide were reported to him. To maintain his own feeling of being worthy of his sufferings in the dismal conditions, he would frequently march outside and deliver a lecture to an imaginary audience about "Psychotherapeutic Experiences in a Concentration Camp". He believed that by fully experiencing the suffering objectively, he would thereby end it. Though assigned to ordinary labor details until the last few weeks of the war, Frankl (assisted by Dr. Leo Baeck and Regina Jonas among others) tried to cure fellow prisoners from despondency and prevent suicide. He worked in the psychiatric care ward, headed the neurological clinic in block B IV, and established and maintained a camp service of psychic hygiene and mental care for sick and those who were weary of life. Frankl at Theresienstadt also gave lectures on topics like Sleep and Its Disturbances, Body and Soul, Medical Care of Soul, Psychology of Mountaineering, Rax and Schneeberg, How I keep my nerves healthy, Existential Problems in Psychotherapy, and Social Psychotherapy. On July 29, 1943, he organized a closed event of the Scientific Society. Then, on October 19, 1944, he was transported to Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was processed and spent a number of days and then was moved to Türkheim, a Nazi concentration camp affiliated with Dachau, where he arrived on October 25, 1944, and was to spend 6 months and 2 days working as a slave-labourer. Meanwhile, his wife had been transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she perished; his father passed away of pulmonary edema and pneumonia in Theresienstadt camp, and his mother was sent to Auschwitz from Theresienstadt and perished as well.

On April 27, 1945, Frankl was liberated by the Americans. Among his immediate relatives, the only survivor was his sister, who had escaped by emigrating to Australia.

It was due to his and others' suffering in these camps that he came to his hallmark conclusion that even in the most absurd, painful and dehumanized situation, life has potential meaning and that therefore even suffering is meaningful. This conclusion served as a strong basis for Frankl's logotherapy. An example of Frankl's idea of finding meaning in the midst of extreme suffering is found in his account of an experience he had while working in the harsh conditions of the Auschwitz concentration camp:

... We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and through large puddles, along the one road leading from the camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very sore feet supported himself on his neighbor's arm. Hardly a word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their camps and don't know what is happening to us."

That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, supporting each other time and again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife's image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise.

A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth -- that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite


Another important conclusion for Frankl was:

If a prisoner felt that he could no longer endure the realities of camp life, he found a way out in his mental life– an invaluable opportunity to dwell in the spiritual domain, the one that the SS were unable to destroy. Spiritual life strengthened the prisoner, helped him adapt, and thereby improved his chances of survival.

Frankl's concentration camp experiences thus shaped both his therapeutic approach and philosophical outlook, as reflected in his seminal publications. He often said that even within the narrow boundaries of the concentration camps he found only two races of men to exist: decent and unprincipled ones. These were to be found in all classes, ethnicities, and groups. Following this line of thinking, he once recommended that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast of the United States be complemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast, and there are reportedly plans to construct such a statue.

Frankl's approach is often considered to be amongst the broad category that comprises existentialists. Frankl, "who has devoted his career to a study of an existential approach to therapy, has apparently concluded that the lack of meaning is the paramount existential stress. To him, existential neurosis is synonymous with a crisis of meaninglessness".

He is thought to have coined the term Sunday Neurosis referring to a form of depression resulting from an awareness in some people of the emptiness of their lives once the working week is over This arises from an existential vacuum, which Frankl distinguished from existential neurosis.

The existential vacuum - or, as he sometimes terms it, "existential frustration" - is a common phenomenon and is characterised by the subjective state of boredom, apathy, and emptiness. One feels cynical, lacks direction and questions the point of most of life's activities. Some complain of a void and a vague discontent when the busy week is over (the "Sunday neurosis").

Life after 1945

Liberated after three years in concentration camps, he returned to Vienna. During 1945 he wrote his world-famous book titled ...trotzdem ja zum Leben sagen (Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager) (translated: "...saying yes to life in spite of everything; A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp)", known in English by the title Man's Search for Meaning. In this book, he described the life of an ordinary concentration camp inmate from the objective perspective of a psychiatrist.

Shortly after the war he voiced the opinion of reconciliation. In 1946 he was appointed to run the Vienna Polyclinic of Neurology. He remained there until 1971. In 1947 he married his second wife Eleonore Katharina Schwindt. She was a practicing Catholic and the couple respected each other's religious backgrounds, going to both church and synagogue, and celebrating Christmas and Hanukah. They had one daughter, Gabriele, who went on to become a child psychologist. In 1955 he was awarded a professorship of neurology and psychiatry at the University of Vienna, and as visiting professor, he resided at Harvard University.

In the post-war years, Frankl published more than 32 books (many were translated into 10 to 20 languages) and is most notable as the founder of logotherapy. (Logos, λ?γος, is Greek for wordreasonprinciple; therapy, θεραπε?ω, means I heal.) He lectured and taught seminars all over the world and received 29 honorary doctorate degrees, among them, one from Universidad Francisco Marroquín due to Frankl's contribution to individual freedom. This institution also named its psychological clinic after him.

Frankl died on September 2, 1997, of heart failure. He was survived by his wife Eleonore, his daughter Dr. Gabriele Frankl-Vesely, his grandchildren Katharina and Alexander, and his great-granddaughter Anna Viktoria.

  • March 26, 1905~September 2, 1997

Benzion Miller

Cantor Benzion Miller (Hebrew: ???? ??????? ????‎, Yiddish: ???????????? ??(?)????) was born in a DP Camp in Fernwald, Germany in December 1947. He is a Cantor of world renown, Schochet and Mohel, much like his father, the revered Cantor, Schochet & Mohel, Reb Aaron Daniel Miller.

Benzion Miller's singing career began at the age of 5. Cantor Miller studied Music Theory and Solfege under Cantor Samuel B. Taube of Montreal. He studied voice production at the Champagne School for Music in Montreal and with Dr. Puggell, Cantor Avshalom Zfira, Allan Bowers. Acclaimed as one of the foremost interpreters of Liturgical Music, Benzion Miller is equally at home in Operatic Repertoire and Jewish and Chassidic Folk Music. He has appeared with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, the Jerusalem Symphony, the Rishon L'Tzion Symphony, the Haifa Symphony and members of the London Symphony. He recently recorded, for the Milken Archive, in Barcelona, Spain with the Barcelona National Symphony Orchestra. Benzion Miller was privileged to be among the first group of Cantors to visit and sing in the Eastern European countries. He has appeared before capacity audiences in Romania, Russia, Poland and Hungary, where he sang with the Budapest State Opera Orchestra. Benzion has to his credit many recordings of liturgical, Chassidic and Yiddish music.

He has held positions in Montréal at "Sheves Achim" Synagogue on Côte-des-Neiges, then in Toronto at "Shaarei Tefillah" Synagogue on Bathurst Street, in Canada.

Since 1981, he has been cantor of Congregation (formerly Temple) Beth El (now Young Israel Beth-El) of Boro Park in Brooklyn, a pulpit served by Mordechai HershmanBerele Chagy, and Moshe Koussevitzky.

R. Cantor Chaim Shimon (Shimmy) Miller, his son, is his choral director and often performs duets with Benzion.

  • December 1947

Sol Rosenberg

Sol Rosenberg

 (February 2, 1926–January 30, 2009)

was a Jewish survivor of the German Nazideath and concentration camps who became an industrialist and philanthropist in Monroe, northeastern Louisiana.

After the German invasion of Poland of 1939 Rosenberg lived in the Warsaw Ghetto set up by theNazi occupiers of Poland. The German Nazi regime sent his parents and two sisters to their deaths in 1942, but Rosenberg was one of the very few to escape from the death camp atTreblinka; he returned to Warsaw, where he participated in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Rosenberg was then sent to the Dachau concentration camp, where he was liberated by theAllied Powers after the final overthrow of the Nazi regime.

In Poland, Rosenberg met his wife, the former Tola Baron (June 22, 1924-January 12, 2006).The couple emigrated to Louisiana in 1949 and thereafter settled in Monroe were they started the steel company from scratch.

Rosenberg was involved in community affairs and charitable works, being a charter founder of theUnited States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Holocaust Museum Houston. He was a member of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce and supported the Booster Club at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. In 2006, he was awarded the Kitty DeGree Lifetime Business Achievement Award. He played golf at the Bayou Desiard Country Club in Monroe, where he made a hole in one at the age of eighty-one.

Rosenberg contributed to youth athletics and the reconstruction of the Jewish Cemetery in Monroe. His friend Jay Marx, a Jewish member of the Monroe City Council, characterized Rosenberg's life as "the American dream. He found his way in a new country and reaped the benefits of this country... He didn't take for granted anything, and he shared plenty. I think all of us will certainly regret his loss but will admire his life.”

"My father was kind of like a Will Rogers in reverse; he never met a man who didn't like him,” said his son, Jackie Rosenberg in an interview with the Monroe News Star. The senior Rosenberg remained active in the family's business, Sol's Pipe and Steel Co., an international company, until cancer struck.

Rosenberg died at his Monroe residence. In addition to his son Jackie and his wife, Diane, Rosenberg was survived by four other children, Joe Rosenberg and wife, Pam; Herman Rosenberg, Jeannie Wermuth and her husband, Gary, and Terri Rosenberg, and twelve grandchildren.Services were held on February 1, 2009 – one day before what would have been Rosenberg's 83rd birthday – at the Reform Judaismsynagogue, Temple B'nai Israel, in Monroe. Interment was at the Jewish Cemetery.

Sol’s Story: A Triumph of the Human Spirit by Richard B. Chardkoff, a ULM historian, tells the story of Rosenberg’s trials and triumphs. Hisobituary quotes him, accordingly: "I love the United States. I’m a citizen. I’m proud to be an American, and I’m a good American. Nowhere in the whole world did I find happiness. I find happiness in America."


  • February 2, 1926–January 30, 2009

Moshe Sanbar

Moshe Sanbar (Hebrew: ??? ????‎;

born 29 March 1926) is an economist and Israeli public figure. He served as governor of the Bank of Israel during 1971–1976. The Moshe Sanbar Institute for Applied Economic Research was named in his honor.

Sanbar was born on March 29, 1926 in KecskemetHungary. His high school studies ended upon the Nazi occupation of Hungary. In June 1944 he was drafted to the Labour Service and shortly later sent to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany. His parents, Solomon and Margaret Sandberg, were murdered in Auschwitzin 1944. Upon his liberation by the Allied forces in April 1945, Sanbar contracted typhus. Following his recovery he returned to Hungary and studied economy in Budapest University.

In 1948 Sanbar made Aliyah to Israel and was drafted to the IDF. He was discharged after his injury in theIsraeli War of Independence. His MA studies at the Hebrew University of economics and sociology were completed in 1953.

For many years Sanbar was active in financial affairs within the academy, in public service and in the private sector. Between 1960- 1971 he held high level functions in the Israeli Ministry of Finance, concluding as a financial advisor to Minister Pinhas Sapir and as the Director of Budgeting. During these years Sanbar was involved with financial legislation and headed several government committees. On the subject of budget planning he was invited to advise the UN. Following the Six Day Warhe conducted the economic policies concerning the Palestinians, as well as the development of unified Jerusalem.

In 1970 he was appointed Acting Minister of Trade and Industry, acting for Minister Sapir who remained active in his simulatenous appoitment as Minister of Finance. Between 1971 and 1976 Sanbar served as Governor of the Bank of Israel. His actions during and after Yom Kippur war maintained a stabilized market.

After his retirement from public service Sanbar held many duties in the private sector, as head of industrial and financial institutions. Among his posts he was Chairman of Bank Leumi (1988–1995). In the years 1976 - 1981 he chaired the national committee for the structure and work of local authorities in Israel. Since 1995 Sanbar serves as financial consultant, alongside voluntary work in cultural, educational and social organizations. He was also elected President of ICC Israel and served as a member of its international executive.

Since 1987 he has been active in various national and international organizations working for the benefit of Holocaust survivors. He was Chairman of the Executive Board, Treasurer and Deputy Chairman of the Claims Conference


  • 29 March 1926~

Maus ~ Vladek Spiegelman

Maus: A Survivor's Tale, by Art Spiegelman, is a biography of the author's father, Vladek Spiegelman, a Polish Jew and Holocaust survivor. It alternates between descriptions of Vladek's life in Poland before and during the Second World War and Vladek's later life in theRego Park neighborhood of New York City. The work is a graphic narrative in which Jews are depicted as mice, while Germans are depicted as cats. It is the only comic book ever to have won a Pulitzer Prize.

The complete work was first published in two volumes: the first volume in 1986, and the second in 1991. In 1992, the work won a Pulitzer Prize Special Award. In reporting the selection of Maus for the honor, The New York Times noted that "the Pulitzer board members ... found the cartoonist's depiction of Nazi Germany hard to classify."


Yolande Beekman

Yolande Beekman 

(born 7 November 1911, Paris - died 13 September 1944

,Dachau concentration campGermany) was a World War II spy.

Born as Yolande Elsa Maria Unternahrer to a Swiss family in Paris, Beekman moved as a child to London and grew up fluent in English, German, and French.

Memorial to Beekman and fellow agents in Dachau

When World War II broke out, she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force where she trained as a wireless operator. Because of her language skills and wireless expertise, she was recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) for work in occupied France, officially joining the SOE on 15 February 1943. She trained withNoor Inayat Khan and Yvonne Cormeau.

In 1943, Yolande Unternahrer married Sergeant Jaap Beekman of the Dutch army, but a short time after her marriage she said goodbye to her husband and was flown behind enemy lines in France. Beekman was dropped into France on the night of 17–18 September 1943, flown in an aircraft piloted by Squadron Leader Austin of 624 (Special Duties) Squadron Royal Air Force.

In France, Yolande Beekman operated the wireless for Gustave Biéler, the Canadian in charge of the "Musician" Network at Saint-Quentin in the département of Aisne, using the codename "Mariette" and the alias "Yvonne". She became an efficient and valued agent who, in addition to her all-important radio transmissions to London, took charge of the distribution of materials dropped by Allied planes. On 13 January 1944, she and Gustave Biéler were arrested by the Gestapo while meeting at the Café Moulin Brulé. At the Gestapo headquarters in Saint-Quentin the two were tortured repeatedly but never broke.

Separated from Biéler (he was later executed), she was transported to Fresnes prison in Paris. Again she was interrogated and brutalized repeatedly; she shared a cell with Hedwig Müller (a nurse arrested by the Gestapo in 1944). Müller said after the war that Beekman "... didn't leave her cell much as she suffered badly with her legs..." In May 1944 she was moved with several other captured SOE agents to the civilian prison for women at Karlsruhe in Germany. She was confined there under horrific conditions until, sharing a cell with Elise Johe (a Jehovah's Witness), Nina Hagen (arrested for working as a black marketeer) and Clara Frank (jailed for slaughtering a cow on her family farm without permission). While imprisoned, Beekman drew and embroidered. She would take a needle and prick her finger to use the blood as ink and draw on toilet paper as there was no paper and pencils. She was identified from drawings made by Brian Stonehouse after the war.

She was abruptly transferred to Dachau concentration camp with fellow agents Madeleine DamermentNoor Inayat Khan, and Eliane Plewman on 11 September 1944. At dawn on 13 September, the day after their arrival in Dachau, the four young women were taken to a small courtyard next to the crematorium and forced to kneel on the ground. They were then executed by a shot through the back of the head and their bodies cremated.



  • 7 November 1911~13 September 1944

Execution of British SOE agents at Natzweiler

Gate into Konzentrationslager Natzweiler-Struthof

Around 3 o'clock in the afternoon on a Summer day in 1944, a group of well-dressed women entered the remote Natzweiler concentration camp located in the Vosges mountains in Alsace. They had arrived by train at the nearest station, 5 miles from the camp. The Commandant, Fritz Hartjenstein, had driven down to meet the women, bringing them the rest of the way, up a steep winding road, to the camp gate, shown in the photo above. Near the top of the mountain, they had passed the road to the gas chamber, located about a mile from the camp.
Natzweiler was a camp for male prisoners; the 6,000 inmates had not seen a woman for months, or even years, and the arrival of these attractive women caused quite a stir. The camp was officially called Natzweiler-Struthof, but it was better known to the locals as Natzwiller, the French spelling for the Alsatian village of Natzweiler, or as Le Struthof.
According to a book written by Sarah Helm, entitled "A Life in Secrets," a British SOE agent named Albert Guérisse, who was a prisoner at Natzweiler, said that "Hartjenstein's car carrying the new prisoners drove in through the gates at about three thirty p.m." Guérisse watched "as Hartjenstein took the car on a curious lap of honor around the camp." He took note of this because it was quite unusual to see a car driving around inside the camp.
Guérisse had only been in the camp for a couple of weeks, but already he was alert to any suspicious behavior that might be important in a war crimes trial after the war. In September 1944, the Natzweiler prisoners were transferred to Dachau where they were liberated by American soldiers on April 29, 1945; it was Albert Guérisse who first escorted the American liberators to the gas chamber in the Dachau crematorium building.
After their tour of the camp, the women were then taken to the Natzweiler Political Department, which was a branch office of the Gestapo. After that, they were escorted by SS officers through the entire camp, down the Lagerstrasse (camp street) where all eyes followed them as they were led to the prison at the far end of the camp where they would await their execution a short time later.
In 1975, a plaque was placed in the Natzweiler crematorium, dedicated to the memory of "Des quatre femmes Britanniques et Françaises parachutées executées dans ce camp." Allegedly, the four British SOE agents, who are honored on this plaque, were secretly executed at Natzweiler by lethal injections administered by Dr. Heinrich Plaza and Dr. Werner Röhde on July 6, 1944. Their names are Andrée Borrel, Sonia Olschanezky, Vera Leigh and Diana Rowden.

Andrée Borrel
Sonia Olschanezky
Vera Leigh
Diana Rowden
In her recently published book entitled "A Life in Secrets," the author Sarah Helm gives details about the four women, which she obtained from the private papers of Vera Atkins, an officer in the British SOE. The SOE was a secret organization which carried on espionage and sabotage in German-occupied Europe during World War II. After the war, Vera Atkins did an extensive investigation, on her own authority, to find the female SOE agents who were missing and presumed dead.
Altogether, there were 39 female SOE agents who were sent to France and 13 of them never returned. One of them had died a natural death soon after her arrival and the other 12 had been captured in France by the German Gestapo and had never returned. After the war, the SOE was disbanded, but Vera Atkins took it upon herself to do an independent investigation to determine the fate of the agents who were missing, including the women agents pictured above. She interviewed surviving SOE agents, Gestapo agents and concentration camp staff members who had been captured by the Allies, including Rudolf Hoess, the infamous Commandant of Auschwitz. Among those that she interviewed were Albert Guérisse and Brian Stonehouse, another British SOE agent who was a prisoner at Natzweiler. Based on information that she got from them, she interrogated staff members from the Natzweiler camp, starting with Franz Berg.
Atkins selected Berg as the first person to be interrogated because he had previously told American investigators about some "elegant" women in the French resistance group known as the Alliance Réseau, who were brought to Natzweiler to be executed, after they were captured near the camp. Berg was a common criminal who was a prisoner in the camp; he was a KAPO in charge of stoking the fire in the crematory oven at Natzweiler. He was the first person to tell Vera Atkins that women had been brought to Natzweiler to be executed and then burned in the one oven in the crematorium.
Brian Stonehouse told Vera Atkins that he had gotten a good look at the women when they walked into the camp, past where he was working just inside the fence on the east side. His account differed from that of Guérisse who said that the women entered the camp in a car driven by the Commandant. Stonehouse could not remember the date of the arrival of the women, but he recalled that it was near the time of the attempted assassination of Adolf Hitler, which had occurred on July 20, 1944. The women in the Alliance Réseau were brought to Natzweiler in August 1944.
The following quote about the arrival of the well dressed women at Natzweiler is from Sarah Helm's book:
Everyone who had noticed the girls pass by saw something slightly different. Some said there were three, and some said four. Some said they passed at three p.m. and some at five p.m. Some said one carried a rug, others that one had a coat. One said they were all carrying boxes, another that they were suitcases. Some said June, some July. But every single witness, like Berg and Stonehouse before them, said that the women were well dressed.
The Natzweiler camp was laid out like a theater with rows of barracks on a terraced slope, bisected by the main camp street, with the camp prison and crematorium building in plain sight on flat ground at the bottom of the hill. As the women walked down through the camp, escorted by SS officers, every prisoner in the camp had the opportunity to witness their arrival for their secret execution which would take place that night.
Natzweiler camp was on a terraced slope with prison and crematorium at the bottom
The photo above shows the Natzweiler camp as it looks today. The white blocks are inscribed with the names of other Nazi concentration camps. The barracks have long since been torn down. When the camp was in operation, there were 15 barracks buildings in three rows of five on terraces cut into the side of a hill.
Brian Stonehouse, who was a talented artist with an interest in fashion, took note of the hair style and clothing of each of the women, as they walked into the camp. All of the women were dressed in civilian clothes and he was later able to describe their outfits and their hair in great detail. From a set of photographs that he was shown, he identified one of the women that he had seen as Diana Rowden, and another as possibly Noor Inayat Khan or Yolande Beekman.
Noor Inayat Khan
Yolande Beekman

Noor Inayat Khan was a radio operator for the Cinema sub circuit of the Prosper line, organized by Emile Garry; she was captured on or around October 1, 1943. Yolande Beekman was a wireless operator for the Musician Network; she was captured by the Gestapo on January 13, 1944. It was not until 1947 that Vera Atkins came to the conclusion that Yolande Beekman and Noor Inayat Kahn had been executed at Dachau.
Guérisse testified before a British Military Court, at the trial of Dr. Werner Röhde and 8 others, that he had recognized 24-year-old Andrée Borrel, one of the SOE agents who had previously worked with him in helping downed Allied pilots to escape through the PAT line, which he had organized.
Franz Berg, one of the main witnesses at the trial, was a German criminal with a long rap sheet that included 22 crimes. A group photograph, taken in the courtroom when Berg was prosecuted by a British Military Court, shows him to be more than a foot shorter than the rest of the accused men. The first time that he was interrogated by Vera Atkins, Franz Berg said that he had, at first, thought when he saw the women walking down the Lagerstrasse, that it was a party inspecting the camp. He said that the women were carrying suitcases and coats over their arms, and he thought that one woman had a traveling rug.
In a deposition that Berg gave to Vera Atkins before the trial, he stated that four women had been killed by injection at Natzweiler and burned in the oven which he had fired up. He identified two of the women in photographs shown to him as Vera Leigh and Noor Inayat Khan.
The SOE was the Special Operations Executive, a British spy organization, which was established by Winston Churchill and given the mission to "set Europe ablaze." The SOE carried on espionage and sabotage operations during World War II, as well as operating escape lines to send downed fliers through Spain and back to England. The SOE was organized into sections and each section was broken down into networks. The four women who were executed at Natzweiler were all in the F section which operated in France, helping the French resistance.
Andrée Borrel was a courier working with the Physician Network, better known as the Prosper Network because it was headed by Francis Suttill whose code name was Prosper. Vera Leigh was a courier for the Inventor circuit which worked with the Prosper Network. Diane Rowden was working with the Acrobat circuit of the Prosper line. Sonia Olschanezky, who was Jewish, had been recruited in France to work as a courier for the Prosper Network.
Andrée Borrel was captured on June 23, 1943; Vera Leigh was captured on October 30, 1943; Diane Rowden was captured on November 18, 1943, and Sonia Olschanezky was captured on January 21, 1944.
On May 29, 1946, Dr. Werner Röhde and 8 others at Natzweiler were brought before a British Military Court in Wuppertal, Germany. According to Rita Kramer, who wrote a book entitled "Flames in the Field" about the four women who were executed at Natzweiler, "The evidence for the prosecution had been gathered by Squadron Officer Vera Atkins and Major Bill Barkworth of the SAS War Crimes investigation team, well after the organizations to which they and the missing men and women had belonged had officially ceased to exist. It was a kind of personal vendetta of principle."
Guérisse and Stonehouse had both been transferred from the infamous Mauthausen camp in Austria to the Natzweiler camp in the Summer of 1944, just a few weeks before the women were allegedly executed. Guérisse was a medical doctor who worked in the Natzweiler camp infirmary; he testified that he had seen the four women SOE agents being escorted, after dark, by the camp doctor to the crematorium. Then he saw flames shoot out of the crematorium chimney four times. He learned later, from Franz Berg, that this meant that the oven door had been opened and then closed four times as the four women were cremated. Franz Berg said in his deposition, given to Vera Atkins, that all four of the women were cremated at one time in the one oven in the crematorium.
Natzweiler had only one crematory oven

Brian Stonehouse had observed that one of the women was carrying a ratty fur coat, and a few days later, he saw an SS man nicknamed Fernandel "walking up the steps in the middle of the camp, carrying a fur coat." Fernandel was a French comic actor whom this SS man resembled.
Crematorium at Natzweiler-Struthof
In September 1944, as Allied troops approached the Natzweiler area after the invasion at Normandy, the concentration camp was abandoned and the prisoners were evacuated to Dachau. Natzweiler was the first major concentration camp to be found by the Allies; it was first discovered by French troops in November 1944.
According to Rita Kramer, who wrote "Flames in the Field," a three-man intelligence-gathering team was sent by the Political Warfare Department of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) to Natzweiler in early December 1944.
The following quote is from the book "Flames in the Field" written by Rita Kramer:
One of the team was a twenty-one-year-old British officer, son of a White Russian nobleman and an English mother, named Yurka Galitzine, who made a number of discoveries. He found all of the camp records intact in the administration building; he heard that there had been some British men in the camp and that some women described as well-dressed spies had been brought there, and he carefully put together a record of the systematic shootings, hangings and gassings, the medical experiments carried out on live prisoners, the conditions of slave labor on starvation rations, the brutal punishments randomly inflicted by sadistic criminals put in charge of the barracks, and other details of daily life in the camps that had been intended to pave the way for the New Order promised by the Third Reich. No one would believe him.
Galitzine had "heard" about the atrocities in the camp from four escaped prisoners who gave him a tour of the abandoned camp.
New York Times reporter Milton Bracker also toured Natzweiler in early December in the company of a guide from the Free French Forces of the Resistance. The guide pointed out all the features of the camp, such as the whipping block, the gas chamber and the S-shaped meat hooks where prisoners were hung from the ceiling. Bracker wrote an article that was published in the New York Times on December 5, 1944. The article did not mention the British spies who were executed at Natzweiler.
A book about the Natzweiler camp, written in 1955 and updated in 1964, mentions the execution of two women members of the Alliance Réseau in late August 1944. The Alliance women, described as "elegant," were brought to the Natzweiler camp and killed by injection the same day. However, the book does not mention the execution of the four women SOE agents on July 6, 1944. Entitled "Concentration Camp Natzweiler Struthof," the book was written by members of the National Committee for the Erecting and the Preservation of a Memorial for Deportation at the Struthof. The authors of this book, which is available only from the Natzweiler Memorial Site, were former French prisoners at the camp who had apparently missed the dramatic arrival of the British SOE agents.
Could these "elegant" women, who were members of a French resistance group, have been the same women who were described by a former prisoner to Galitzine as "well-dressed spies?"
In his book "Inside the Vicious Heart," author Robert Abzug wrote the following:
On December 9, 1944, five days after Bracker had made his tour, Colonel Paul Kirk and Lt. Colonel Edward J. Gully of the American Sixth Army Group inspected Natzwiller. It is impossible to know what they had heard or believed about Nazi atrocities; it is clear that they approached their job with caution. In the report they made to headquarters, which was eventually forwarded to the war crimes division, they qualified just about every observation that had to do with instruments of death and torture. [...] They duly recorded the testimony of French informants and reported their findings. [...] They believed enough to send along their report to war crimes investigators, but retained a measure of disbelief.
The report by Col. Kirk and Lt. Col. Gully did not mention the execution of four British SOE agents at Natzweiler.
Rita Kramer wrote:
In Galitzine's report, ignored and effectively suppressed by SHAEF headquarters, it was noted that one of the English prisoners had left behind some drawings he had made while in Natzweiler. He had given them to one of the civilian foremen employed by a local firm of stonemasons that had contracted with the Germans to supervise the prisoners who slaved in the quarry. The drawings were signed "B.J. Stonehouse".
The Natzweiler camp had been built in 1941 as a labor camp to quarry the red granite in the region for construction of new buildings in Nürnberg, one of Hitler's favorite cities. The original inmates were German criminals who had been condemned to hard labor. In 1943, the camp was used to imprison captured Resistance fighters from France, Belgium and the Netherlands. These prisoners worked in munitions factories that were built at Natzweiler.
By the Summer of 1944, when Brian Stonehouse and Albert Guérisse were transferred to Natzweiler, Hitler's building projects had been put on hold and the quarry was no longer being worked. Sarah Helm does not mention anything in her book "A Life in Secrets" about a sketch of the British SOE women done by Brian Stonehouse while he was in the camp.
According to Rita Kramer, who interviewed Vera Atkins for her book, Atkins was aware of Galitzine's report about Natzweiler. She showed Galitzine the names of the missing women SOE agents, but he didn't recognize any of the names; they were not in the records that he had found at Natzweiler. However, Galitzine told Atkins about the Karlsruhe prison where the records showed that 3 English women had been imprisoned for several months before being sent to an unnamed concentration camp on July 6, 1944.
The following is a quote from page 209 of Sarah Helm's book entitled "A Life in Secrets":
Galitzine had heard of at least two British men who had been imprisoned at Natzweiler, one of whom, rumour had it, had drawn sketches of inmates. The sketches were signed "J.B. Stonehouse." Galitzine had no idea who J.B. Stonehouse was, but Vera certainly did. Her own agent Brian Stonehouse had been in Natzweiler and in civilian life had been a graphic artist for Vogue. But Stonehouse had certainly never spoken about women arriving at the camp. Perhaps he had suppressed the entire episode.
Vera now wrote to Stonehouse, asking him to think back to Natzweiler and enclosing photographs of her missing girls to jog his memory.

Sketch done by Brian Stonehouse for Vera Atkins
In her biography of Vera Atkins, Sarah Helm included two sketches done by Brian Stonehouse; he had sent them to Atkins after receiving her letter containing the photographs. One of the sketches, labeled No. 1, showed a woman wearing a ribbon in her hair and carrying a suitcase.

Stonehouse wrote the following description of No. 1, which is quoted in Sarah Helm's biography:
No. 1 was middle height, a little older I should say than I was then (25) with short blonde mousy hair tied with what I took to be a piece of Scottish tartan silk ribbon, wearing a light grey flannel suit - the coat a shortish swagger model - obviously English, as was her face with a good humoured, kindly expression and a defiant look, which included that pathetic piece of gay silk in her hair - she had obviously been in jail quite a while - as she had no lipstick - and her face was rather pale.
From this description, Vera Atkins immediately recognized Diana Rowden, the most English looking of all the agents, who always wore a bow in her hair. Atkins had sent Stonehouse a photograph of Diana in uniform so he knew what she looked like before he did the sketch.
When Stonehouse and Guérisse returned to London after Dachau was liberated, Vera Atkins had been there to meet them and welcome them home, but neither of them had mentioned anything about the SOE women they had seen in Natzweiler, even though they must have known that Atkins was worried about her missing agents.
Stonehouse's drawing, labeled No. 2, showed a woman whose head was way out of proportion to the rest of her body. His description of No. 2, as quoted in "A Life in Secrets," is as follows:
She was I believe perhaps a little younger than No. 1 - smaller - with dyed blonde hair... only it had not been retouched for a long time as there were several inches of hair from the roots of the hair line which were dark.
She wore wooden soled shoes, a black coat, carried a fur coat of not very good fur - some sort of dyed rabbit - rather chocolat au lait.
No. 2 was obviously continental - maybe Jewish.
According to Sarah Helm's book "A Life in Secrets," Noor had "an eastern, possibly Jewish, look." She had left for France on the same night as Diana Rowden.
Stonehouse's descriptions were written nine months after he had returned from Dachau and 18 months after he had witnessed the women arriving at Natzweiler. At the time that he answered Vera Atkins' letter, he was working for the Allied Control Commission, the organization that had been set up to govern the defeated Germans. His job was to interrogate potential German war criminals and former concentration camp inmates for information to be used in war crimes trials. He himself had witnessed victims of a war crime at Natzweiler, but he didn't bother to tell anyone until Vera Atkins contacted him for information about the missing women.
In his reply to Atkins, Stonehouse said that his sketch of No. 1 matched the photograph of Diana Rowden, but he could not match any of the photographs to No. 2. He thought that Yolande Beekman and Noor Inayat Khan were two possible matches. Vera Atkins could see no resemblance to Noor in the sketch; she assumed that the woman in the No. 2 sketch was Yolande Beekman.
The pieces of the puzzle now began to fit together. Some "well-dressed" women had been seen in the Natzweiler camp around the same time that a convoy of English women left Karlsruhe bound for an unnamed concentration camp, and the woman in a drawing, done by a prisoner who was a British SOE agent at Natzweiler, looked English. This was enough circumstantial evidence to warrant a British Military Court proceeding for nine members of the Natzweiler staff.
The Karlsruhe prison records showed that Sonia Olschanezky had been taken to an unnamed concentration camp on July 6, 1944, the same date that three other women left Karlsruhe for an unknown destination. Vera Atkins didn't recognize the name Sonia Olschenesky because she had been recruited in France to work with the British SOE, not sent over from England. Atkins assumed that Noor Inayat Khan, also known as Nora Baker, had taken this name as a new alias. It was not until 1947 that Vera Atkins learned that Sonia Olschanezky was a real person. Atkins then assumed that Olschanezky had been murdered at Natzweiler, not Noor Inayat Khan, but this new assumption was not publicly known until 1956 when it was revealed by an investigative reporter.
The identification of the Natzweiler victims at the trial had been based purely on speculation by eye witnesses, as there were no records whatsoever pertaining to the fate of the women. The trial transcript was altered in 1947 to show that one of the victims was "unidentified" at the time of the trial. The family and fiancé of Sonia Olschanezky were never told what had happened to her.
Sir Hartley Shawcross was the British prosecutor at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal in November 1945 where the top Nazis were charged with participating in a "common plan" to commit war crimes. Shawcross also attended the British Military Court proceedings against the nine men charged with killing Vera Leigh, Diana Rowden, Andrée Borrel and Noor Inayat Khan at Natzweiler.
The following quote by Shawcross is from the Forward of a book edited by Anthony Webb, entitled "Trial of Wolfgang Zeuss..." published in 1949 by William Hodge & Company Limited, which contains the testimony from the Natzweiler proceedings:
But the mind which is lastingly impressed and shocked by a single crime staggers and reels at the contemplation of mass criminality: becomes almost impervious to horror, conditioned against shock. And as events recede into the past, those who did not themselves experience them begin to question whether these things could indeed have happened and wonder whether the stories about them are really more than the propaganda of enemies.
Was Shawcross questioning whether the execution of the women at Natzweiler had actually happened?

Additional Information~British SOE Agents Executed at Dachau

On the south wall of the crematorium at the former Dachau concentration camp, right next to one of the ovens, hangs a plaque honoring four British SOE agents: Noor Inayat Khan, Yolanda Beekman, Elaine Plewman, and Madeleine Damerment.




Plaque on wall to the left of crematory oven


The wording on the plaque, honoring the SOE agents, reads as follows:


Here in Dachau on the 12th of September,
1944, four young woman officers of the
British forces attached to Special Operations
Branch were brutally murdered and their bodies
cremated. They died as gallantly as they had
served the Resistance in France during the
common struggle for freedom from tyranny.


This recognition was a long time coming. For 20 years after the war, there was no memorial for those who died at Dachau. Then, on May 9, 1965, a large Museum opened in the former Dachau concentration camp on the initiative of, and according to, the plans of the Comité International de Dachau, an organization of former prisoners.

In 1978, a catalog was published by the Comité International de Dachau in Brussels for sale to visitors to the Museum; it contained photos of the exhibits including photos of documents on display in the Museum. But nowhere in the Museum, nor in the catalog, was there any documentation about the four women of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) who were "brutally murdered" at Dachau on the 12th of September 1944. Not until 1975, when this plaque was put up, was there any mention of them at all at the Dachau Memorial site.

In 1958, an anonymous former Dutch prisoner at Dachau contacted author Jean Overton Fuller after reading her biography of Noor Inayat Khan. He claimed to have witnessed the execution of Noor Inayat Khan on September 12, 1994 at Dachau. According to his story, this anonymous prisoner had seen a high-ranking SS officer named Wilhelm Ruppert, whom he mistakenly called a "sadistic guard," undress Noor and then beat her all over her body until she was a "bloody mess" before personally shooting her in the back of the head. Although the execution spot at Dachau was outside the camp and hidden by trees and bushes, this Dutch prisoner was allowed to get close enough so that he could see everything and hear Noor cry out "Liberté" just before she died.




Stone designates the spot where prisoners were executed


The photo above shows a stone which marks the execution spot in the woods behind the crematorium at Dachau where the four British SOE agents were allegedly shot. In front of the shrubbery is the "blood ditch" which was designed to catch the blood after a prisoner was shot in the neck from behind.

On March 1, 2006, a non-fiction book about Noor Inayat Khan by Shrabani Basu, entitled "The Spy Princess," was published; the date of Noor's alleged execution at Dachau is given as September 13, 1944, the date that is in the files of the British Public Record Office. The discrepancy in the date of the alleged execution is due to the fact that there are no official records whatsoever of the execution of any female British SOE agents. There is more evidence that Elvis is still alive than there is evidence that these four women were executed at Dachau.

In answer to an e-mail query, I received a response from Albert Knoll, a staff member at the Dachau Memorial Site, in which he said that any documents about the execution of the four SOE agents in the Dachau concentration camp, if they ever existed, had been destroyed by the SS shortly before the liberation of the camp.

Arthur Haulot, a former Belgian prisoner at Dachau and one of the prominent members of the CID, told Sarah Helm, the author of a biography of SOE officer Vera Atkins, entitled "A Life in Secrets," that he had never heard any mention of these women while he was in the camp. Haulot was having an affair with a German nurse in the camp, according to his Diary, and he was in a unique position to know what was going on. According to Sarah Helm's book, "No witnesses had been interrogated who had seen anything at all of these women inside Dachau concentration camp."

There is nothing about the "brutal murder" of these four SOE women in the trial transcripts of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau because no member of the camp staff was ever charged with this crime. The man in charge of executions at Dachau, Wilhelm Ruppert, was charged with a war crime by the Tribunal for carrying out executions ordered by the Reich Security Home Office (RSHA) in Berlin, but at the time of his trial in November 1945, the Allies knew nothing about the "brutal murder" of these four female spies at Dachau, because no documents about their execution were ever found.





Madeleine Damerment





Eliane Plewman








Noor Inayat Khan








Yolande Beekman




Close-up of plaque on wall of Dachau crematorium


In 1975, a similar plaque was hung in the crematorium at the former Natzweiler concentration camp in Alsace where four other women SOE agents were allegedly killed by lethal injection on July 6, 1944 and their bodies were burned in the one crematory oven. Their names are Vera Leigh, Diana Rowden, Andrée Borrel and Sonia Olschanezky. Legend has it that Andrée Borrel was burned alive, although according to hearsay testimony given in a British Military Court, she fought heroically and scratched the face of her executioner, scarring him for life.

The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a secret British organization started by Winston Churchill and Hugh Dalton in July 1940, shortly after France signed an Armistice with Germany. Its purpose was to aid partisans and resistance fighters in France and other conquered countries that were occupied by Germany during World War II. Also called Churchill's Secret Army, its directive was to "set Europe ablaze."

The largest group of spies in the SOE was the F section which operated in France; it was headed by Major Maurice Buckmaster. The majority of the women agents were in the French section, including the four agents who were allegedly killed at Dachau.

Noor Inayat Khan was a wireless operator for the Cinema sub circuit of the Physician Network, headed by Francis Suttill, whose code name was Prosper. She was flown to France on a RAF Lysander plane on the night of June 16, 1943 and was captured on or around October 1, 1943.

Eliane Plewman was a courier for the Monk Network, headed by Charles Stepper. She parachuted into France on August 13, 1943 and was captured in March 1944.

Yolanda Beekman was a wireless operator for the Musician Network. She left England in an RAF Lysander plane on September 18, 1943 and was captured on January 12, 1944.

Madeleine Damerment was sent to be a courier for the Bricklayer Network. She parachuted into France on the night of February 28, 1944 and was arrested by the Gestapo the moment that she landed.

To the British, the SOE agents were heroes who helped to liberate Europe from Fascism by means of espionage and sabotage, but to the Germans the SOE agents were "terrorists," operating illegally to help the French resistance "bandits" to destroy factories, blow up troop trains and worst of all, to delay German Panzer divisions from reaching Normandy until it was too late to stop the Allied invasion of Europe. The SOE supplied arms, money and food for the insurgents fighting the Nazis. It was a secret organization because it was against international law to provide military aid to countries that had laid down their arms and signed an Armistice, promising to stop fighting.

Women were not recruited for the British SOE until April 1942, according to Sarah Helm's book entitled "A Life in Secrets." The problem was that the statutes of the British Army, Navy and Royal Air Force barred women from armed combat, so there was no legal authority for women to engage in guerrilla warfare.

As insurgents, operating behind enemy lines in civilian clothing, the SOE agents did not have the same protection as POWs under international law. If caught, they could be legally executed as spies. Women were especially vulnerable because the 1929 Geneva Convention and the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare made no provision at all for protecting women, as women were not envisioned as combatants.

To get around the rules, the women agents were commissioned in a civilian organization called the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) during the time they were operating as guerrilla fighters.

Churchill himself secretly approved the deployment of women as SOE agents. The British military did not want women in the SOE working as spies, but the senior officers in the SOE thought that women would be ideally suited to be couriers since they could move about freely without creating suspicion. According to Sarah Helm's book, "If the use of women as guerrillas leaked out, the policy would have to be denied."

As soon as France was liberated in August 1944, Buckmaster's assistant, Vera Atkins, took it upon herself to find out what had happened to the missing agents whom she had supervised as they prepared to drop by parachute, or land in a small plane, in enemy territory. According to Sarah Helm's book, Atkins encountered resistance from the SOE: Atkins wanted to circulate the names of the missing agents widely so that, when the concentration camps were liberated, they would be found. But according to Sarah Helm's book, "On sight of Vera's memo, John Senter, head of SOE's security directorate, commissioned as a commander in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve, immediately pulled rank, saying her search should, in effect, be stopped."

Circulating the names of the missing women would have revealed to the enemy that secret missions had taken place and that rules had been broken to carry out these missions. Irregular combatants in civilian clothes, which was what the women SOE agents were, did not have protection under the Geneva Convention.

After the war, the SOE was disbanded but Vera Atkins secured a commission as a flight officer in the WAAF, the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, which allowed her to continue her work in searching for the missing agents. If she had not volunteered to look for the missing SOE agents, their files would have been closed and marked "missing and presumed dead," when the SOE ceased to exist in 1946.

The names of the women in the SOE were not publicly known until long after the war. In 1948, the names of Yolande Beekman, Madeleine Damerment and Eliane Plewman were revealed for the first time when they were included among the 52 women honored by a plaque placed at St. Paul's Church, Knightsbridge. The name of Noor Inayat Khan was not publicly known until 1949 when she was awarded the George Cross.

For years, the British kept the very existence of the SOE secret. By 1946, the SOE had closed down and all of its files were sealed. A mysterious fire in 1946 had destroyed many of the files. The surviving agents were instructed never to talk about their war-time experiences. The files of the SOE were kept secret from the public until 1998 when some of the documents were finally released. More of the files were opened to the public between 2003 and 2006.

The file on the "brutal murder" of the four women at Dachau was released to the public in 2003, and since then, no effort has been spared by the British to make these agents, especially Noor Inayat Khan, into the greatest heroes of World War II.

I sent an e-mail query to the office where the Public Record Office files are kept and received a response from Dr. Graham Macklin.

According to Dr. Graham Macklin, there is no documentation whatsoever in the British SOE files on the alleged executions of women agents at Natzweiler and Dachau. All of the information about the executions came from interviews done during various investigations.

Dr. Macklin stated the following in his e-mail to me:

According to the 'Report on the killing of seven British officers, French section M.O.I (S.P) in Germany 1944 (Karlsruhe Gestapo)' in WO 311/293, a post-war SOE investigation into these murders conclusively established that 'the victims had been held for sometime at Karlsruhe' prior to their murder in Dachau and Natzweiler. Nor does this information appear to rest solely on the testimony of Kriminalsekretaer Christian Ott. The various depositions within this file indicate that the information that these women were executed in Dachau and Natzweiler was based on a widespread investigation drawn from a variety of sources.

Note that Dr. Macklin refers to the report of "seven British officers" in the French section who were held by the Karlsruhe Gestapo, not eight. The eighth woman was Noor Inayat Khan, alias Nora Baker, who was held as a Nacht und Nebel prisoner at Pforzheim prison, 15 miles from Karlsruhe, because she had made two escape attempts. She was kept in chains most of the time and not allowed to communicate with anyone in the outside world. There is no record of her being brought to the Karlsruhe prison, from where Gestapo agents Christian Ott and Max Wassmer allegedly escorted four women to Dachau to be executed. Much of the information about the deaths of the women came from Christian Ott, who was imprisoned by the Allies at Dachau after the war as a possible war criminal.

When Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, there were at least six male British SOE agents among the prisoners including Johnny Hopper, Robert Sheppard, Brian Stonehouse and Albert Guérisse. After surviving Mauthausen and Natzweiler, two concentration camps that were much worse than Dachau, they had been brought to Dachau on September 6, 1944, less than a week before the women were allegedly executed.

Madeleine Damerment had previously worked for two years with the PAT line which Albert Guérisse headed before he was captured. Later, she was assigned to be a courier for the Bricklayer line, but was captured by the Gestapo on the same day that she parachuted into France.

On the day that Dachau was liberated, there was one American in the camp, Lt. Rene Guiraud, a spy in the OSS, the US military intelligence organization. Rene Guiraud had been parachuted into Nazi-occupied France, along with a radio operator. His mission was to collect intelligence, harass German military units and occupation forces, sabotage critical war material facilities, and carry on other resistance activities. Guiraud organized 1500 guerrilla fighters and developed intelligence networks in Europe. During all this, Guiraud posed as a French citizen, wearing civilian clothing, which means that if he were caught, he would not be protected under the 1929 Geneva Convention. Guiraud was captured in France and interrogated for two months by the Gestapo, then sent to Dachau in September 1944, around the same time that the women were executed.

The work done by Albert Guérisse and Rene Guiraud for the French Resistance was far more important than anything that the women agents had ever done. Yet, Madeleine Damerment was executed, after being captured on the day that she landed in France, while Guérisse and Guiraud were allowed to live.

There were no male SOE agents executed at Dachau; on the contrary, the male British SOE prisoners were treated exceptionally well there. They did not have to work in the factories, nor on the farm at Dachau, but were instead given easy jobs inside the camp.

Albert Guérisse worked in the infirmary at Dachau, just as he had at Natzweiler. This gave him the opportunity to conspire with other Communist prisoners who worked in the infirmary in organizing a prisoner's committee which eventually took over the Dachau camp the day before it was liberated.

Brian Stonehouse, who later became an illustrator for Vogue magazine in civilian life, attributed his survival to the fact that the Nazis kept him alive for four and a half years in order to make use of his ability as an artist.

By some remarkable coincidence, Guérisse and Stonehouse had been sent to the Natzweiler camp shortly before four female SOE agents were executed there, and were then transferred to Dachau just days before four more female SOE agents were brought there to be executed.




Albert Guérisse is the second man from the left, wearing a sweater vest


Although there was a typhus epidemic at Dachau and all the prisoners were told that they had to remain inside the camp for several weeks, Stonehouse and Guérisse left for London a few days later. They were welcomed home by Vera Atkins, who had already started a search to find the missing agents that had been captured by the Gestapo. At that point, Atkins knew nothing about the alleged execution at Dachau, so she didn't ask about it and neither Guérisse nor Stonehouse mentioned it. Nor did Stonehouse and Guérisse say anything about witnessing the arrival of four women SOE agents at Natzweiler, which Atkins was already actively investigating.

According to Sarah Helm's biography of Vera Atkins, entitled "A Life in Secrets," Atkins went to the Karlsruhe prison on April 27, 1946 to examine the records of the SOE agents who had been imprisoned there for nine months before they were taken on July 6, 1944 to "einem KZ," meaning an unnamed concentration camp.

Atkins did not find Noor's name, nor her alias Nora Baker, in the Karlsruhe records, but when she discovered that "Sonia Olschanezky" was one of the women who had left on July 6, 1944, Atkins assumed that Noor had used a new alias, just as Madeleine Damerment had given the alias "Martine Dussautoy" at the prison. She was now positive that Noor Inayat Khan was one of the women who had left Karlsruhe on July 6th, bound for an unnamed concentration camp, which Atkins was sure was Natzweiler. At that point, Atkins had no idea that Noor Inayat Khan had been a prisoner at Pforzheim, not Karlsruhe. Noor was the first captured SOE agent to be sent to a prison in Germany.

The British Military Court proceedings against Dr. Werner Röhde and 8 other members of the Natzweiler camp, for the murder of four SOE agents at Natzweiler, began at Wuppertal on May 29, 1946. Vera Atkins was the first witness for the prosecution. According to the original trial transcript, Vera Atkins testified that Noor Inayat Khan had been murdered at Natzweiler. The trial transcript was altered in 1947 when new information indicated that Noor was still a prisoner at Pforzheim as late as September 1944, according to Sarah Helm's book. The altered transcript of the trial, published in 1949, said that the fourth woman was "unidentified."

In the Karlsruhe records of Madeleine Damerment (alias Martine Dussautoy), Eliane Plewman and Yolande Beekman, all of whom had left the prison on September 11, 1944, there was no indication of where they had gone. Until her trip to Karlsruhe, Atkins had assumed that Yolande Beekman was one of the women executed at Natzweiler on July 6, 1944, based on a sketch done by Brian Stonehouse, an SOE agent who had witnessed the arrival of the women at the camp. With only 4 weeks remaining until the trial of nine staff members at Natzweiler for the murder of four SOE agents, their names were not yet known, since there was no documentation whatsoever of their deaths.

Sarah Helm wrote the following with regard to the Karlsruhe records for Martine Dussautoy, Eliane Plewman and Yolande Beekman:

Under "taken to" it said "abgeholt nach": no destination. Under another entry was written "Fr Fuss," meaning literally that they went "freely on foot," or were set free.

Much of the information about the execution of four women at Dachau comes from a statement made by Christian Ott, who told American interrogators that he had accompanied four women from Karlsruhe to Dachau on September 11, 1944, but he couldn't remember their names. Max Wassmer, another Gestapo man at Karlsruhe, was in charge of the trip; he couldn't recall the names, nor even the number of women that he had escorted to Dachau.

Sarah Helm wrote the following about Ott's statement to the interrogators:

Waiting on the station platform, Ott expressed surprise to Wassmer that women were being sent to Dachau. He understood that Dachau was a camp for men only. He asked Wassmer "several times" whether Dachau was now taking women. "Wassmer, at last tired of my repeated question, showed me a telegram from the Reich Security Head Office (RSHA), Berlin, and told me to read it."

The telegram Ott read said the women were to be "executed at Dachau" and was signed by Ernst Kaltenbrunner, head of the RSHA.

Ott said he recalled that Wassmer had told him "this must be an important case since the telegram had been signed personally by 'Ernst' - that is to say, Dr. Kaltenbrunner.




Ernst Kaltenbrunner


Ernst Kaltenbrunner was one of the top Nazi leaders, important enough to have been included among the accused in the first proceedings of the Nuremberg International Tribunal which began in November 1945. At the Nuremberg IMT, Kaltenbrunner was charged with being responsible for the genocide of the Jews.

Kaltenbrunner's position was higher than that of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, the all-powerful head of the SS and the concentration camps. All punishments in all the concentration camps had to be approved by the head office of the SS in Oranienburg and all punishments of female prisoners, including executions, had to be approved by Himmler himself.

As Chief of the Security Police, Kaltenbrunner was the head of the RSHA and the regional offices of the Gestapo, SD and Kripo. Kaltenbrunner received orders directly from Hitler, which means that these female British spies might have been secretly executed on the orders of Hitler himself. This could explain why Kaltenbrunner had pulled rank on Himmler and ordered the execution of the women without Himmler's knowledge.

An Austrian, from the same area as Hitler, Kaltenbrunner was a sinister-looking man whose face was marred by a deep dueling scar on his cheek. He was perfect for the role of the villain in this story. He was also dead, having been executed on October 16, 1946 after being convicted of Crimes against Peace and Crimes against Humanity.

One of the women allegedly executed at Dachau was Madeleine Damerment, alias Martine Dussautoy, an innocent low-level courier who had never had the opportunity to "set Europe ablaze" because she was arrested by the Gestapo the moment she touched the ground after parachuting into France. The plans for her drop had been made by the Gestapo using the radio of Noor Inayat Khan, who had already been captured.

According to Christian Ott's hearsay statement, Ernst Kaltenbrunner had taken time out from running the RSHA to personally send a telegram to Karlsruhe prison, ordering Madeleine Damerment and 3 other women to be transported to Dachau, a men's camp, to be secretly executed. Of course, the incriminating telegram was never found.

According to the biography of Vera Atkins, written by Sarah Helm, Vera had learned in the course of her investigation that RSHA's policy was that

Any orders concerning spies came from the desk in Berlin of a man named Horst Kopkow. It was Kopkow, Vera learned, who ordered every Sonder Behandlung, or "special treatment," and who signed every protective custody order used for spies. Kopkow was fastidious and always required "receipts" for bodies when executions had taken place, except when the cases were N+N, in which case special secret procedures were enforced.

N.N. is an abbreviation for Nacht und Nebel, a special classification for prisoners who were made to disappear into the night and fog, as an alternative to being executed. They were not allowed to send or receive letters; their families were not told where they were and they assumed that their relative had been executed. Of the four women executed at Dachau, only Noor Inayat Khan was an N.N. prisoner. She was given this designation after her two escape attempts.

Sonder Behandlung (special treatment) was the Nazi code word for murder, specifically the murder of the Jews in the gas chamber.




SS officer Horst Kopkow


Horst Kopkow was never put on trial for ordering the execution of approximately 300 spies. He was arrested as a war criminal after the war, but he cooperated with the British, giving them a wealth of information about the German intelligence service. In 1948, he was recruited by the British to work as a spy in the Cold War against the Soviet Union.

According to Christian Ott's statement to interrogators, Madeleine Damerment spoke "gut Deutsch," making her a prime candidate to be recruited as a double agent. By her own admission, according to Ott, Madeleine had gained 30 pounds during her 9 months of imprisonment at Karlsruhe. Was the Gestapo plying her with Apfel Strudel in an effort to get her to work for them? There are numerous references in Sarah Helm's book to British SOE agents who turned against their country and became double agents, after finding out that they had been betrayed by the SOE.

A few days after Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, the US Seventh Army issued an Official Report which summarized the events that had transpired at Dachau, based on what they had been told by 20 inmates. Their main informant was Albert Guérisse, who immediately took the Americans on a tour of the camp and showed them the gas chamber. The Americans were apparently not told about the execution of General Charles Delestraint, a prominent member of the French Resistance, nor were they told about the "brutal murder" of the four British SOE women since the Army report did not mention it.

However, the Report did state that Johann Kick, the head of the Political Department, was given a new position in August 1944 in which he was put in charge of STAPO Aussenstelle Dachau. In Appendix A of the report, the following is stated: "In his new position Kick was charged with recruiting espionage agents from the Dachau Concentration Camp. He relied almost wholly on intimidating and coercive methods." Could the four British spies have been brought to Dachau in an effort to recruit them as double agents?

Johann Kick testified at the American Military Tribunal at Dachau that it was the responsibility of the Political Department at the camp to notify the RSHA office in Berlin after an execution. No such report about the execution of the women SOE agents at Dachau was ever found, nor was the order for the execution of four women SOE agents at Dachau ever found.

In her book "A Life in Secrets," Sarah Helm wrote that Ott said the train arrived at about ten p.m. in Dachau. Wassmer's version of the story was that the train arrived at midnight. After handing the four women over to "camp officials," that was the last that Ott ever saw of the women. Ott slept that night in the building above the gate at Dachau. The next morning, Ott said that Wassmer told him that the women were scheduled to be shot at 9 a.m. Wassmer himself read the death sentence to them. Besides Wassmer, only the camp Commandant and the two SS men who fired the shots were present at the execution, according to Ott's hearsay statement.

According to Sarah Helm's book, Wassmer denied that he had told Ott that he had been present when the women were executed. Wassmer told Vera Atkins that he had delivered the women to the SS guards at Dachau and had not seen them again.

All of the German war criminals were prosecuted by the Allies on charges of "participating in a common design to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the 1929 Geneva Convention and the 1907 Hague Convention" which meant that Wassmer would have been guilty of a crime if he had, in fact, witnessed the execution of the women at Dachau. According to the prosecutors at the American Military Tribunal, held at Dachau, any SS man or prisoner who witnessed an execution ordered by RSHA, and did not try to stop it, was guilty of murder.

At the time that Vera Atkins first interrogated Max Wassmer, she believed that there were three women brought to Dachau for execution, and Wassmer was willing to agree that there were probably only three, not four, as Ott had claimed. Wassmer said that he was told the next morning that the women had been shot and he was given a "receipt" for the bodies. Apparently the receipt disappeared into the same black hole as the telegram from Ernst Kaltenbrunner, so the number of bodies could not be verified.

Six months later, Vera Atkins interrogated Max Wassmer again; by this time she suspected that Noor Inayat Khan had been brought from Pforzheim prison to Karlsruhe where she joined the other three women on the trip to Dachau. This time Wassmer gave the answer that she wanted: there were four women taken to Dachau, not three, as he had previously said.

After the typhus epidemic at Dachau was brought under control, the camp was used to house accused German war criminals. The former Dachau inmates and the German war criminals were both interrogated in preparation for the first American Military Tribunal at Dachau, which started in November 1945, but the interrogators apparently never learned about the execution of the women SOE agents, even though Christian Ott was one of the prisoners at Dachau at that time.

The 225-page Public Records Office file on Noor Inayat Khan was released to the public in 2003. It contains the statement of an unidentified Dutch prisoner at Dachau, known only by his initials A.F., who claimed to be an eye-witness to her execution. The spot where the four women were allegedly executed was located in a wooded area outside the camp and hidden from view by shrubs and trees, as shown in the photo below.




Thick shrubbery and trees hide Dachau execution site from view of the prisoners


On May 13, 2006, Alan Hamilton wrote an article, published on the British web site, which gave the details of the Dutch prisoner's eye-witness testimony, as quoted below:

In 1958, a former Dutch prisoner of the Nazis known as "A.F." who witnessed Noor's execution read her biography and wrote to its author, Jean Overton Fuller. He revealed her killer to be Wilhelm Ruppert, a sadistic SS guard at the camp, and he described Noor's last moments on September 12, 1944.

"The SS undressed the girl and she was terribly beaten by Ruppert all over her body. She did not cry, neither said anything. When Ruppert got tired and the girl was a bloody mess he told her then he would shoot her. She had to kneel and the only word she said, before Ruppert shot her from behind through the head, was 'Liberté'." She was 30 years old.

Other accounts of Noor's alleged execution say that she was shot inside one of the cells in the bunker (camp prison) at Dachau, although two British prisoners in the bunker never reported hearing the shot.




Michael Pellis identifies Friedrich Wilhelm Ruppert, Nov. 24, 1945


Whether or not he was "sadistic," Wilhelm Ruppert was higher in rank than a lowly guard at Dachau. If the SOE women were executed at Dachau, he would not have been the one who did the shooting. At the American Military Tribunal held at the former Dachau concentration camp in November 1945, Ruppert was considered the second man in importance after the former Commandant, Martin Gottfried Weiss. In the photo above, Ruppert is standing on the right and Weiss is sitting in the aisle seat just below him.

At the trial of the Dachau concentration camp staff members, Ruppert was specifically charged with carrying out Hitler's order for the execution of 90 Russian officers, who were Communist Commissars, on September 4, 1944, the week before the alleged execution of the British SOE women at Dachau. No attempt was made to conceal the execution of the Russian officers. Ruppert's defense, that he was carrying out superior orders and that the Soviet Union had not signed the 1929 Geneva Convention, did not save him from being hanged as a war criminal.

Ruppert did not do the actual killing of the Russian officers. His job was to see that executions, ordered by RSHA, were carried out, although according to Christian Ott's hearsay version of Max Wassmer's story, Ruppert was apparently not present when the women were executed.

The two SS men who did the shooting at Dachau executions were Franz Trenkle and Theodor Bongartz. Trenkle was sentenced to death by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau; he was executed on May 28, 1946. Bongartz died in captivity soon after he was captured in 1945.

Ruppert was hanged on May 28, 1946, the day before Vera Atkins testified at the Natzweiler trial that Noor Inayat Khan had been killed at Natzweiler. Ruppert had not been charged with beating and then shooting Noor Inayat Khan because the Dutch prisoner at Dachau, who claimed to have witnessed her execution, did not come forward with his story until 1958, and even then, he chose to share this information with a writer, not with the Nazi hunters who were still looking for war criminals to prosecute.

As a witness to an execution, this Dutch prisoner was a war criminal, according to the standards of the American Military prosecutors, because he did not try to stop it; this may be why he kept quiet until 1958. Sylvester Filleböck, an SS man who was accused of witnessing an execution at Dachau, was convicted and sentenced to death, although his sentence was commuted to 10 years in prison. Even Kapos, the prisoners who assisted the camp staff, were held to be responsible for stopping executions: Emil Erwin Mahl, a Kapo who assisted at executions at Dachau, was condemned to death but his sentence was commuted to 15 years in prison.

Dr. Werner Röhde was convicted and hanged on October 11, 1946 for committing war crimes, including the murder of Noor Inayat Khan and three other SOE agents at the Natzweiler concentration camp in Alsace. At the request of Vera Atkins, Dr. Röhde had signed a death certificate for Noor, thereby providing the only documentation of her death - at Natzweiler, not Dachau.

In answer to my query, Dr. Graham Macklin stated in his e-mail response to me, with regard to the files in the Public Records Office, that

The file also confirms that Ott, Wassmer and another man named Heuser escorted the women to the concentration camps.

Christian Ott, Max Wassmer and Heuser were Gestapo agents who worked at Karlsruhe where seven of the women were imprisoned before they were allegedly taken to Natzweiler and Dachau for execution. It was their job to escort prisoners when they were moved to a new location, but according to Albert Knoll, who works in the Dachau Archives, the names of Max Wassmer and Christian Ott, the two Gestapo agents who allegedly accompanied the women to Dachau, are not listed in the Archives although they supposedly stayed overnight at the Dachau camp.

Knoll wrote, in answer to my questions, that all the executions of Dachau prisoners had been public and that the other prisoners had been forced to be eye-witnesses, since this was a measure of deterrence. But all the executions of Prisoners of War, secret agents, members of the Resistance and prominent prisoners had been strictly secret. Executions of non-Jewish women had always been a source of embarrassment for the male perpetrators, according to Knoll.

Regarding the trip from Karlsruhe prison to Dachau, the following quote is from the book "Flames in the Field" by Rita Kramer:

Wassmer later described the September trip to Dachau for the English writer who was so interested. They had gone by express train and he told her he had given the four women the window seats. They had passed around some English cigarettes one of them still had in her possession and he had given them some of his German ones when they ran out. Their conversation was lively; he didn't think they were frightened, but of course he didn't understand what they were saying. They spoke English. They got to Dachau around midnight [...]

The four walked up the hill from the station to the camp, where they were locked up separately overnight, and in the early morning they were taken to a spot strewn with sand stained with blood and told to kneel down there. They knelt in pairs, holding hands, as an SS man came up and shot them from behind.

I once spent a week in the town of Dachau and I walked the route from the train station to the camp. There is no hill between the station and the camp, although there is a hill with a castle on top of it in the town of Dachau. Even in the dark, Wassmer should have known whether or not he was walking uphill.

When Christian Ott was interrogated by Alexander Nicholson, the war crimes investigator who had taken over the Karlsruhe Gestapo case from Vera Atkins, he told him about a conversation that he had had with Wassmer after the women were allegedly shot.

As described by Sarah Helm in her book, the conversation went like this:

Ott told Nicholson: "So I said to him, 'But tell me, what really happened?' And Wassmer turned to me and said: 'So you want to know how it really happened?' "

Nicholson asked what Ott had taken Wassmer to mean by this comment. "I knew what he meant was that what he had told me was just a story - eine Geschichte - that he had made up, and I wouldn't want to know what really happened."

Christian Ott and Max Wassmer were both in their late fifties and probably worried about spending the rest of their lives in prison as war criminals. Both were great story tellers, adding rich detail to their accounts, and they were both willing to say anything to please their captors, as long as they didn't incriminate themselves. Wassmer and Ott told their interrogators that they had also taken four SOE women to Natzweiler. Both were released from custody and were never prosecuted, although they were just as guilty as Franz Berg, the Natzweiler inmate who was sentenced to 5 years in prison for building the fire in the crematory oven at Natzweiler where the bodies of four SOE women were allegedly burned.

Johann Georg Elser

Johann Georg Elser 

(4 January 1903 - 9 April 1945)

was a German opponent of Nazism. He is most remembered for his unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler, but he also wanted to assassinate Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels in 1939.

In autumn of 1938, Europe was on the verge of war because of the Sudetenland Crisis. After the experience of World War I, the Germans were apprehensive about another war[citation needed] and Elser shared this anxiety. Though war was averted at the last minute, Elser mistrusted Hitler's peace proclamations and considered removing the Nazi leadership by assassination. Reflecting on how to implement his plan, Elser travelled to Munich on November 8, 1938, to attend Hitler's annual speech on the anniversary of Hitler's failed Beer Hall Putsch. The craftsman from Königsbronn not only judged the poorly-guarded event to be a favourable opportunity, but also witnessed the same night the outbursts of anti-Jewish violence during the Kristallnacht. This experience convinced Elser that a leadership capable of inciting such violence would plungeGermany into a major war, and that only Hitler's death could stop this move into catastrophe.

Elser chose the next anniversary of the Hitler Putsch, when Hitler would return to Munich, and decided to kill him with a bomb during his speech. After he had constructed the bomb, Elser travelled to Munich again. He managed to stay inside the Bürgerbräukeller after closing hours each night for over a month, during which time he hollowed out the pillar behind the speaker's rostrum, and placed the bomb inside it. Security was seen as somewhat lax that day as it has been left to local party strongman Christian Weber rather than Reinhard Heydrich.

While he was making these preparations, World War II broke out on September 1, 1939, proving his estimations correct. Elser, being focused on his work, hardly noticed this.Unbeknownst to Elser, Hitler had cancelled his planned speech at the Bürgerbraukeller because of the war, but then changed his mind, and agreed to attend the anniversary after all. This was on the condition that he could return to Berlin that same night. Since fog prevented a flight back to Berlin, Hitler decided to take the train, which meant finishing his speech earlier than expected. On November 8, 1939, the bomb exploded at 21:20, exactly as Elser had planned, but Hitler had already left the room thirteen minutes earlier. Eight people died and sixty-three were injured, sixteen of them seriously, and Elser's plot to assassinate Hitler had failed.

Arrest and custody

Elser was arrested by chance at 20:45, about 35 minutes before the bomb exploded, by the customs border police in Konstanz when he tried to cross the border into Switzerland. At first the officers did not suspect his involvement in the assassination attempt, but then they found picture postcards from the Bürgerbräukeller in Elser's coat. Elser was transferred to Munich, where he was interrogated by the Gestapo. Elser remained silent and denied any involvement in the explosion, but the evidence pointing to his complicity became increasingly clear. What finally pointed to Elser as the would-be assassin were his bruised, scraped knees. As it turned out, the hollow space in the column where the explosives had been hidden could only have been reached by an assassin crawling on his knees. Waitresses then identified Elser as a frequent patron of the Bürgerbräukeller, and he eventually confessed.

After his confession to the crime in Munich, Elser was taken to the headquarters of the German Reich's security agency in Berlin, where he was severely tortured by the Gestapo. The SS chief Heinrich Himmler was not satisfied that a diminutive Swabian, a craftsman with a grade-school education, could have almost managed to assassinate the Führer without accomplices. The protocol from the Gestapo was recovered at the end of the 1960s. This 203 page document is the most important source of information about Georg Elser.

Elser was imprisoned in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. Although he consistently claimed to have been acting on his own, the Nazis, especially Goebbels persisted in suspecting a British-led conspiracy, and intended to stage a trial exposing this alleged plot after the war. Elser was kept in special custody. The mystery about the identity of this "special security prisoner" sometimes led to malicious rumours among his fellow inmates. Even after the war, Martin Niemöller, also in custody at Sachsenhausen, claimed that Elser had been a member of the SS and that the whole assassination attempt had been staged by the Nazis to portray Hitler as being protected by Providence. However, historical research (Anton Hoch, 1969) has confirmed that Elser acted completely alone, and no evidence involving the regime, or any outside group has been found. Some historians have since speculated that, in fact, he (Elser) may have been either the direct agent or unwitting dupe of National Leader of the SS, Himmler, and RSHA Chief SS Lt. Gen. Reinhard Heydrich. The two men may very well have plotted Hitler's death that fall in order to forestall a campaign they felt Germany could not win, and a lost war that would spell doom for them.[4]

Death German commemorative postal stamp, 2003

In April 1945 German defeat became imminent and Allied troops were drawing nearer to Dachau. This meant that the Nazis' aim of staging a trial became futile, so Hitler ordered the killing of the "special security prisoner Eller", the name by which Elser was called in Dachau.[citation needed] The head of the Gestapo, SS-Gruppenführer Heinrich Müller delivered the order for this killing to the Commandant of the Dachau concentration camp, Obersturmbannführer Eduard Weiter.

Following order has arrived: At one of the next terror attacks on Munich area of Dachau, "Eller" has a deadly accident. I ask you to liquidate "Eller" without attracting attention after such a situation appears. Also take special care that only a few people who are specially bound come to know of this. The message for me then shall be something like...
On... caused by a terror attack (air raid) on.... security prisoner "Eller" fatally injured

Plaque in memory of George Elser in Königsbronn.

Elser was killed by gunshot on 9 April 1945, in the Dachau concentration camp, just a few weeks before the end of war. A plaque (see illustration) dedicated to his memory in Königsbronn says:

“ I wanted to prevent even greater bloodshed through my deed ”

There are a lot of streets and places named after Elser in Germany  and there are several monuments.

  • 4 January 1903 - 9 April 1945

Arthur Haulot

Baron Arthur Haulot (Angleur near Liège,

15 November 1913 - 24 May 2005)

was a Belgianjournalisthumanist and poet who served, during World War II as an active member of themilitary resistance against German foreign occupation also known in Western Europe as the Resistance. As president of the Jeunes Socialistes (young socialists), he was made prisonerand taken to the concentration camp of Dachau.

Since his liberation from the camp, he has actively worked to speak about the atrocities of theNazi regime and its efforts to impose a regime that precludes free speech and many forms of freedom and liberties, this leading to extermination of any opponents to the regime, and many people considered as passively opposed to the Regime, like the Jews, the Roma and many others.

He died in Belgium as a result of a thrombosis.

Who entered Dachau first on April 29, 1945?


Gate into Dachau Concentration Camp


There is considerable disagreement among the US 7th Army soldiers as to who was the first soldier to enter the gate of the Dachau concentration camp on liberation day, April 29, 1945. The gate with its sign that reads "Arbeit Macht Frei" is shown above. Translated into English, the words mean "work makes you free."

On March 17, 1986, Private First Class John Degro, the lead scout of I Company, 3rd BN, 157th Infantry, 45th Division, wrote a statement regarding his claim to have been the first American soldier to set foot inside the notorious Dachau camp. Col. Howard Buechner, a 45th Division Medical Corps officer, included Degro's statement in his book entitled "Dachau, the Hour of the Avenger." The following quote is Degro's words from Buechner's book:

As lead scout, I shot the lock off the gate and entered the compound. There were 32,000 inmates, screaming, between hugging and kissing us. The stench was unbearable. We backed out the gate, let a few inmates out and gave them weapons. We cleaned out the guard towers, took knapsacks off of the dead SS and threw them over the barbed wire into the compound.




Private John Degro


On the day of the liberation, 1st Lt. William J. Cowling, an aide to Brig. Gen. Henning Linden who was the deputy commander of the 42nd Division, wrote a long letter to his family in which he claimed that he was the first soldier to enter the Dachau concentration camp, along with some "newspaper people."

The next day Marguerite Higgins, a reporter with the New York Herald Tribune, filed a news report in which she claimed that she and Sgt. Peter Furst were the first two people to go inside the Dachau concentration camp. Furst was a reporter for the US Army Newspaper called the Stars and Stripes.

In his book entitled "The Day of the Americans," Nerin E. Gun, a journalist who was a prisoner at Dachau wrote:

Miss Higgins and a fellow journalist, Robert Fust (sic), on the highway leading to the camp, had picked up an SS man and ordered him to show them the quickest way to the Lager. The SS man had remained seated on the back seat of the jeep and, in the pandemonium that followed the arrival of the detachment, the prisoners, who had never seen an American uniform before and who at this point really had no reason to be choosy, thought the SS man was another one of their liberators. He too was showered with embraces, kisses, handshakes, and shouts of triumph. The SS man must have thought that either they had all lost their minds or else the hour of universal reconciliation had rung. It was only fifteen minutes later that O'Leary, head of the International Committee, ordered him arrested. That same evening, he faced a firing squad.

Higgins did not mention in her news article that 1st Lt. Cowling was there at the time, and in his letter, Cowling did not mention the names of the "newspaper people" who were with him.

Cowling wrote in the letter to his family that he was with a group of soldiers that met some journalists who were on their way to the Dachau concentration camp. The following is a quote from Cowling's letter to his family, which he had actually started writing on April 28th and finished on April 30th, the day after the liberation. The following is an excerpt from this letter:

These newspaper people were going up to see the camp and we decided to go up too. We rode in a Jeep with a guard out ahead of the boys and we were several hundred yards ahead as we approached the camp.


The newspaper people said they were going on into the camp and I got permission to go on with them with my guard leaving the others with the General. We went through one gate and spotted some Germans in a tower. I hollered in German for them to come to me and they did. I sent them back to the guards and General and got on the front of the newspaper people's Jeep and headed for the gate.

A man lay dead just in front of the gate. A bullet through his head. One of the Germans we had taken lifted him out of the way and we dismounted and went throughout the gate into a large cement square about 800 squares surrounded by the low black barracks and the whole works enclosed by barbed wire. When we entered the gate not a soul was in sight. Then suddenly people (few would call them that) came from all directions. They were dirty, starved skeletons with torn tattered clothes and they screamed and hollered and cried. Myself and the newspaper people and kissed our hands, our feet and all of them tried to touch us. They grabbed us and tossed us into the air screaming at the top of their lungs. I finally managed to pull myself free and get to the gate and shut it so they could not get out.

According to a book entitled "Surrender of the Dachau Concentration Camp 29 Apr 45, The True Account," written by John H. Linden, there were actually two guards who accompanied Lt. Cowling when he entered the prison enclosure: T/5 Guido Oddi and Pfc. C. E. Tinkham.

In his book "Dachau, the Hour of the Avenger," Col. Buechner wrote that Staff Sgt. Robert L. White was in command of a squad of soldiers from I Company, 3rd BN, 157th Infantry, 45th Division. The following is a quote from page XXIV of Buechner's book:

This group became the first element of I Company to approach and enter the concentration camp at Dachau. When Sgt. White's two point men (John Degro and Mike McKlinsky) found the gate to the outer camp secured, he ordered the lock destroyed by rifle fire. They were then able to enter and fanned out through the compound, working their way to the gate of the inner enclosure. Other members of this squad were Bill Burns and Eston Broadwater (both deceased).

The "outer camp" mentioned in the quote above was the SS garrison and training camp that was adjacent to the concentration camp. The whole Dachau complex was about 20 acres in size; the "inner enclosure" where the prisoners were held was only about 5 acres. The only way to get to the "inner enclosure" was to go through one of the outer gates.

The aerial photo below shows the Dachau concentration camp, which is the rectangle on the right-hand side in the middle of the picture. The SS garrison is on the left side. A street that was called the Avenue of the SS runs from the lower left-hand corner to the main gate which is opposite Eicke Plaza, a landscaped rectangle on the right-hand side. The railroad tracks entered the garrison on the left-hand side of this photo, but out of camera range.




Aerial photo of Dachau SS garrison and concentration camp


It is not clear which gate Sgt. White ordered his men to open with rifle fire. At a gate on the south side, SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker was waiting to surrender the concentration camp. According to Lt. Col. Felix Sparks of the 45th Division, as told to Flint Whitlock, the historian of the 45th Division, there were SS soldiers also waiting to surrender inside the main gate. The main gate was the one closest to the inner enclosure of the concentration camp.

Lt. Col. Sparks also told Flint Whitlock, author of "The Rock of Anzio, From Sicily to Dachau: A History of the U.S. 45th Infantry Division," that he ordered his men to enter the railroad gate, while he and a few soldiers climbed over the ten-foot wall around the SS garrison. Sparks said that he deliberately avoided the main gate because, if the SS was planning to defend the camp, that's where they would do it.




Railroad track and location of former railroad gate


The photo above shows a short section of the railroad spur line into the SS garrison which has been preserved. In the background is what was formerly the railroad gate. The garrison was used by the US Army for 28 years; it is now used by the Bavarian state police.

John Degro wrote the following in his statement, published in Howard Buechner's book in 1986:

I can recall the early morning of April 29, 1945. Dawn was just breaking. I happened to be the first scout, appointed by S/Sgt. R. White. I remember walking along a railroad track. The rest of the squad was about 100 feet behind me. Finally there came into view these boxcars, laden with dead bodies, piled up on top of one another, waist deep. After viewing this situation we went further on, boiling mad, half out of our heads.

We came across a German hospital. How comfy the patients were, lying between clean white sheets with no regard for what was going on a few yards away. We ordered everyone out, regardless of their condition. We pressed further on and came to the inner enclosure. As lead scout, I shot the lock off the gate and entered the compound.

The photo below shows the Dachau SS hospital building in the background on the right, marked with a cross on the roof. Wounded German soldiers were ordered out, just as Degro stated, and then lined up to be shot by American soldiers of the 45th Division. According to Degro's account, this took place before the 45th Division soldiers discovered the concentration camp that was inside the SS garrison.




Building on the right with a cross on the roof is the hospital


From Degro's statement, it is probable that his squad entered the SS garrison through the railroad gate which was open because the abandoned train was parked part of the way inside the garrison. This was the gate through which Sparks had ordered his men to enter the Dachau complex and it was the gate that was the closest to the hospital.

However, Degro's statement in Buechner's book disagrees with Buechner's story that Sgt. White ordered his men to shoot the lock off an outer gate. In a recent interview with Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Grant Segall, Degro claimed that he shot the lock off the inner gate into the concentration camp, which would be the gate with a sign that reads "Arbeit Macht Frei." In the same interview, Degro, then 86 years old, told Segall, "I sliced open a boxcar door." The photo below shows the train that was standing outside the Dachau complex when the American liberators arrived. Note that all the doors into the boxcars are open; the boxcar in the foreground contains the body of an SS solddier who was shot after he had surrendered to Lt. Walsh of the 45th Division.




The "death train" discovered by the liberators of Dachau


The following quote is from a newspaper article published in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on February 6, 2005, written by Grant Segall:

Accounts differ as to which units liberated which camp when. But no one disputes that Private First Class Degro was the lead scout when GIs from the 45th Infantry Division, known as the Thunderbirds, helped to liberate Dachau in southern Germany.

When the troops saw the train's cargo, says Degro, they spun and vomited. "Then we went out of our heads."

Disdaining cover, the Thunderbirds stormed the camp. They dragged German soldiers from a hospital, never mind their wounds. They shot many unresisting foes (an atrocity whose documentation was reportedly shredded and burned by Gen. George Patton).

Though historians particularly question this part of the story, Degro insists that he raised his M-1 rifle and shot a padlock off a gate. The rescuers were hugged by screaming, skeletal prisoners.

"We were gesturing them back. We didn't want to hurt their feelings after what they went through," says Degro, but "they smelled like hell."

Jimmy Gentry of Franklin, TN was a soldier with the 42nd Rainbow Division. In an interview with G. Petrone and M. Skinner on 2/25/2000, he recalled what it was like on the day that Dachau was liberated. The following quote is his words from the interview:

And this sea of faces seemed to be, every one of them seemed to be dead, but they were still alive. They looked like they were dead. So we released them and entered the camp, a separate compound where the prisoners were kept. There was not a lot of screaming and yelling and jubilation, not at all. They were blank faced, they were stunned. They did come up to ya and hug ya and someone, I don't know who said it, someone in my squad said "don't let 'em kiss you on the mouth." And that meant, thank goodness that meant that they had diseases, typhus fever for example, and they would fall down to their knees and hug ya around the legs, and kiss your legs and kiss your boots. And of course we didn't know enough German to know what they were saying and some of them were not German, foreign languages and we didn't know, we just knew that they were happy to be released, but they were a pitiful sight. We worked our way through the camp and the German guards that had stayed there, none of them left. They were all were killed while they were there in the camp, either by the soldiers, American soldiers, or by the prisoners themselves in some cases. So none of them ever left that camp once we entered.

Gentry wrote a book entitled An American Life in which he included drawings that he made of the Dachau camp, as it looked on liberation day. He claimed that he entered the Dachau complex through the railroad gate at the "northwest corner" of the camp around 11 a.m. that day, which was approximately the time that John Degro claimed that he was shooting the lock off the "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate.

The railroad gate was actually at the southwest corner of the Dachau complex. Most accounts of the liberation say that it was the 45th Division which arrived at Dachau at 11 a.m. and entered through the railroad gate, and that the 42nd Division arrived around 3 p.m. at the gate near the southwest corner of the complex where SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker was waiting to surrender the camp. After accepting the surrender of the concentration camp, the 42nd Division soldiers then entered the complex through the main gate.

The following quote is from Gentry's interview on 2/25/2000:

On that particular morning that we left for Dachau, not knowing that it was Dachau, we just, another day's work. We left about dawn, which we always did, and on foot, and went South, Southeast towards Dachau. We arrived about 11 o'clock in the morning.


Because the boxcars that entered the northwest corner of that huge camp were open and the train was partway in the camp, and partway out of the camp. Our and some others went around the end of the box car to enter on the right side, and some others entered on the left side, and we only had about 3 feet between the train and the gate to enter, and on my side when I went around there I saw for the first time literally hundreds of bodies that had been shot and they were dead, and they were spilled out of the boxcar as if you had as if you had taken it, and just turned it over and poured the people out onto the side of the tracks. Some of the bodies were still in the train, some were hanging out over the tops of the piles of people outside, and that's what I saw for the first time and they were not soldiers. We were used to seeing soldiers, both American and German soldiers who had been killed, but we'd never seen anything like this, they were striped, dressed in striped clothes, their head was the largest part of their body, their eyes all sunken back, they were ashen white, almost a blue color also, their ribs would protrude their arms the size of broomsticks, legs the same, and we didn't know; I didn't know who they were. So we climbed over the bodies, and went on into the camp, and inside when we first got inside, the buildings were quite large, they were warehouses for the German SS troops, the elite soldiers, and they had all their equipment in these buildings. Now when we went in there were small arms fire, that means rifle fire all to our right and to the front of us, and what had happened, we found out later, some other troops had entered through the main gate, we came in through the train gate, or back gate, and they came in through the front gate so that's why what we were hearing up ahead of us and to our right, and as we secured the buildings and moved, oh, towards the middle of the camp we found a second wall, and on this wall, it was not as, not as large as the outside wall, there was a moat in front of it, a watered moat, and then another barbed wire fence. So there was a barbed wire fence, a moat, and then another wall. And we realized then, after seeing the train and after seeing this that these people were not to come out of there.




Barbed wire fence and moat, April 1945


The photo above shows the west side of the Dachau camp which has a moat and a barbed fire fence, but no wall. The prison enclosure was surrounded by a wall on three sides, but there was no wall on the side that the liberators saw. Today there is a wall that separates the former prison enclosure from the crematorium area, but this wall was not there in 1945.

Gentry also stated in his 2/25/2000 interview that his outfit stayed in the Dachau camp and buried the bodies. The following quote is from the interview:

We stayed there in that camp, about three days, trying to help secure the camp and to get rid of literally thousands of dead bodies. Load them onto trucks, get them out of there, this awful smell. And we were able to do that and after about three days we left the camp and went out and had all the hair on our bodies shaved off because of the typhus fever.

Numerous other sources claim that no bodies were buried until May 7th or May 13th, and that the 42nd Division left immediately, bound for Munich. This indicates that Jimmy Gentry may have been among the first soldiers brought to Dachau in trucks after the liberation, on the orders of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, and that he may have pieced together his story from other accounts told by 45th Division soldiers.

In his book "The Rock of Anzio," which is the history of the 45th Thunderbird Division, Flint Whitlock quoted extensively from what Lt. Col. Felix Sparks told him about the liberation. According to Sparks, 45th Division soldiers arrived at the concentration camp gate shortly before the three jeeps carrying officers of the 42nd Division. However, Whitlock quotes Pfc. William Donahue of the 42nd Division who said that he was already at the gate into the concentration camp when the men of the 45th Division arrived. Some of them had been drinking, according to Donahue.

Flint Whitlock does not mention John Degro at all in his book, although Degro was a member of the 45th Division. It is not clear when Degro would have shot the lock off the gate into the concentration camp, nor how the gate would have been secured again, once the lock was destroyed. Sparks told Whitlock that his orders had been to liberate the camp and then to secure it and not let anyone in or out. If Sparks passed these orders down to his men, then John Degro would have been disobeying orders when he shot the lock off the gate and then let some of the prisoners out, as he claims. In his book, John H. Linden mentioned that it took an hour to get all the prisoners safely back inside, once the gate had been opened by the men of the 42nd Division.

According to Lt. Col. Sparks, as told to Flint Whitlock, he met Brig. Gen. Henning Linden who had just arrived in a jeep at the concentration camp gate. Just prior to this, Linden had accepted the surrender of the concentration camp from SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker near the gate at the southwest corner of the camp. 1st Lt. Cowling claimed in his letter to his family that he had entered the concentration camp while the General was still talking to Lt. Wicker.

According to Flint Whitlock's account, Linden told Sparks that Marguerite Higgins wanted to enter the camp to get the story on the famous people that were prisoners at Dachau. Sparks replied that his orders prohibited anyone but his men from entering the camp. By this time, the prisoners had come out of their barracks and were rushing the gate; they were also climbing up to the windows of the gate house and trying to get out, according to Sparks.




Prisoners trying to get out after Dachau was liberated


Whitlock wrote the following in his book:

Sparks reiterated his orders, adding, "Look at all those people pressing against the gate." Undeterred, Higgins ran to the gate, removed the bar that was holding it shut, and was nearly trampled by the mass of prisoners attempting to get out. Sparks and his men were forced to fire warning shots over the heads of the prisoners to regain order and reclose the gate.

However, Higgins mentioned in her news story that all the prisoners were inside the barracks when she first entered the camp. Was she asking permission to enter the camp a second time in order to interview the VIP prisoners? If so, she was out of luck because the important prisoners had all been evacuated on April 26th for their own safety.

Whitlock also quoted John Lee of the 45th Division who was present:

While General Linden and Colonel Sparks were talking, Higgins went up to the gate and removed the restraining bar. This caused panic and the prisoners began rushing toward the gate. We were ordered to fire in the air and push the inmates back in behind the gates.

It is clear from these quotes that the lock on the "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate into the concentration camp did not need to be shot off. The gate could be opened from the outside by removing a bar which locked it. The gate was wide enough for a truck to drive through it, but there was also a pedestrian door in the gate that could be opened without opening the whole gate. The pedestrian door could only be opened by remote control from inside the gatehouse. There were SS guards inside the gatehouse, waiting to surrender. Twelve of them surrendered to 1st Lt. Cowling, according to John H. Linden, the author of "Surrender of the Dachau Concentration Camp 29 Apr 45, the True Account."

A closeup of the sign over the gate into the concentration camp and the restraining bar which locked the entire gate is shown below. When the bar was removed and the whole gate was opened, the pedestrian gate was part of the right-hand half of the gate.




Gate into Dachau concentration camp was locked by a sliding bar


Both Cowling and Higgins disagree with Sparks' version of the story, as they both claim that there were no prisoners in sight when they first entered the concentration camp. The similarity in their stories indicates that they entered the concentration camp at the same time, and each claimed to be the first person to set foot inside the prison enclosure. John H. Linden confirms in his book that Cowling, Higgins and Furst entered the camp together, along with T/5 Oddi and Pfc. Tinkham, who were assigned to guard them.

On the day of the liberation, the concentration camp was under the control of the International Committee of Dachau, which consisted of a group of Communist political prisoners. The last Commandant of Dachau, Wilhelm Eduard Weiter, had left the camp with a transport of prisoners on April 26th and had put Martin Gottfried Weiss in charge. As the acting Commandant, Weiss had turned the camp over to the Committee on April 28th and had then escaped with most of the regular guards that night. The Committee had ordered all the prisoners to stay inside the barracks, so as not to provoke the remaining guards into killing them all.

Amid all the chaos of the liberation of the prisoners, there was an altercation between Sparks and Brig. Gen. Linden at the gate into the prison enclosure. The following quote is from Spark's account of what happened:

It had already been a most trying day. I therefore requested the general and his party to leave and directed one of my men to escort them from the camp. The good general was a dandy who carried a riding crop as his badge of authority. As my man approached the jeep, the general laid a blow on the man's helmet with his riding crop. I then made some intemperate remarks about the general's ancestry and threatened to remove him and his party from the camp by force. He then said I was relieved of my command and that he was taking charge. I then drew my pistol and repeated my request that he leave. He left, but only after advising me that I would face a general court-martial for my actions.

Howard Cowan, an Associated Press newspaper reporter who was there on April 29, 1945, wrote a lengthy news story about the liberation which was printed in the Chicago Daily News the next day. The following quote is from his news article, as shown in the book written by John Linden, the son of Brig. Gen. Henning Linden:

The main part of the camp, where 32,000 skinny men and women were jammed into wooden barracks, is surrounded by a 15-foot wide moat through which a torrent of water circulates. Atop a 10-foot fence is charged barbed wire.

When Lt. Col. Will Cowling slipped the lock in the main gate, there still was no sign of life inside this area. He looked around for a few seconds and then a tremendous human cry roared forth. A flood of humanity poured across the flat yard - which would hold half a dozen baseball diamonds - and Cowling was all but mobbed.

He was hoisted to the shoulders of the seething, swaying crowd of Russians, Poles, French, Czechs and Austrians, cheering the Americans in their native tongues.


A few minutes later Brig. Gen. Henning Linden went inside the gates for a hasty inspection. He and four newsmen were surrounded by a cordon of armed guards, but that didn't keep us from being hugged and kissed half a dozen times by grimy, whiskered, bandaged men of various nationalities.

In his article, Cowan identified three of the newsmen as Sid Olsen of Time Magazine, Walter Riddler of the St. Paul Dispatch and himself. Note that Cowan identified Cowling's rank as Lt. Col. instead of Lt., a mistake that Flint Whitlock believes is proof that Cowan was not there at the time that the first person entered the gate.

In his article Cowan referred to the gate into the concentration camp as the "main gate." This term is usually used to describe the main gate into the whole Dachau complex, which is shown in the photo below. The expression "slipped the lock" could be a reference to opening the "Arbeit Macht Frei" gate by removing the restraining bar which locked the gate.




SS soldiers surrender at the main gate into the garrison


The original gate into the concentration camp can still be seen today, although the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign was removed after the camp was liberated, and then replaced later with a reproduction. The gate does not show any damage to the lock on the pedestrian door which would indicate that it was hit by a bullet, as claimed by John Degro.

In his book "The Rock of Anzio," Whitlock quotes a statement made by Lt. William Walsh of the 45th Division in a documentary called "The Liberation of KZ Dachau." The following quote is from his statement:

We finally get up to the main gate. This is the gate that says, "Work makes you free"....And when I get to the gate, I asked if anybody spoke English, and there was an Englishman there [Albert Guérisse, also known as Patrick O'Leary]. I think he was a naval officer....and I said to him, "Are there any Americans in there?" And he says, "I don't know...I think so, but there may be only one or two." And then I said, ".... I can't open the gates, but I want you to know there's all kinds of medical supplies and doctors and food and stuff like this coming behind us, and they're going to take care of you." And he said, "I want you to come in here first....I want you to see what was going on." And then he finally prevailed on me. I said, "Okay, I'll go in." and I went in with Busheyhead and a sergant (sic). Of course, we had to squeeze through the gate because they're all inside, screaming and hollering.

The man named "Busheyhead" was 1st Lt. Jack Bushyhead, a "full-blooded Cherokee Indian" who was the Executive Officer of I Company, 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, the unit which allegedly murdered 346 Waffen-SS soldiers in cold blood, on Bushyhead's orders, on the day of the liberation. John Degro was a member of this unit. The massacre took place after 1st Lt. Bushyhead had seen the concentration camp and he wanted to avenge the wrongs done to the prisoners, according to Col. Buechner, who wrote a book entitled "Dachau, The Hour of the Avenger." 1st Lt. Bushyhead was the Avenger in the title. However, Col. Buechner wrote that the massacre took place before 3 p.m. and other accounts of the events that day say that the 45th Division soldiers did not arrive at the gate into the prison enclosure until after 3 p.m.

Albert Guérisse was a prominent member of the International Committee of Dachau, a Communist organization which was in charge of the camp after the Commandant and the regular guards had left. He was from Belgium and was actually a British SOE agent or a spy in laymen's terms.

The photo below shows a group of Belgian survivors of Dachau, taken on liberation day by Belgian photographer Raphael Algoet, who was one of several journalists that led the 42nd Division soldiers to the Dachau complex. Note that they are far from being skinny or skeletal, as some reporters described the inmates who greeted the liberators. One of the prominent Belgian prisoners was Arthur Haulot, who is probably somewhere in this picture.




Belgian survivors from Barrack number 27, room number 4


Two of the unsung heroes of the Dachau liberation are T/5 Guido Oddi and Pfc. C. E. Tinkham, who were guarding Brig. Gen. Henning Linden that day. In his book, John Linden quotes Oddi as follows:

I was with General Linden at Dachau as one of his guards. Outside the Camp Main Gate, a civilian said he was a Red Cross representative and that the SS Lieutenant was the camp commander and wanted to surrender to an American officer. Later the General said to me and Tinkham that we should go into the camp with Lt. Cowling.

The photo below shows a group of 42nd Division soldiers who accompanied Brig. Gen. Henning Linden to the Dachau camp on April 29, 1945, the day of the liberation. From left to right, they are T/5 G.N. Oddi, T/5 J.G. Bauerlein, Pfc. C.E. Tinkham, Pfc. Stout, and Pfc. W.P. Donahue.




Group photo of Brig. Gen. Linden's Command Group Guards


Flint Whitlock also quoted T/5 Oddi, from a telephone interview in January 1997:

Our group was the first part of people to go in there [to the prisoner enclosure]. When they saw us, they knew right away we were Americans and they started shouting and waving tiny flags. I don't know where they got the flags - I imagine the women who were there made them out of swatches of cloth.

On 28 May 1945, Brig. Gen. Charles Y. Banfill, an Air Force officer who was with the 42nd Division soldiers when Brig. Gen. Henning Linden accepted the surrender of the concentration camp from Lt. Heinrich Wicker, wrote an official report, quoted by John H. Linden in his book, in which Banfill stated the following:

1. This is to certify that I was present at Dachau on 29 April 1945 as a member of a party headed by Brigadier General Henning Linden, Assistant Division Commander, 42nd Infantry Division, U.S. Army.


5. With one exception, all American personnel, who came under my observation during this period, conducted themselves in an exemplary fashion. The exception noted was that of a soldier who I believe to be a member of the 45th Infantry Division. He called himself to my attention by a loud and obscene series of statements revolving around who had first reached the concentration camp. I approached him and noting that he was apparently under the influence of intoxicants, called him to attention and identified myself to him clearly and explicitly. He immediately quieted down. I noticed the neck of a bottle sticking out of his jacket. I withdrew the bottle which was nearly empty and apparently contained wine and threw it into the moat. At that point, Brig. Gen. Linden approached and directed the soldier to move over to a point some 20 feet away. I noticed that Brig. Gen. Linden spoke emphatically to him for about a minute and then apparently directed him to rejoin his unit. The soldier walked away.


7. It is my considered opinion that Brig. Gen. Linden did everything in his power to carry out his Division Commander's instructions to keep the prisoners within the prison enclosure. As determined by discussions with English speaking prisoners, the camp had been under extreme tension for many hours. The prisoners did not know (a) whether they would be massacred by the Germans, (b) whether they would be involved in a fire fight between the German and American troops, or (c) whether they would be liberated by the timely arrival of the Americans. The sight of the few American uniforms that appeared at about 1505 hours resulted in an emotional outburst of relief and enthusiasm which was indescribable.

An intoxicated soldier, who was creating a disturbance at the gate, was also mentioned by Lt. William Cowling in his official report to headquarters. A German soldier who survived the Dachau massacre mentioned that some of the prisoners were also drunk that day and were killing the guards with shovels. The drunken 45th Division soldier at the gate was never identified.

On March 30, 2007, the Winston-Salem Journal published a news story about the death of 82-year-old Harley Carter who was with the 42nd Rainbow Division at Dachau on April 29, 1945, according to his daughter Glenda Watson.

The following is a quote from the news article in the Winston-Salem Journal, written by Monte Mitchell, regarding what Glenda Watson said about her father, Harley Carter:

She hasn't been able to document the details of what he told her about his role at the camp, but she knows the story he kept inside him for so many years.

"Dad and another man were the first that opened the doors," she said. "He said, 'That old boy from Kentucky and I were the first ones through that gate.'"

Dachau was much smaller than Auschwitz, but it served as a model for concentration camps that followed. It's estimated that more than 31,000 prisoners died in Dachau or its subcamps.

The soldiers going into Dachau didn't even know anything like that existed. They wept with the victims. It was only within the past 10 years that her father was able to talk about it, Watson said, and he wept again as he told the story sitting at his kitchen table.

"It's the price he paid, but it's something we're very proud of him for doing," Watson said.

On November 24, 2007, an article in The Columbian, a newspaper in Washington state, claimed that Vancouver, WA resident Don Wagner "was one of the first two soldiers to open the front gates at Dachau when Allies liberated the German concentration camp."

Many Dachau historians, including Harold Marcuse, author of "Legacies of Dachau," accept John Degro's story that he was the first soldier to enter the Dachau concentration camp. In his book, John H. Linden maintains that it was the 42nd Division which arrived first at the Dachau camp and that 1st Lt. William Cowling III was the first man inside. But, according to Lt. Col. Hugh Foster, who lives in Carlisle, PA where military archives are stored, it may have been Lt. William Walsh of the 45th Division who reached the prison compound first.

29 April 2009 marked the 64th anniversary of the liberation of Dachau. Many survivors of the camp and veterans who were there took this opportunity to tell their stories about the liberation. On a visit to the Dachau Memorial Site, an American Army veteran named Fletcher Thorne-Thomsen told another visitor that he was the first soldier to go inside the Dachau camp on the day that it was liberated. His story is told on this blog.

One might ask: What does it matter?

The reason this subject is so important is because the liberation of Dachau is symbolic of the liberation of Germany from the Nazis. It is symbolic of the Allied victory over Fascism and the preservation of the freedom of Americans, which had been threatened by the mere existence of Hitler's Third Reich. It is symbolic of the Allied liberation of the Jews from persecution by the Nazis, and the end of the Final Solution which claimed the lives of 6 million Jews. The liberation of Dachau was one of the most significant events of World War II and one of the most important events in world history. All of the soldiers in the 45th and 42nd Divisions of the US Seventh Army can rightly claim to be heroes because they participated in the liberation of Dachau, no matter who was the first man to set foot inside the camp.

  • 15 November 1913 - 24 May 2005

Liberation of Dachau

157th Infantry Association 

FELIX L. SPARKS, Secretary 

15 June 1989



A day or so after the fall of Nurnberg, I was designated as a task force commander, with the mission of moving with all possible speed towards Munich, Germany. At that time, I was a lieutenant colonel commanding the Third Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, Seventh United States Army. Attached to my battalion for this mission were the entire 191st Tank Battalion,, Battery C of the 158th Field Artillery, and supporting engineers from the 120th Engineer Battalion, With the organic infantry battalion weapons, the artillery battery, and the over fifty tanks of the tank battalion, we had a formidable array of firepower. We were able to smash through the sporadic German resistance with ease, although the many blown bridges caused us some problems. 

By the late evening of April 28,, 1945, we were less than thirty miles from Munich. Shortly after midnight, I received the regimental attack order for the next day. I was ordered to resume the attack at 0730 the next morning, with the mission of entering Munich. The order stated that, if my task force encountered any delay because of German opposition, the following first and second battalions of our regiment would continue the attack into Munich by bypassing the resistance area. I was also informed that the concentration camp near the city of Dachau would be in my attack area, but my orders did not include the taking of the camp. At that time, I knew virtually nothing about Dachau, except that it was a concentration camp near the city of Dachau. In order to set the scene for the events that followed, a description of what I learned subsequently about that infamous place seems appropriate. 

In 1933, the first of the German concentration camps was established adjacent to the small city of Dachau, not far from the much larger city of Munich, Germany. Political opponents, Jews, clergymen and so-called "undesirable elements" were to be isolated there as enemies of the Nazi regime. It was organized and operated by the SS and Gestapo, whose specialty was terror and brutality. , 

The camp was constructed originally to imprison about five thousand persons, but it soon outgrew that number. In 1937, the prisoners were forced to begin the construction of a much larger camp. It is not known how many prisoners passed through the gates of the camp between 1933 and 1945, but a reasonable estimate places the figure at around 300,000. 

From the outside,, the camp appeared to be an ordinary military post, surrounded by a high brick wall. It was garrisoned by several hundred SS troops and Gestapo agents who lived in comfortable quarters. On the far side of the camp from the main gate was a large rectangular confinement area, surrounded by a water-filled moat, a high barbed wire fence and guard towers. within the confinement area were thirty-four wooden barracks, some of which were used for administrative purposes and the remainder to house the prisoners. Two connected larger buildings just inside the only entrance to the confinement area contained the kitchen, laundry, storage rooms and the "camp prison." In this dual facility, prisoners were tortured, flogged, hung at the stake, and executed. This infamous complex now houses the camp museum established by the present German government. 

Each of the prison barracks was constructed to house 208 prisoners, At the time we arrived on April 29, 1945, each of the barracks contained the impossible number of about 1,600 inmates, many of whom were dead or dying when we arrived. The several barracks used as infirmaries were also filled with the dead and dying. 

Also within the camp area was an "experimental station" operated by a Dr, Rascher, It was in this station that gruesome medical experiments were practiced on hapless prisoners. A Professor Schilling caused prisoners to be infected with various diseases, such as malaria, in order to observe their reactions and resistance. Various biochemical experiments were also carried out. Agonizing deaths were usually the common result. 

Every morning and evening, the prisoners had to parade on "roll call square." At any time that a prisoner succeeded in escaping, all the remaining prisoners were compelled to attend a subsequent punishment roll call, lasting a full night and half a day. Prisoners who managed to escape were usually recaptured. They were then confined to the penal barracks for special treatment by the SS and Gestapo personnel--torture and often death. 

Outside the confinement area,, but within the post area, was a rifle range. It is known that at least six thousand Russian prisoners of war were executed on this range. Only God knows how many others were executed there in similar fashion. While we were occupying the camp, one of the prisoners took me to a small area reserved for the execution of German officers suspected of plotting against Hitler. I was told that several German officers had been executed there in the few months before we arrived. They were forced to kneel down with their hands tied behind their backs. They were then dispatched by a single pistol shot in the back of the head. 

It is not known with any certainty how many prisoners died or were executed at Dachau. It is known with some certainty that over thirty thousand human souls perished there. The actual number may have been over fifty thousand.


It was in this atmosphere of human depravity, degradation and death that the shocked soldiers of the 157th Infantry Regiment first set foot on the morning of April 29, 1945. The initial shock was experienced even before entering the camp. The first evidence of the horror to come was a string of about forty railway cars on a siding near the camp entrance, Each car was loaded with emaciated human corpses, both men and women. A hasty search by the stunned infantrymen revealed no signs of life among the hundreds of still bodies. Few words were spoken as the grim-faced soldiers deployed in battle formation towards the camp itself. 

At 0730 on the morning of April 29, 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." 

At the time I received the order, it was not feasible to extract the two assault companies from the attack. I therefore directed the commander of Company I. the reserve company, to attack the camp. Dachau was not included in the original operations order for the day, but from my map I determined that it was only a mile or so off to my left flank. I advised the company commander that I would accompany him and would attach a section of machine guns from Company M to his command. A forward observer team from the 158th Field Artillery was already with the company. A small motorized patrol from the regimental I&R Platoon was also dispatched to the Dachau area. 

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 the 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 an 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, led into the area. The prisoners were being collected in this 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 taking directions from one of my soldiers. After I had walked away for a short distance, I heard the machine gun guarding the prisoners open fire. I immediately ran back to the gun and kicked the gunner of f 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 noncom on the gun and headed towards the confinement area. 

It was the foregoing 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 did 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 of the prisoners were taken by the task force, including several hundred from Dachau. 

The scene near the entrance to the confinement area numbed my senses. Dante's Inferno seemed pale compared to the real hell of Dachau. A row of small cement structures near the prison entrance contained a coal-fired crematorium, a gas chamber, and rooms piled high with naked and emaciated human corpses. As I turned to look over the prison yard with unbelieving eyes, I saw a large number of dead inmates lying where they had fallen in the last few hours or days before our arrival. Since all the many bodies were in various stages of decomposition, the stench of death was overpowering. 

During the early period of our entry into the camp, a number of Company I 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 that 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. I sent him back to regimental headquarters. 

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. 

Fearful that the inmates would tear down the gate to their prison area,, I posted a number of soldiers at that point. While I was standing near the gate, three jeeps from the 42nd Infantry Division approached the gate area. Apparently someone, without my knowledge, had opened the main gate to the camp area. The first jeep contained Brigadier General Linden and a woman reporter, by the name of Margaret Higgins. The general informed me that the reporter wished to enter the compound to interview the inmates. 

At that time, a sea of inmates was pressed against the gate, awaiting an opportunity to get out. I advised the general that my specific orders were to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the compound, until otherwise advised by my regimental commander. While I was explaining this to the general, the woman reporter ran forward to the gate and removed the restraining crossbar.  The prisoners immediately surged forward, creating a brief period of pandemonium. I ordered my men to open fire over the heads of the prisoners and rush the gate, After a brief struggle, the men closed and secured the gate.

It had already been a most trying day. I therefore requested the general and his party to leave and directed one of my men to escort them from the camp. The good general was a dandy who carried a riding crop as his badge of authority. As my man approached the jeep, the general laid a blow on the man's helmet with his riding crop. I then made some intemperate remarks about the general's ancestry and threatened to remove him and his party from the camp by force. He then said I was relieved of my command and that he was taking charge. I then drew my pistol and repeated my request that he leave. He left, but only after advising me that I would face a general court-martial for my actions. 

In the meantime, the men of Company I had rounded up a number of SS troops who were dispersed throughout the camp area. From these prisoners we learned that most of the Dachau garrison, including almost all of the officers, had fled the scene the day before our arrival. Only about two hundred were left to guard the camp. We captured most of those, but some were killed. The regimental history book contains a picture of these captives, accompanied by Lt. Walsh, the Company I commander, and Chaplain Loy. Fate was much kinder to these captured SS men than they were to the inmates of Dachau. 

Later that day, Major General Frederick, the 45th Division commander, and Colonel
O'Brien, the regimental commander, appeared on the scene , and I took them around the camp. I also told them of the incident with General Linden. General Frederick advised me that he would be able to take care of that matter. 

In the original order which I received to secure the camp, I was informed that our first
battalion would relieve me at the camp in order that my task force could continue the attack into Munich. Late that afternoon, Company C arrived by truck and established various security posts. I then started moving Company I out of the camp in order to resume the attack into Munich with a full task force. Before I could again assemble the task force, I received an order that the tank battalion,, less one company,, was to be relieved of attachment to my task force. The 180th Infantry was encountering strong resistance in its sector, and the tanks were needed there. Sometime later, I received another order informing me that our first battalion would lead the attack into Munich the next day and that I was to relieve Company C at the concentration camp. I then dispatched Company L to relieve Company C. This relief was completed by about 10:00 p.m. that night. 

The foregoing narrative includes all of the rifle companies which were in the Dachau
concentration camp on the day of liberation, those being companies C, I and L. With these rifle companies were attachments from companies D and M. along with forward observer parties from the 158th Field Artillery. Small elements of other units were also there, namely a small patrol from the regimental I&R Platoon which was with Company I. and some personnel from the first and third battalion headquarters, There were some troops from the 42nd Infantry Division somewhere in the vicinity. Earlier that morning, Company I had reported that they were being fired upon by troops of the 42nd Division. This information was relayed to regimental headquarters with a request that the 42nd Division be informed that we were both on the same side. 

On the morning of April 30, our first battalion resumed the attack towards Munich. The
second battalion was also launched in that direction. Shortly after the attack began, the first battalion came upon and occupied another concentration camp. It was a slave labor camp and contained about eight thousand prisoners. In order that the first battalion could continue its attack with a complete battalion, I was then ordered to relieve the first battalion company at this second camp. I assigned this mission to Company K, where they were to remain for the next several days. 

During the morning of that day, I assembled Company I in the city of Dachau, leaving
Company L at the Dachau concentration camp. At about 6:00 p.m. that evening, Company L was relieved at the camp by the 601st Artillery Battalion from the 15th Corps. My battalion then moved into Munich, minus Company K. 

On May 1, the following morning, I received an order to relieve the 15th Corps troops at the Dachau concentration camp. I thereupon sent Company L back to the camp. During the afternoon of May 3, both companies L and K were relieved of their concentration camp duties by the 179th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division, never to return. 

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.


A few days after the liberation, General Frederick came to my headquarters and informed me that General Linden was trying to stir up trouble through the Seventh Army Inspector General.  He said he thought he could handle the matter, but he considered it advisable that I leave for the United States at once, He further informed me that the 45th Division had been selected to participate in the expected invasion of Japan and would soon be returning to the states in preparation for shipment to the Pacific Theater. He said that he would see that I was reassigned to the division when it returned to the states. 

Placing a command car at my disposal, the general instructed me to report to the transportationoffice at LeHavre, France, where orders would be waiting for my transportation to the states, I left the following morning, accompanied by three of my most trusted soldiers, namely Albert Turk, my driver, Karl Mann, my German language interpreter; and Carlton Johnson, my runner and rifleman. It was a long trip to LeHavre, taking several days. 

I eventually located the army transportation. office on the docks at LeHavre and informed a sergeant there of my mission. He immediately went to a telephone in the back of his office and made a call. I sensed trouble and so informed my men. Within a few minutes, an MP lieutenant appeared and courteously informed me that I was under arrest. He stated that he was under orders to escort me back to Seventh Army Headquarters in Bavaria. I suddenly had the feeling that General Frederick had not been able to take care of the Dachau matter after all. 

I politely informed the lieutenant that I would not submit to an arrest but that I would voluntarily return to Seventh Army Headquarters, Glancing around at my three men casually standing by with loaded rifles, he agreed to my proposal. He then gave me the name of the small town near Augsburg, Germany, where the army headquarters was located. We then began the long trip back, although we dallied for a few days in Paris. 

Some days later, I reported to army headquarters in the small town near Augsburg. There I learned that the Seventh Army Headquarters was being deactivated that very day. I was informed that General Patton had been appointed military governor of Bavaria and had established a headquarters in Augsburg. The very unfriendly and displeased G-1 of Seventh Army curtly told me that my pending court-martial was now in the hands of General Patton. I left immediately for Augsburg. 

The following morning I reported to General Patton's Chief of Staff and arranged for an appointment with the general that afternoon. At the appointed time, I reported to the general. He then said to me: 

"Colonel, I have some serious court-martial charges against you and some of your men here on my desk. " I replied that I had never been advised of any specific charges but that I would like to offer an explanation of the events that took place at Dachau. 

The general paused for a moment and then said: "There is no point in an explanation. I have already had these charges investigated, and they are a bunch of crap. I'm going to tear up these goddamn papers on you and your men." 

With a flourish, he tore up the papers lying in front of him and threw them in a wastebasket. He then said: "You have been a damn fine soldier. Now go home. " I saluted and left. The whole interview lasted perhaps three minutes. I then rejoined the regiment in Munich and heard nothing further about the matter.



For the past several years,, I have been puzzled about copies of newspaper articles which a number of our members have sent me in which the 42nd Infantry Division has been portrayed as being the liberator of Dachau. In addition to the newspaper articles, at least two national television programs have featured members of that division as being the liberators of Dachau.  The 42nd Division was never there at all, except for the brief excursion of General Linden and party as previously described in this summary. 

A few years ago, I learned of a publication entitled "The Liberators," published in 1981 by the Center for Holocaust Studies Documentation and Research, Brooklyn, New York. I obtained a copy of that publication, and I am now quite certain that it is the primary genesis of the rash of claims made by members of the 42nd Division. The publication features a story about Dachau by a Lt. Col, Walter J, Fellenz, 42nd Infantry Division. A reading of the story convinces me that the man is either a pathological or congenital liar, or both. After reciting that in his approach to Dachau he had the impression that he was "approaching a wealthy girls' finishing school in the suburbs of one of our great cities," his story reads in part,, as follows, along with my editorial

"At the main gate I met Brigadier General Linden, Lt. Col. Bolduc, and several staff officers and bodyguards. General Linden was waiting for a report from his aide who had been dispatched inside the camp to see if the camp had been deserted by the guards. Shortly after my arrival the aide reported that the SS had apparently deserted the camp. In we went, fully prepared to fight, however." 

COMMENT: The general’s aide apparently had very poor eyesight. There were about two hundred SS guards and other German troops inside the camp, although at that time they were under custody. He also failed to note the presence of about two hundred men from my battalion, who had arrived about an hour earlier. The composition of the Linden party appears to be correct; except that, for some curious reason, Col. Fellenz does not mention the presence of a lady reporter by the name of Margaret Higgins, who was the solicitous focus of the group being there in the first place. Since I had reported our entry into the camp about an hour earlier, the Linden group already knew that we were there. 

To continue with the good colonel's story, he then states: 

"Several hundred yards inside the main gate we encountered the concentration enclosure itself.  There before us, behind an electrically charged barbed wire fence, stood a mass of cheering, half mad men, women and children, waving and shouting with happiness--their liberators had come!  The noise was beyond comprehension! Every individual (over 32,000) who could utter a sound was cheering. Our hearts wept as we saw the tears of happiness fall from their cheeks."

COMMENT: When my battalion arrived at the camp earlier,, the prisoners, except for the few who performed menial labor on the outside, were all huddled together in their various barracks.  Subsequent interviews with some of the prisoners revealed that they were all expecting to be killed by the SS guards prior to the arrival of Allied troops. They therefore tried to remain out of sight of the guards. Actually, we had been inside the camp for about thirty minutes before the prisoners realized what was happening. The scene described by Col. Fellenz then did take place, although I did not see any children. Col. Fellenz was not present when this scene took place. 

We now come to the heroic liberation part, as described by Col. Fellenz: 

"Amid the deafening roar of cheers, several inmates warned us of danger by pointing to one of the eight towers which surrounded the electrically charged fence. The tower was still manned by SS guards! Half crazed at what we had just seen, we rushed the tower with rifles blazing. The SS tried to train their machine guns on us, but we quickly killed them each time a new man attempted to fire the guns. We killed all 17 SS, then in mad fury our soldiers dragged the dead bodies from the towers and emptied their rifles into the dead SS chests." 

COMMENT: Generals, staff officers and field grade officers were not armed with rifles, much less "blazing rifles." Neither did they carry rifle ammunition belts, although perhaps the lady reporter acted as the ammunition bearer. The outside perimeter of the confinement area was over a mile in distance. The guard towers were about two hundred yards apart and were mutually supporting, They were massive steel and concrete structures and virtually impregnable to direct infantry assault. They were also surrounded by a water-filled moat. The outside perimeter of the moat was patrolled by some rather vicious guard dogs, mostly Dobermans. 

The simple way to dispose of the SS troops in the guard towers was to pick them off with rifle fire from the cover of the many buildings surrounding much of the confinement area. This is what my men did. I must admit, however, that it would have been an inspiring sight to witness the charge of an aging general and a few valiant officers with blazing rifles against the massive concrete machine gun emplacements, cheered on by a lady reporter. I am very sorry that we missed it. 

The total Fellenz story as contained in the publication is quite lengthy and grows more absurd with each paragraph. I will not therefore dwell upon it any further,, except to point out that Col. Fellenz was also the conqueror of Munich, as he himself recites as follows: 

"The next morning, the rear echelon types and the military government types arrived and we turned over the Dachau Concentration Camp to their control. C Company and I rejoined the 'Fighting First' Battalion and moved into Munich where so-called German resistance elements attempted to surrender the city to me. I got in touch with Col. 'Daddy' Bolduc and he accepted the surrender, and that night I slept in the famous beer hall in Munich." 

But wait! Comes now a Colonel Don Downard, a fellow battalion commander with Colonel Fellenz in the 222nd Infantry Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division, and brands his old buddy as a liar. Colonel Fellenz commanded the First Battalion of the 222nd, and Colonel Downard was the commander of the Second Battalion of the same regiment. In a recent letter to one of our members Dr, Howard Buechner, Colonel Downard writes in part as follows: 

"As commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, 42nd Infantry Division, I was at Dachau from the time the gates were crashed until late that afternoon, at which time I was ordered to await arrival of our first battalion, turn the camp over to Fellenz and proceed immediately to Munich--all this a period of 5 or 6 hours. I personally pulled a live inmate from under dead ones on the box cars. Several of my soldiers were present when General Linden and his party were pinned down by SS fire right at the main gate." 

The letter is quite lengthy and more of less concludes with the statement: 

"I relate the above, not to be critical (could happen to anyone) but to emphasize that even the 'Thunderbirds' could be mistaken about events of that time....... I never saw a Thunderbird at Dachau." 

Any reader must be puzzled about which story to believe. In the Fellenz account, General Linden sent an aide into the camp through the main gate, who determined that no SS guards were present. In the Downard story, General Linden and party were "pinned down by SS fire right at the main gate." Actually, Fellenz is entitled to a bit more credibility. He was with the Linden party when they entered the camp and I exchanged a few unpleasant words with him. 

As of this date, at least a dozen other units have claimed that they were the liberators of Dachau. This number will undoubtedly continue to grow in the future as a result of the attention focused upon the many Holocaust memorial events held annually throughout the United States. Just this year, the 20th Armored Division was recognized by the Holocaust Memorial Council as being the liberator of Dachau, And so the list continues to grow.  

One very likely explanation of some of the claims is that there were a number of concentration camps in the Munich area, although only one Dachau. The other camps around Munich were slave labor camps, and they most certainly were liberated by other units of the United States Army. One such camp was liberated by our first battalion and subsequently occupied by our Company K for several days" I do not know the exact number of these camps, but there were many of them. The inmates, predominantly of Russian and Polish origin, were used as slave labor in the many factories and other installations in the Munich area. The prisoners in these camps received somewhat better treatment and food fare than did the inmates of Dachau. The number of prisoners in each of these camps was generally less than ten thousand, as compared to the over thirty thousand in Dachau. 

In conclusion, and not that it makes any great difference, I suppose the question can still be asked as to what unit liberated the concentration camp at Dachau. At least one official publication has the correct answer, In a publication entitled "The U, S. Army in the Occupation of Germany, 1944-1946," published by the Center of Military History,, United States Army, Washington, D. C., in 1975, on pages 252 and 253, credits the 45th Infantry Division with the liberation of Dachau, concluding the account with the words: "The 45th Infantry Division troops who liberated Dachau in the afternoon on 29 April were fighting in Munich the next morning and by nightfall had, along with XV Corps' other three divisions, captured the city that was the capital of Bavaria and the birthplace of nazism." 

Dachau was but one of the many monuments left behind by depraved and tyrannical ruling individuals and groups of the past, As I recall, we were often told during the course of World War II that we were fighting a war to end all wars. As I view the world scene today, it seems that very little has changed since the end of the war. In the name of nationalism, religion, political affiliation, greed, racial superiority, economics, or various combinations thereof, innocent people around the world are still being killed, kidnapped or brutalized on a daily basis. And so it shall ever be.

Felix L. Sparks

Brigadier General, AUS (Retired)


The Nazi concentration camp near Dachau, Germany, was overrun and liberated 
by American forces on 29 April 1945. This is perhaps the only fact of liberation that has remained undisputed. The exact time of day that American units arrived, which units were directly involved, and who first arrived at the gates to the concentration camp itself are subjects of continued argument. That history does not have a full and complete picture of the events is due to a number of circumstances, chief among them: 
- Official and individual efforts to obscure some of the events of liberation in order to conceal excesses by the liberating troops; 
- Sensationalist and inaccurate contemporary news accounts of the liberation by a number of newspaper reporters, unit newspapers and both official and unofficial news releases, each seeking to garner glory for the writer or the unit. 
- A decision by the US Army’s Center of Military History (made long after the war) to 
"award" liberation credit to division size units which were actual liberators OR whose 
subordinate elements passed through or near a concentration camp within 48 hours of its liberation; Recollections by liberator soldiers and camp inmates many years after the events, drawing upon fuzzy, faulty or "enhanced" memories; 
- Faulty research designed to glamorize revised unit histories; 
- Outright lies by people seeking to embellish their own war record. 
- Also adding to the confusion is the fact that KL Dachau (KL is the German abbreviation for Konzentrationslager – concentration camp) was a "headquarters camp," controlling dozens of smaller, subsidiary camps all over the area. Some researchers have called the lesser camps "little Dachaus". Virtually every American unit operating within a hundred miles of Dachau town encountered one or more of these subsidiary camps. It is quite possible that GIs involved in liberating the smaller camps have confused them in their memories of so long ago with the main KL Dachau. 

Despite official "credit" awarded to the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions and the 20th Armored Division for having liberated the concentration camp at Dachau, the facts of the matter are that only small elements of the 42nd and 45th were involved in the actual events of liberation. Regardless of claims to the contrary the 761st Tank Battalion did not liberate the concentration camp at Dachau. Nor did members of the 552nd Field Artillery Battalion, engineers with bulldozers or tanks of the 20th Armored Division. 

Mislabeled by the authoring office, the most important historical document covering the events of liberation lay misfiled in the US National Archives (and therefore unavailable to researchers) until it was discovered by accident in the late 1980’s. This document is one of only three copies prepared of the XV Corps Inspector General Report of "Investigation of Alleged Mistreatment of German Guards at Dachau". On 2 May 1945 (three days after the liberation), Lt. Col. Joseph M. Whitaker was directed to conduct an investigation to determine the facts of allegations that several German soldiers were murdered by US troops during the liberation. Colonel Whitaker began his investigation on 3 May and tendered a written report on 8 June. During the course of investigation, Colonel Whitaker compelled sworn testimony from 23 members of the 45th Infantry Division (all from the 157th Infantry Regiment), 10 members of 
the 42nd Infantry Division (from the group escorting the Assistant Division Commander and from members of the 222nd Infantry Regiment), two former civilian inmates of the concentration camp, and an American OSS officer who was also an inmate at the time of liberation. 

While Colonel Whitaker’s mission was not to determine who arrived first at "Dachau," it was necessary for him to make such a determination in order to identify potential witnesses to the shooting of the German soldiers. It is obvious from the witness statements that nearly everyone interviewed was uncomfortable with the process and was anxious not to reveal witnessed events unless specifically prodded by Colonel Whitaker, i.e., nearly everyone questioned had something he wished to conceal. In all of the witness statements, however, there is no mention of any unit participating in the liberation other than members of the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions. Colonel Whitaker’s finding concerning who was there is contained on the first page 
of his report: "The German Dachau Internment Camp was overrun 29 April 1945, by elements of the 3rd Bn, 157th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division. A small party of the 42nd Division also entered the area from the front at approximately the same time." The text of the investigation further identifies the two groups as I Company, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division and members of the battalion headquarters, including Lt. Col. Felix L. Sparks, the Battalion Commander; and a party of the 42nd Infantry Division headquarters personnel led by the Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General Henning Linden. 

Colonel Whitaker’s statement is, unfortunately, not completely correct in at least three 

1. He was informed of the presence of two American and two Belgian journalists. Sergeant Peter Furst of the Stars & Stripes newspaper and civilian correspondent Marguerite Higgins rode together in Furst’s jeep. The two Belgians, Paul Levy and Raphael Algoet, were in a separate jeep. Depending upon which account one chooses to believe, the correspondents either led, accompanied or followed General Linden’s party to the concentration camp. Strangely, there is no mention of the correspondents in the sworn testimony of any of the investigation witnesses. 

2. Although he was aware that US Army combat photographers accompanied 
the 45th Division elements, he did not interview or identify them. 

3. He clearly stated that the "Internment Camp" was overrun by members of the 45th Division and that a small party of the 42nd Division "also entered the area from the front at approximately the same time." However, the terminology he used was not exact. The concentration camp (which Whitaker calls the "Internment Camp" was a separate facility inside an outer, military complex. There was only one entrance to the concentration camp, and that was from within he surrounding military camp. A detailed reading of the investigation text and the interview texts shows the Colonel Whitaker was not specifically of the concentration camp, but the whole complex, i.e. the military camp and the concentration camp, when he wrote that the place was overrun by members of the 45th Division while at the same time a party of the 42nd Division entered from the "front". What he meant was that the 45th Division men 
entered the outer complex - the military camp - first and that very shortly thereafter, the 42nd Division men entered the out complex from a different location. Whitaker never did specifically address which unit arrived first at the gate to the concentration camp. 

Further, Colonel Whitaker did not use the word "liberation" when describing the 
arrival of the American soldiers. We shall see that how one chooses to define "liberation" is at the heart of the "controversy". 

It is important that the reader understand some basics about the use of the name 
"Dachau" and the term "main gate". "Dachau" is used by various writers to mean the 
actual town by that name, the overall SS military camp by that name and/or the actual 
concentration camp. The town of Dachau sits astride the Amper River, and in 1945 it was completely separated from the military camp and the concentration camp, which lay about one kilometer northeast of the town. The SS military camp, called Dachau Lager, encompassed a rather large area, with the main area (cantonment, administration, medical facility, industrial areas, etc.) on the eastern side of the Amper River, and with training and weapons ranges, etc, on the western side of the river. Within the confines of the administrative part of Dachau Lager was the prisoner compound of the concentration camp, Konzentrationslager (abbreviated KL) Dachau. The prisoner compound was separated from the rest of the rest of the complex by a masonry wall around three sides, a barbed wire fence on the fourth side and seven guard towers. The prisoners worked at various factories and facilities located within Dachau Lager, but outside the prisoner compound. (See attached schematic, which depicts the prisoner compound and a portion of Dachau Lager.) 

The term "main gate" has been used interchangeably and confusingly by writers to identify both of the two southern entrances to Dachau Lager AND the entrance to the prisoner compound KL Dachau. In fact, there was only one "main gate" to Dachau Lager, a very imposing two-story structure with a two-lane roadway tunnel passing through it, flanked by two tunneled walkways – this was the formal entrance to the complex and is the gate General Linden and his party passed through. There is another entrance to Dachau Lager along its southern periphery, consisting of a "gate house" between a railroad entrance and a road entrance. The rail line entered Dachau Lager through a fence or gate (which was open when the troops arrived).
Immediately to the right (east) of the railroad gate stood (and still stands) the three story "gatehouse" building. Attached to the right (east) of this building was a gated stone portal spanning a road leading into the Lager. For simplicity, I will call this the southwestern gate. The 45th Division men entered Dachau Lager here, along the railroad tracks and, later, through the nearby road gate. 

A building known as the Jourhaus was the only entrance to the concentration camp prisoner compound, and it was accessible only from within Dachau Lager. The entrance to the prisoner compound was via a one-lane tunneled roadway through the Jourhaus. The roadway was blocked by a wrought-iron fence with a single door-sized gate into which the words "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" were worked in iron. This was the "main" (and only) gate to the prisoner compound, but it was not the "main gate of Dachau". To review: There were two southern gates to Dachau Lager (the overall complex), the southwestern gate (rail and road) and the main gate, and one entrance to the prisoner compound, the Jourhaus gate. 

Some things are very clear from the Inspector General Report of Investigation and its sworn testimony: the general routes of advance of the two units involved and a rough sequence of their arrivals. Beyond that, there is a great deal of fog. 

The 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions were advancing generally southeast, their goal being the city of Munich. Both divisions were advancing rapidly, against very light resistance and most troops were aboard trucks or armored vehicles. They were, therefore, roadbound. The 42nd was on the right, and the boundary between the two divisions neatly bisected the town of Dachau. Third Battalion, 157th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division was the division’s right-most element (to its right was the 42nd Division). Both divisions had been notified that the concentration camp was somewhere to their front and instructions from corps were that the division locating the camp was to seize and secure it. None of the advancing troops, however,
knew exactly where the camp lay, or what actually constituted the "prison camp".

As the rightmost company of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry (aboard tanks and trucks) approached the Amper River near Dachau Lager, the only bridge in the area was blown up. The company then began to follow the river to the southwest (toward the town of Dachau) looking for an undamaged bridge. In the meantime, the Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Felix L.Sparks, directed Company I to move into the town of Dachau also, and to try to locate a bridge. Ultimately, a railroad bridge was found to have been partially destroyed. Foot troops and light vehicles, but not tanks or trucks, could cross. Company I was directed to cross the bridge and then to head back to the northeast, basically to get back to the point where the destroyed bridge had halted the advance. Colonel Sparks and a couple of his radio operators accompanied Company I. 

Company I crossed the bridge, came upon a railroad spur leading to the northeast, and followed it to the southwestern gate to Dachau Lager. On that spur, but outside the Lager, the men came across the first railroad cars of what would become known as the Death Train.  There were several cars in this train, and part of the train extended through the railroad gage and into the Lager. Sickened, shocked and enraged by the sight of several hundred emaciated, brutalized, dead prisoners in and around the rail cars, the men of Company I, 157th Infantry followed the rail line and the parallel road deeper into Dachau Lager. 

Although it is known that the three platoons of Company I moved off in different directions once they entered the Lager, the actual routes of advance within the complex and the times of subsequent events have been lost to history. It is known that some of the men followed a rail spur leading generally toward the prisoner compound, that others continued farther along the main rail line before turning to the east, and that others initially were fully occupied in accepting the surrender of numerous German soldiers. 

Inside Dachau Lager, but long before the prisoner compound had been discovered, the 45th Division men began to round up dozens of surrendering German soldiers. Those who could be readily identified as SS men, were separated from the others and were collected in a walled area of the coal yard for the Lager’s power house. There, under conditions that are still clouded in mystery, several Americans opened fire on the SS men, killing about 17 of them and wounding several more. Colonel Sparks, who was nearby, heard the firing and rushed into the area and by force of his presence stopped the killing. 

At some time after the men of Company I had cleared the Death Train, but probably before the shooting in the coal yard, three jeeps, (or four – or five – depending upon whether Sergeant Furst’s jeep, containing Furst and Maggie Higgins, preceded, accompanied or followed this group, and whether or not the jeep carrying the two Belgian correspondents Algoet and Levy was there, too) carrying members of the 42nd Division headquarters encountered the train. This party had been in Dachau town, purportedly attempting to find elements of one of the divisions’s regiments, when they heard the concentration camp was nearby and set out to locate it. (In fact, there may have been as many as seven jeeps in this group, as recent research by 42nd Division veterans indicates that two jeeps carrying six men from one of the regiments tagged on to the end of the convoy.) 

The 42nd Division group halted briefly to examine the Death Train, then turned east and drove down the road paralleling the southern wall of Dachau Lager. About one-half mile down this road, the party arrived at the main gate to the Lager, which was decked out with white flags. A Red Cross representative and a couple of SS men came out of the gate carrying white flags and surrendered the camp to General Linden. During the surrender discussion, firing broke out from within the Lager, and Linden’s party took cover behind their jeeps until it stopped. 

The firing might have been the shooting of the SS men in the coal yard by members of
Company I, 157th Infantry. However, at least one post war account of the event mentions bullets flying through the air near the Linden party. If this is true, the shooting heard at this time was probably not from the coal yard, as the direction of the shooting would have precluded bullets coming anywhere near the main gate. As the men of Company I, 157th moved through the Lager, there were various incidents of shooting: at running Germans, to kill the guard dogs, which were chained near the crematory; cases of reconnaissance by fire at suspicious areas;and even some shooting at the Germans in the guard towers of the prisoner compound. While
the exact nature of this fire has never been determined, it does clearly show that members of the 45th Division were already inside Dachau Lager and were moving toward the prisoner compound – if they had not already reached it – by the time the Linden party accepted the surrender at the main gate. 

When the firing stopped, General Linden ordered his aide, Lt. Cowling, to enter the Lager and look around. Cowling entered through the main gate, looked to his right and saw guards in Tower G. He yelled to them to come down out of the tower and come to him, which they did.  Cowling sent these prisoners out through the main gate under guard and then climbed into a jeep with a German prisoner guide; they drove straight through the main gate for a block, then turned right – directly to their front, at a distance of about 100 yards, was the Jourhaus.  Cowling approached the Jourhaus, took more prisoners and then sent for General Linden to come forward. 

At about the time Linden arrived at the Jourhaus, the prisoners, who had been inside their barracks, fearing they would be shot by the guards, discovered that Americans were on the scene. The prisoners swarmed out of the barracks and rushed the Jourhaus screaming and yelling with joy. Some were killed on the electrified fence before a soldier managed to turn off the power. Linden ordered his men to fire over the heads of the prisoners to get them under control and to keep them inside the compound. Almost all account agree that men from both divisions were at the Jourhaus when Linden ordered the firing. However, whether Lt. Cowling was the first American to arrive at the Jourhaus, or if the 45th Division men were already in the
vicinity remains one of the many facts in dispute. 

Once the prisoners had been generally calmed down (at least temporarily) the GIs noticed that there were still German guards in the towers. A group of the 42nd Division men ran down to Tower B, ordered the Germans to come out lined them up and then shot them all to death, perhaps finishing off some who were only wounded in the initial volley. Between 7 and 17 Germans were killed in this incident. Since several of the bodies fell into the canal and were washed away, an exact count of the dead was never recorded. Some accounts state that 45th Division men participated in this shooting. Essentially, after the shooting of the Tower B guards, the liberation was completed, for the Americans were in control of the whole complex. 

Still, there is controversy. Clearly, the 45th Division men were already inside the outer complex at the time General Linden and his party arrived at the main gate – Linden himself reported hearing firing from within the complex. It is also clear that it was General Linden who accepted the formal surrender of the complex. Men from both divisions, however, have claimed that it was their unit that "liberated Dachau" (45th Division was first inside the Lager; 42nd Division accepted a formal surrender), and men from both divisions are adamant that men from their unit were the first to arrive at the Jourhaus, 

It is highly likely that the answer to who arrived at the Jourhaus first will never be factually determined. The question, however, is more complex than merely who arrived at the Jourhaus first. The question at the heart of the controversy is "who liberated the concentration camp?" Does the formal surrender to members of the 42nd Division equate to "liberation"? Does the fact that 45th Division men were already in control of the Lager – and were very near, if not already at the concentration camp – at the time of the formal surrender negate the effect of the surrender? (in effect, was the SS officer "surrendering" something that had already been seized
and occupied?) Veterans from both divisions have made up their minds; and they do not agree 

The arguments continue. They are fueled in the main by personal animosity. Veterans have called others liars, and have disparaged their character. "Family names" are seemingly at stake. Some have been exposed after years of embellished stories. Even descendants of some veterans have "taken up the fight" to clear the name of a relative long dead. To some it has become an obsession. 

Many find this squabbling among victors to be senseless, and at times comical. To the people who were most affected by the liberation – the inmates – it did not matter what shoulder patch was on the uniform of the first man to arrive at the Jourhaus. It was an American soldier, who with his buddies had come a long way, risking life and limb countless times on the journey. He was there to free them from their Nazi jailers, to return to them freedom – life – and that was ALL that mattered then. And it really is all that matters now.


Dachau's indelible mark

Jewish prisoner, U.S. liberator recall concentration camp

By Jim Sheeler, Rocky Mountain News
April 29, 2003

In the shadow of Dachau, the man they called 69970 finally fell.

"Go ahead. Shoot me," the Jewish prisoner defiantly told the German soldier bearing down on him. "Shoot me."

By the end of April 1945, the 21-year-old had made it through three concentration camps. At Sachsenhausen, his uncle and cousin were killed. At Auschwitz, his father was shot, his mother was gassed to death and he was tattooed with the number that would follow him the rest of his life. In the nearly six years since his arrest, he had seen women and children tortured and had lost everyone he knew. He had seen thousands of walking skeletons, then became one.

After being marched around the massive Dachau complex for days, 69970 was ready to die. "Get up!" commanded the German soldier. The prisoner looked back, confused. For the rest of his life he would wonder why he was given a second chance.

"It won't be long, now. The Americans are almost here," the soldier told him. "The Americans are right around the corner." In the shadow of Dachau, 69970 slowly stood, and continued to walk.

Soldiers smelled death

About a mile from the barbed wire, 27-year-old Lt. Col. Felix Sparks received a call on his military radio. "You are to proceed immediately to the concentration camp at Dachau. Once inside, you are to secure it and let nobody in or out."

By the end of April 1945, Sparks and the 157th Infantry Regiment had slogged through thousands of miles, all the way from North Africa. At the end of the war, the 157th - which had it roots in the Colorado National Guard - spent more time in combat than almost any other unit. On the afternoon of April 29, Sparks and his men smelled death. Then it glared back at them, from boxcars filled with bodies.

The trains had arrived from Buchenwald, where, weeks earlier, the Nazis had sent prisoners away in an attempt to hide them from the advancing Allies. Very few prisoners survived the trip. None survived Dachau.

At the edge of one of the railroad cars, Sparks saw the body of a man who managed to crawl a few feet from the train. A guard had crushed his head with a rifle butt. As they passed each rail car, the soldiers' anger boiled. If they found the men who did this, a few swore, there would be hell to pay.

Honoring men of the 157th

Inside his home in Lakewood, 58 years after he got the order to take Dachau, Sparks watched as an old friend rolled up his sleeve to expose a tattoo. The Nazis called him 69970. His name is Jack Goldman.

As they sat together last week, the two men talked about the day that would end the war for both of them and about the people who weren't there to see it. "These are the ones in railroad cars," Sparks said as he took out a stack of photos. "This girl. I can still remember her face. Boy, I remember her face," Sparks said. "There were a lot of photos taken of that young girl. She just happened to be on top of the other bodies."

Though they never met each other at Dachau, the two men have spoken out for years about their experiences from both sides of the prison gates. This year, to commemorate the 58th anniversary of Dachau's liberation, Goldman suggested another honor.

At a special ceremony, the Hebrew Educational Alliance plans to remember the men of the 157th and their successors in the Colorado Army National Guard. Tonight, the group plans to unveil a memorial boulder designed by Goldman, etched with the logo of the 157th alongside a Star of David. The symbols are joined by barbed wire.

Inside Sparks' home last week, the two veterans - Sparks is now 85 years old, Goldman is 79 - continued to look through the stacks of pictures. Their memories are nearly as tangible. In another famous photo, a young lieutenant colonel stands with his pistol raised in the air. He is screaming at his men to stop shooting.

Veteran soldiers crack

Once inside the gates at Dachau, Sparks and his troops quickly rounded up most of the German soldiers that had not already deserted. Members of the SS were taken to a coal yard, and a young private was told to guard them with a machine gun.

"I told him to just keep 'em there," recalled Sparks, who then left to secure the rest of the camp. "Then the machine gunner cut loose on those prisoners. Why he did that, I don't know. "I ran back as fast as I could, I kicked him down with the back of my foot. I grabbed him by the collar and said, 'What the hell were you doing?' He said, 'But, colonel, they were trying to get away.' Sparks shook his head. "They weren't trying to get away."

At that point in the war, the troops had seen 511 days of combat. Dachau was different. For a few of them, it was too much. "I'll tell you a story that I haven't told, but I can tell it now since the guy's dead," Sparks said.

"At one point, I came around a corner and saw my company commander running after a German, hitting him in the head with the barrel of his carbine. He kept chasing him and hitting him and saying, 'You sons of bitches. You sons of bitches. You sons of bitches.' That's all he could say. "I ran forward, and he wouldn't stop, so I hit (the GI) with the butt of my .45 and knocked him down. "He laid down there and started crying. Just crying."

Inquiries into killings of SS

"Q: Do you remember the taking of the Dachau Concentration Camp?"

"A: Yes."

So begins the questioning of dozens of American soldiers, during a military investigation following the camp's liberation. After the war, the documentation of the incident was filed away for decades in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

"About 20 years ago, I decided to hire someone to find that report," Sparks said. Books had been written about what did or did not happen during the liberation - most of them inaccurate, Sparks said. By then, Sparks had retired from the military as a brigadier general and served as a justice on the Colorado Supreme Court.

These days, Sparks is known as an outspoken advocate for the prevention of handgun violence - a cause he took up after his grandson was shot and killed. Meanwhile, veterans from his unit - along with others in the National Guard - are asking the government that he receive the Medal of Honor for his achievements during the war.

Each year, about this time, it all returns. In his home, he still keeps the stacks of investigations he was never shown. 

"Q. Who ordered the killing of these SS men?" one of the investigators asked one of the soldiers during the inquiry.

"A. Well, I don't think there was any orders given, but it was the general feeling of the troops when we saw those bodies and one or two skinny fellows that came out that no prisoners would be taken among our own troops."

"Q. What did (another officer) tell you about what happened?" a different GI was asked.

"A: He told me that some of our men had lined some SS troopers against the wall and used their machine guns to kill them with. He said that some of the SS troopers were not killed by the machine gun fire and that one or two had cut their own throats. He said it was the worst thing he had ever seen since being in the Army."

After the war, Sparks was called into the office of Gen. George S. Patton to account for the incident.

"(Patton) said, 'Colonel, I have some serious charges here against you and some of your men,' " Sparks remembered. "I said, 'Yes, and I'd like to explain them.'

"He said, 'I've had these g-damned charges investigated, and they're a bunch of crap. You've been a damn fine soldier. You go on home.' "I never heard another word about it. Never heard another damn word."

Accounts differ on how many German prisoners were killed after surrendering. Sparks says his men killed 30. Others, Sparks maintains, were killed by other troops not under his command. Some of the Germans were literally torn apart by the newly liberated prisoners:

"Testimony of Walenty Lenarczyk, Inmate No. 39272 at Dachau, formerly of Warszaw, Poland.

"After the shooting, prisoners swarmed over the wire and grabbed the Americans and lifted them to their shoulders among many cries. I helped to lift the soldiers . . . And while this was going on, other prisoners caught the SS men . . . The first SS man elbowed one or two prisoners out of his way, but the courage of the prisoners mounted, they knocked them down and nobody could see whether they were stomped or what, but they were killed. All we cared about was the Americans. For the past six years we had waited for the Americans, and for the moment the SS were nothing. We were, all these years, animals to them and it was our birthday. It was ordered by Himmler that the SS kill all prisoners before the Americans arrived and so when they came fast it was truly our second birthday."

Over the years, historians and authors have debated the impact of what happened during the liberation at Dachau. As a U.S. veteran of the Korean War (he enlisted shortly after emigrating), Jack Goldman says he understands the importance of following the Geneva Conventions, the necessity of remaining above the level of the murderers.

He also wants to make sure nobody forgets the real prisoners in the camp and the millions who died before them. "I don't blame (the Americans) for shooting (the German soldiers). They deserved it," Goldman said. "They should not feel bad for having done it." "If I was there (in the machine gunner's position), I suppose I could have done it. I don't know if I would have. I don't know. I just don't know."

When Goldman heard about his father being killed at Auschwitz, he said he didn't cry. By then, he said, he was out of tears. Instead, he clenched his hand into a fist. He didn't hear about his mother's death until after the war. By then, his fist had begun to open. "Vengeance is . . . " he began, and then stopped to think.

"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." He stopped again. "My philosophy is that I will not blame Germans for something that their parents may or may not have done.

"I have never preached hatred. Just the opposite. Hatred doesn't get you anywhere."

One vivid memory

In the shadow of Dachau, Jack Goldman still stands.

When survivors are asked about their memories of the liberation of the camp, some prisoners remember the cheers as the Americans arrived. Some recall their first time outside the gates. For the man who was once 66970, all of that remains a blur.

As he stood near one of the liberators nearly six decades later, Goldman uncovered a memory he holds above them all. "After the Americans arrived, they took our names. For the first time, we were no longer numbers," he said.

"They asked for our names."


Dachau Report: 45th Division News, Vol. V, No. 32, Page 1, May 13, 1945

How I Helped Liberate Dachau Camp


A few years ago, I heard about General Russ Weiskircher, who had helped liberate Dachau concentration camp. He lives 40 minutes from us. He is still active and helps lead the Georgia Holocaust Commission. 

I've found that the best history is often oral history, so I called him up and asked if I could bring my children by one Saturday morning to hear his story. 

If there's one thing I hope you take away from this blog beyond the fascinating story he recounted, it's that there are people like Weiskircher within a short distance from you who have amazing stories to tell. You parents owe it to your children to help them interview a few war veterans or missionaries and ask them to tell their stories. You will be richer for it. Expand your worldview.

Weiskircher said, "Sure." So, the kids and I drove up the road to his home in Helen and were amply rewarded. His story is fascinating and I took notes high-speed as he recounted it. Here it is:

I believe we landed in North Africa and then went to Sicily and then into Anzio and then up the boot. We were in Rome when D-Day was happening. We were a diversion down in Italy. We began to turn the war around when we hit the ball bearing plant and they couldn't move their tanks.

When we got close to Dachau - 2 miles away, the stench was horrible. There were 42 boxcars outside. People were put in there - taken there to be cremated. But there was no rail systems. They lived as long as they could get fresh air.

Piles of bodies everywhere. They spilled out of the box cars.

We couldn't drive into camp - the bridges were destroyed. We went in by different paths. We went to the main gate and my Lt. Colonel suspected what we might find. Orders were to take it and let no one in or out. We were told that the 42nd division was on our right and they may participate. Our commander was a 37 yr. Old Major General.

I said, "what can we expect?" He said, "a POW camp." Because Eisenhower kept the lid on it - we didn't know what would we'd see. It was April, but a chilly day. Big massive gate. High stone walls.

My boss jumped on my shoulders and stood on the wall and then pulled me up. I was the 2nd man thru the main gate. There wasn't a soul to be seen. There were less than 200 guards in the camp (mostly Ukranians, anti-Semitic) they were encouraged to brutalize the prisoners.

The S.S. and the colonel all got away. The prisoners were in the barracks. They were made to hold 60 people, but there were up to 1600 in there. They began to hide. They were under the barracks.

There were over 30,000 in the camp. We kept them in camp. Every disease ever created was in the camp. We saw the naked bodies in the showers and in front of the ovens. They were all cataloged with tags on their toes.

When our people found all these victims, God help any Germans who were there. Our soldiers went crazy - uncontrollable rage. Kill anything that moves that isn't a prisoner. One kid killed 17 unarmed Germans with a machine gun before we stopped him. They broke into labs and saw bodies being skinned, bodies were being frozen. They were performing all these laboratory experiments. They would hang people from the fence and tie meat to them and then turn the hungry dogs loose on them.

We couldn't feed the camp prisoners because they couldn't eat. We gave them bullion cubes, but many of them died anyway.

A little girl, about six years-old, crawled up to the barbed wire. And all she knew was she used to have a mommy and her name was "mommy." The girl's name was the number tattooed on her arm. She didn't know her name.

In the midst of this I found this little German officer who was in charge. He informed us that he was hiking to the mountains and passing thru. The prisoners all said, "he's the one in charge." I went over to get him. I told him that he should surrender. He said, "I won't surrender to an American sergeant because I am a major and you are a sergeant." 

I said, "go over there." I was mad enough to kill him, but took my carbine and hit him over the head and broke the stock. He fell to the ground and screamed for morphine. For 30 minutes there was chaos. Some of our people left there in straight jackets or handcuffs.

Then everybody heard about what we'd found and they wanted to see it. We had to keep out the curious people. I picked up a Leica in the commandants office - that was the first thing I liberated in the camp. I went around for days and took pictures.

With each passing minute, sanity returns. Up comes a General [not named here so as not to offend his family] and his staff. The General was put in his position so that he could get good PR and ride in a parade in New York and then run for the governor of New York.

The hotheads have subsided and order is returning. The radio won't quit, everybody calling in. General Bradley and others.

My colonel doesn't care what I did. I go back for three days and get pictures. A woman named Maggie, a reporter, the General's concubine, comes in. She is trying to interview the prisoners. We grab her like a sack of flour. We take her back and handcuff her to the jeep. The General goes over to my associate and hits him. The kid said, "You're a dead man. I'm going to write you up." So then the General goes around getting names.

My boss calls Gen'l Fredericks and he offers support. And then the war is over and then all the protective brass go away. And then the General crawls out from under a rock with his claims about me and the others. So they send the court martial charges on us to Gen'l Patton. He summons us to a suburb of Munich and he had an apartment for his office. Our colonel went in to talk to him.

George Patton comes out and he had his pearl handled pistols. We're standing there rigid and fearful. What will he say? Will he court martial us? Our knees are knocking.

He says, "Gentlemen, General Patton salutes you. These charges are ridiculous! You were taught to kill, and you killed. I will make sure you are all decorated. And if the person who tendered these charges is not a civilian, I will make him one!"

The General who charged us was told about this and he got back to the U.S. and became a civilian. But he never was in a New York parade and never became governor of New York.

In the Dachau guesthouse there was a guest book. The local Germans could parade their families through the camp to see what was happening to the Jews. We took pictures of the guestbook that had their names in it and blew them up big so that everyone could see their names. We put them on the walls outside the theaters with a sign that said, "We want you to know that we know that you knew."

Later the Bavarians tried to cover it up, but the international treaty required that it be opened. They are still trying to do that. Now in 2001 [when this conversation took place], 1500 WWII vets are dying a day. That's why I'm cataloging firsthand testimonies of it.

The pictures that you see of Dachau camp are the ones I took with that Leica camera. They later doctored the pictures to include military people.

For further info, check out this site and this excellent Fox News interview. Weiskircher recounts his initial years in the war in North Africa and the beachhead of Anzio, Italy here.

Execution of SS soldiers at Dachau

"The killing of unarmed POWs did not trouble many of the men in I company that day for to them the SS guards did not deserve the same protected status as enemy soldiers who have been captured after a valiant fight. To many of the men in I company, the SS were nothing more than wild, vicious animals whose role in this war was to starve, brutalize, torment, torture and murder helpless civilians." Flint Whitlock, The Rock of Anzio, From Sicily to Dachau: A history of the U.S. 45th Infantry Division





Waffen-SS soldiers were executed by American liberators of Dachau


The photograph above is a still photo, taken by T/4 Arland B. Musser, 163rd Signal Photographic Company, US Seventh Army, on April 29, 1945, the day that the Dachau concentration camp was liberated. It shows 60 Waffen-SS soldiers on the ground, some wounded, some playing dead, and 17 dead, according to Flint Whitlock, historian for the 45th Thunderbird Division, who got this information from Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division of the US Seventh Army, the first unit to arrive at the Dachau camp.

In his book entitled "Surrender of the Dachau Concentration Camp 29 April 1945," Col. John H. Linden identified the men in the photo as follows: The second American soldier from the left is Bryant, whose first name is unknown, but whose nickname was "Bird Eye." The third soldier from the left is Martin J. Sedler, and the man who is kneeling is William C. Curtain. All three of these men were with M Company of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment. The soldier at the extreme right is Pfc. John Lee of I Company. The buildings in the background are inside the Dachau SS garrison where Waffen-SS troops were quartered; the building on the right is a hospital where a Reserve Company of crippled Waffen-SS soldiers, previously wounded in action, were quartered. The Waffen-SS was the elite volunteer Army which included many divisions from other countries, as well as German soldiers.

According to Col. John H. Linden's account of the liberation of Dachau, T/3 Henry F. Gerzen, 163 Signal Photographic Company, was filming the shooting with a movie camera. A few frames of this movie, which survived the cover-up of the Dachau massacre, show Lt. Col. Felix Sparks firing his pistol in the air to stop the action shown in the photo above, which allegedly took place around noon. However, Col. Howard A. Buechner, a medical officer with the 45th Division, claims that the photo above shows a second incident when 346 Waffen-SS soldiers were executed on the orders of Lt. Jack Bushyhead, at around 2:45 p.m.




Lt. Felix Sparks stops the killing of SS soldiers at the wall


The photograph above shows 27-year-old Lt. Col. Felix Sparks firing a pistol into the air, while at the same time, he is holding up his left hand as a signal to the American soldiers to stop shooting.

In 1989, Lt. Col. Sparks wrote an account of the role of the 45th Infantry Division in the liberation of Dachau. His description of what happened at the wall is as follows:

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 (the concentration camp), after taking directions from one of my soldiers. After I had walked away for a short distance, I heard 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 (Private William C. Curtin) 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 noncom on the gun and headed towards the confinement area.

In his 1989 account of the liberation of Dachau, Sparks wrote the following regarding the number of SS soldiers who were killed in the Dachau massacre:

It was the foregoing 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 did not exceed fifty, with thirty probably being a more accurate figure.

According to Whitlock, the men of the 45th Infantry Division had been warned about the danger posed by German POWs by General George S. Patton, Jr., the Commander of the US Seventh Army, on June 27, 1943 just before their invasion of Sicily. Whitlock wrote:

"Patton cautioned the men to watch out for dirty tricks when it seemed a group of enemy soldiers wanted to surrender. A favorite tactic, the general said, was for a small group to suddenly drop their weapons and raise their hands or wave a white flag. When unsuspecting Americans moved into the open to take the enemy prisoner, the 'surrendering' troops would hit the dirt and their comrades, lying in wait, would spring up and mow down the exposed Americans. Patton warned the Thunderbirds to be on their guard for this sort of treachery and to show no mercy if the Germans or Italians attempted this trick. His words would have fateful repercussions."

The "fateful repercussions," that Whitlock was referring to, was the incident that happened at the liberation of Dachau when a young soldier of the 45th Infantry Division of the US Seventh Army opened fire on a group of Waffen-SS soldiers who had surrendered. He claimed that the surrendered soldiers had moved forward.

As the 45th Infantry Division advanced toward Dachau, with orders to liberate the infamous Concentration Camp, where it was common knowledge that Jews were being exterminated in gas chambers by the Nazis, the American soldiers had no prior information about the existence of the SS-Übungslager, which was the equivalent of an Army post, located right next to the Dachau prison compound. The gas chambers were just outside the barbed wire fence that separated the prison compound from the SS training camp. The men of the 45th Division were not expecting to find a garrison of soldiers, much less Waffen-SS soldiers. For the Americans, the SS had a reputation as the most evil of the evil German soldiers. Part of the bad reputation of the Waffen-SS stemmed from the fact that the guards in all the Nazi concentration camps were soldiers in the infamous SS-Totenkopfverbände, or the "Death's Head" unit of the SS. The regular Germany Army was the Wehrmacht.

Before reaching the SS camp, the soldiers of Lt. Col. Felix Spark's 3rd Battalion, 157th Regiment, I company, under the command of Lt. William P. Walsh, had seen a long line of abandoned cars of a freight train, filled with emaciated corpses, on Friedenstrasse (Peace Street) just outside the SS garrison. The photograph below shows the "Death Train." The train was loaded with prisoners from the Buchenwald camp, who had been evacuated to Dachau, but the train had been delayed for three weeks because of American bombing of the railroad tracks; some of the dead prisoners on the train had been killed by American bullets when the train was strafed by American planes, as Pfc. John Lee noted in his description of the liberation. The Waffen-SS soldiers, including a unit of Hungarian soldiers, who surrendered to the 45th Infantry Division in good faith, had nothing whatsoever to do with the Death Train.




American soldiers inspect the dead bodies on an abandoned train


An advance party of soldiers of I Company followed the railroad tracks and entered the SS garrison through the railroad gate, some time before an advance party from the 42nd Division went directly to the southwest entrance into the Dachau complex, where an SS-Totenkopf officer, 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker, was waiting to surrender the Concentration Camp. As quoted in Flint Whitlock's book "The Rock of Anzio," Lt. Col. Sparks said, "We went along the south side of the camp and I saw the main entrance and decided to avoid it; if the Germans were going to defend it [the camp], I figured that's where they'd do it."

According to Whitlock, "Spark's decision to avoid approaching the main gate would result in much confusion and controversy for decades to come, for inside that gate, the Germans were ready to surrender, not fight."

The gate shown in the photograph below is where "the Germans were ready to surrender, not fight." It was about 75 yards from this gate, located on the southwest side of the Dachau complex, that 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker surrendered the Dachau concentration camp to Brig. Gen. Henning Linden of the 42nd Infantry Division. This photo was taken after the liberation; it shows two American soldiers guarding the gate.




Gate near where Lt. Heinrich Wicker was waiting to surrender at Dachau


Whitlock quotes Lt. Walsh as follows:

There's a big gate, and this German guy comes out of there. He must have been about six-four or six-five, and he's got beautiful blond hair. He's a handsome-looking bastard and he's got more Goddam Red Cross shields on and white flags....My first reaction is, "You son of a bitch, where in the hell were you five minutes ago before we got here, taking care of all these people? ....Well, everybody was very upset. Every guy in that company, including myself, was very upset over this thing, and then seeing this big, handsome, son of a bitch coming out with all this Red Cross shit on him.

The photograph below shows the "big gate" which Lt. Walsh described. This photo was taken on the day of the liberation; it shows Waffen-SS soldiers from the garrison surrendering to the Americans.




The "big gate" where Waffen-SS soldiers surrendered


What Lt. Walsh and the men of I company did not know was that the SS training camp and garrison was completely separate from the Dachau concentration camp, although the prison compound was inside the large SS complex, and only accessible by first going through the gates into the SS garrison. The gate into the Dachau concentration camp is shown in the photograph below.




Gate into Dachau concentration camp was inside the SS complex


In his book, "Surrender of the Dachau Concentration Camp 29 April 1945," Col. John H. Linden wrote that the night before, on April 28th, "A combat unit of the Waffen-SS was sent to the Dachau Concentration Camp to surrender the camp to the first U.S. Army unit to reach the camp."

According to Nerin E. Gun's book "The Day of the Americans," published in 1966, the Commander of the combat unit of Waffen-SS soldiers was Lt. Heinrich Skodzensky, although there are no SS records which mention his name. There is no mention of Skodzensky in the Dachau archives or in the Berlin Bundesarchiv.

Abram Sachar gave this account of the surrender of the concentration camp in his book entitled "The Redemption of the Unwanted" published in 1983:

Soon the advance scouts (of the 45th Division) were joined by other Allied soldiers and one of the German guards came forward to surrender with what he believed would be the usual military protocol. He emerged in full regalia, wearing all his decorations. He had only recently been billeted to Dachau from the Russian front. He saluted and barked "Heil Hitler". An American officer looked down and around at mounds of rotting corpses, at thousands of prisoners shrouded in their own filth. He hesitated only a moment, then spat in the Nazi's face, snapping "Schweinehund," before ordering him taken away. Moments later a shot rang out and the American officer was informed that there was no further need for protocol.

This account refers to the execution of Lt. Heinrich Skodzensky, who had allegedly been put in charge of the SS garrison only recently, according to Nerin E. Gun, a survivor of Dachau. Skodzensky was allegedly executed by soldiers of the 45th Thunderbird Division who had arrived at the Dachau complex before the 42nd Rainbow Division. Contrary to Sacher's description of Lt. Skodzensky's execution, the concentration camp where "thousands of prisoners shrouded in their own filth" were being held was at least one kilometer from the area where the first executions of the Waffen-SS soldiers took place.

According to Col. Buechner, who wrote a book called "The Hour of the Avenger," the SS garrison had a capacity of 1473 men. The guards of the concentration camp, who were SS-Totenkopf soldiers, were quartered at the SS garrison, along with Waffen-SS soldiers who had recently arrived from the front. The Waffen-SS soldiers were not responsible for the Dachau concentration camp, which was administrated by the SS-Totenkopfverbände, not by the Waffen-SS. Many of the guards had fled on the April 28th. Their wives and families had been left behind in the SS garrison.

Whitlock wrote that one of the men of I company shot the handsome SS soldier, who had surrendered at the "big gate," because he tried to make a break to escape, after he had surrendered, according to Lt. Walsh. The name of this soldier is unknown. Then four more Waffen-SS soldiers emerged with their hands up and surrendered to the men of I company. Remembering the words of General Patton who had warned about dirty tricks, and knowing the evil reputation of the SS men, Lt. Walsh herded the SS soldiers into an empty railroad boxcar inside the camp and "emptied his pistol" into them, according to Whitlock.

Lt. Walsh and his men continued through the SS garrison, rounding up the soldiers who had surrendered and separating the Waffen-SS soldiers from the Wehrmacht soldiers, who were in the regular German army. The photograph below shows some of the German soldiers who had surrendered.




Soldiers at the Dachau garrison after they surrendered


Note the prisoners, who are assisting the American soldiers, in the photograph above, taken on April 29, 1945, the day of the liberation. On the right is a liberated prisoner wearing a pair of striped prison pants and a jacket with an X on the back. The X was painted on the civilian clothing worn by some of the prisoners to identify them in the event they escaped.

The SS soldiers, who had surrendered, were lined up against a wall that formed part of a coal bin, as shown in the photograph at the top of this page. Lt. Walsh called for a machine gun to be set up facing the prisoners, and ordered his I company soldiers to shoot the Germans if they didn't stay back. When the SS soldiers saw the machine gun cocked and ready to fire, they panicked and started toward the American soldiers, according to John Lee of I company, as quoted by Whitlock.

The medic who was present, Peter Galary, told Whitlock that he "refused to patch up the Germans we shot."

Albert Guérisse


Albert Guérisse, second from the left, taken in 1946


One of the most well-known inmates at Natzweiler-Struthof was Albert Guérisse, a medical doctor and a Communist resistance fighter from Belgium. Guérisse was in charge of an escape route for downed Allied pilots, called the PAT line, during World War II. He used the code name Patrick O'Leary, the name of a Canadian friend. In March 1943, Guérisse was arrested in Toulouse after the escape line was infiltrated and betrayed by French collaborator Roger Le Neveu.

Guérisse was first sent to the Neue Bremm prison camp in the German city of Saarbrücken, then to the infamous Class III camp at Mauthausen in Austria; in the summer of 1944 he was an inmate at Natzweiler, along with SOE agents Brian Stonehouse, Robert Sheppard and Ian Kenneth Hopper who went by the name Johnny Hopper. Along with one other SOE agent, they formed a group called the "English Officers."

The SOE was the Special Operations Executive, a British spy organization, which carried on espionage and sabotage operations in France and elsewhere during World War II. The SOE was the model for the US Office of Strategic Services.

When the Natzweiler camp was evacuated in early September 1944, Guérisse, Stonehouse, Sheppard and Hopper were taken to Dachau along with the other prisoners. At Dachau, Guérisse became the leader of a group of Communist prisoners who formed the International Committee in the camp. When the American liberators arrived, they found that the Commandant and most of the guards had left and the Committee had taken control of the camp. One American who was with the OSS was among the prisoners who were liberated by the US Seventh Army at Dachau.

Guérisse and the other English Officers had managed to survive Mauthausen, Natzweiler and Dachau, three of the worst camps in the Nazi concentration camp system. All three of these camps had gas chambers, which Guérisse was able to attest to.

Enzo Sereni

Enzo Sereni 

(17 April 1905–18 November 1944)

was an Italian Zionist, co-founder of kibbutz Givat Brenner, scholar, advocate of Jewish-Arabco-existence and a resistance fighter who was parachuted into Nazi-occupied Italy in World War II, captured by the Germans and executed inDachau concentration camp.

Sereni was born in Rome. His father was physician to the King of Italy. He grew up in an assimilated household but became a Zionist as a teenager and was one of the first Italian Zionists. After obtaining his PhD. from the University of Rome, he made aliyah to Mandate Palestinein 1927. He worked in orange groves in Rehovot and soon helped found kibbutz Givat Brenner. As an enthusiastic socialist, Sereni was also active in the Histadrut trade union. He was a pacifist who advocated co-existence with the Arabs and integration of Jewish and Arab society.

Sereni was sent to Europe in 1931-1934 to help bring people to Palestine through the Youth Aliyah, and was arrested briefly by the Gestapo. He helped to organize the Hechalutz movement in Nazi Germany and was also involved in helping to smuggle money and people out of Germany. Sereni was also sent to the United States to help organize the Zionist movement there. During World War II, he joined the British Army, and was involved in disseminating anti-fascist propaganda in Egypt. The British sent him to Iraq, and Sereni spent part of his time organizing clandestine aliyah. Sereni got in trouble with his British superior officers for his Zionist views and was imprisoned briefly for forging passports.

Sereni then helped organize the parachute unit of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) that sent agents into occupied Europe. Of about 250 volunteer trainees, about 110 were selected for training, and 33 were actually parachuted into Europe, including Sereni, despite his relatively advanced age. On 15 May 1944 he was parachuted into Northern Italy but was captured immediately. According to records, he was shot in Dachau concentration camp on 18 November 1944. Other famous martyrs who parachuted into Europe with this unit include Hannah Szenes and Haviva Reik. Kibbutz Netzer Sereni is named after him, as are many streets throughout Israel.

Sereni wrote several books and numerous articles.

  • (17 April 1905–18 November 1944

Patriarch Gavrilo V of Serbia

Gavrilo Doži? (Serbian Cyrillic: ?a????o ?o???; also known as Gavrilo V Doži?-Medenica)

(17 May 1881 - 7 May 1950)

was the Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral (1920-1938) and the 51st Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church (1938-1950)

Gavrilo Doži? was born on 17 May 1881 in VrujciLower Mora?aMontenegro, near the Mora?a Monastery.

After the death of Mitrofan Ban, the Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral, in 1920, Gavrilo was picked as the new Metropolitan of Montenegro and the Littoral on 17 November 1920. He stayed in this position until he was chosen to become the 51st Patriarch of Serbia on 21 February 1938. During World War II Patriarch Gavrilo and Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovi? were incarcerated at Dachau. After the Allied victory and the liberation of concentration camps, both Patriarch Gavrilo and Bishop Nikolaj went to England to live. But after a short stay, Patriarch Gavrilo decided to return home to die.

Patriarch Gavrilo died on 7 May 1950 in Belgrade, Serbia. He was buried in the Cathedral Church.

  • 17 May 1881 - 7 May 1950

Father Jean Bernard

Father Jean Bernard 

(13 August 1907 – 1 September 1994)

was a Catholic priest fromLuxembourg who was imprisoned from May 1941 to August 1942 in the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. He was released for nine days in February 1942 and allowed to return to Luxembourg, an episode which he later wrote about in his memoirs of the camp and which was turned into a film.

Born in 1907, the sixth of ten children into the family of a Luxembourg businessman, he studied at the university of Louvain in Belgium and theology and philosophy at the Catholic seminary in Luxembourg. He was awarded a doctorate in philosophy in 1933. From 1934 he headed the international Catholic film bureau in Brussels until it was closed down by the Gestapo in June 1940. He then became involved in helping Luxembourg families who had fled to France ahead of the German forces to return to their home country.

On 6 January 1941 he was arrested by the German occupation forces as a symbol of Luxembourg Catholic resistance to German occupation and that May sent to Dachau. Apparently intervention by his brother with senior Nazi officials in Paris secured his release in August 1942.

After the war, Bernard served as the editor of the Luxemburger Wort, held senior positions in the Catholic Church in Luxembourg, and received many awards. He died on 1 September 1994.

Father Bernard wrote the book "Pfarrerblock 25487" (ISBN 2-87963-286-2) about his experiences in Dachau. "Pfarrerblock 25487" was recently translated into English by Deborah Lucas Schneider. The English-language translation is entitled "Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau" (ISBN 978-0972598170) and was released in 2007. The movie The Ninth Day directed by Volker Schlöndorff is based on a portion of Bernard's diary detailing his nine-day release.

  • 13 August 1907 – 1 September 1994

Norbert ?apek

Norbert Fabián ?apek 

(3 June 1870 – ? October 1942)

was the founder of the modern Unitarian Church in the Czech Republic.

?apek moved his family to the United States where he became editor of a Czech language newspaper. Pursuing his increasingly liberal religious perspective, he discovered Unitarianism and in 1921 joined the First Unitarian Church of Essex County (in Orange, New Jersey).

While in the United States, ?apek suffered two heresy trials at the accusation of Slovak Baptist ministers, in attempts to expel him from theBaptist association.

Widowed shortly after his arrival in US, ?apek met and married another Czech expatirate, Mája Oktavec. Together, they decided to bring Unitarianism back to their homeland, newly independent after World War I. The couple returned to Prague in 1921.

The new Unitarian congregation they formed in Prague, called the Liberal Religious Fellowship, grew rapidly and soon purchased a large building dubbed "Unitaria" at the foot of the Charles Bridge. The early worship services generally consisted of lectures. The minister wore no robe or vestments; and the congregation dispensed with elaborate rituals, singing of hymns, ornate decoration, and formal or prescribed prayers. Some members felt that the congregation lacked a spiritual dimension. In response, ?apek created the Flower Communion: each member would bring a flower to the church, where it was placed in a large central vase. At the end of the service, each would take home a different flower. This symbolized the uniqueness of each individual, and the coming together in communion to share this uniqueness.

World War II

Although he was invited to return to the United States during World War II, ?apek chose to remain in Europe. During the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, he was arrested by the Gestapo, who confiscated his books and sermons. He was charged with listening to foreign broadcasts (a capital crime) and was taken in 1942 to the Dachau concentration camp, where he lived in the "Priesterblock". He was tortured and eventually gassed late in 1942.[1]

When news of his death reached the United States, the American Unitarian Association president, Fredrick May Eliot, wrote, "Another name is added to the list of heroic Unitarian martyrs, by whose death our freedom has been bought, Ours is now the responsibility to see to it that we stand fast in the liberty so gloriously won."

The International Association for Religious Freedom placed a plaque in the camp in his memory.

  • 3 June 1870 – ? October 1942

Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski

Blessed Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski 

(b. January 22, 1913 in Che?m?a - February 23, 1945 in Dachau)

was a Polish priest, scout and is patron of Polish Scouts. He joined Scouting on March 21, 1927. Stefan served as Patrol leader, later as Troop Leaderand during his years in the High Seminary of Pelplin Diocese he was an active member of its Scout Club.: Further more he was an active member of the Marian Congregation in Che?m?a: and since he was nine years old Stefan had been an altar boy.: During his years in the seminary of Pelpin he was active in the Temperance movement.: On March 14, 1937 he was ordained a priest in Pelpin.23 In the following years he served as a priest in Pelpin and Toru?. While working as a priest he continued his studies on the university of Lwów.: In Toru? he was responsible for the parish press. In 1938 he became leader of the Old Scouts and chaplain of the scout district Pomerania. Arrested by the Gestapo on October 18, 1939 he was imprisoned in the German concentration camps StutthofGrenzdorfSachsenhausen and Dachau where he died. On June 7, 1999 Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski was beatified byPope John Paul II

  • January 22, 1913~February 23, 1945

August Froehlich

August Froehlich 

(26 January 1891 – 22 June 1942)

was a German Roman Catholic priest active in resistance movement against theNational Socialism. He protected the rights of the German Catholics and the maltreatment of Polish forced labourers, martyred in the Dachau concentration camp.

He was born in 1891 in a well-to-do business family in Königshütte (now Chorzów) in Prussian Silesia. In 1912 young August Froehlich started theological studies in Breslau to become a priest, but before completing it, at the break of the First World War, he was mobilized. He served in the elite 1st (Emperor Alexander) Guards Grenadiers. Soon, while on the Russian front, on 3rd of July, 1915 in one of the first battles he was seriously injured. Mistakenly taken for dead, he was left on the battlefield, found alive only the following day by German military medic. After his recovery he resumed his military service, this time in France. Among other medals he received the Iron Cross - first and second class. He was wounded again and became a POW. He returned home to Breslau from British imprisonment in the autumn 1920, two years after the end of war. He continued his theological studies in the theology faculty at the Breslau University. On 19th of June, 1921 August Froehlich was ordained a priest by Cardinal Adolf Bertram in the cathedral of Breslau Diocese. After his first mass in his home parish Saint Barbara in Königshütte, he was appointed by the Bishop of Breslau to the autonomous Berlin ecclesiastic province. He worked in Berlin and Pomerania.

August Froehlich spent his first years in Berlin as an assistant priest. Economic situation was marked by post-war crisis and high inflation. For a young priest it was natural to use a large part of his fatherly inheritance and his income to support impoverished families. He supported "press apostolate" by distributing Catholic daily press and a church bulletin. Thus Catholics had access to newspapers, which were an alternative to non-Christian and, indeed, anti-Christian militant Nazi party press. He showed passive opposition to the Nazi regime. e. g. he refused to join 1935 collection for the Nazi state, in order to be able to support his own charity works. This made local group leader of NSDAPto organise a public confrontation. He would also refuse to say the Nazi greeting Heil Hitler and encouraged his parishioners to use traditional greeting Grüß Gott - praised be God. In his letter to the Reichsarbeitsdienstgruppe in Bad Polzin dated 23rd of September, 1935, Father Froehlich explained his reasons why he would end also his letters with the Praise God greeting:

From 1937 to 1942 he lived in Rathenow as a parish priest in the church of Saint Georg. Numerous Polish forced labourers worked in the Rathenow aeria. Because Polish Catholics were not allowed to participate in German worship, August Froehlich and his assistant priest celebrated separate Sunday Masses for them. When he heard about maltreatment of Polish forced labourers (e.g. of a pregnant woman), he brought that courageously into public and spoke about it during church announcements. That caused reaction of Nazi authorities. He was arrested. On 28th of July, 1941 he was transferred from Potsdam prison to a concentration camp. In the period of eleven months he was in three concentration camps: Buchenwald, Ravensbrück and, finally, Dachau, where he died because of bad prison conditions on 22nd of June, 1942.

  • 26 January 1891 – 22 June 1942

Hilary Pawe? Januszewski

Hilary Pawe? Januszewski, friar, priest


 Dachau concentration camp); a Carmelite who managed to survive in the camp of Dachau until 1945. Then in February 1945, in the lager typhoid spread, he offered himself freely to serve those who were dying in an isolated make-shift building because, as he used to say, he was more needed there. He contracted typhoid and died there. One of 108 Martyrs of World War Two.

  • 1907-1945

Ignacy Je?

Ignacy Ludwik Je? 

(July 31, 1914, Radomy?l Wielki – October 16, 2007)

was the Latin RiteCatholic Bishop Emeritus of Koszalin-Ko?obrzeg, located in Poland.

Bishop Je? was born in the Polish town of Radomy?l Wielki on July 31, 1914. He was ordained a Catholic priest on June 20, 1937. In 1942 he was sent first to Niemców labour camp and then interned in Dachau concentration camp as prisoner no. 37196, where he met fellow priest Joseph Kentenich.

After the camp was liberated by the American forces in 1945, he returned to priesthood, and from 1946 until 1960 he was the director of a Catholic Gymnasium in Katowice.

On June 5, 1960, under Pope John XXIII, Cardinal Stefan Wyszy?ski and future CardinalBoles?aw Kominek appointed him Titular Bishop of Alba Maritima. In 1967 he was elevated toAuxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Wroc?aw. In 1972 he was appointed Bishop of Koszalin-Ko?obrzeg, in northern Poland. He held this post until February 1, 1992, when, at the age of 77, his resignation request was accepted by Pope John Paul II.

Je? died on October 16, 2007 in Rome, Italy, the day before the announcement that Pope Benedict XVI had planned to make him a cardinal (in the consistory of November 24, 2007)

  • July 31, 1914~October 16, 2007

Joseph Kentenich

Father Joseph Kentenich 

(* 16 November, 1885, GymnichRhine Province ; † 15 September 1968 in Schönstatt)

was a father of the Pallottines and founder of the Schoenstatt Movement. He is also remembered as a thinkertheologianeducationalist and pioneer of a Catholic response to an array of modern issues, whose teachings underwent a series of challenges from political and ecclesiastical powers. He attempted to teach Christians how to live out their faith.

Considered by many of those who came into contact with him to have been a saint, his cause for sainthood is currently at the diocesan level in the Diocese of Trier, pending the compilation of his writings and correspondences.

During the Nazi-regime in Germany, he was interrogated by the Gestapo and incarcerated in their prison in Koblenz. He was sent to the feared Dachau concentration camp, having chosen on January 20, 1940, after clandestinely celebrating Mass in his cell, not to sign a health waiver to escape the punishment for his outspoken opposition to Hitler's regime. He spent over 3 years in the camp, where he became a support for many, especially among the priests, and according to firsthand accounts, he guided many prisoners to show compassion, instead of degenerating into animalistic behavior, to be good men even in the midst of certain death. In Dachau, new branches of the Schoenstatt Movement, including its first international and family branches, were founded.

After the liberation of Dachau by the Allies, Father Kentenich continued his work in building the Schoenstatt Family all over the world. With aVatican passport, he travelled to South Africa, the United States of America and many nations in Latin America. During this time, the Schoenstatt Movement was examined by authorities of the Church in Germany. In Bellavista, Chile, on 31 May 1949, Kentenich wrote a letter as an answer to the report of the visitation, which set forth his teachings about the mechanistic thinking that he claimed was endangering modern theological thought. Fr. Kentenich, who could have chosen to remove himself voluntarily from the movement, was ordered to leave Schoenstatt by order of the Church authorities, although with little or no knowledge of the highest Vatican authorities, and sent to Milwaukeein the USA. He remained there for 14 years, showing loyalty and obedience to the Church to his followers by his silent and powerful example. At the end of 1965, a mysterious telegram recalled him to Rome, where he was received with much bewilderment, just as the Second Vatican Council was drawing to a close. However, as the reforms of the Council confirmed what Fr. Kentenich had prophetically been teaching for decades, he was permitted to stay in Rome for the closing of the Council, rehabilitated by Pope Paul VI, and sent back to Schoenstatt. He arrived on Christmas Eve, in time to say Midnight Mass in the original Shrine of Schoenstatt.

In the three years left to him at the end of his exile in 1965, he dedicated his time and energy to be a father to countless visitors from his international Schoenstatt Family, as well as spending hours in prayer. He was known to throw fruit from his window, and an amazing number of people still own small gifts, cards, and letters that he showered upon those who sought, and found in him the assurance of a loving God, and the courage to attempt to change the world for the better. After celebrating Holy Mass, Fr. Kentenich died in the sacristy of the newly constructed Church of the Blessed Trinity on Mt. Schoenstatt. He is buried in this room, in a large stone sarcophagus inscribed with the Latin words DILEXIT ECCLESIAM (He loved the Church).

The process for his beatification was opened on 10 February 1975. When some of Fr. Kentenich's supporters greeted Pope John Paul II with the words, “Canonize Father Kentenich!” he smiled and returned, “YOU canonize him!” implying that canonization is not to be seen as merely a bureaucratic process, but an acclamation of a heroic, virtuous person by the people. To this day, devotion to Joseph Kentenich is spreading and awareness of his contributions to educational, philosophical, theological, social, and other thought are being translated and disseminated.

  • 16 November, 1885~ 15 September 1968

Jan Maria Micha? Kowalski

Jan Maria Micha? Kowalski 

(25.12.1871 - 26.05.1942)

was the first Minister Generalis (Minister General) of the order of the Mariavites. At the time of his selection, he was the most important person in this Christian movement. He was consecrated Bishop in 1909 by the Utrecht Union Old Catholic Archbishop Gerardus Gul. In 1919 the Mariavites officially changed its name to the Old Catholic Church of the Mariavites. Bishop Kowalski later called himself Archbishop. Bishop Kowalski died during World War II in the Dachau concentration camp. His successor was his wife, Bishopess Izabela Wi?ucka. She was succeeded in 1946 by Bishop Józef Maria Rafael Wojciechowski. He died in April 2005 and was succeeded by Bishopess Beatrycze Szulgowicz.

  • 25.12.1871 - 26.05.1942

Max Lackmann

Max Lackmann 

(* February 28, 1910 in Erfurt; † January 11, 2000 in Fulda)

was a German Lutheran ecumenist.

Lackmann studied theology at Bonn and Basel as a pupil of Karl Barth. He wrote against Nazi ideology, and he had to move from Germany to Basel. When he returned to Germany, he was ordained in 1940 and became pastor in Confessing Church. His preaching in criticism of Nazi regime caused him to be sent to Dachau concentration camp. In there his stay in the "priest block" became to him a profound ecumenical experience, which led him later to dedicate his work to the reunion of the Christendom.

He belonged to the Sammlung movement of Hans Asmussen and had to retire earlier from Protestant church because of his "Catholic tendencies". Lackmann's answer to these accusations was, that “one is either a catholic Christian or one is no Christian.” Lackmann summed up the movement: "We want to say yes to tradition but no to traditionalism, yes to the office of the Pope but no to papism, yes to the right of the church but no to legalism, yes to the praised mother of the Lord but no to Marianism, yes to the spiritual center of Rome but no to centralism and Romanism." In his book on the Augsburg Confession, Lackmann asserted that it contains a catholic confession of the ancient faith, and that it holds fast to the connection with the ancient Catholic, and even to the Roman Western Church.

Lackmann founded together with Paul Hacker and Gustav Huhn the League for Evangelical-Catholic Reunion. He took part in the Second Vatican Council as journalist and as an unofficial observer of the League and published its report under the title "Mit evangelischen Augen" (1963)


  • February 28, 1910~ January 11, 2000

Nanne Zwiep

The Reverend Nanne Zwiep 

(Aug 3, 1894, BeemsterNorth Holland - Nov 24, 1942, Dachau) was a pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church in the town of Enschede. He was arrested by the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands and died in the concentration camp atDachau near Munich.

Zwiep became a pastor in Enschede in 1929 and was a well-known figure in the town. On Sunday April 19, 1942, he spoke out in a sermon against National Socialism and the persecution of the Jews. The following day he was arrested by the Germans and after five months of interrogation in prison in Arnhem and Amersfoort he was transported to Dachau. On November 24, 1942, two months after his arrival at the camp, he died of exhaustion and malnutrition.

The biggest Scout group in Enschede is named in Zwiep's memory.


  • Aug 3, 1894~Nov 24, 1942,

Jan Buzek

Dr. Jan Jerzy Buzek 

(27 March 1874 – 24 November 1940) was a Polish physician, activist and politician from the region of ZaolzieCzechoslovakia.

Buzek was born in Ko?ska as a son of a peasant. He graduated from primary school there, and later from theGerman gymnasium (high school) in Cieszyn. He later decided to study medicine at Jagiellonian University inKraków and graduated in 1901. In 1902 he became a municipal and miners' doctor in the coal mining village ofDoubrava. He worked in Orlová, where he helped to found theJuliusz S?owacki Polish Grammar School. In World War I he served in the Austrian Army as a doctor.

Buzek also lectured at various schools. From a young age he was active in Polish cultural and educational organizations, eventually becoming chairman of many of them, including Zwi?zek Harcerstwa Polskiego (The Polish Scouting and Guiding Association) in Czechoslovakia. He was a co-founder of the Polish People's Party, a Polish political party in Czechoslovakia of a Protestant and liberal character. In 1931 Buzek became a leader of this party. He was a member of the National Assembly of Czechoslovakia in Praguefrom 1929 to 1935. As a deputy, Buzek defended the rights of the Polish minority, often cooperating with another Polish deputy, socialist Emanuel Chobot.

After the outbreak of World War II, Buzek was arrested by Nazi authorities on 12 April 1940 and on 28 April incarcerated by the Nazis in the Dachau concentration camp. He was transferred on 5 June to Mauthausen-Gusen camp, and on 15 August again to Dachau concentration camp. Before arrest his weight was 118 kg, before his death 45–50 kg. He died in Dachau on 24 November 1940 from exhaustion. Before death he said to his fellow inmate:

I looked 40 years to the eyes of death, but today nobody will help me. I was saving people, best how I could; but today nobody will save me. My left eye is blind.

He wished his ashes to be laid at a cemetery in Bystrzyca nad Olz?, in the grave of his first wife Anna, his first love. He is buried there........

Jan Buzek commemorated on the memorial plaque to victims of World War II in Doubrava (D?browa).

  • 27 March 1874 – 24 November 1940

Theodor Duesterberg

Theodor Duesterberg (German pronunciation: [?dy?st?b??k];

October 19, 1875 – November 4, 1950

was a leader of the Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten, in Germany prior to the Nazi seizure of power.

Theodor Duesterberg (right) with Alfred Hugenberg (left) in 1932

Born the son of an army surgeon in Darmstadt, Duesterberg entered the Prussian Army in 1893 after training in the cadet corps. In 1900, Duesterberg was part of the East Asian Expedition Corps that saw action in China during the Boxer Rebellion. Two years later, Duesterberg became an officer and held a variety of army commands prior to World War I. During the war, Duesterberg served in the Prussian War Ministry and eventually attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. Following the war, Duesterberg resigned from the army in protest over theVersailles Treaty, which Duesterberg viewed as being extremely unfair to Germany. Duesterberg subsequently decided to enter politics and joined the German National People's Party (DNVP) in 1919.

Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten

After various disagreements with the party leadership, however, Duesterberg left the DNVP in 1923 and joined the nationalistic and pro-monarchy Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten, which largely consisted of ex-servicemen disgruntled with the Weimar Republic. Duesterberg quickly moved through the party hierarchy and by 1924 was one of two of its federal leaders (the other beingFranz Seldte). Under Duesterberg’s leadership, the Stahlhelm became Germany’s largestFreikorps group.

In the late 1920s, Duesterberg allied the Stahlhelm with the Nazi Party and other right wing groups and actively protested in 1929 against the Young Plan. Two years later, Duesterberg allied the Stahlhelm with the Nazis, DNVP, and other right wing groups in order to form the Harzburger Front. The Harzburger Front attempted to bring about the downfall of Heinrich Brüning and the Weimar Republic, but it eventually dissolved due toAdolf Hitler’s unwillingness to subordinate the Nazi Party to such a vast right wing coalition on a long term basis. Many in the traditional nationalist-right were discomforted with the NSDAP's excessive anti-Semitism and its near-socialist views (especially that of the SA, theStrasser brothers, etc.). After the dissolution of the Harzburger Front, Duesterberg continued to lead the Stahlhelm and maintained the organization’s alliance with the DNVP.

In 1932, Duesterberg was nominated by the Stahlhelm and DNVP to run for President of Germany, but the Nazis ultimately destroyed any chance Duesterberg had of gaining mass support from the German people when they revealed he had Jewish ancestry. This revelation caused Duesterberg to poll poorly in the first ballot of the election, and he withdrew from the runoff election that followed.

Ironically, Duesterberg was offered a position in Hitler’s cabinet when Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in 1933, but Duesterberg flatly refused the proposal. Franz Seldte, however, did enter Hitler’s cabinet, which undermined the Stahlhelm and Duesterberg’s authority over the organization, and thus he resigned his leadership position in 1933.


In 1934, Duesterberg was arrested by the Nazis during the Night of the Long Knives and sent to Dachau concentration camp, where he was briefly interned. After being released, Duesterberg drifted into obscurity. He was known to have had limited contacts with the anti-Nazi Carl Friedrich Goerdeler in 1943, but Duesterberg ultimately did not play any role in Goerdeler’s plots against Hitler. In 1949, Duesterberg wroteThe Steel Helmet and Hitler, in which he defended his pre-war political career and the Stahlhelm and detailed the movement’s independence from the Nazi Party and "the insane Jew hatred preached by Hitler". A year later, Duesterberg died in Hameln

  • October 19, 1875 – November 4, 1950

Stefan Starzy?ski

Stefan Starzy?ski 

August 19, 1893 - c. October 17, 1943

 was a Polish politician,economistwriter and statesmanPresident of Warsaw before and during the Siege of Warsaw in 1939.

Starzy?ski was born on August 19, 1893 in Warsaw. After graduating from gymnasium, he enrolled in the Department of Economics at the Higher School of Trade (Wy?sze Kursy Handlowe), a private-run university. In 1909 he also joined various patriotic organizations, including the Riflemen's Association (Zwi?zek Strzelecki).

In August 1914, after the outbreak of the Great War, he joined Pi?sudski's Polish Legions and became an ordinary soldier in the 1st Brigade. He took part in all battles and skirmishes of his Brigade and was quickly promoted to officer. After the Pledge Crisis in 1917 he was arrested and, together with most of his colleagues, interned in Beniaminów. In November 1918 he joined the Polish Army and became the Chief of Staff of the 9th Polish Infantry Division. During the Polish-Bolshevik War he was transferred to the 2nd Department of the General Staff, which carried out mostly intelligence tasks.

After demobilization he remained in public service. He supervised one of the repatriation commissions in Moscow and later one of the departments of the Ministry of Treasury. In the years 1929-30 and 1931-32 he was a deputy minister of the treasury. In 1930 he became a member of Polish Sejm for a three years period as a member of Bezpartyjny Blok Wspó?pracy z Rz?dem (BBWR). He was also a deputy president of Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego, one of the biggest Polish banks.

During his life he published several academic papers on the economy.

In the early 1930s Warsaw had a huge hole in its budget. The city's development had been halted by a lack of funds while the population continued to grow rapidly. On August 1, 1934, Starzy?ski was chosen by the Sanacja régime to become the president of Warsaw, and was given special powers. Local authorities were disbanded and Starzy?ski became responsible only to central government.

At first Starzy?ski was viewed by the majority of Varsovians as yet another Sanacja stooge imposed on a city that mostly supported the opposition. But he soon gained popularity, even among his former enemies. He initiated a plan for fast-track reform of the financial system. The money saved thanks to these reforms was reinvested in public works that reduced unemployment. He managed to electrify the suburbs ofWola and Grochów, pave all the major roads out of Warsaw, and to connect the city centre with the newly-built northern district of ?oliborzthrough a bridge over the northern railway line. These actions earned him the nickname "president of the suburbs".

He became popular among the inhabitants of borough of ?ródmie?cie (city centre) for his action of planting trees and flowers along the main streets. Starzy?ski also ordered the creation of a huge park in Wola and several minor green areas in other parts of the city. During his presidency Warsaw was also enlarged to the south. The area of former airfield on Pole Mokotowskie in the borough of Mokotów was cut in two parts by Aleje Niepodleg?o?ci (Avenue of Independence), nowadays one of the main streets of Warsaw. Among the most important facilities opened during his presidency were the National Museum, new building of the city library, new building of his alma mater, now renamed to Warsaw School of Economics and the Powszechny theatre, which became one of the most influential scenes of Warsaw. Other initiatives of Starzy?ski include complete reconstruction of boulevards along the Vistula and partial reconstruction of the barbican in the Old Town area.

In 1934 he was chosen as a president of Warsaw for a 4-year term. On December 18, 1938 he was elected in democratic elections for his second term. Starzy?ski held his office until the World War II broke out. During his presidency:

  • 2 000 000 km² of paved roads were built
  • 44 schools were opened
  • National Museum was built
  • 2 major parks were opened to the public (one of them is now a National Reserve)
  • construction of Warsaw Metro started
Defense of Warsaw Monument to Stefan Starzy?ski inWarsaw's Saxon Garden.

After the start of Polish Defensive War of 1939 Starzy?ski refused to leave Warsaw together with other state authorities and diplomats on September 4, 1939. Instead he joined the army as a major of infantry. The Minister of War shortly before his departure created the Command of the Defense of the Capital with general Walerian Czuma as its commander. On September 7 the forces of 4th German Panzer Division managed to break the Polish lines near Cz?stochowa and started their march towards Warsaw. Most of the city authorities withdrew together with a large part of the police forces, fire fighters and military garrison. Warsaw was left with only 4 battalions of infantry and one battery of artillery. The Headquarters of general Czuma had barely any forces to organize the defense of the city. Also, the spokesman of the garrison of Warsaw issued a communique in which he ordered all young men to leave the city.

To counter the panic that started in Warsaw, general Czuma appointed Stefan Starzy?ski as the Civilian Commissar of Warsaw. Starzy?ski started to organize the Civil Guard to replace the evacuated police forces. He also ordered all members of the city's administration to retake their posts. In his daily radio releases he asked all civilians to construct barricades and anti-tank barriers at the outskirts of Warsaw. According to many sources from the epoch his daily speeches were a crucial factor in keeping the morale of both the soldiers and the civilians high during theSiege of Warsaw. Starzy?ski commanded the distribution of food, water and supplies as well as fire fighting brigades. He also managed to organise shelter for almost all civilian refugees from other parts of Poland and houses destroyed by German aerial bombardment. Before the Siege ended he became the symbol of the defence of Warsaw in 1939.

On September 27 the commanders of the besieging German forces demanded that Starzy?ski be present during the signing of the capitulation of Warsaw. Before the capitulation he was offered to leave the city several times. The pilot of the prototype PZL.46 Sum plane that managed to escape from internment in Romania and landed safely in besieged Warsaw offered himself to evacuate Starzy?ski to Lithuania. He was also proposed to go underground and receive plastic surgery in order to escape the city. He refused.

After the Germans entered the city on September 28, 1939, Starzy?ski was allowed to continue his service as the president of Warsaw. He was active in organisation of life in the occupied city as well as its reconstruction after the German terror bombing campaign. At the same time he became one of the organizers of S?u?ba Zwyci?stwu Polski, the first underground organisation in occupied Poland that eventually became the Armia Krajowa. Among other things he provided it with thousands of clean forms of ID cardsbirth registry forms and passports. Those documents were later used in validation of false identities of many members of the resistance.

On October 5 he was arrested by the Gestapo and, together with several other prominent inhabitants of Warsaw, held hostage as a warrant of safety of Adolf Hitler during a parade of victory held in Warsaw. The following day all of them were released. On October 27, 1939 he was again arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison. In December he was yet again offered to escape, but he again refused claiming that it would be too costly to those involved in his escape. His fate remains unknown. According to the most probable version he was transferred to Moabit prison in Berlin and then to Dachau concentration camp where he died. However, several accounts assume that he was either transferred to a potash mine in Baelberge or that he was held hostage in Warsaw until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising. The most probable date of his death is October 17, 1943 (shot to death in the Dachau concentration camp), although other versions mention August 1944 (Warsaw), 1944 (Baelberge), 1943 (Spandau prison) or January 1940 (Dachau).

In 1957, a memorial was erected to his memory in the Pow?zki cemetery in Warsaw.

  • August 19, 1893 - c. October 17, 1943

Hans Beimler (communist)

Hans Beimler 

(2 July 1895 – 1 December 1936)

was an active member of the German Communist Party and a deputy in the Reichstag.

Beimler was born in Munich and served in the Kaiserliche Marine during the First World War. A fervent anti-Nazi, he had been detained in Dachau concentration camp in April 1933, but managed to escape in May 1933 by strangling his SA guard and escaping in his uniform. He went to Spain as commissar of the first contingent of the International Brigadesvolunteers who supported the Spanish Republic during the Spanish Civil War and helped to defend Madrid from the Nationalists in November 1936, during the Battle of Madrid. He was killed during the battle. There were later speculation which accused the NKVD, the secret service of the USSR, of responsibility for his death.

He wrote an account of his experiences at Dachau which appeared in the Soviet Union in August 1933: Im Mörderlager Dachau: Vier Wochen unter den braunen Banditen, Verlagsgenossenschaft ausländischer Arbeiter in der UdSSR, Moscow and Leningrad, 1933. It was one of the very first published accounts of life inside a Nazi concentration camp and was translated into several languages, including English, Spanish and French.

He is buried at the Montjuïc CemeteryBarcelona.

He became well-known because of a song of Ernst Busch (after a melody by Friedrich Silcher), which was then recorded by the radio station in Barcelona.

The XI International Brigade was named in his honour.

  • 2 July 1895 – 1 December 1936

Oskar Müller

Oskar Müller 

(25 June 1896 - 14 January 1970)

was the first employment minister in HesseGermany after World War II.

When the Nazi Party came to power, Müller was declared one of their enemies. On 22 November 1933 the Gestapo arrested him. He spent three years in a penitentiary and was held until 1939 in a Nazi concentration camp. From June 1939 by August 1944 he found accommodation in the Offenbacher leather industry as an employee. In August 1944, he was again arrested for resisting the Nazis and imprisoned at Dachau

lthough detention in the concentration camps had weakened Müller's health, he eagerly assisted in the reconstruction of Germany. In October 1945 he became a minister for work and welfare under Prime Minister Karl Geiler, but was replaced in 1947.

Müller concentrated on party work. In 1948, he again became a regional chairman of the KPD. In 1949 he was laid off, but remained part of the party executive committee of the KPD.

From 1949-1953 Müller belonged to the German Bundestag. He was briefly arrested in 1953. Since that time he worked as one of the presidents and as a Secretary-General of the anti-fascist Vereinigung der Verfolgten des Naziregimes (VVN).

Müller was a developer of the Hesse constitution, which carries his signature. Articles 41 and 42 plan the transfer of the large-scale industry in common property. Lockout was forbidden by the constitution.

In agreement and in constant consultation with the trade unions by the Ministry of Labour, an exemplary works council law was created, in which participation in equal numbers was fully embodied. The Hessian constitution was well-admired and used as a model by other states.

  • 25 June 1896 - 14 January 1970

Nikos Zachariadis

Nikolaos Zachariadis (Greek: Ν?κος Ζαχαρι?δης; 27 April 1903, AdrianopleOttoman Empire - 8 August 1973, Surgut,Russian SFSRSoviet Union) was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) from 1931 to 1956.

Born in Adrianopole in 1903, the son of an employee of the Ottoman tobacco monopoly. He worked as a seaman on the Black Sea, where he came under the influence of the Bolshevik Revolution. He studied at the International Lenin School and the Communist University of the Toilers of the East (KUTV) in Moscow.

In 1923, he was sent back to Greece to organise the Young Communist League of Greece (OKNE). Imprisoned, he subsequently fled to theSoviet Union. In 1931, he was sent back to Greece to restore order in the highly factionalised KKE and in the same year (other accounts claim 1935), he was appointed, by order of Joseph Stalin and the Comintern, General Secretary of KKE.

In August 1936, he was arrested by the State Security of the Ioannis Metaxas regime and imprisoned. From prison, he issued a letter urging all Greeks to resist the Italian invasion of October 1940 and transform the war into an anti-fascist war. According to KKE, which considered the war to be a feud between imperialist opponents, this letter was fabricated by the Metaxas regime. Zachariadis was even accused of releasing it to win the favor of Maniadakis and be released from prison.

On November 16, 1940, a second letter was released by Zachariadis which accused the Greek army of waging a "fascist" and "imperialistic war" and appealed to the USSR to act against the Metaxas regime. In a third letter (January, 1941), Zachariadis reiterated this position, and reasserted KKE’s position for the secession of Greek Macedonia from Greece.

KKE's anti-war position was definitively reversed when Germany surprise-attacked the USSR on June 22, 1941. KKE then called upon the Greek people to resist the fascist and Nazi invaders, and the resistance group National Liberation Front-Greek People's Liberation Army(EAM-ELAS) were formed.

After the German invasion of Greece, in 1941 the Nazi Germans transferred him to the Dachau concentration camp, from where he was released in May 1945. Returning to Greece, he re-assumed the leadership of the KKE from Georgios Siantos, acting general secretary of the KKE since January 1942.

Zachariadis conducted the military operations of the communist Democratic Army of Greece, which was formed to install a socialist People's Republic in Greece, part of a supposed Union of Soviet Democracies in the Balkans. According to the official KKE party-line, Greece at the time was in the British sphere of influence. During the civil war, the communist uprising was defeated in 1949, and the KKE leadership and the remnants of the Democratic Army fled into exile in the communist states.

The leadership of the Communist Party found refuge in Tashkent. From abroad, Zachariadis still enjoyed a mandate by the Soviet Union to act as leader of KKE. However, following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, Zachariadis fell out of favour with new Soviet leadership, despite his support by the large number of party members.

In May 1956, during the 6th General Assembly of the Central Committee of KKE, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union intervened to expel Zachariadis from the post of General Secretary. In February 1957 Zachariadis was also expelled from KKE, as were a large number of his supporters.

Zachariadis spent the rest of his life in exile in Siberia, initially in Yakutia and later in Surgut. In 1962 desperate from the devastating conditions of his exile, he somehow managed to reach Moscow. There he visited the Hellenic (Greek) Embassy and he asked that he be transported to Greece where he wanted to stand trial for his crimes. Whether or not his request was taken into consideration is not known. Immediately after he exited the Hellenic embassy he was arrested by the Soviets and was taken to Surgut. There, according to KGB claims, he committed suicide in 1973. According to other versions he was assassinated. As of today, the Russian state archive records relating to the circumstances of his death remain secret.

In December 1991, just a few days after the fall of the Soviet Union, Zachariadis' corpse was returned in his homeland, Greece, and he was given a funeral, which gave his supporters the opportunity to honour him

  • 27 April 1903~8 August 1973,

Alfred Haag

Alfred Haag (15 December 1904, Schwäbisch GmündWürttemberg – 8 August 1982) was a member of the Youth movement of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in the small Württemberg town of Schwäbisch Gmünd in the 1920s, he married another communist; Lina Haag in 1927. He was a volunteer editor for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung workers in Stuttgart, later he was elected a member of the regional parliament for the KPD until Hitler's rise to power in 1933. Both Alfred and Lina were soon arrested, and both spent many years in prisons and concentration camps.

Alfred was first in the Upper Kuhberg Concentration Camp near Ulm until it was dissolved in 1935, then at the Dachau concentration campuntil 1939, when he was transferred to the Mauthausen concentration camp. Lina was released in 1939, and having been reunited with their daughter, she moved to Berlin and obtained work. She visited the HQ of the SS almost daily to petition for her husband's release until 1940, when she finally, and incredibly, obtained permission for an audience with Heinrich Himmler and he secured Alfred's release from Mauthausen. He had survived physical torture whilst detained there and at Dachau.

Alfred was soon afterwards drafted into the Army and sent to the Eastern Front, and Lina and their daughter were bombed out of their home in Berlin. Lina was transferred to work in a hospital in Garmisch Whilst there she wrote a memoir of he experiences in the form of an extended letter to Alfred, not knowing if she would see him again. It was eventually published in 1947 as 'A Handful of Dust' or 'How Long the Night' in English.

Alfred was taken prisoner by the Red Army and eventually released in 1948, when they were reunited once again and lived together in Munich until Alfred's death in 1982. Alfred worked until his death as advocate for the victims of the camps in the "Union of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime" (VVN-BdA). For many years he was its Bavarian regional chairman. Lina Haag still lives in Munich and in 2007 she was given the Dachau Award for Courage

  • (15 December 1904~ 8 August 1982

Standing cell

standing cell (stehbunker) was a special cell used in Nazi concentration camps during the Third Reich. It was used as extra and severe punishment within the concentration camp system, being constructed so as to prevent the prisoner from doing anything but standing while held there. In addition, prisoners in the standing cell were denied normal meal rations. Some were large enough for only one person, others held as many as four people.

SA camp kommandant Werner Schäfer had two cells built in the basement of the Oranienburg concentration camp in 1933. The dimensions of the cell were such that a person could only stand there. A prisoner surnamed Neumann was held there for 192 hours and was allegedly driven mad as a result of his confinement there. At times, prisoners were held in small coffin-sized closet in which they could only stand.

The number of prisoners in Dachau concentration camp increased dramatically in the last years of the Second World War. The concentration camp was overcrowded. In the autumn of 1944, the camp command erected standing cells. The stone chambers were similar to chimneys and measured 75 x 80 cm (29.5 x 31.5 inches). There was a small hatch on top for air, and a narrow door with an iron bar bolted to the cell. The intensified punitive measure saved room and reinforced the punitive agony. Prisoners were thereby deprived shorter time of the forced labor in the camp. There were also standing cells at the Allach subcamp, where the cells were smaller than at Dachau. Some at other camps were bigger, about 90 x 90 cm.

For example, the prisoner K. A. Gross and the Polish prisoner, Max Hoffmann spent days in the standing cell. Hoffmann described it thusly:

It was a terrible state, as I thought that it was over for me, everything was so callous and distant for me. I couldn't lie down, couldn't crouch, the best was to stand, stand, six days and six nights long. [...] You touch the walls on both sides with your elbows, your back touches the wall behind you, your knees the wall in front of you. [...] This is no punishment or pre-trial detention, it is torture, straight forward, Middle Ages torture. I had bloodshot eyes, numb from bad air, I was just waiting for the end.

According to Johannes Neuhäusler, an inmate in the standing cell received a single piece of bread in three days time. On the fourth day, the prisoner was removed from the standing cell, given a normal camp meal ration and allowed to sleep on a wooden cot. On the next day, the three-day confinement in the standing cell began anew.

The SS didn't always adhere to the interruption after the third day. The Czech prisoner, Radovan Drazan, spent eight days without a break in a standing cell. Sometimes, prisoners were not even allowed a brief break from the cell, so that they had burns on their bodies from feces and urine.


Titus Brandsma

The life of Titus Brandsma began in the quiet countryside of Friesland, Holland, where he was born on February 23, 1881, and ended some sixty years later on July 26, 1942, in the notorious hospital of the Dachau concentration camp.


The interior of cell #577 in Scheveningen penitentiary in Holland
— the cell where Titus was imprisoned.


(Left) Portrait made in Dutch concentration camp at Amersfoort by a fellow prisoner, John Dons, who was executed May 6, 1942. Prisoners were categorized according to their crime and the patch over the right breast was color coded to signify the crime. Titus’ patch was red meaning political prisoner.


(Below) Part of a manuscript of a biography of St. Teresa of Avila begun by Titus in prison at Scheveningen. Due to the lack of writing paper, he wrote in a book “Jesus” by Cyril Verschaeve that he was permitted to keep.


Entrance to the prison at Scheveningen. At his arrest in January 1942, Titus was first imprisoned in this Dutch penitentiary which had been taken over by the Nazis.


In cell #577 of Scheveningen penitentiary, Titus composed a poem on solitude and his experience of the presence of God that became famous in Holland.. ...“Never were you, 0 Lord, so near.. .“ This is Titus’ original copy written February 12-13, 1942.



A new awareness of Thy love
 Encompasses my heart:
Sweet Jesus, I in Thee and Thou
 In me shall never part.

No grief shall fall my way but I
Shall see Thy grief-filled eyes;
The lonely way that Thou once walked
Has made me sorrow-wise.

All trouble is a white-lit joy
That lights my darkest day;
Thy love has turned to brightest light
This night-like way.

If I have Thee alone,
The hours will bless
With still, cold hands of love
My utter loneliness.

Stay with me, Jesus, only stay;
I shall not fear
If, reaching out my hand,
I feel Thee near.

Father Titus Brandsma, O.Carm.

(English translation by Gervase Toelle, O.Carm.)


On March 20, 1942, Titus and others were brought from prison at Scheveningen to the Dutch concentration camp at Amersfoort. While there, Titus was given this rosary by a fellow prisoner. There are different stories about it, and there seems to have been more than one such rosary. It seems that the maker of this gift to Titus was himself executed later on. His name was Piet (Peter) Holfsloot.


Corridor of the Dutch penitentiary at Scheveningen, Holland. During World War II, the Dutch Resistance people called this prison “the Orange Hotel” because so many of the Dutch Resistance were imprisoned here. (Oranje, or Orange, is the name of the Dutch Royal family). Titus was kept in cell # 577 on the right.



The tribunal of episcopal judges are finishing the “process” or investigation of Titus’ cause at the Carmelite church in Nijmegen in 1957. From Holland, the “process” continued in Rome. Fr. Mrian Staring, O.Carm. (in white cloak of the Carmelite habit at far left of table) is in charge of Titus’ cause. The Bishop of Bosch (Holland) is at the center of the table with his Chancellor to his right. At the Bishop’s left is Professor Lamping and at his left is the Capuchin priest who was the Devil’s Advocate (promoter of the faith).


The documents of Titus’ ‘process’ arrive at St. Albert’s Carmelite Center in Rome, so that the appropriate Congregation at the Vatican can continue to study the holiness of his life and his fitness for beatification by the Church. From the left are: Fr. James Nelsen, O.Carm. (Assistant General of the Carmelites); unknown young man; Fr. Serapion Seiger, O.Carm. (prior to St. Albert’s, Rome); Fr. Adrian Staring, O.Carm. (the Carmelite in charge of Titus’ “cause”). Photo taken in late December, 1957.


The signature of Father Titus Brandsma, O.Carm.


Statements by Colleagues, Fellow-Prisoners, and Others

His Brother

“He did not forget a single birthday, he showed interest in everything: the academic successes of his second nephews and nieces, the weather on the lake. the growth of the grass, and the chances of success for the next cattle show.” — Henricus Brandsma, O.F.M., Brother

Colleagues and Others

“It seemed that some years ago a legend became attached to the person of Brandsma, the legend of being able to appear in different places at the same time. He spread his attention and interests with the same ease with which the train brought him crisscross through the country. Whenever he came, he came thoroughly prepared, with the intention to engage himself actively in the issue at hand, and his opinion was always worthy to be heard.”  — Prof. Dr. Ferd.

“There is one word and it sounds strange and is not often used, but we used it in speaking of Titus: Titus had something angelic about him, something pure, you could not refuse him anything.” — Prof. Dr. B. H. Molkenboer

“There is no need to have penetrated into the intimate recesses of his person to know that everything in him was ‘authentic,’ because every thought and action of his had firm principles and deep strong faith for their foundations.” — Prof. Dr. Ferd. Sassen, in “In memoriam,” 1942

His Lectures, his Inaugural Lecture of 1932

“Brandsma gave lectures on the history of mystical experience with the profound insight of a man who lived his material most strongly in his own person.” — Godfried Bomans, a popular literary figure in the Netherlands

Colleagues in Various Organizations and Activities

“Professor Brandsma began his task without any show of force but with his whole heart and soul, with boundless dedication and perserverance, and in no time he simply was one of us.” — President of the Union of Roman-Catholic Journalists

“In those days of battle our advisor spared no pains. From morning till evening, he was available with advice and help.” — E. H. J. B. Bodewes, director of “De Gelderlander,” a regional Catholic newspaper

“In the years that he was our spiritual advisor, Brandsma worked harder than anyone else to establish our legal identity as journalists.” — Spokesperson for the Union of Roman-Catholic Journalists

“... a true leader in our society, a clever fellow, somebody who had nerve, who was a moving force.” — Dr. D. A. Stracke, secretary of the Ruusbroec Society

“... he always knew how to encourage us when we began to loose hope.” — Dr. G. A.Wumkes on occasion of a legislative effort for “The Frisian Language in Primary Education”

A Cardinal and a Queen

“As long as I shall live I will always have before my eyes the figure of Father Brandsma, with whom I have so often spoken during the war years and whom I have always admired for his courage and clear insights. Repeatedly have I asked his advice. I regard him as a martyr. — letter from Cardinal Jan de Jong to H. W. F. Aukes, author of book on Titus

“...this great and sincere patriot who, with those who would ask his advice, never hesitated to present, clearly and right from the start, the religious and patriotic options open to them. The inner, spiritual power of his writings represents a testimony held by many in high esteem, then and still today.” — Queen Wilhelmina, in a letter of condolence to the family, November 4, 1946

Fellow Prisoners in Amersfoort and Dachau

Amersfoort (Netherlands)

“Probamur dum amamur: we are tested because we are loved: this we can fairly accurately retain as his life’s motto. He has sealed it with his death.” — Dr. C. P. Gunning about Titus’ variant of the meaning of the infamous acronym P.D. A. for Polizeiliches Durchgangslager Amersfoort [transitional police camp]

“He was completely at home in Amersfoort and it did not seem to make any difference to him whether he was there or in his monastery” — Mr. M. R. A. L Houtappel

“He did not want anybody to know it, but he was sometimes very saddened, not for himself but because people could do all this to one another. His temper did not suffer under it, rather, he became more gentle. Even for the worst of his fellow-prisoners he had only nice words.” — J. v. d. Mortel

“Though being a Lutheran myself, I must say that during my entire life I have met few people who made such an impression on me as Father Titus Brandsma. He knew how to make everyone his friend. Especially impressive was his spiritual unassailability. I felt immediately that I was in the presence of someone who in his ordinary life must have been far above the rest.” — Dr. P. H. Ronge

“Professor Brandsma was always cheerful and he also knew how to suffuse his environment with this cheerfulness. He was interested in all possible kinds of problems, and he was not in the least impressed by the methodical terrorism by which they were trying to break us, mentally and physically.” — Prof. Dr. J. G. G. Borst

“The source of his energy was undoubtedly his need to offer his fellow prisoners something which would turn their thoughts away from the misery which they felt in themselves and saw all around them.” — Prof. Dr. Jan Romein

“Father Titus was a highly civil, finely strung, beautiful and sympathetic person... who was highly respected by all of us, no matter which denomination we were. A man with a disposition that was always cheerful. A person whom we’ll never be able to forget.” — I. P. A. van Voorst van Beesd, Amersfoort/ Dachau

Dachau (Germany)

“He has been beaten terribly in Dachau. His little jacket was covered with blood but ‘it’s not worth troubling about.’ With a few words he silenced any further comment. Then he would reflect for a few quiet moments and offer some thoughts from Teresa of Avila to whoever would listen to him.” — Brother Raphael Tijhuis, 1946, a Carmelite who was with Titus in the concentration camp, which Brother Raphael survived.

“The ‘Kretiner aus Holland’ [the cretin from Holland] has in the short time that he was with us often been severely beaten, so that his face was covered over with blood. But he kept up his courage, and his spirit could simply not be broken.” — H. A. C. Jansen

“His spirit could simply not be broken. Any thought of revenge was far from him: thus he could say his Our Father in silence while in the presence of his attackers.” — R. Höppener

“His person and words always bespoke such a calm, such an abandon and so much good hope that one can never forget this venerable person.” — Dr. Joseph Kentenich, 1954

“When Professor Brandsma joined us, Dachau was at the time such a hell as it perhaps never had been before or would be afterwards. His short stay in Dachau was a true martyrdam. Yet he remained always cheerful and happy, a support for all of us.” — P. v. Genuchten

“Simple and unobstrusive among the 1200 priests of Dachau... a perpetual smile, filled with patience and inner calm, a smile of mystical serenity in the midst of all the suffering he had to undergo.” — Othmarus, A Capuchin

“Fr. Titus knew of no feelings of hate, he was all love. There was no favoritism with him. When I returned home I said immediately to my mother: That man will be canonized one day.” — P. Verhulst

  • February 23, 1881~ July 26, 1942



Statue of the Madonna (right) kept in the barracks of the German priest prisoners at Dachau. Other priests were in other barracks. This statue was brought into the barracks about 1943. German priests were allowed, at times, to celebrate Mass. NonGermans, like Titus, were not permitted to have Mass. This statue is now in the Carmelite Sisters Convent of the Precious Blood at Dachau.


A grave marker at Dachau (left). In background are prisoner barracks. Titus was executed by lethal injection July 26, 1942 and cremated three days later.


These are the old furnaces at Dachau, where Titus was cremated July 29, 1942. Later much larger furnaces were in operation. After forced labor, murderous beatings, weakened health, abuse, little food and medical experiments, Titus was given a lethal injection by a doctor at 1:50 P.M. on July 26, 1942. Ten minutes later he was pronounced dead.


A Dachau notification of death. (above). A notification of death and cremation at Dachau. (left)


In 1964, the Discalced Carmelite nuns began this cloistered convent just outside the guard tower gate and north wall of the death camp, Dachau. Their community, in honor of the Precious Blood of Jesus, is flourishing now. Through prayer and simplicity they try to bring healing and godliness into a place of such ghastly evil and death.


Prisoners marched through this gate at Dachau, the former entrance to the concentration camp. The words are ironic — “Work Makes Free:’ Most of the barrack buildings have been removed, as visitors tour the camp today.


Memorabilia of Fr. Titus in the museum at Dachau. On the left is Fr. Riccardo Palazzi, O.Carm. of Roman Carmelite province who took these pictures. Shown are the sketch of Titus done by a fellow prisoner at Amersfoort and photocopies of two official Dachau camp documents about Fr. Brandsma.


Museum of the Victims at Dachau. Of the 206,000 prisoners brought in, only about 40,000 survived. Dachau was a work camp. Many were worked to death, many others were shipped to the gas chambers at such places at Auschwitz. A gas chamber was under construction at Dachau, but due to continuing sabotage by the enslaved workers, it was not ready for use before the day of liberation.


Dachau, Death, and This Man

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 20, 2008 

The caption then said that it was a series of pictures taken during an experiment on ten prisoners to see what happened when air embolisms were injected into the brain. He died immediately. On the left is before the experiment, in the middle he's in extreme pain, and on the right he's dead.


Dachau, early May 1945


Liberated prisoners killing German guards at Dachau, early May 1945 

Typhus epidemic at Dachau



Newspaper reporters view bodies at Dachau, May 3, 1945


The photo above shows bodies laid out in rows near a barracks building on the east side of the Dachau camp; these were the bodies of prisoners who had died of typhus after the camp was liberated.




Prisoner reads prayers to two survivors in the infirmary barracks


After the Dachau concentration camp was liberated on April 29, 1945, the former inmates had to be kept inside the prison enclosure for a few more weeks until all danger of spreading the typhus epidemic in the camp had passed. Just before the Americans arrived, up to 400 prisoners had been dying each day in the typhus epidemic which was out of control, according to the testimony of the Chief Doctor of the camp at the American Military Tribunal held at Dachau in November 1945.




American doctors care for sick prisoners in the Dachau typhus ward



Liberated Russian prisoner is deloused with DDT



Before release, inmates had to undergo typhus tests by US Army


On 2 May 1945, the 116th Evacuation Hospital arrived at Dachau and set up operations. According to a report made on 20 May 1945, there were 140 prisoners dying each day in the camp; the principle causes of death were starvation, tuberculosis, typhus and dysentery. There were 4,000 prisoners in the prison hospital and an unknown number of sick prisoners in the barracks who had been receiving no medical attention.

There were 18 one-story wooden SS barrack buildings in the Dachau army garrison which were converted into hospital wards. The medical personnel were housed in the SS administration building. A Typhus Commission arrived and began vaccinating all medical personnel and the prisoners. There was a daily dusting of DDT to kill the lice which spreads typhus.

On 3 May 1945, the sick prisoners were brought to the hospital wards. They were bathed, dusted with DDT powder and given clean pajamas to wear; their old prison clothes were burned.

By July 1945, the typhus epidemic in the Dachau concentration camp had been brought under control by the US Army doctors, and all the prisoners had either been released or moved to a Displaced Persons camp at Landsberg. The photograph immediately above shows former inmates being tested for typhus before being allowed to leave.

Dachau Residents Provide Food for the Inmates


Unloading bread brought by citizens of Dachau after liberation


The day before the Dachau camp was liberated, acting Commandant Martin Gottfried Weiss had opened up the well-stocked warehouses in the SS Training Camp, and the food and other supplies were distributed to the starving inmates by the Americans. Dachau residents had to fend for themselves, and were forced to provide food for the released prisoners as well.


Dachau residents were forced to bring bread to the starving inmates





French resistance fighters were among the survivors


Not all of the Dachau survivors were starving, as the above photo of a group of French Resistance fighters shows. They had been in the Natzweiler camp in Alsace, but were brought to Dachau in September 1944.

A few of the released inmates settled in the town of Dachau, including a former Communist prisoner, Richard Titze. Georg Scherer and Johann Sedlmair were Dachau residents who had been sent to the camp as political prisoners. Scherer had been released from his imprisonment after several years, but he continued to live in the town of Dachau and worked in the factories at the camp. After the war, he became the mayor of Dachau. Walter Neff was another Dachau resident who, after his release, had continued to work in the camp, as an assistant to Dr. Sigmund Rascher who did medical experiments on Dachau prisoners for the German Air Force.

The American army appointed Dachau resident Hans Zauner as acting mayor, according to Harold Marcuse, who wrote that the outraged occupying soldiers required the townspeople to supply clothing and foodstuffs for the liberated inmates, and threatened the acting mayor with dire consequences if he did not fulfill the quotas. The mayor was forced to give coupons for free clothing to the ragged survivors, which soon exhausted the stocks of Dachau's two largest clothing suppliers, according to Marcuse, who also wrote the following about the aftermath of the liberation:

In his memoirs Zauner described how on 1 May two soldiers, without a word of warning or explanation, pulled him out of his office, pushed him down the stairs and set him on the hood of their jeep, whereupon they took the 59-year-old for a "joy ride" around the hilly town. Eventually the GIs brought Zauner back to city hall and let him dismount.

Burial of the Bodies After Dachau Liberation


Dachau camp after it was liberated


The old photos on this page were contributed by Fred Ludwikowski, who got them from Robert Thomas Gray, a soldier with the 14th Ordnance Co.

After Dachau was liberated, the camp was turned into a prison for German soldiers. More barracks were constructed and the capacity of the camp was increased to 30,000 prisoners. In the photo above, it appears that there is some construction going on and there is what looks like a wagon load of corpses. The Dachau inmates continued to die of typhus for weeks after the camp was liberated.

Burial of the bodies at Dachau began on May 13, 1945, more than two weeks after the camp was liberated. The bodies had been left out so that as many American soldiers as possible could be brought to Dachau to see the horror.




Dachau farmers haul dead bodies from the camp


A sign on the gate in the photo above warns that the camp is off limits because of a typhus epidemic that has still not been brought under control. The buildings in the background are in the SS garrison which was right next to the Dachau prison camp. Note the team of perfectly matched horses in the background.




Parade of wagons travels along the Avenue of the SS





US Army trucks follow the parade of wagons


Local farmers were forced to haul the corpses to the Leitenberg, a hill near the camp, where they were buried in mass graves, even though their names were known. The farmers had to dress in their best Sunday clothes and the wagons had to take a circuitous route through the town of Dachau. Note that the US Army had plenty of trucks and personnel for this task, but it was important to humiliate the locals and make them feel guilty.




Mass graves on the Leitenberg, May 2001

German Civilians Brought to see the Camps


Dead bodies in the crematorium at Dachau


The American liberators made sure that residents of Dachau and other towns were forced to confront the horrors of the concentration camps. According to Harold Marcuse, in his book "Legacies of Dachau," after the liberation "a group of Dachau Nazi elite was forced to tour the Dachau crematorium on 8 May 1945." There they were made to look at the naked, emaciated bodies of the innocent victims of Nazi barbarity, piled up in the mortuary room right next to the gas chamber. Young boys in the Hitler Youth were brought to the camp and forced to look at the corpses on the Death Train.

The photo below shows one of the emaciated bodies that was on display at Dachau.




Emaciated body of Dachau inmate after the liberation


According to Peter Wyden, in his book "The Hitler Virus," a few of the Dachau notables, who were forced to view the corpses, fainted. Some cried and many shook their heads. Most of them turned away, eager to avoid the scene. Afterwards, they were heard to whisper, "Unglaublich!" (Unbelievable.) The Dachauers could not understand how the prisoners could have starved to death since the townspeople had regularly sent food packages to the camp.

There was a typhus epidemic in the Dachau camp, but the Dachau townspeople were not sprayed with DDT to kill the lice that spreads typhus, and they were not vaccinated before being taken inside the camp and exposed to this disease.

The practice of bringing German civilians from nearby towns to the concentration camps after they were liberated was started by General Walton Walker who ordered the Mayor of the town of Ohrdruf and his wife to visit the Ohrdruf labor camp after it was discovered by American troops on April 4, 1945. After their visit, the Mayor and his wife returned home and killed themselves.

General George S. Patton visited the Ohrdruf camp on April 12th, along with three other generals, one captured German officer and a few of the citizens of Ohrdruf. After his visit, General Patton suggested that all the citizens of Ohrdruf be brought to see the bodies.

The photo below shows the adult citizens of the village of Ohrdruf viewing the dead bodies found by the Americans on the roll call square of the labor camp.




Civilians from town of Ohrdruf were forced to view the bodies


Buchenwald had been liberated on April 11, 1945 and four days later, the citizens of Weimar were force marched at gunpoint five miles uphill to see the dead bodies in the camp. General Patton arrived at Buchenwald the same day and watched the reactions of the townspeople, as they filed past the rotting corpses with handkerchiefs over their noses.

A film, made during the visit of the Dachau citizens to the concentration camp, was included in a movie called Todesmühlen (Death Mills). This movie was part of the re-education program for the German people, who were made to feel personally responsible for what happened in all the concentration camps. This YouTube video shows scenes that were included in the Death Mills movie.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, between April 15 and April 20, 1945, there were 9,300 prisoners in the main Flossenbürg concentration camp, including approximately 1,700 Jews, who were evacuated to Dachau on foot and on trains. Around 2,000 sick prisoners had been left behind.

There were also around 7,000 prisoners, that had been previously evacuated from Buchenwald on theDeath Train to Flossenbürg, who joined the evacuation out of Flossenbürg. The trains stopped in the town of Namering where the citizens brought food and water to the prisoners.

In the town of Namering, 800 prisoners who had died during the evacuation were buried by the SS men guarding the trains. On May 17, 1945, American soldiers forced the people in the town of Namering to dig up the bodies and bury them in individual graves. The photo below shows an American soldier instructing the town's people in their guilt for allowing these prisoners to die.




Citizens of Namering are told of their guilt, May 17, 1945


In the introduction to his book entitled "After the Reich," Giles MacDonogh wrote:

The war had been the bloodiest yet, particularly for civilians. Laying aside some three million dead German soldiers, by 7 May 1945 at least 1.8 million German civilians had perished and 3.6 million homes had been destroyed (20 percent of the total), leaving 7.5 million homeless...

The German civilians in the small towns like Namering and Dachau had not suffered as much as the citizens of Berlin or Dresden, so they could still feel sympathy for the prisoners who had died in the camps and on evacuation trains.

According to Sybille Steinbacher, who wrote a book entitled "Dachau: The Town and the Concentration Camp," the US Army commandant of the town after the liberation spoke angrily to the 30 Dachauers on the day that they were brought to see the camp. He told them, "As punishment for the brutality that the town tolerated next door to it, it should be sacked and turned into ashes!"

The town priest, Father Friedrich Pfanzelt, who was among the visitors, pleaded with the Americans not to destroy the town. In a series of articles in 1981, a Dachau newspaper named the Dachauer Nachrichten wrote about how the priest saved the town: "On his knees, the prelate pleaded for mercy for Dachau."

According to Peter Wyden, author of "The Hitler Virus," 90 percent of the residents of Dachau were Catholic. Regarding Father Pfanzelt, Wyden wrote: "Then, from the pulpit of his St. Jacob's Church three days later, the priest set in motion Dachau's great trauma, the protestation of innocence, the denial of guilt that would never leave the community."

Of all people, Father Pfanzelt should have been aware of the atrocities committed inside the Dachau concentration camp. According to Wyden, "For years the SS had extended him the privilege of conducting Sunday services in the KZ. And he had reciprocated with many ingratiating letters (which Steinbacher found) and had taken pride in his cordial relations with most of the camp commandants."

Father Pfanzelt died in 1958 without ever confirming or denying that he had saved the town from the wrath of the Americans.




St. Jakob church and adjacent Baroque building


Today, Dachau is a beautiful town and St. Jacob's Church still stands. This beautiful Baroque church is shown in the photo above. No one knows if this story is true or not, but it is possible that Father Pfanzelt really did save Dachau from the same fate as Oradour-sur-Glane in France, which was destroyed by SS soldiers because the residents of the town were believed to be aiding the French resistance.

The photograph below shows German civilians burying the bodies on Leitenberg hill. According to author Peter Wyden, "Leading party members were made to bury the dead." Wyden also wrote that "the Americans recruited Dachau women to clean up the boxcars of the death train."

Some of the bodies were so decomposed that they were falling apart, as the photograph below shows.




Civilians burying decomposed bodies at Leitenberg



Photo credit: Donald E. Jackson, 40th Combat Engineer Regiment


The Official Report by the U.S. Seventh Army devoted a lot of space to The Townspeople of Dachau. According to the Report, the townspeople would tell the Americans: "Wir sind aberall belogen worden." (We have all been lied to.) The townspeople admitted that they knew the camp existed, that they saw work-details of inmates passing through the streets under guard on their way to the 12 work sites in the town, that "in some instances" (particularly in the years 34 and 35) the SS behaved brutally - towards the townspeople, according the The Official Report.




SS soldiers danced with local girls in the Cafe Belstler


As an example of the brutality of the SS men toward the townspeople, on New Year's Eve in 1940, the Cafe Belstler was the scene of a brawl when SS soldiers fought with the locals. On the same night, SS men slugged it out with guests at the Zieglerbräu and the Kochwirt Restaurant.

"Was können wir tun?" (What could we have done?) According to the Official Report, this statement would seem to represent the most popular attitude in the town of Dachau at present. The townspeople told the Americans that in the last years of the war, large numbers of the concentration camp guards were men who had been drafted into the SS against their will. German prisoners in the camp were also recruited to fight on the battlefield with the Waffen-SS in the last days of the war.

The following quote is from The Official Report by the U.S. Seventh Army:

Several inmates also told the story of how, in last October, a whole SS Regiment was recruited - from of all sources, the inmates of Dachau Concentration Camp. These men were all Reichsdeutsche and under 40 years old. They were given no choice.

Although the population as a whole realized the utter bestiality of the SS and the nauseating occurrences beyond the barred gates of the Camp, they were afraid even to say anything - much less do anything - because the shadow of the Camp hung over them as well.

These people admit that the town as a whole did a thriving business as a result of the presence of the Camp and its attendant SS "Bonzen" (Big Shots) - and it is perhaps not without significance that the most outspoken anti-Nazis were people who, so to speak, could afford to be so by reason of the fact that their business did not bring them in daily contact with the SS.

After the Liberation of Dachau

Many American soldiers, who visited Dachau after the liberation, took photographs which they sent home to their families, along with a description of what they had witnessed. The photographs below are from the G.J. Dettore Collection. They were taken by an American soldier who was at Dachau in early May 1945 after the liberation on April 29, 1945. The caption on the back of the first photo reads "This is a view of the Concentration Camp at Dachau. The fence is electrically charged and with very high voltage. Some of the prisoners are at the right in a large body. 13,000 were released when I was there. Billy"


Notation of the back of photograph taken by American soldier



Photo shows the electrically charged barbed wire fence at Dachau


The photograph below was taken from the west side of the camp where the Würm river forms a moat between the prison enclosure and the area where the crematorium was located. Some of the bodies of the German soldiers who were killed during the liberation were still floating in the river when the first soldiers arrived to see the carnage.


West side of Dachau camp with Würm river in foreground





Former Polish prisoners demonstrate on the Appellplatz at Dachau


The photograph immediately above, from the G.J. Dettore Collection, shows former Polish prisoners at Dachau carrying signs as they march on the Appellplatz where prisoners had to stand for roll call every morning and evening before they were liberated by the Americans. This photo was taken on the east side of the camp by an American soldier in May 1945. Note the gate house with Tower A on top of it on the left-hand side and the line of poplar trees which the Nazis had planted along the main road which ran down the center of the camp.




Catholic cross in front of Dachau service building


After the liberation, a huge crucifix had been erected by the liberated Polish inmates in front of the service building, which is now the Dachau Museum. The majority of prisoners in the camp when it was liberated were Polish Catholics. The cross was removed when the camp was turned into a Memorial site. The Nazi slogan painted on the roof has also been removed.

The German words on the roof translate into English as follows: "There is one road to freedom. Its milestones are: Obedience, Diligence, Honesty, Orderliness, Cleanliness, Sobriety, Truthfulness, Self-Sacrifice, and Love of the Fatherland." In the early days of the Dachau camp, prisoners who were considered "rehabilitated" were released, but most of the prisoners were offended by this sign and by the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign on the Dachau gate.

A small museum was immediately set up in May 1945 in the Dachau crematorium building by Erich Preuss, an enterprising former prisoner, who earned money by charging a small admisison fee. A set of 10 photographs of Dachau were on sale at the Museum. On the orders of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, thousands of American soldiers were brought to Dachau to see the gas chamber and crematory ovens. The dead bodies found in the camp were kept for weeks so that as many American soldiers as possible could see them, and after that the bodies in the morgue in the crematorium building were replaced by wax dummies, so that the American soldiers could learn about the Nazi atrocities. This museum was finally closed in 1953 after German citizens of Bavaria complained about the gory display.

One of the men who was brought to Dachau, on General Eisenhower's orders, on May 1, 1945, only two days after the liberation of the camp, was Technical Sergeant Robert Parker Woodruff, a soldier in the 42nd Rainbow Division. A letter which he wrote home to his parents was published by a newspaper in his home town, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and is quoted below:

"Mother and Dad, 

"Yesterday, May 1, is a day I will never forget, for I went through the Dachau Concentration Camp.  

"It was a small city, about the size of Baldwin. Leading into it was a branch railroad, off the main line, and box cars leading into the camp, which had a huge wire enclosure around it. The cars were loaded, and I mean loaded, with dead slave labor, which had been starved to death. Most of them, I could have put my whole hand around their thighs; their legs and arms were quite a bit smaller. Their shoulder blades were protruding five or six inches out of their backs, because they had no flesh on them, and on all of them the pelvic bones were protruding more so than the shoulder blades. They were all nationalities: French, Polish, Russian, Jewish and Americans.

"Before the Infantry had liberated the place, the Germans were in the process of taking these dead off the cars and burning them in a huge crematory. The Germans had cleaned out 20 of the cars, and the rest were waiting to be burned. I remember one car had a layer of bodies up to my knees. Apparently, the Germans were making a frantic effort to get them all burned before the Infantry came.

"The camp must have been a German SS (storm trooper) garrison, because their flag and the Nazi flag were also strewn all over the place, along with the dead German SS troopers. When the Infantry came in, the slave laborers broke loose and started beating and cutting up the SS troopers, and that was a sight. There would be a leg here, an arm there, a hand and a few fingers someplace else. I remember one storm trooper I saw, his head completely smashed; he had no face at all.

"The Germans had numerous barracks, offices, warehouses, and administrative buildings, which were beautifully furnished.

"However, that was all very mild, compared to what I saw next, the crematory. It was a large brick building and, as you entered from the rear, there were a dozen or so small lockers where they fumigated the clothing.

"The next was a gas chamber, where, if they weren't quite dead, they would be finished off.

"Next was one of the two storage rooms, the other storage room being on the other side of the furnaces, of which there were a dozen or so. When I opened the door of the first room, my eyes almost popped, for there, in a room about the combined size of our dining and living room, were stark naked bodies."

40th Combat Engineer Regiment at Dachau


Pile of bodies in front of the Dachau crematorium, May 1945



Photo Credit: Donald E. Jackson, 40th Combat Engineer Regiment


On April 30, 1945, the day after the Dachau concentration camp was liberated, the 40th Combat Engineer Regiment, which was supporting the 45th Thunderbird Division, arrived to take over in the aftermath of the liberation. The soldier in the photo above is Eldon Patterson of E Company, 40th Combat Engineers. In the background is a pile of naked dead bodies, stacked up outside the crematorium. Behind the bodies is Baracke X, the crematorium building, with a wooden structure attached to the brick building. This structure, which has long since been removed, was mentioned in the Chavez Report, written by a US Army officer, after the liberation of Dachau. This report, which was subsequently entered into the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal as Documents 159L and 2430-PS, stated that this structure was a "Wooden shed believed to contain a pump or compressor."

Two German civilians are shown on the left in the photo above. According to Donald E. Jackson, who took this photo in May 1945, "We used civilian wagons to haul the bodies and you can see them in other photos. The civilians loaded the bodies and unloaded them into the trench."

The photograph below shows the digging of a trench for a mass grave on the hill called Leitenberg, located a short distance outside the Dachau camp. The trenches were dug with bulldozers by the men of the 40th Combat Engineer Regiment, and German civilians were forced to bury the bodies.




US Army bulldozer digging trench for mass graves at Leitenberg



Photo Credit: Donald E. Jackson, 40th Combat Engineer Regiment


The photograph below shows soldiers from the 40th Combat Engineer Regiment as they search the area around the Dachau camp for dead bodies. The soldier on the left is T5 John Bechtold.




Searching for bodies at Dachau after the liberation



Photo credit: Donald E. Jackson, 40th Combat Engineer Regiment


The men of E Company had the unpleasant task of getting rid of the corpses that were piled up in the camp; the Germans had run out of coal to burn the bodies, so the corpses had accumulated in the last days before the camp was liberated. Since October 1944, the Germans had been burying the bodies in mass graves on a hill called Leitenberg.

Dachau residents were forced to bury some of the decomposing bodies from the camp in individual graves in the town cemetery named Waldfriedhof. The American liberators made sure that everyone in Dachau knew the enormity of the atrocities in the camp by forcing Dachau farmers to haul the bodies by a circuitous route through the town on their way to the Leitenberg cemetery.

In the month of May 1945, there were 2,226 former inmates of the Dachau concentration camp who died of typhus and other diseases in spite of the excellent medical care given to them by the US Army doctors. An additional 196 former prisoners died in the month of June 1945 before the typhus epidemic could be brought under control. Some of the victims who died after the liberation were cremated in the ovens at Dachau, while others were buried in unmarked graves, even though their names were known. Approximately 7,500 Dachau prisoners are buried at Leitenberg, including those buried by the Germans before the liberation and 5,380 who were buried afterwards by the Americans.

The photograph below shows the bodies that were piled up in front of the crematorium, as they are being loaded onto wagons by some of the former inmates at Dachau. Even after they were liberated, the prisoners had to stay inside the camp and they were put to work, supervising the removal of the bodies of their comrades for burial.




Liberated prisoners load bodies onto wagons



Photo credit: Donald E. Jackson, 40th Combat Engineer Regiment


The photograph below, which was also contributed by Donald E. Jackson, shows German civilians unloading bodies from a wagon and placing them in a mass grave dug by the bulldozer. The Germans were ordered to wear their best clothes to show respect for the dead.




German civilians burying bodies at Leitenberg



Photo credit: Donald E. Jackson, 40th Combat Engineer Regiment

Eisenhower in Dachau

Eisenhower Foresaw the Bastards Thanks to Elyane Balassiano for bringing this bit of news to me for publication. At the time of Eisenhower's directive, that pictures be taken immediately of the horrors he witnessed, Adobe Photoshop was not born yet. So, for those Holocaust deniers, take a good, long hard look at the pictures, and if they offend you, it is either because you are guilty, or you yourself, are a murderer of Jews. I guess I have offended you again, haven't I? Eisenhower in Dachau It is a matter of history that when Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower, found the victims of the death camps, he ordered all possible photographs to be taken, and for the German people from surrounding villages to be ushered through the camps and even made to bury the dead.  He did this because he said in words to this effect: "Get it all on record now - get the films - get the witnesses - because somewhere down the track of history some bastard will get up and say that this never happened".. All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke In Memorial

Eisenhower at Dachau

This week, the University of Kentucky removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it 'offended' the Muslim population which claims it never occurred. This is a frightening portent of the fear that is gripping the world and how easily each country is giving into it.

The Ovens

Survivor Stories~Jack Adler

Jack Adler was born in 1929 in the small town of Pabianice, near the city of Lodz, in the part of Poland that had been in the German state of Prussia between 1795 and the end of World War I, when this territory was given back to the new independent country of Poland. His family owned a textile factory in Lodz.

When Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939, Adler's home town was captured during the first week. According to an article written by Karla Pomeroy, and published on January 31, 2007 in the Laramie Boomerang, Adler told an audience at the University of Wyoming on January 29, 2007 that when the occupation of Poland first started, he watched with the excitement of any 10-year-old boy as people brought flowers, food and drink to the Nazi soldiers.

It was the ethnic Germans, whose families had lived in this part of Poland for centuries, that welcomed the German soldiers as liberators. For the Jews, the German occupation was a disaster. Adler said that hours after the occupation began, notices were posted that said Jewish residents were not allowed outside their homes unless they had a yellow Star of David displayed on the front and back of their clothes. Jewish children were no longer able to attend public school. Almost immediately, the beatings and the torture of the Jews began in the town square of Pabianice, according to Adler's speech at the University of Wyoming.

The Jews in Pabianice and the other surrounding villages were soon isolated in a ghetto, dependent upon the Germans for food. Adler's mother and his older brother died in the ghetto, but Adler, his father and two sisters survived.

On May 10, 1942, the able-bodied Jews were moved into a ghetto in Lodz, where they were put to work in the textile factories, making uniforms for German soldiers. According to Adler, the old, the sick and the young were taken to another ghetto, from where they were later sent to the gas chamber. He was able to save his younger sister by sneaking her out of the group destined for the gas chamber and getting her into the work group.

The Lodz ghetto remained open long after the other ghettos in Poland were liquidated and the prisoners were sent to other camps or to the gas chamber. In August 1944, when the Russian Army was already occupying part of Poland, most of the Jews in the Lodz ghetto were finally sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, including Adler, his father and his two sisters. Adler said that his two sisters were immediately sent to a gas chamber, disguised as a shower room, at Birkenau.

According to the article by Karla Pomeroy, Adler told the audience at the University of Wyoming that "mothers with infants had their children ripped from their arms when they refused to give them up. Adler said that the babies were thrown up in the air and used as target practice."

The photo below shows a train that has just arrived in the Birkenau camp on May 26, 1944; a German officer directs a mother carrying a baby to the left, towards the gas chamber in Crematorium II, a few yards from the railroad track. In the background is the "gate of death" into the Birkenau camp. In the foreground are prisoners, wearing striped uniforms, who are assisting the Germans.




Mother & baby are directed by German officer to gas chamber at Birkenau


During the selection process at Birkenau, Jack Adler and his father were directed to the right, but were not registered in the camp. They were held in quarantine at Birkenau for a few weeks, and were then sent to work in one of the eleven Kaufering sub-camps of Dachau near Munich, Germany.

Shortly before Dachau was liberated, the prisoners in the Kaufering sub-camps were marched to the main camp. Three days before the American Seventh Army arrived to liberate the Dachau prisoners, thousands of Jews were marched out of the camp, toward the South Tyrol, where Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler intended to use them as hostages in negotiations with the Allies. Adler was liberated from the march by American soldiers on May 1, 1945; he was sixteen years old, and had survived six years in German captivity.

The following is a quote from the article by Karla Pomeroy in the Laramie Boomerang:

Adler was the only member of his immediate family to survive the camps. Out of 83 total members of his family, four others survived.

Adler moved to Chicago a year later as a war orphan. He learned English, graduated high school and went to college. He met his future wife in 1952, and they have two children. He has returned to Germany but has never returned to his home country of Poland.

Adler associated with a small group of Jewish refugees in his new home of Skokie, Ill., but rarely discussed his wartime experiences with anyone, including his children. It wasn't until his children had grown and had children of their own that he began to open up about his past.

Jewish Prisoners marched out of Dachau



Dachau prisoners marching through a German village



Photo Credit: USHMM


Acting on Hitler's orders, the Commandant of Dachau, Wilhelm Eduard Weiter, made an attempt to evacuate the Dachau main camp before the American liberators arrived. On April 26th, 1945, Weiter left the camp with a transport of prisoners bound for Schloss Itter, a subcamp of Dachu in Austria. On that same day, 1,759 Jewish prisoners were put on a train that was headed south. One of the survivors of this train was Mendel Rosenberg.

Also on April 26th, there were 6,887 other prisoners, half of whom were Jews, that started on a march south to the mountains.




Russian POWs and Jews on death march out of Dachau


One of the prisoners who survived this march was Samuel Pisar, a Polish Jew who emigrated to America after the war, became an international lawyer and wrote a book entitled "Of Blood and Hope." Pisar was 13 years old when the Bialystock ghetto in northeastern Poland was liquidated. He was sent to the extermination camp at Majdanek, but his mother and younger sister were sent to Auschwitz. His father had already been shot by the Gestapo. A few months later, Pisar was transferred to Auschwitz where he was given a job working near the crematoria at Birkenau. He could hear the cries of the innocents as they were herded into the gas chambers while an orchestra played classical music. When Auschwitz was evacuated in January 1945, Pisar was one of the prisoners on the death march out of the camp; he ended up in Dachau where his misery continued. When American planes strafed the column of Jews marching out of Dachau, he managed to escape and was eventually rescued by American soldiers. He had just turned 16 and had survived three long years of Nazi persecution.

Another survivor of the march out of Dachau was Jack Adler, who was just 15 at the time. He emigrated to America in 1946; his 12 year old sister had been gassed at Auschwitz and 78 members of his extended family had perished in the Holocaust. Adler was saved from the gas chamber because he was selected for medical experiments, but he moved himself to another barrack where the inmates were slave laborers. He survived the march out of Auschwitz in January 1945 and was eventually brought to Dachau. When he was liberated from the march out of Dachau by American soldiers, he weighed only 66 pounds.

Morris Friebaum lost his whole family in the Holocaust when they were sent to Treblinka from the Warsaw ghetto. Morris escaped from the ghetto and lived on his own in the Polish countryside, stealing and begging for food, and sleeping in barns. When he was finally caught, he was sent to Auschwitz, where he survived the selections for the gas chamber. Near the end of the war, he was sent to a small camp in Hessental, Germany. When this camp was evacuated, the prisoners were put on a train which was bombed by Allied planes. Morris and 30 others who were injured were taken to Dachau. In the final days of the war, Morris was one of the Jewish prisoners who were marched out of Dachau and finally set free by Allied troops on May 2, 1945.

Also among the prisoners on the march, who were liberated by the Americans, was Majir Korenblit, who changed his name to Major Kornblit when he moved to Ponca City, Oklahoma in 1951. In 1983, his son Michael Korenblit co-authored a book about the Holocaust experience of his father and his mother, Mania, who changed her name to Manya after the war. The book is entitled "Until We Meet Again: A True Story of Love and War, Separation and Reunion."

After the Nazis conquered Poland in September 1939, Majir Korenblit and his teen-aged sweetheart Mania hid from the Gestapo, along with a handful of other Jews, in a hand-dug crater underneath a three-story haystack. Eventually, hunger forced them out of their hiding place and they went to work for the Nazis in the Hrubieszow ghetto. When the Gestapo came to the ghetto, Major and Manya separated and escaped, spending the next 2 1/2 years on the verge of death. Between them, Majir and Mania survived 13 concentration camps, including Auschwitz where both aquired a tattoo on their arms when they were registered. Mania survived Auschwitz because she volunteered to work in Czechoslovakia where she was liberated by the Soviet Army. Majir was sent to Germany to work and wound up in Dachau in the last days of the war.

Mania and Majir lost their entire families in the Holocaust, except for Mania's younger brother Chaim, who moved to Great Britain after the war. Mania and her brother were reunited in 1982.

Philip Riteman (Reitman) was also the sole survivor in his family. He was 14 when he was sent to Auschwitz, but he survived by lying about his age. After 2 and a half years at Auschwitz-Birkenau, he was sent to Dachau and then to one of the Kaufering sub-camps of Dachau near Landsberg am Lech. In the last days before Dachau was liberated, Riteman was brought back to the main camp. He was one of the prisoners who was sent on the march out of Dachau, and rescued by American troops on May 2, 1945.

Philip Riteman (Fischel Reitman)

A Facebook page has been set up in honor of Philip Riteman

Philip Riteman was one of eight children born to a Jewish family in Szereszow, a town of about 25,000 people in the Brest-Litovsk region of Poland. He is the only surviving member of his family in Europe. His parents, grandparents, 5 brothers, 2 sisters, 9 aunts and uncles, and numerous cousins were all sent to the gas chamber.

Riteman says that he does not know the exact date of his birth, but it was either in 1922 or 1925, not in 1927 as has been reported in some news articles.

After Poland was invaded by Germany in 1939, Riteman's family was forced to live in a 10 by 12 foot room with two other families in the Pruzhany ghetto, 18 kilometers from Szereszow. After 9 months in the ghetto, Riteman's family was sent on a train with about 10,000 people to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1941.

In 1989, after more than 40 years of silence, Philip began to speak to audiences about his Holocaust experience, giving testimony as a survivor.

In a talk that he gave to students, as reported by Lacey Sheppy in The Moose Jaw Times Herald on May 23, 2008, Riteman told of the horror that he experienced.

The following quote is from the article in the Moose Jaw Times:
Seven days later, after being crammed in alongside 100 people in a rail car with no food, no water or bathrooms, the train finally stopped . . . at Auschwitz-Birkenau. As Riteman's eyes adjusted to the sunlight, he saw something that still haunts him to this day.  There was a woman in her 20s, pretty, who got off the train," he said "I'll never forget her because she wore high-heeled shoes."

The woman was carrying an infant in her arms. A Nazi soldier ripped the baby from her and smashed its head onto the pavement. As the mother lunged for the child, screaming and crying, the soldier shoved a bayonet into her stomach. "There was just blood, all over, blood," said Riteman.

With no time to process what he just witnessed, Riteman was put in a line to be separated. Although only 14, Riteman lied about his age and told the Nazis he was 17. Riteman - along with other men and young, fit boys - were separated into one group, while women, children, the elderly and infirm went into another.

Labourers were sent into the camp for processing, while the rest - including Riteman's parents, grandparents, five brothers, two sisters, nine aunts and uncles and numerous cousins - were sent to the gas chambers.

"I'm the only one that survived," he said. "Many times, I wished I wouldn't have."

The tattooed number 98,706 on Riteman's arm is a constant reminder of the atrocities that followed. Starving, living in lice-infested barracks, urinating in the same bowl he used to eat, Riteman spent the next five years shuttling back and forth between Auschwitz and other camps such as Dachau, Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg, Bunalager and Landsberg. He worked whatever jobs he was given, including transporting dead bodies to the crematoriums and burying bodies in mass graves after drenching them in quick-lime to suppress the smell. "You just block out your mind like a little zombie," said Riteman. "You just do what they ask you to do."

Riteman, a formerly healthy, husky young boy, weighed only 75 pounds when he was liberated by U.S. forces May 2, 1945.


On November 22, 2006, Philip Riteman gave a presentation to students at Horton High School in Greenwich, Nova Scotia, as reported by Kirk Starratt in the Kings County Register newspaper.




With emotion etched on his face and looks of shock on the young faces surrounding him, Holocaust survivor Philip Riteman interpreted photos, following his presentation at Horton High in Greenwich, Nov. 22, 2006



Photo Credit: Kirk Starratt


The following quote is from the article by Kirk Starratt:

Riteman said he was a Grade 5 student when the Second World War started. The propaganda on the radio was unbelievable, evil lies, and some people were brainwashed quickly. He tells young people not to ever buy into propaganda, don't be brainwashed and always think for yourself. Don't hate anyone. Go out and do good things for people. If you want respect, give respect, and you'll get lots in return.

Riteman said one million German soldiers marched through his town. They went through for one month, day and night. When they came in and found people in the streets, they were grabbed and shot for nothing.

After the army went through, another group of Germans came to the town. They beat the mayor and councillors and demanded 10 kilos of gold and 20 kilos of silver. One councillor came to their home black and blue and asked if they had anything to give. Riteman said his parents gave jewelry and other items. The group left, but did this to every town.

He said all the Jews had to wear the Star of David. He recalls being driven out of his home in the middle of the night with a gun pointed at him. He and his family had to walk 60 kilometres. He never saw his home again.

The children and older people were divided from the others, put in vehicles and taken away. Those people ranging in age from 12 to 40 were forced to march. Riteman said about 500 of them were killed randomly over the 60-km stretch.

He said 14 men were chosen, one was his neighbour, and small graves were dug. He said seven were shot at a time and buried. You could see the earth still moving as the Nazis pumped bullets into the ground and jumped on the graves. Riteman found his family and was told about 30 in their group had been shot, including boys and girls, women and the disabled.

Riteman said they then spent about nine months in a ghetto with a Jewish population of about 45,000. They ate boiled grass or whatever they could find. "You don't know what hunger means. You don't know what fear is," he said. "I hope you never know."

About 120 freight train cars were brought in and everyone had to walk to the station to be loaded onto the cars, which were about eight by 20 feet. "They packed you in like sardines," he said.

Although they were told their train trip would last only an hour, it went on for six or seven days.

There was no food, water or toilets. A man dropped dead at Riteman's feet and he had to push the body to the wall. A mother was holding a baby that didn't stop crying day and night. The baby died in the mother's arms and was placed on top of the man's body.

Sometimes when he drives his car, Riteman can still hear babies crying and the women screaming.

The train finally came to a platform and stopped. There were German soldiers with guns and prisoners with signs that said, "Work makes you free". They had arrived in Auschwitz. Riteman said his family was beaten. Babies were being taken from their mothers and tossed aside in a pile.

If you were 18 to 45 you maybe had a chance of survival. Otherwise, Riteman said you were sent straight to the gas chambers. "People didn't know where they were going," he said. About 8,000 people went to the gas chambers that day.

Even though he was only 14-and-a-half, Riteman was told by someone to say he was 18. He told one of the Germans he was 17 but would turn 18 the next month. Asked what profession he had, someone else yelled out that he was a locksmith, although he knew nothing about being one. The people were trying to save him.

The Germans didn't need the young, old or white-collar professionals to work. They wanted those people used to physical work.

He said if the Germans liked the young women, they would use them for sex and discard them, as there were more being brought in by train every day.

Everyone had to remove their clothing and they were shaved. Even though it was February and -10 C, they were showered with cold water. Everyone was given a bundle of clothes and tattooed with a number.

Riteman's number was 98,706.

An estimated more than two million people ended up dying in the camp and the staff burned up to 20,000 bodies a day.

Riteman was the only member of his family to survive.

The prisoners were given wooden shoes and a bright red bowl to be fed in, if you could call what was provided food. They were fed boiled leaves they called coffee and soups with rats and frogs. "You'd eat anything, you were so hungry," he said.

They were marched to barracks and had to sleep in their clothes on rough lumber. If you weren't outside at 5 a.m., you were killed automatically. He said you got through the daily routine by letting your mind go blank. You were like a zombie. You were 90 years old every minute because you were going to die soon.

Riteman said he was taken to Auschwitz in 1942, and the American forces didn't liberate him until May 2, 1945. He had been taken to the mountains to the west by the German army with a group of others. They were there for about a month with no food and thousands of them died. He said if he had been there another two or three weeks, he wouldn't be here today.

One night they heard nothing but quiet. When daylight broke, Riteman said he thought he could see ducks in the distance crossing the river. It was the American soldiers coming toward them. As they got closer, the Americans were yelling, "You're free, you're free."

Riteman didn't speak English but one of the soldiers was a Jewish boy from Chicago who spoke to him in Yiddish.


Philip Riteman is featured in a documentary called "The Auschwitz Connection," by John Versteege. The documentary shows events that happened in 1994 and 1995 as Riteman returned to Auschwitz to participate in the "March of the Living."

The following quote is from this web site:

The Auschwitz Connection follows Riteman to several places, mostly schools, as the survivor tells about his experiences. The camera also accompanies three young Nova Scotians to Auschwitz, a concentration camp in Poland, for the March of the Living. Interviews with war veterans, reactions to the movie Schindler's List and a candlelight remembrance of Crystal Nacht (Night of the Broken Glass), one of Hitler's vicious attacks on Jewish shop owners in Germany, round out the documentary.

Riteman is the documentary's highlight. He easily captures a viewer's heart and attention. His presentations to junior and high school students are very personal and emotional. He was only 14 when he arrived at Auschwitz. He tells of the atrocities of the camp, and never fails to get a reaction from the crowd. The camera often pans to the audience, where all eyes are fixed on Riteman and sometimes show expressions of sadness, shock, or revulsion when he tells his anecdotes. He often cries.

One story he tells is about how he worked in a garden in the camp, and one day saw Nazis take little children, hang them up in trees and shoot them for target practice.

"You should hear the screams of the children. You should see the blood on the fence," says Riteman, barely able to keep his composure. " I can see it right now."


On November 10, 2005, Riteman gave a talk to College students in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; Keith Adolph took the following notes which he posted on his blog:

-Reitman went to school as a normal child in 1938 
-Early on in the war it was seen as a fight against evil 
-In 1939 Poland was invaded 
-His father had ties to the Russian Gov't and so they traveled to live under Russia and still it was not a good country to live in 
-The Germans' journey to Minsk took them through Reitman's small town. For months they drove tanks through town 
-They killed those in their way or caught watching them

-The Nazis approached the mayor and demanded 10 kilos of gold and 20 kilos of silver or they would level the town. They took the money and left after a time. 
-They returned and surrounded the town before asking for more. This time the town could not pay. 
-Days later, at 3 AM, the Nazis came to the houses and took people from their homes. They separated children from parents and marched the 3000 residents 60 km. Others (about 5000) were driven. 
-During the march they killed roughly 200 residents. 
-Before releasing the residents the Nazis took 14 people aside, striped them and shot them dead, letting their bodies drop into 7 graves already dug. 
-The residents were then freed and reunited with the others.

-They were left in a small town that was entirely vacant. 
-The village had been purged and the people were culled into a mass grave 50 x 100 and 7 feet deep 
-En route they came upon a town and they were collected into a ghetto of 40,000. 
-After Reitman's group joined the ghetto, any person approaching the ghetto was shot. 
The ghetto had no food.

-Nine months later the ghetto was liquidated 
-The residents were told they were being taken to a farm. 
-They were all collected into 120 freight cars with all they could carry. 
-The trains traveled for hours - all day 
-A baby starved to death on the journey 
-A man dropped dead and was pushed to the wall 
-The train kept going 
-The train traveled for 6 nights and 7 days. 
-No food, No water 
-People were soiling themselves where they stood 
-One man was using a spoon to catch snow drops falling outside for water 
-Reitman and the others were taken to Auschwitz

-The doors were opened and everyone jumped out 
-Reitman grabbed his little sister. Also in the car were his two brothers, his big sister and his parents 
-The Nazis beat and pushed them onto a platform 
-A woman chasing her baby was stabbed to death with a bayonet 
-Reitman was told to pretend that he was 18 when the Nazis were dividing the Jews by age and gender. 
-If you were 18-45 you had a chance of surviving 
-Parents with their young children were taken straight to the gas chambers.

-The Nazis began to divide the men by occupation 
-Reitman pretended to be a locksmith 
-The intellectuals were collected (about 300 of them) and machine gunned to death. The Nazis only needed workers. 
-They were ordered to strip naked and shot if they moved too slowly. 
-The Jews were shaved from head to toe. 
-Body searches were conducted. Those caught hiding anything, even their gold teeth were executed.

-If you spoke German in the camps, the Nazis would bring out 'interpreters' who beat you with sticks so that you would never speak German again.

-Hundreds of men were put into cold showers and then given striped clothes. 
-They were given a bowl, no utensils. 
-They were then tattooed. 
-Over 2 million died at Auschwitz. 
-They were made to march. If you refused, your legs were broken. 
-The Jews marched better than the Nazis. 
-The Nazis would lock them into their barracks each night. 
-They fit 7 into each bunk. 
-There were 125,000 men at Auschwitz at this time. 
-Only 20,000 were Jewish. The others were Russians, Gypsies, Blacks and so on.

-Reitman spent 2 years at Auschwitz and then 2 years at Dachau. In between he spent 6 months in Birkenau where there were 2000 men to a barrack 
-Smaller camps would kill their population and then call on larger camps to replenish their numbers. This is why Reitman moved around so much.

-Reitman says he had to close his mind to survive. He was like a zombie. 
-He learned to never be first or last in line. Always be in the middle. 
-He lost five brothers, his parents, his grandparents. He lost nine uncles and nine aunts and many cousins. 
-He was the only survivor in his whole European family. 
-He could not talk about the camps or his family for forty years.

"What kept you going?" 
-If there is a God somewhere he will help me. 
-He would have liked to have eaten one big meal and then died 
-They ate one bowl of soup a day. 
-If they had lost their bowl they were accused of sabotaging the Nazi Gov't and beaten to death with sticks 
-They wouldn't waste the bullet. 
-By comparison, the homeless today live in heaven. The Nazis burned them. 
-If you limped, you were shot. 
-Those who escaped got only 100-1000 feet and they starved to death. 
-When they returned they were shot and burned by their fellow prisoners at the start of their day (5 AM)

-After 6 months in the camp Reitman found an old class mate who was in the camps because he was a Baptist. 
-The boy recognized Reitman and called out to him. 
-The Nazis had wanted his family's cattle but the boy's father would not give it to them. He was shot. 
-His mother attacked the Nazis and she was hung in the town center. 
-His sisters were cut and raped and shot in the heart. 
-His little brother was chased into the woods and shot. 
-The boy joined Reitman's work group on a farm and was instantly hated by the Nazis. 
-One day he was stripped and put into a water trough. The Nazis took steel wool and tried to take his freckles off. 
-The boy died in the trough which was full of his own blood. 
-Reitman and the others had to take the boy back to camp to be burned. 
-He was Reitman's best friend.

-Reitman was sent to another camp. When he arrived the barrack was full of all the dead. 
-He and the others were forced to bury the bodies, but they were forbidden to pray. 
-At another camp he spent a month in an airplane hanger. 
-At Dachau the barracks were filled with bodies piled 7 ft high. 
-When they tried to remove them the bodies came apart in their hands. 
-These barracks were sunken into the ground

-They were marched for 2-3 weeks in the winter with only the snow to eat. 
-Reitman estimates that 50,000 were killed for their weakness. 
-They marched with tanks so that American planes would not bomb the convoys. The Jews wished they would though, just to kill the Germans. 
-One night the camp was empty, not a German in sight. In the distance he could see the Americans coming, calling "You're free!" 
-This was May 2, 1945. Reitman was 18 years old and 75 lbs.

-The Americans brought food and medicine. 
-Reitman had never seen bananas before, or a coloured person. 
-A coloured soldier taught him to peel bananas. 
-He would drink 3-4 cans of milk a day

-Reitman says he will never go back to the camps, but urges young people to visit them. 
-He says he sees the camp every time he closes his eyes, even when he lived in Newfoundland. 
-It would take Reitman 5 years to tell the story of his 5 years in the camps.

-He cannot forgive or forget what happened. Only God can forgive. 
-Reitman says he does not hate the Germans he met after the war. He only hates the Nazis

-"I am speaking for millions who cannot speak"

-When he saw Americans he applied to go to the USA. 
-The Red Cross took care of him in Europe and asked him about his history which they compared to his records held by the Nazis 
-A month later he received a letter from Newfoundland from his mother's sister. 
-Then he got another letter from Newfoundland with 20 US $ in it. 
-And then another from Montreal with 10 US $ 
-Then New York from his father's sister and an uncle who had left Europe in 1890 and another in 1905. 
-They were all relatives that he had never known to exist. 
-In 1946 he was to come to Canada but the Canadian Gov't would not allow Jews into the country. 
-Newfoundland was not part of Canada at the time and they brought him right over. 
-He traveled from Munich to Paris to New York to Newfoundland. 
-He had never been on a boat before and he was very sea sick. 
-The Newfoundland Gov't said he was a free man. He was a Newfoundlander.

Mendel Rosenberg

According to an article by Janese Heavin, which was published in the Columbia Daily Tribune on May 8, 2007, Mendel Rosenberg is a survivor of the train on which Jews from the Dachau concentration camp were sent on April 26, 1945 to the South Tyrol during the last days of World War II.

Mendel Rosenberg was born in 1929 in Lithuania. In 1940, the Russians took over Lithuania and it became part of the Communist Soviet Union; this was part of the secret agreement signed by the Nazis and the Russians before their joint invasion of Poland in September 1939 which was the start of World War II.

On June 22, 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Most of the Lithuanians welcomed the Germans as liberators, and a few days before the Germans arrived, those who supported the Nazis started killing the Jews. Lithuanian political prisoners were released from the NKVD prisons by the German invaders and allowed to join in the killing of the Communist Commissars and the Jewish members of the NKVD, which was the equivalent of the German Gestapo.

According to the article by Janese Heavin, Rosenberg recalled a knock on his door on a night in July 1941 that would change his life. "A German soldier and a Lithuanian policeman arrested Rosenberg's father and older brother that night, the beginning of what would become a four-year nightmare. His brother would eventually be returned, his father buried in a mass grave."

Thousands of Lithuanian Jews, including the Rosenberg family, were confined in the Siauliai Ghetto where they worked in factories, manufacturing goods for the Germans. In 1943, Rosenberg was sent to the Stuthoff concentration camp near the city formerly known as Danzig. Rosenberg's mother remained at Stuthoff, but Rosenberg and his brother were transferred to the Dachau concentration camp.

The following quote is from the article in the Columbia Daily Tribune which recounts Rosenberg's description of Dachau, as told to students at Hickman High School in Columbia, MO:

"Men were forced to work in fields outside the camp from sunup to sundown. They lived in cramped barracks, were allowed to bathe once a week and shared tiny rations of soup and bread.

"A lot of people didn't feel like they wanted to continue the struggle for life. They didn't get up in the morning. We would come back and find them dead in the evening," Rosenberg said. "Hunger can do funny things to you. Any animal - a rat, a dog, a cat - anything we could find, we would kill and eat. Needless to say, some things we were eating didn't set very well with the stomach."

Rosenberg became ill but didn't dare go to the hospital, where humans were being used for experiments. "I had one foot in the grave."

He got a lucky break when he volunteered to work inside the concentration camp, giving him a chance to steal kitchen garbage that he could later eat.

Rosenberg's brother encountered a different fate, dying in the field after being beaten.

In anticipation of the liberation of Dachau, 1,759 Jewish prisoners were put on a train on April 26th and sent toward the mountains in the South Tyrol. Three days later, the train stopped and the prisoners learned that the German guards had abandoned them; they had been saved by American troops.

The following quote is from the article in the Columbia Daily Tribune:

"When they saw us in the form we looked like, they started throwing food at us. I caught a can. I didn't have a can opener." Rosenberg busted it open to find meat.

Rosenberg and his mother reunited a year later and in 1947 moved to the United States. Grateful to this nation, he served in the Army in 1950-51, during the Korean War. He went on to marry, have a family and retire from a career in construction. After a 25-year silence about his Holocaust experience, he now speaks to school groups about it.

Oscar Heller

Remarkable Dachau Survivors Reunite After Fifty Years

A man who refused to steal food, even to save his son's life By Reuven Witkes, as told to Rishe Deitsch

Oscar Heller stood up and, in a strong European accent, began to speak:

I was constantly besieged by prisoners begging for any scraps of food 

In October 1944, at the age of 13, after five months in Auschwitz, I was transferred to Dachau, where I was assigned to Camp #4, located near the Bavarian town of Lomitsberg. For some reason, perhaps because I was the only young boy in the entire camp, I found favor with the SS officer in charge of food supplies and services for both prisoners and guards in Camp #4, and so I was assigned to the kitchen.

My job was to stand at the kitchen gate all day and to shout "Achtung!" when this SS officer entered for his periodic inspection of the kitchen. Upon hearing my shout, all prisoner staff in the kitchen were to stand at attention until the officer announced "Weiter machen!" ("Carry on!") at which time everyone resumed working. I was lucky since he liked my sharp boyish voice and always gave me a satisfied look when he heard me shout "Achtung!" to announce his arrival.

Being on the kitchen staff meant that I had access to food. This was a lifesaving privilege not only for me but for others. I was constantly besieged by prisoners begging for any scraps of food I could get for them. I took what I could and was able to help keep many, many people alive. Many of these people survived only because of this kitchen job that I was lucky to get, and some still live in Williamsburg today.

One middle-aged prisoner approached me calling me kicsi, meaning "small one" in Hungarian, which was my nickname in camp. He told me that he was Shmuel Farbenblum, a barrack chief in the camp, and his 15-year-old son Zvi, who was in the infirmary barrack, had just survived typhus fever but was now starving to death. He told me that I must give him a pot of heavy soup every day to keep his son alive. A pot! I begged him to leave me alone. I told him that I was handing out stolen food left and right and if I took any more I would be caught and punished severely. Mr. Farbenblum did not accept my answer. He waited until I finished work for the day, then grabbed me by my jacket and pulled me to the barrack where his son was lying, telling me on the way, "Just see my son—you must see my son!"

We entered the barrack where his son was lying on a heap of straw. He had a long body, with no flesh, only skin and bones. He was very weak and sick; he could not even open his eyes.

He had a long body, with no flesh, only skin and bonesI was just past my 14th birthday and one can appreciate that I had not yet developed a father-son feeling. I asked Mr. Farbenblum, "You are a barrack chief. Why don't you do what other barrack chiefs do—take off part of the food ration of each person in your barrack and with that feed your son?"

Zvi Farbenblum (Sam Moss), as a young man after the War. Mr. Farbenblum replied that he could not and would not do that—to steal from prisoners even a tiny bit of the food that was allotted to them, an amount that barely succeeded in keeping only some of them alive!

"Not even to save your own son?" I asked."Not even for that," he replied firmly.Whereas, if I stole food from the kitchen, it would not decrease the portions of the prisoners.

I was so moved by Shmuel Farbenblum's refusal to take food from the mouths of starving prisoners that I told him to pick up a pot of soup and other food every day. And so he did.

I never went back to the barrack to visit the sick boy. Within a couple of months, the Americans arrived and Camp #4 was evacuated. I was transferred to the main camp in Dachau while Zvi, who was not ambulatory, and his father, were evacuated to another camp. We lost touch with each other.

Two years after liberation, in the spring of 1947, I was in the yeshivah in Kasho, Czechoslovakia. One Friday afternoon, as I was walking down the street where the yeshivah was located, a narrow cobblestone street in the Jewish section of Kasho, I noticed on the other side of the street a middle-aged man and a young handsome fellow, walking together and looking at me. Suddenly we all stopped and stared at each other. They quickly crossed the street, and the older man asked me, "Young fellow, were you in Dachau during the war? Were you in Camp #4?" "Yes," I replied to both questions. At that point Mr. Farbenblum fell on me, embracing and kissing me, pointing to his son Zvi, all the while saying, "This is my son, you kept him alive."

I was then 16 years old—but this encounter left an indelible mark in my memory, so strong was Mr. Farbenblum's emotion.

I blotted out my Holocaust experiences from my conscious mindI visited the Farbenblums. Mr. Farbenblum was then in the yarn and needle business. He prepared a large package of his merchandise for me to take to Hungary, as I was returning there shortly for my sister's wedding and there was a shortage of these supplies in Hungary.

Shortly afterward, I left for New York with a student visa to study in Yeshiva Torah Vodaas. The Farbenblums went to Israel, and we again lost contact.

For the next few years, my life was occupied with getting an education, getting married, raising a family and earning a living. I blotted out my Holocaust experiences from my conscious mind and concentrated on what I had to do. However, as our children married and left home, and especially after I retired in 1999, my thoughts and reflections became active again and my experience with the Farbenblums was very clear in my memory. I wanted to know what had happened to them.

Shmuel Farbenblum in mid-1970s After making many inquiries, I heard that the father, Shmuel, had passed away in the mid-1970s, and that his son Zvi had left Israel and settled in Australia, but whoever I asked did not know of any Farbenblum living in Australia.

My daughter lives in Englewood, New Jersey. This past winter a neighbor of my daughter asked her to provide accommodations for the weekend for a cousin from Sydney, Australia, who had come for the Bar Mitzvah of the neighbor's son.

We were talking on the phone, and when my daughter told me about her guest, I said, "Australia? Ask him if he knows Farbenblum!" (I always said this when I heard the word Australia.)

To humor me, my daughter asked Mr. Shimon Farkash, the guest from Sydney, if he perhaps knew of a person that her father had been looking for for the past 60 years, someone by the name of Zvi Farbenblum.

It didn't take a second for Mr. Farkash to answer: "He is my neighbor in Sydney. We pray together in the synagogue every Shabbat—but you will never find him under the name of Zvi Farbenblum, as his name now is Moss—Sam Moss."

There was not a dry eye in the house as Sam Moss and Oscar Heller embracedI quickly discovered that Zvi, or rather Sam Moss, was not only alive, but married, with two sons, Steven and Meir, two daughters-in-law, Carol and Devorah, and grandchildren who were getting married! My daughter gave my phone number to Mr. Farkash and asked him to give it to Sam Moss, on his return to Sydney.

Within a week I got a phone call from Sydney. "Is this Oscar Heller?" "Yes." "This is Sam Moss. You saved my life in Dachau. I will soon be in New York for my granddaughter Miriam's wedding, and I would love to see you again."

Both our families were a little concerned for us; two men in their late 70s who had not met in so long. They hoped the excitement would not be too much for us! We survived the reunion and here we are.

There was not a dry eye in the house as Sam Moss and Oscar Heller embraced, then posed for a picture together with their wives.

L-R: Adelaide Heller, Oscar Heller, Sam Moss, Agi Moss

One month later, our own son Moishe married Chana Moss, Miriam's younger sister. At the sheva brachot, our in-law Meir told how his father's life had been saved by Oscar Heller, and how his grandfather, Shmuel Farbenblum, of blessed memory, had not been willing to take a crumb from a starving Jew, even to save his own son's life. Rabbi Yisrael Deren,Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Stamford, Connecticut, was present at the wedding. He was visiting his close friend, Meir's brother Steven, who used to live in Connecticut. When Rabbi Deren heard the story at the sheva brachot, he stood up and said with great emotion, "I have something to add to this story.

"Many years ago, on Hoshannah Rabbah, I took Steven and Carol Moss to the Rebbe, of righteous memory, to get lekach [honey cake, that the Rebbe would traditionally distribute on this auspicious day].

"I introduced Carol to the Rebbe, and said that she is a descendant of theAlter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch (in fact, her maiden name is Schneur). The Rebbe turned to Steven and said, 'You should be like your grandfather.' I, foolishly thinking that the Rebbe had not heard me, repeated, 'Carol is the descendant of the Alter Rebbe.' The Rebbe looked at Carol and said, 'You should follow what he wrote in his Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law authored by the Alter Rebbe],' but the Rebbe turned to Steven again and repeated, 'You should be like your grandfather...'

"I didn't know what the Rebbe meant and neither did Steven.

"A moment ago, when I heard the story of how Steven's grandfather behaved in Dachau, it became clear to me why the Rebbe had directed his praise to Steven's grandfather.

All three of these distinguished philanthropists have followed the Rebbe's directive to be like their ancestor"Shmuel Farbenblum of blessed memory – a principled man who would not take bread out of a starving Jew's mouth to save his own flesh and blood – had a son, Sam Moss (Zvi), who gave him two grandsons, the brothers Meir Moss (my in-law) and Steven Moss. Without even knowing what the Rebbe said, all three of these distinguished philanthropists have followed the Rebbe's directive to be like their ancestor, selflessly giving to others and helping others all their lives. May G?d give them the good health and strength necessary to continue to do so until the coming of Moshiach."

When I talked with him about writing this article, Mr. Oscar Heller said to me, "Perhaps Sam Moss owes me some gratitude for keeping him alive, but I owe his father even more gratitude for giving me the merit of preserving a life."

Salomon and Peewee

Near the end of World War II, Lt. John Withers, the leader of an all-black convoy, hid two young Holocaust survivors among his truck company -- a violation of Army orders. They stayed with his unit for more than a year as their health improved. "Peewee" and "Salomon" grew close to Lt. Withers and his unit. Over the years, he told and retold their tale to his two sons. One son set out to find them. He discovered that Salomon had died in 1993. But Peewee, he learned, was alive, a successful businessman in the U.S. Five decades later, Lt. Withers would change the man's life yet again.

November 25, 2003


The two young men stood trembling before Army Lt. John Withers, dressed in the rags they'd worn at the recently liberated Dachau concentration camp. Sores pocked their bony arms and legs. Decades later, the lieutenant would remember how their sunken eyes sought mercy.

But in 1945, near the end of World War II, they posed a problem. Lt. Withers was a black leader in an all-black supply convoy. In violation of Army orders, his men were hiding the refugees. Lt. Withers planned to have the strangers removed -- until he saw them.

They stayed with his unit for more than a year, two Jewish survivors of the Holocaust hiding among blacks from segregated America. The soldiers nicknamed them "Peewee" and "Salomon." They grew close to Lt. Withers. By the time he bid them farewell, they'd grown healthy again.

Mr. Withers never forgot them. Over the years, he told and retold their tale to his two sons. When one son set out to find them, he discovered that Salomon had died in 1993. But Peewee, he learned, was alive.

Unlike Mr. Withers, Peewee had buried his past. His children and grandchildren knew almost nothing about his time in Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Dachau. When his grandson asked about the number tattooed on his left forearm -- A19104 -- all he could say was, "Bad people put that down."

He couldn't bring himself to talk about it.

Then John Withers reappeared -- and changed Peewee's life yet again.

A bright morning sun shone on the cobblestone square in Starachowice, Poland, as the Nazi soldiers separated the strong Jews from the weak. It was Oct. 27, 1942, a scene reported by historians and survivors. The healthy would go to work building bombs for the Germans. The rest would be piled on a train to the extermination camp at Treblinka.

Izaak Wajgenszperg gave his 14-year-old son a brick to stand on. He said it would make the boy look bigger, so the Nazis might not send him away. Mieczyslaw Wajgenszperg obeyed. Across the square, he recalled, his mother and younger sister disappeared into the crowd. He would never see them again.

Mieczyslaw (MEE-shuh-slav) had grown up in a red-brick house in Starachowice, an industrial town. His grandfather was a banker, and his father exported timber.

After the Nazis invaded in 1939, they moved Mieczyslaw's family and other Jews into an unwalled ghetto, where Jews were expected to step off the sidewalk when Germans passed. They lived there until that October morning when the Nazis tore Mieczyslaw's family in two and put him and his father to work in a munitions factory in Starachowice.

In July 1944, with the Russian army approaching, the Germans put the Jews on a southbound train. Mieczyslaw and his father were deposited at Auschwitz and given blue-and-gray-striped uniforms. From there, the Nazis sent the boy to another camp nearby. His father stayed behind, and Mieczyslaw said goodbye to him for the last time.

Late that September, Army Second Lt. John Withers, then 28, boarded a train bound for a boat that would take him to Europe. Black soldiers rode separately from whites. Stopped in New Orleans, Lt. Withers recalled seeing another train carrying German and Italian prisoners of war. Black porters were serving them.

Salomon and Peewee with an Army soldier in Germany, 1945.



He came from Greensboro, N.C., where segregation ruled, and blacks were expected to step aside when whites passed. Lt. Withers knew he was going to war for freedoms he didn't enjoy. Still, he recalled in an interview this year, "I thought I would be better off if the world subdued Hitler." He had his own dream: leave the South, become a professor and join the American middle class.

He grew up the precocious son of a janitor and a seamstress in a six-room house with three siblings, five cousins and a family friend. His mother bought the children dress shoes instead of work shoes because work shoes announced that you were poor, her son recalled. If neighbors had a Thanksgiving turkey, the Witherses told everyone they did, too, even if their holiday dinner was ham hocks and beans.

As a teenager, John developed a passion for opera, and carried in his pocket index cards he filled with poems, Gospel verse and snatches of literature. He earned a bachelor's degree in social sciences from North Carolina A, then a master's degree in economics from the University of Wisconsin in 1941. He hoped to seek a Ph.D., but funds were scant. And the Army called.

Three years later, he was helping to lead one of the quartermaster truck companies ferrying supplies to the front lines in Europe, military records show. Lt. Withers stood apart from the other soldiers. He didn't smoke, drink or curse. He helped illiterate soldiers write home. He spent a leave in London at libraries and the theater.

He never experienced full-fledged combat. He fretted about returning to Greensboro, where he worried he'd have no job, no money to pursue a Ph.D., no way to escape the South. A glimmer of hope appeared: the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, better known as the GI Bill, which was designed to help veterans pay for college. As 1945 dawned, Lt. Withers was determined to take advantage of it. But he had to keep his record clean.

From his labor camp near Auschwitz, where he had been for six months, 16-year-old Mieczyslaw heard the Russian cannons. In late January of 1945, the Nazis marched him and thousands of others northwest. Mieczyslaw wrapped his shoes in paper bags so he wouldn't slip on the snow. Many who faltered were shot, he later recalled.


My search for Peewee and Salomon began with a story my father told me as a child. Even when I was too young fully to understand why, the tale of the two young Jewish boys from Poland clearly held deep meaning for him. Not that he imbued it with any particular moral significance. He never inferred that he or his men had done anything noteworthy in aiding the boys. Still, on occasion, I would catch my father lingering over old photos of the boys and know that he was asking himself: What has become of them? How much he missed his friends!

But to me, as I grew old enough to appreciate it, the story became so much more. Why did these soldiers do what they did? They could have gotten into trouble with their superiors and faced serious punishment. Why had these men -- made callous by war and lives of poverty -- taken these boys to heart? Curiosity welled within me until, eventually, perhaps inevitably, there came a day when my father's question -- what had become of them? -- had to be answered, and I had to answer it.

It took many years of searching -- many years of false starts and disappointments -- before the answer came. There was the sad news that Salomon had died of cancer in Israel some years before. But there also was a moment -- an indescribable moment -- when my father, then 84 years old, descended a plane in Hartford, Conn., and walked stiffly down the long corridors of the airport. He had come to meet a friend whom he hadn't seen in five decades. He did not pause or hesitate or even look around. Instead, he moved directly toward an elderly man with a round face and an unmistakable smile approaching from the far end of the hallway. And suddenly, Peewee, wonderful Peewee, was with him again.




He wound up in the "Little Camp" at Buchenwald. In April, he was loaded onto a snow-filled train that zigzagged through Germany and Czechoslovakia for three weeks. He sat on a man who had frozen to death. When he arrived at Dachau, his ribs poked at his skin. He'd been there two days when U.S. troops liberated the camp on April 29, 1945.

U.S. soldiers moved Mieczyslaw and other inmates to an abandoned SS barracks near Munich, he recalled. One day Mieczyslaw discovered that a bag holding his only belongings -- a few items of clothing -- had been stolen. The theft so infuriated him that he left.

Dressed in his ragged prisoner's uniform, Mieczyslaw walked to another barracks where he'd noticed black U.S. soldiers. He had heard that American blacks were poor and, like him, had faced discrimination.

He found members of Quartermaster Truck Company 3512 washing dishes. Using hand gestures and some German, he made them understand he wanted a job.

The men let Mieczyslaw help. That first night he slept outside on a table, he later recalled. The next morning, the soldiers gave him a room with a bed, a bureau, a desk and a window that looked out on a forest. They fed him goulash and bread, and gave him a nickname, "Peewee," because his name was a mouthful and he was about 5 feet tall.

Then one morning, the soldiers told Mieczyslaw -- now Peewee -- that a lieutenant had learned of his presence, as well as that of another Dachau refugee, 20 years old, whom they'd dubbed "Salomon." John Withers, who'd recently been promoted to first lieutenant, wanted to see them.

Quartermaster units had orders to avoid contact with the Dachau prisoners, Lt. Withers later recalled. His superiors worried that supply convoys would pick up diseases and spread them to other Army units. Researchers at the National Archives couldn't locate specific records of such orders but said other records indicate that Army brass were acutely concerned about health risks posed by Dachau prisoners.

Lt. Withers had learned that it was especially important for blacks to follow orders in the segregated Army. He recalled worrying that sheltering Dachau refugees might get him a dishonorable discharge -- and then there would be no GI Bill for him.

He assumed the two refugees were war-toughened men who were exploiting his soldiers' sympathy. So he was unprepared when the soldiers brought Peewee and Salomon. The refugees seemed shrunken and frightened, really just boys, he recalled thinking.

Peewee would later recall that his knees felt weak as he waited for the lieutenant's verdict. He assumed that his immediate family was dead. He was 16. He had no home, no money and no clothing but what he wore. He wanted no more part of the Allies' displaced-persons camps. In the chaos following the war, he had no idea what to do next.

Lt. Withers assumed that Peewee and Salomon would be returned to Dachau, where thousands of former prisoners were still convalescing, according to Army dispatches from the summer of 1945. He'd been to Dachau on a bread-and-milk delivery shortly after it was liberated. He'd seen bodies decomposing in an open ditch, smelled the rotting flesh. How could he send them back?

"Keep them," he recalled blurting to his men. "We're going to take care of them."

In recent interviews, he struggled to explain why he changed his mind. "I think I identified with them very strongly and instantaneously," he said. He said he also risked losing face with his men. "They were willing to take the chance. If I would have overruled them, I would have been on the wrong side of the decision."

The soldiers dressed the young men in fatigues and boots. Washing dishes, peeling potatoes and hosing down trucks with the GIs, Peewee and Salomon picked up English, including a few curse words. The soldiers initially paid them with candy and cigarettes, later with cash.

When white officers came around, Peewee and Salomon ducked into the mess, a closet or a truck cab. On supply runs, they burrowed under tarpaulins in the backs of trucks. In one close call, Peewee recalled, he hid from a military policeman under a tarp while some GIs sat on it.

By the fall of 1945, many Army units had begun hiring local people so U.S. soldiers could go home. Peewee and Salomon no longer had to hide. They were strong enough by then to live on their own, but they stayed with Lt. Withers even as he transferred to Quartermaster Truck Company 3511 in early 1946, and it moved to the Bavarian village of Staffelstein.

At religious services, the young men sang and clapped to Gospel music. They learned to drive and to shoot. They bartered with farmers for hams, chickens and eggs. Peewee tried baseball, pitched horseshoes, posed in a cowboy hat and botched a batch of biscuits. Lt. Withers bought each a watch. He taught them the English words to "Taps."

Peewee and Salomon spent many evenings talking with the lieutenant. Sometimes he read them tales of Greek, Norse and Roman mythology. But mostly they wanted to hear about the U.S., he recalled later. What kinds of jobs could they find there? Could they get rich?

Though he couldn't answer these questions for himself, Lt. Withers told Peewee and Salomon, "Get to the United States and you'll be all right." He didn't speak of race or anti-Semitism because "they didn't need anything negative," he recalled.

Sometimes Peewee, Salomon and Lt. Withers would sing a German drinking song, "So Sind Wir (Such Are We)." Translated, it went:

Such are we
We laugh off the sorrow
Such are we
We do our best until tomorrow
Such are we
And so we shall always be
So come drink a cup with me
And sing such are we

The lieutenant wondered how Peewee and Salomon could remain so happy and gentle after what they'd endured. "They didn't become hateful or hostile in return. They didn't become bitter or apathetic," he would recall. "That was something I've kept with me all my life: that it is possible for someone -- me, anyone -- to overcome the obstacles in his path without losing himself and face prejudice without becoming prejudiced in return."

The day Lt. Withers went home in December 1946, Peewee and Salomon waited near his Jeep in Staffelstein. By then, Peewee had an apartment in nearby Bamberg and a job at a machine and auto-repair shop. He and Salomon presented the lieutenant with a photo album embossed with his name. He gave them each a pen and his mother's Greensboro address. Then they saluted before Lt. Withers rumbled away.

In his footlocker in the back of the Jeep rested a picture-postcard Peewee had given him. It showed Peewee beaming in a U.S. Army uniform, his soft cap at a jaunty angle. On the back he'd written, in English, "To my good friend, Lt. John L. Withers."

Five decades later, the postcard found its way to John Withers's eldest son. John Withers II couldn't get it out of his mind.

He and his brother, Gregory, had been hearing about Peewee and Salomon since they were little. Their father had no stories about ambushing Nazis or shooting Messerschmitts out of the sky. When his sons asked about the war, he talked about Peewee and Salomon.

Mr. Withers told these tales as he, his wife, Daisy, and their sons traveled the globe. After his honorable discharge from the Army, he used the GI Bill and earned a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago. He taught at universities in North Carolina and Michigan before joining the U.S. Agency for International Development, where he spent 21 years on assignments from Laos to Kenya before retiring in 1979 to Silver Spring, Md.

Wherever the Witherses went, they carried photographs of Peewee and Salomon. In John II's eyes, the men became like long-lost uncles. He frequently asked his father why he hadn't tried to find them. Mr. Withers said he wouldn't know where to begin. All he knew was Peewee's real name.

By 2000, that was enough for John II, then 51 and the State Department's deputy chief of mission in Riga, Latvia. On vacation in Germany, he'd detoured to Staffelstein and questioned natives about the black Army unit.

He received a one-year State Department sabbatical and began his hunt. The first Holocaust-survivor registers he checked had no record of a Mieczyslaw Wajgenszperg. But an Israeli search agency revealed that Peewee had emigrated to the U.S. or Canada. Then Yad Vashem, the vast repository of Holocaust records in Israel, supplied a catalog of the camps he'd been in: Starachowice, Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau. It shocked the elder Mr. Withers, who'd known only about Dachau.

Internet searches on Auschwitz and Buchenwald supplied too many leads to sort through, so John II focused on a place he'd never heard of, Starachowice. That led him to Christopher Browning, a University of North Carolina historian who had collected testimonies of 235 Starachowice survivors. Mr. Browning sent John II to Howard Chandler, a Starachowice survivor in Toronto who had compiled a list of other survivors.

John II called the man one evening in March 2001. Mr. Chandler, whose name was once Chaim Wajchendler, said yes, he had a phone number for Mieczyslaw in Connecticut.

"Oh my God," John II recalled thinking as he scribbled the number. After thanking Mr. Chandler, he dialed. There was a ring, then some high-pitched tones. He dialed again and got the same thing. The number was disconnected.

Had Peewee moved? Or died? John II redialed Mr. Chandler, who said he'd try again. Mr. Chandler called a friend in Israel who supplied a slightly different number. The area code had changed. Instead of calling John II to tell him, Mr. Chandler decided to call Mieczyslaw himself.

A few days later, in Hartford, Conn., a businessman named Martin Weigen received an unusual phone call.

Mr. Weigen and his wife, Margareta, had married in Germany in 1948. They moved to Israel, where Mr. Weigen had relatives, then back to Germany, and then to the U.S., where Mr. Weigen hoped to make his fortune.

After they arrived in 1956, Mr. Weigen and Margareta shortened their surname, first to Weisperg, then to Weigen. Mr. Weigen was Jewish, but he'd never been religious, and he worried that his daughter and son might suffer discrimination. They were raised Roman Catholic, like their mother.

Mr. Weigen worked days at a machinery company and at night helped his wife run a residential-care home they had bought. He left the machinery company in 1976 when he and his wife bought a second care home, where they housed and fed people who couldn't take care of themselves.

Martin Weigen and John Withers embrace at the Hartford Airport.



They lived in a big white colonial on two wooded acres where Mr. Weigen liked to feed the birds. "Isn't the nature beautiful?" he would say in his soft Polish accent.

His daughter, Barbara Bergren, and his son, Edward Weigen, worked with him at his two residential-care homes and at a third that Edward bought. At a cottage the elder Mr. Weigen owned on Long Island Sound, he loved to stand at his bar and brag about his grandchildren.

But he rarely talked about the mother, father and sister he'd lost as a boy in Poland. Questions about his childhood and his wartime experiences were met with halting answers and, sometimes, tears. As he aged, his children worried that his stories might die with him.

Now, on the telephone, Howard Chandler told him someone was looking for him. On an index card, Mr. Weigen jotted a name -- "Wichers" -- and a phone number. He was a little hard of hearing. He wasn't sure who "Wichers" was.

He told his daughter, Ms. Bergren, about the message when she was helping at his office on April 3, 2001. The name "Wichers" meant nothing to her, but her dad seemed eager to call. He listened on one phone while Ms. Bergren dialed another.

John Withers II picked up the phone in his home library in Rockville, Md. Propped on his desk was a framed copy of Peewee's postcard.

"Mr. Wichers?" Ms. Bergren recalled saying.

"Withers," he corrected.

She didn't know that name either. "I believe you're looking for a relative of mine," she said.

John II's heart sank. Was Peewee dead? he recalled thinking. He identified himself, and asked if she was related to Mieczyslaw Wajgenszperg.

"Yes, he's sitting right here," she said, as she and John II recalled the conversation. "But he has a hearing impediment and if it's all right with you, I'll stay on the phone."

Mr. Weigen cut in from the other phone: "You are the son of Lt. John L. Withers of North Carolina?"

"Yes," John II said.

Ms. Bergren turned to see her father. His eyes had filled with tears.


He whispered: "I know John Withers."

Mr. Weigen wondered if he would recognize John Withers as he waited, three weeks later, at Gate A-1 of Hartford's Bradley International Airport.

They were old men now. Mr. Weigen was 72, with feathery white hair and hearing aids. Mr. Withers, 84, wore a tan cap on his bald head and was shorter now than his old friend. The men embraced.

"Lt. John," Mr. Weigen recalled saying.

"Peewee," said Mr. Withers.

They were inseparable all weekend, holding hands and reminiscing while their families got to know each other. Mr. Weigen had told his children that a black soldier helped him during the war, but he hadn't said much more. His wife had asked more than once why he didn't use the Greensboro address to contact the lieutenant. "He wouldn't even remember who I am," Mr. Weigen said he told her.

Now he showed Mr. Withers yellowed photos from their time together, many of which Mr. Weigen's children and grandchildren had never seen. Nor had they known that Mr. Weigen had been called Peewee. Mr. Withers tried to call him Martin, but Mr. Weigen patted his hand and said, "No, no, John, to you I'm always Peewee."

John II and his wife started asking Mr. Weigen about the Nazi camps. Edward Weigen and Ms. Bergren silently worried that this would be too painful for their father. But with Mr. Withers at his side, Mr. Weigen opened up. Over one dinner that the family captured on videotape, he talked about his childhood and what his father had done for a living. "You ever hear that?" Edward, 43, said to Ms. Bergren. "I didn't."

In the past, their father rarely got beyond generalities before he grew quiet, or his eyes welled. Then his children would back off. "His way of survival was that you can't immerse yourself in that, you have to always move forward," said Ms. Bergren, 53.

With Mr. Withers it was different. Now when Mr. Weigen's emotions got to him, according to Edward, "he'd slow down, take breaths," and then dig deeper into his memories. One day Mr. Weigen told how some food he'd scrounged from an abandoned cellar near Auschwitz made him ill. "Listening to him, you know that this is the first time he has spoken of or thought of it since it happened," Edward said.

He talked about life in the Starachowice ghetto and described his journey to Dachau. He drew a diagram of the first room the soldiers gave him. He pulled out more photos his kids had never seen, including one of him with his sister, Klara, in the ghetto.

With the help of Mr. Weigen and John II, Edward began his own exploration of the past. He obtained the Jan. 26, 1945, list of Auschwitz prisoners transported to Buchenwald, which included his father. He learned that Mr. Weigen had altered his birthdate at Auschwitz to make himself two years older. He confirmed that Mr. Weigen's mother, and probably his sister, had died at Treblinka.

At the 2001 reunion, standing from left, John Withers II and Daisy Withers; sitting from left, Martin Weigen with grandson Christopher Weigen, John Withers and Margareta Weigen.



In the summer of 2001, the entire Withers family attended the wedding of Mr. Weigen's granddaughter in Connecticut. Mr. Withers sent cards, letters and birthday gifts to the Weigen and Bergren children. In e-mails, Ms. Bergren referred to John II as "my newfound brother." In the summer of 2002, Edward and his family visited the Witherses in Maryland. Health problems kept Mr. Weigen from traveling, but this year the families began planning another Connecticut reunion for the fall.

Five weeks ago, Mr. Withers stepped off another plane in Hartford, not for a reunion, but to bury Peewee.

Mr. Weigen died Oct. 16. He was 75. He'd been diagnosed with colon cancer in September. Near the end, Ms. Bergren told the doctor, "He's a Holocaust survivor. He can't suffer anymore."

About 40 people attended his memorial service at a funeral home near Hartford. Two easels and an album displayed photos: Mieczyslaw with his sister and mother on a summer day; Peewee and Salomon grinning with a black soldier named Dave; Messrs. Weigen and Withers hugging.

The room fell silent as Ms. Bergren stood and told how Mr. Withers gave her father "a new beginning." She asked Mr. Withers to stand. "For what you did that year to bring him back to us, we will be forever grateful," she said. "We love you for it."

Later Mr. Withers, 87, rose to speak. Behind him lay Mr. Weigen in a mahogany casket, wearing his favorite sweater and clutching a dried rose from his seaside house. Mr. Withers felt sad and a little confused. He'd thought that Mr. Weigen, as strong as he was, would hold on for a few years.

He smiled and said, "My name is John Withers, and I have known Martin longer than anyone in this room." He spoke of how Mr. Weigen had cheered his men, and how his gentle manner would endure in the two families who loved him. Finally, he recited the lyrics to a song Mr. Weigen had sung when he was simply Peewee, "Taps":

Day is done,
Gone the sun,
From the lakes,
From the hills,
From the sky.
All is well,
Safely rest,
God is nigh.

Survivors of the Dachau “death train” saved by an African American soldier

I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal, published on November 25, 2003, about a young Jewish boy who survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald and the death train to Dachau; you can read the full article here.  After Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, the boy was moved, along with other Dachau survivors, to the SS garrison next door to the concentration camp, which had been taken over by the American Army. There he met some African American soldiers who were in a supply convoy.  Lt. John Withers, the leader of the all-black convoy, violated Army orders by hiding this boy and another Dachau death train survivor among the black soldiers in his unit. The two boys stayed with the African American unit for more than a year while they recovered their health.  They could have remained with the other Displaced Persons at the SS garrison and been taken care of, but these two boys decided that they wanted their freedom after being in Nazi prison camps for years.

Dachau death train brought prisoners from Buchenwald to Dachau

The “death train” was  a transport train that arrived at Dachau on April 27, 1945 after a 20 day trip, bringing prisoners from the Buchenwald concentration camp.  Most stories about the train do not mention that there were survivors who entered the Dachau camp and were liberated two days later by American soldiers. You can read the full story of the death train here.

Here is a quote from the Wall Street Journal article which gives the gist of the story about the young survivor saved by an African American soldier who risked his future by disobeying orders:

From his labor camp near Auschwitz, where he had been for six months, 16-year-old Mieczyslaw heard the Russian cannons. In late January of 1945, the Nazis marched him and thousands of others northwest. Mieczyslaw wrapped his shoes in paper bags so he wouldn’t slip on the snow. Many who faltered were shot, he later recalled.

He wound up in the “Little Camp” at Buchenwald. In April, he was loaded onto a snow-filled train that zigzagged through Germany and Czechoslovakia for three weeks. He sat on a man who had frozen to death. When he arrived at Dachau, his ribs poked at his skin. He’d been there two days when U.S. troops liberated the camp on April 29, 1945.

U.S. soldiers moved Mieczyslaw and other inmates to an abandoned SS barracks near Munich, he recalled. One day Mieczyslaw discovered that a bag holding his only belongings — a few items of clothing — had been stolen. The theft so infuriated him that he left.

Dressed in his ragged prisoner’s uniform, Mieczyslaw walked to another barracks where he’d noticed black U.S. soldiers. He had heard that American blacks were poor and, like him, had faced discrimination.

He found members of Quartermaster Truck Company 3512 washing dishes. Using hand gestures and some German, he made them understand he wanted a job.

The men let Mieczyslaw help. That first night he slept outside on a table, he later recalled. The next morning, the soldiers gave him a room with a bed, a bureau, a desk and a window that looked out on a forest. They fed him goulash and bread, and gave him a nickname, “Peewee,” because his name was a mouthful and he was about 5 feet tall.

Then one morning, the soldiers told Mieczyslaw — now Peewee — that a lieutenant had learned of his presence, as well as that of another Dachau refugee, 20 years old, whom they’d dubbed “Salomon.” John Withers, who’d recently been promoted to first lieutenant, wanted to see them.

Quartermaster units had orders to avoid contact with the Dachau prisoners, Lt. Withers later recalled. His superiors worried that supply convoys would pick up diseases and spread them to other Army units. Researchers at the National Archives couldn’t locate specific records of such orders but said other records indicate that Army brass were acutely concerned about health risks posed by Dachau prisoners.

Lt. Withers had learned that it was especially important for blacks to follow orders in the segregated Army. He recalled worrying that sheltering Dachau refugees might get him a dishonorable discharge — and then there would be no GI Bill for him.

He assumed the two refugees were war-toughened men who were exploiting his soldiers’ sympathy. So he was unprepared when the soldiers brought Peewee and Salomon. The refugees seemed shrunken and frightened, really just boys, he recalled thinking.

Peewee would later recall that his knees felt weak as he waited for the lieutenant’s verdict. He assumed that his immediate family was dead. He was 16. He had no home, no money and no clothing but what he wore. He wanted no more part of the Allies’ displaced-persons camps. In the chaos following the war, he had no idea what to do next.

Lt. Withers assumed that Peewee and Salomon would be returned to Dachau, where thousands of former prisoners were still convalescing, according to Army dispatches from the summer of 1945. He’d been to Dachau on a bread-and-milk delivery shortly after it was liberated. He’d seen bodies decomposing in an open ditch, smelled the rotting flesh. How could he send them back?

“Keep them,” he recalled blurting to his men. “We’re going to take care of them.”

Abraham Klausner Born: in the U.S.

Rabbi Abraham Klausner was a U.S. army military chaplain. He arrived in the Dachau concentration camp in May 1945. He was attached to the 116th evacuation hospital unit and worked for about five years in displaced persons camps, assisting Jewish survivors.

Well, I came into Dachau at night, and I saw nothing except the main square coming through the big gates. And of course, I waited for the morning quite anxiously and when morning came, I walked through the barbed-wire gates into the barracks area, and selected one of the barracks. I entered it and there met the first of the survivors. It was a difficult experience for me because I was not confident that I could serve a purpose. I had nothing to offer. I had nothing to give. People needed amenities, needed attention of various kinds, and I had nothing. But nevertheless, there I was in Dachau and I felt I had to do something, and so I entered the barracks and stood there, terribly disturbed. Here we were in a period of liberation and the people were still in barracks, stretched out on shelves. There were three rows of shelves, nothing other than the shelves. There wasn't a ... a piece of linen of any kind. There wasn't a bar of soap. There wasn't a chair, place to sit down. It was just a, a dirty situation and here were the people either stretched out on the shelves or moving about listlessly. Paid no attention to me as if I didn't exist. No one came towards me to say, "Welcome," or, "What is it you want." They just, uh...I was just an apparition.


On Sunday, April 29, 1945, THE UNITED STATES ARMY liberated Dachau Concentration Camp. The first American soldier who entered the gate was Polish-American with a Polish flag in his hand. Also in that group of American soldiers was a Greek-American, whom I met in San Carlos 30 years later.


In that camp were men from every European country. Most of them were Polish Roman Catholics. By the end of 1941, there were approximately 14 thousand Polish men arrested, 1700 of which were Polish Roman Catholic priests. 

I arrived in Dachau in May of 1940 and my prisoner number was 11606. At this time, AUSCHWITZ and BIRKENAU Concentration Camps did not yet exist. On the Day of Liberation the number of prisoners at Dachau was 160 thousand and out of that total number only 32 thousand prisoners remained alive. One-third of these prisoners were sick with typhus and dysentery, and 2 thousand corpses lay in the crematorium for disposal.

During the 5 years I was there, 42 thousand Polish men arrived in that camp. 10 thousand died from hard labor, disease, malnutrition and medical experiments performed on prisoners. Of that number 1100 were Polish Roman Catholic priests.

Altogether, 32 thousand men died at Dachau from 22 European countries ranging in age from 14 years to 80 years old.

The camp had 30 barracks, each was numbered. In barrack number 30 alone, from December 1944 through April 1945 (a period of 5 months), the following number of men died: 168 Polish, 189 French, 46 Belgians, 110 Russians, 262 Italians, 56 Hollanders, 85 Hungarians, 320 Jews, 2 Rumanians, 25 Czechoslovakians, 30 Spaniards, 4 Litvenians, 16 Estonians, 9 Greeks, 6 Luxemburg, 9 Norwegians, 197 Germans, and 82 Yugoslavians, for a total number of 1616.

In the last few days before liberation, no S.S. Guards entered the camp. We were practically governing ourselves. After the liberation, no one was allowed to leave the camp for another 4 weeks for fear of spreading typhus and dysentery. The first healthy prisoners who left the camp were French, Hollanders and Belgians; after that, other Europeans were repatriated to their countries. The sick were still kept in the camp for a while before they were repatriated.

If the Americans came one day later, we would all be dead because there was an order given by the Germans to annihilate ALL the inmates of the camp by that evening, but the Americans came at 5:30 P.M. and saved us.

Memories Of Dachau Still Hold A Survivor

Published: October 26, 1997 Except for Mondays, when it is closed to the public, Martin Zaidenstadt returns each day to the concentration camp here where he was once imprisoned to tell the world what he believes to be the hidden truth about the place.

Clutching a sheaf of visiting cards and photographs, he patrols the crematory area of Dachau camp where, by the official count, some 30,000 of 200,000 prisoners died. With his walking-stick in his hand and a straw hat shielding a face tanned the color of walnuts, Mr. Zaidenstadt, 86, will tell anyone who asks that the number of dead was 10 times higher and that the gas chamber that the official guides say was never used was indeed used to terrifying effect.

After his tour of the horrors -- the execution sites, the ovens, the gas chamber, which he maintains became a model for Auschwitz -- he will offer one of his visiting cards in return for a small sum to help defray his costs, mainly that of his monthly pensioners' bus pass.

Dachau's official historians do not agree with Mr. Zaidenstadt's account. Indeed, the association of Dachau survivors in nearby Munich denies his version of events. Yet, most people who know him seem to acknowledge, Mr. Zaidenstadt, born of a Jewish family in Poland, fits a particular category of pain, made up of those who cannot shake their memories and must return to the scene of atrocity to pick over the wounds of the Holocaust.

''This is not the rule,'' said Rachel Salamander, who runs a book store in Munich specializing in Jewish literature. ''Most people don't want to go back there. I have never read anything about people who want to return every day.''

Max Mannheimer, who heads an association of Dachau survivors, lost six of the eight members of his family in Auschwitz before he was sent to Dachau in August 1944. ''Only very few people can talk about this time in public,'' he said. ''Even after 50 years, it's very hard for people to recall it.''

Mr. Mannheimer said that when he was freed from Dachau, he thought: ''I never wish to see this camp again.'' But after the war he married a Sudeten German from his native Czechoslovakia and returned to Munich, seeing his role now -- giving lectures and tours of Dachau -- as ''my self-given task to fight so that it will not be forgotten.''

90-year-old Survivor of Dachau Tells his Story

Memories of Dachau, as told by Torbjoern Oevsttun, a 90-year-old Norwegian survivor, were written recently by a blogger and you can read his stories here.  According to another post on the blog, “Torbjoern was arrested because he was a member of the Kristian Stein organisation which was illegal, but did not carry a death sentence. They didn’t know about his other activities. If they had he would not be alive today.”  (Torbjoern was fighting illegally with the Norwegian Resistance.)

This quote from the blog tells about executions at Dachau, something that is completely new to me:

An area about a kilometre outside their (Dachau) camp, called Hermansplatz, was the place of execution.  Doomed prisoners were marched to this site daily.  A few managed to escape, but not many.  Torbjoern talked about the daily massacre of hundreds of men.  There were 400 prisoners in each barrack, measuring 10×9 metres.

When the Norwegians arrived in Dachau there were 30,000 prisoners in the camp and more arrived every day.  It looked like the Germans were determined to exterminate as many people as possible.  They began with the outermost barracks and worked their way systematically, killing 400 a day.  It sends chills down my spine when I heard Torbjoern say that their barrack was one day away from being the next target.  But that’s when the Americans arrived.  The day was 29th of April 1945.


I am not familiar with the name Hermansplatz, so I had to google it. Hermannsplatz (note the spelling) is near Berlin, but there is no such place as Hermansplatz.  Could he have meant Herbertshausen, the place near Dachau where Soviet POWs were allegedly shot for target practice?

Some people might say that this man’s memory is failing him because he is 90 years old.  Actually, old people can remember things from their younger days very clearly.  It is what they had for breakfast that old people can’t remember.

The number 400 is very curious.  I have read that 400 people per day were dying of typhus at Dachau just before the American liberators arrived.  Could it be that there was no typhus epidemic at Dachau and the Germans were really executing 400 prisoners per day?

Some Holocaust experts say that prisoners were brought to Dachau near the end of the war in order to kill them, not to surrender them to the Allies.  Torbjoern was sent to several different prison camps before he was finally sent to Dachau to be killed.  As the blogger mentioned, Torbjoern was a member of an organization that was fighting illegally and he could have been legally executed if the extent of his activities had been known, but he was kept alive for years before being transferred to Dachau to be executed.  He was saved just in time by the American liberators.

An American Jewish Soldier’s Letter to his Wife about the Dachau “death train”

On May 1, 1945, a Jewish soldier in the American Army saw the “death train” outside the Dachau concentration camp; a few days later, he wrote home about it. Dachau had been liberated on April 29, 1945, but on May 1st, this soldier did not know whether the train, filled with dead bodies, had just arrived or if it was just leaving.

This is a quote from the letter written by 1st Lt. Fritz Schnaittacher to his wife; you can read the full text of the letter here.

… the most striking picture I saw was the “death train” — I say picture, no not picture, but carload and carload full of corpses, once upon a time people, who were alive, who were happy and people who had convictions or were Jews — then slowly but methodically they were killed. Death has an ugly face on these people — they were starved to death — the positions they were lying in show that they succumbed slowly — they made one move, fell, were too weak to make another move, and there are hundreds of such lifeless skeletons covered by some skin. I tried to find out the origin of this train. Some of the stories corresponded — whether this train was to leave Dachau or had just arrived is not essential — essential is that they were locked into these cattle cars without sanitation and without food. The SS had to take off in a hurry — we came too fast — it was too late to cover up their atrocities.  

Note that he “tried to find out the origin of this train,”  but it was of no importance to him whether the train was coming or going; the “essential” part of the story is that the prisoners were locked in the cars without food.

The infamous "death train" parked outside the Dachau camp

Young German boys forced to view the bodies on the Dachau "death train"

The photo above shows American soldiers forcing German boys in the Hitler Youth, some as young as 12 years old, to look at the dead bodies on the train.

The dead prisoners had been on the train for 19 days. Out of around 4,500 or 5,000 prisoners who had been put on the train, there were 1,300 survivors who had been able to walk the short distance from the railroad spur line into the Dachau prison compound, according to two of the survivors, as told to Sam Dann, who wrote “Dachau 29 April 1945.”

Why didn’t 1st Lt. Fritz Schnaittacher talk with some of the 1300 survivors?  He was fluent in German, having been born in Germany, and lived there until 1933.  Why didn’t he talk with Martin Rosenfeld, a Jewish survivor, who testified before an American Military Tribunal that some of the prisoners had been killed by American planes which strafed the train? Why didn’t he talk with some of the members of the International Committee of Dachau, a prisoners’ organization that was in charge of the camp after the SS guards had left on April 28th?

Maybe he did talk with some of the survivors of the “death train,” and he knew the truth about the train, but he could not write home about it because this information was being kept secret.

It is interesting that 1st Lt. Schnaittacher did mention the liberation of Dachau, but he left out the part about Waffen-SS soldiers being gunned down with their hands in the air, after they had surrendered the camp.

Here is a quote from his letter about the liberation of Dachau:

Our regiment took Dachau or should I say liberated the human wreckage which was left there. This I consider one of the most glorious pages in the history of our regiment, not because the fighting was tough, it wasn’t, but because it finally opened the gates of one of the world’s most hellish places.

According to Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, the commander of the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Thunderbird Division, he received orders at 10:15 a.m. on April 29, 1945 to liberate the Dachau camp, and the soldiers of I Company were the first to arrive at the camp around 11 a.m. that day.

Is this the “regiment” that 1st Lt. Schnaittacher was referring to in his letter?  If he was with the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Division, then there is no way that he would not have known about the Dachau massacre when German soldiers were shot with their hands in the air.  Is that what he was referring to when he wrote about “one of the most glorious pages in the history of our regiment” and that the fighting wasn’t “tough”?  He was right about that; it is not a tough fight when you shoot unarmed soldiers who have surrendered.  Of course, he was not allowed to tell his wife the truth about the Dachau massacre because the Army kept this violation of the Geneva Convention a secret for over 40 years.

Here is the back story on the “death train” which 1st Lt. Schnaittacher didn’t tell his wife:

In April 1945, while the US Seventh Army was fighting its way across southern Germany, capturing one town after another with little resistance, the prisoners who had been evacuated from the abandoned Ohrdruf forced labor camp to the Buchenwald main camp were starting on the journey which would end on a railroad track just outside the Dachau concentration camp. On April 7th, the prisoners had been marched 5 kilometers from the Buchenwald camp to the city of Weimar. At 9 p.m. on April 8th, they were put onto a southbound train, headed to the Flossenbürg concentration camp.

The prisoners were guarded by 20 SS soldiers under the command of Hans Merbach. For their journey, which was expected to be relatively short, they were given “a handful of boiled potatoes, 500 grams of bread, 50 grams of sausage and 25 grams of margarine” according to Merbach, who was quoted by Hans-Günther Richardi in his book, “Dachau, A Guide to its Contemporary History.” According to Richardi, the train which left Weimar on April 8th was filled with 4,500 prisoners who were French, Italian, Austrian, Polish, Russian and Jewish.

According to Dachau author Hans-Günther Richardi, five hours after the train departed from Weimar, Hans Merbach, the transport leader, was informed that the Flossenbürg concentration camp had already been liberated by the Americans. Before the Americans arrived, the prisoners at Flossenbürg had been evacuated and death marched to Dachau. The train from Buchenwald had to be rerouted to Dachau but it took almost three weeks to get there because of numerous delays caused by American planes bombing the railroad tracks.

The train had to take several very long detours through Leipzig, Dresden and finally through the town of Pilsen in Czechoslovakia. In the village of Nammering in Upper Bavaria, the train was delayed for four days while the track was repaired, and the mayor of the town brought bread and potatoes for the prisoners, according to Harold Marcuse in his book “Legacies of Dachau.” Continuing on via Pocking, the train was attacked by American planes because they thought it was a military transport, according to Richardi. Many of the prisoners were riding in open freight cars with no protection from the hail of bullets.

The final leg of the journey was another detour through Mühldorf and then Munich, arriving in Dachau early on the afternoon of April 26th, three days before the liberation of the camp. According to Gleb Rahr, one of the survivors, the prisoners were then taken to the Quarantine Barracks and given “hot oat soup,” which he said was “the first food of any kind” that was given to them since the start of the trip. In his account of the trip, Rahr said that the only food the prisoners got for the whole trip was one loaf of bread on the first day. He mentioned the four-day stop in Nammering, but did not say that the prisoners were given any food, as claimed by the mayor of the town. Rahr told about the bodies from the train that were burned at Nammering. The burning was unsuccessful and the prisoners had to bury the bodies, according to Rahr.

By the time that the 45th Thunderbird Infantry Division soldiers arrived in the town of Dachau, the locomotive had been removed from the abandoned train and 39 cars, half of them with dead prisoners, had been left standing on a siding on Friedenstrasse, just outside the railroad gate into the SS Garrison. Inside the SS camp, another freight train stood on the tracks, but this one was empty.

Among the survivors on the Death Train was a Jewish prisoner named Martin Rosenfeld, who testified before an American Military Tribunal in the proceedings against Hans Merbach. Rosenfeld testified that there were 1,100 survivors out of 5,000 who had boarded the train. According to Rosenfeld’s account, the train arrived at Dachau on April 26, 1945, although Gleb Rahr and Joseph Knoll told author Sam Dann that the date was April 27, 1945.

In his testimony before the American Military Tribunal in 1947, Hans Merbach said the train had arrived on April 26, 1945. The confusion about the date may have been caused by the fact that there were actually two trains that arrived at Dachau. One of them was parked inside the SS camp complex and it was empty.

Survivor of the "death train" at Dachau

The American liberators of Dachau never missed an opportunity to turn the tragedy of the “death train” into propaganda.  The photo above shows a prisoner being removed from the train by American soldiers.  This scene was re-enacted by the Americans with the claim that this was the one and only survivor of the “death train.”

The alleged "lone survivor" of the Dachau "death train" poses for a publicity photo

The photograph directly above shows Lt. Col. Donald E. Downard on the right and Captain Roy Welbourn on the left, in a posed shot of the rescue of a survivor of the “death train.” Lt. Col. Downard personally took the survivor to the Aid Station, but on the way there, his driver wrecked the jeep they were riding in and Downard suffered a concussion. Downard was then ordered to continue on to Munich while Col. “Mickey” Fellenz was ordered to take charge of the concentration camp.

Regarding the train outside the Dachau camp, Michael W. Perry wrote the following in his Editor’s Preface to The Official Report by the U.S. Seventh Army:

For many of the soldiers who stumbled onto the camp that day, their first glimpse into its horrors came as they walked along a rail spur outside the camp. Crammed into railroad cars and scattered along the tracks were the bodies of men who had been alive when they had begun the long journey during which their captors fully expected them to die of thirst and starvation. At the end of that journey, Dachau’s crematory stood eagerly waiting.

According to the US Army, there were 2,310 dead bodies on the “death train,” although Red Cross representative Victor Maurer estimated that there were only 500 bodies. The train had taken almost three weeks to travel 220 miles from the Buchenwald camp to Dachau because the tracks had been bombed by American planes. Prisoners riding in open gondola cars had been killed when American planes strafed the train, according to Pvt. John Lee, a soldier with the 45th Division who saw the train.

The sight of the dead bodies on the train enraged the soldiers of I Company in the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Division and it was understood that they would take no prisoners. The first four SS soldiers who came forward carrying a white flag of surrender were ordered into an empty box car by Lt. William Walsh and shot.

Then Lt. Walsh “segregated from surrendered prisoners of war those who were identified as SS Troops,” according to a report by the Office of the Inspector General of the Seventh Army, dated June 8, 1945.

The following is a quote from the I.G. report:

“6. Such segregated prisoners of war were marched into a separate enclosure, lined up against the wall and shot down by American troops, who were acting under the orders of Lt. Walsh. A light machine gun, carbines, and either a pistol or a sub-machine gun were used. Seventeen of such prisoners of war were killed, and others were wounded.”

These were Waffen-SS soldiers who had been sent from the battlefield to surrender the Dachau concentration camp. They had offered no resistance to the liberators. According to Ted Hibbard, who works at the 45th Division Museum, the freed inmates were given 45 caliber pistols by soldiers in the 45th Division and allowed to shoot and beat the SS men who had been sent to surrender the camp.

No Americans were ever put on trial for killing soldiers who had surrendered at Dachau, but Hans Merbach, the man who was in charge of the guards of the “death train,” was prosecuted as a “war  criminal” by an American Military Tribunal.

The interrogation of Hans Merbach, by the Americans, took place at Freising on July 11, 1945 at which time Merbach later testified during his trial that “Officers were beaten with a piece of cable in the face. And that, I suppose, is why the most incredible stories came out, particularly concerning this transport.”

Hans Merbach, the leader of the "death train"

On August 14, 1947, Hans Merbach was convicted by the Tribunal at Dachau and sentenced to death. He was the last of the war criminals in the main Buchenwald trial to be hanged; the date of his execution was January 14, 1949.

It is commonly believed today by Holocaust experts that the prisoners on the death train were put onto the train in order to kill them by starving them as they rode around Germany and Czechoslovakia during the last days  of the war.  Some sources claim that dead bodies had been brought to Dachau to be burned, although the Dachau camp had run out of coal months ago.

In his testimony before the American Military Tribunal in 1947, Merbach explained that the purpose of evacuating these prisoners from the Buchenwald camp had been to keep them from being released by American troops who were nearing Buchenwald. After Buchenwald was liberated, the Americans did provide the liberated prisoners with guns and American jeeps and the prisoners went down to Weimar where they engaged in an orgy of raping, looting and killing innocent German civilians.  Elie Wiesel wrote about this in his original version of “Night,” so it must be true.

In his defense, Merbach claimed that he had gone out of his way to get additional food for the prisoners after he realized that the train would be delayed because the tracks had been bombed by Allied planes. He said that when he tried to get more food, he was told that there was “barely any bread left” at Buchenwald.

When the train stopped at Dresden, the captain of the police there told Merbach that “it was impossible to get a piece of bread because the city was overrun with refugees.” The refugees were German women and children who were trying to escape from the advancing Russian soldiers. Dresden had been fire bombed by American and British planes, only 8 week before, and thousands of civilians had been killed.

Merbach testified that at every stop, he sent four prisoners to the National Socialist Welfare Association to get buckets of water for the other prisoners. The photo below shows one of the box cars with a bucket in it.

A water bucket in one of the cars on the death train

In his defense, Merbach testified that the citizens of Pilsen in Czechoslovakia had not brought food to the train. The next stop was Namering, a town in Upper Bavaria. There the prisoners did receive rations from the people in the town, according to Merbach. This was confirmed by the mayor of Namering.

Merbach testified that some of the prisoners had escaped from the train, which sounds plausible since they were riding in open boxcars. Merbach’s crime was that he had participated in the Nazi “common plan” to commit war crimes because he had prevented the escape of most of the prisoners from the train. Merbach said that he could not release the prisoners because “every time a prisoner escaped the most incredible things were happening among the civilian population.”

It is now almost 66 years since the “death train” was discovered at Dachau, but the truth is still not being told.  Instead, the letter written by a Jewish soldier is published and the lies continue.

(Legal Bulletin of the Reich No. 17), February 28, 1933.

Reichsgesetzblatt Nr. 17 (Legal Bulletin of the Reich No. 17), February 28, 1933.

The Dachau Gas Chambers

Münchner Neueste Nachrichten (The Munich Latest News), March 21, 1933.

The Dachau Gas Chambers Photograph 3

Völkischer Beobachter (The People's Observer), March 21, 1933.

The Dachau Gas Chambers Photograph 4

Survivors in Dachau. (May 1945)

(Picture from the Francis Robert Arzt Collection, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives.)


Survivors in Dachau. (May 1945)

Survivors of Dachau Concentration Camp, May 1945.


the Dachau Trials Trials by U.S. Army Courts in Europe 1945 - 1948


Nazi Crimes on Trial Introduction

(from the general introduction to the corresponding NARA microfilms)

The ‘Dachau Trials’

From 1945 to 1948, U.S. Army Courts (military commissions and special or general military courts) tried 1672 individuals in 489 proceedings.* Specific authority for these proceedings is found in Joint Chiefs of Staff Directive 1023/10 of July 8, 1945, which placed responsibility for certain war crimes trials in Germany on the Commander, USFET (United States Forces, European Theater). The Commander, in turn, empowered the commanding general of the Western Military District (territory occupied by the U.S. 3d Army (Bavaria)) to appoint military courts, predominantly at the site of the former concentration camp Dachau, for the trial of war criminals not heard at Nuernberg. This was done in a letter on the subject of "Trial of War Crimes and Related Cases" of July 16, 1945. The commanding general of the Eastern Military District (territory occupied by the U.S. 7th Army (Hesse, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Bremen)) was similarly authorized to commence war crimes trials, mainly at Ludwigsburg. In order to streamline operations, the Commander, USFET, revoked this division of authority in a letter of October 14, 1946, and assigned responsibility to prosecute war criminals to the Deputy Judge Advocate for War Crimes, USFET. Henceforth, all cases were tried at the site of the former concentration camp Dachau because centralization of war crimes appeared necessary in view of the large body of cases and investigations.

The 489 cases tried by the U.S. Army in Germany can be divided roughly into four categories: main concentration camp cases, subsequent concentration camp cases, flier cases and miscellaneous cases. The first category comprises 6 cases with about 200 defendants, mainly staff members and guards at Dachau, Buchenwald, Flossenburg, Mauthausen, Nordhausen and Muehldorf concentration camps. The second category includes about 250 proceedings against approximately 800 guards and staff members of the outcamps and branch camps of the major camps. The third category encompasses more than 200 cases in which about 600 persons, mostly German civilians, were prosecuted for the killing of some 1200 U.S. nationals, mostly airmen. The fourth category consists of a few cases, including the Malmedy Massacre Case, in which 73 SS men were tried for murdering large groups of surrendered U.S. prisoners of war; the Hadamar Case, in which a number of Hadamar Asylum staff members stood trial for the killing of about 400 Russian and Polish nationals; and the Skorzeny Case, in which some members of the German Armed Forces were charged with wearing U.S. Army uniforms while participating in the Ardennes offensive.

U.S. Army Trial Reviews and Recommendations

A review and recommendation is a summary of the records of a trial, examined by reviewers to verify that the trial was conducted in a legal manner and that the rights of the accused had not been violated. These reviews automatically followed all U.S. Army-conducted trials.
Until mid October 1946, trials were conducted by the U.S. Armies in Europe, within each Army's area of jurisdiction. While the vast majority were conducted by the 3rd and 7th Army Commands, a few of the early trials were conducted by the 1st and 15th Armies and the United States Forces in Austria. During the 1945-1946 period, reviews and recommendations were prepared from the trial record by the posttrial units of the Army Commands convening the courts. They were reviewed by the pertinent Army staff judge advocates, and the commanding generals. Death sentences required a last review by the European Theater Commander.
From October 1946 to July 1948, the conduct of U.S. war crimes trials was centralized under the Deputy Judge Advocate for War Crimes and the trials held at the site of the former concentration camp Dachau. During this period reviews and recommendations were prepared by the Deputy Judge Advocate for War Crimes. They were reviewed by the Judge Advocate and, for death sentences, the Theater Commander.

Records Description

A typical review and recommendation contains paragraphs for the following subjects: trial data and charges, summaries of evidence, personal information regarding the accused, evidence presented by prosecution and defence counsel, and petitions for clemency; the conclusions of the reviewer and the recommendation, either of an Army staff judge advocate or the Deputy Judge Advocate for War Crimes, complete the record.
The case files to which the first 227 reviews and recommendations pertain were filed and are arranged by a two-number mail and records system employed by the European and Washington Offices of the War Crimes Branch, Office of the Judge Advocate General. The same system is used for the reviews and recommendations. The first number designates a country, and the second number identifies the case within the country. In Case 5-37, for example, the first number represents Austria, the country in which the crime was alleged to have been committed; and the second number identifies the case among the other Austrian cases tried or investigated between 1945 and 1948. All of the case files in this publication arranged by the wto-number system have one of the following five country designations: 5 - Austria, 6 - Belgium, 8 - Czechoslovakia, 11 - France, or 12 - Germany.
The remaining reviews and recommendations are arranged by one of two modified mail and records systems. One system consists of a sequence of numbers beginning with a triple zero, 000, followed by the number 50, 000-50. These two-number sequences indicate concentration camp cases. A third number in this sequence stands for a main camp case. Thus 000-50-2 is for the Dachau Concentration Camp Case, 000-50-5 is for the Mauthausen Case, 000-50-9 is for the Buchenwald Case, 000-50-37 is for the Nordhausen Case, 000-50-16 is for the Flossenburg Case, and 000-50-136 is for the Muehldorf Concentration Camp Case.

The subsequent proceedings to these main cases were designated either by adding a fourth number to the sequence such as 000-50-2-1, indicating the first subsequent proceeding to the Dachau main concentration camp case; or using a triple zero followed by the name of the main camp and the number of the subsequent proceeding, 000-Buchenwald-1. The apparent difference between these two methods of identifying subsequent concentration camp cases is that the charges under the first method were substantially the same as in the main case; whereas in the second method the accused were tried under additional charges.


List of Tried Cases



Dachau: Principal Distinguishing Badges Worn by Prisoners

Dachau, Concentration Camp, OSS section, Seventh Army




U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Delbert R. Walden

My father, U.S. Army Air Forces Lt. Delbert R. Walden, visited the Dachau concentration camp in 1945-46, while he was stationed in the Munich area. When these photos were taken, Dachau was being used by the U.S. Third Army to detain Nazi prisoners. Dachau was the scene of war crimes trials against those members of the camp administration and guard force who had been captured by the Allies, and later for the notorious "Malmedy Massacre" trial of 1st SS Panzer Division members. The cylindrical structure in the photo on the left was a "Moll System" concrete bunker (used as guard positions at Dachau). The buildings shown here were in the SS Kaserne part of the site, which is now used by the Bavarian Police (closed to the public).  (G.R. and G.A. Walden collection)

Original Dachau Compound

This aerial view shows most of the original Dachau compound, including the buildings shown on this webpage. From the left: #1 - Jourhaus Gate, #2 - prisoner compound,
#3 - crematorium area, #4 - Kommandantur, #5 - factory buildings, #6 - SS Kaserne, #7 - old munitions factory headquarters buildings (Avenue of the SS),
#8 (on right side) - original munitions factory area. The only part of the site open to the public is the memorial area at #s 1-2-3.  (Dachau-Archiv)

Dachau Trials US vs. Martin Gottfried Weiss

Dachau Trials US vs. Martin Gottfried Weiss, et al




American Military Tribunal proceedings were held in this building at Dachau


The first "Dachau Trial," which began on November 15, 1945, is sometimes called "the trial of Martin Gottfried Weiss and 39 others," but it was officially known as US vs. Martin Gottfried Weiss, et al. The proceedings took place in a courtroom set up in one of the buildings inside the former Dachau camp complex, as shown in the photo above.

The "Dachau trials" were actually the proceedings of an American Military Tribunal, not trials in the ordinary sense. The accused were considered to be guilty as charged, and the burden of proof was on them, not on the prosecution.

The attorneys on both sides were American military officers, as were the members of the panel which acted as the judge and jury. The chief prosecutor was Lt. Col. William Denson. He was assisted by Captain Philip Heller, Captain William D. Lines, and Captain Richard G. McCuskey.

Lt. Paul Guth was the chief interrogator who was in charge of getting signed confessions from the accused before the proceedings began. Lt. Guth was a Jew who had emigrated to the United States from Vienna, Austria in 1941.




Capt. John Barnett identifies US Army photos of Dachau



Chief prosecutor Lt. Col. William Denson is the man on the right


The defense team was led by Lt. Col. Douglas Bates. The other team members were Major Maurice McKeown, Captain John May, and Captain Dalwin Niles. The accused were allowed to have a German lawyer represent them and they chose Baron Hans Karl von Posern, a former inmate in the Mauthausen concentration camp who was incarcerated at Dachau, awaiting trial himself. Von Posern proved to be such a good lawyer that he was given a job on the prosecution team during the proceedings against the Mauthausen concentration camp staff.

The tribunal which sat in judgment of the accused consisted of 8 senior officers: Brig. Gen. John Lenz, who was the President of the Court, and Col. Laird Richards, Col. Wendell Blanchard, Col. George E. Brunner, Col. G. R. Scithers, Col. Lester Abele, Col. Peter O. Ward, and Col. John R. Jeter.

On November 2, 1945 and November 4, 1945 charges against the following 42 men, who were the accused in the proceedings, entitled US vs. Martin Gottfried Weiss, et al, were read in the courtroom at Dachau in German and in English:

1. Martin Gottfried Weiss
2. Friedrich Wilhelm Ruppert
3. Josef Jarolin
4. Franz Xaver Trenkle
5. Engelbert Valentin Niedermeyer
6. Josef Seuss 
7. Leonard Anself Eichberger
8. Wilhelm Wagner
9. Johann Kick
10. Dr. Fritz Hintermayer
11. Dr. Wilhelm Witteler
12. Johann Baptist Eichelsdorfer
13. Otto Foerschner,
14. Dr. Hans Kurt Eisele
15. Dr. Klaus Karl Schilling
16. Christof Ludwig Knoll
17. Dr. Fridolin Karl Puhl
18. Franz Boettger
19. Peter Betz
20. Anton Endres
21. Simon Kiern
22. Michael Redwitz
23. Wilhelm Welter
24. Rudolf Heinrich Suttrop
25. Wilhelm Tempel
26. Hugo Alfred Erwin Lausterer
27. Fritz M.K. Becher
28. Alfred Kramer
29. Sylvester Filleboeck
30. Vinzenz Schoettl
31. Albin Gretsch
32. Johann Viktor Kirsch
Hans Aumeier
33. Emil Erwin Mahl
34. Walter Adolf Langleist
35. Johann Schoepp
36. Arno Lippmann
Hans Bayer 
37. Fritz Degelow
38. Otto Moll 
39. Otto Schulz
40. Friedrich Wetzel

Although Hans Aumeier and Hans Bayer were included in the charges read on November 2nd, they were not among the accused when the proceedings began, so they were not assigned a number. SS-Hauptsturmführer Hans Aumeier was tried by a Polish court in Krakow for war crimes committed when he was an assistant to Rudolf Hoess, the Commandant of Auschwitz. He was convicted and hanged on January 28, 1948. Bayer was prosecuted in a subsidiary proceeding at a later time; he was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, but his sentence was commuted to 15 years in prison.

The charges against Martin Gottfried Weiss, et al were brought by The General Military Court, appointed by Par. 3, Special Order 304, Headquarters Third United States Army and Eastern Military District, dated 2 November 1945, to be held at Dachau, Germany, on, or about, November 15, 1945. Two charges of Violation of the Laws and Usages of War were brought against the defendants.

The first charge alleged that the Dachau accused "acting in pursuance of a common design to commit the acts hereinafter alleged, and as members of the staff of Dachau Concentration Camp and camps subsidiary thereto, did, at, or in the vicinity of DACHAU and LANDSBERG, Germany, between about 1 January 1942 and about 29 April 1945, willfully, deliberately and wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the subjection of civilian nationals of nations then at war with the then German Reich to cruelties and mistreatment, including killings, beatings, tortures, starvation, abuses and indignities, the exact names and numbers of such civilian nationals being unknown but aggregating many thousands who were then and there in the custody of the German Reich in exercise of belligerent control."

The second charge was worded exactly the same as the first, except that it specified "members of the armed forces," instead of civilians. Like the first charge, no names of victims or specific acts against members of the armed forces were listed.

Note that the charges included killings, beatings, tortures, starvation, abuses and indignities, but there was no specific charge of gassing, although a film of the Dachau gas chamber was shown on November 29, 1945 at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, two weeks after the Dachau proceedings began. It was not known whether any victims who might have been killed in the Dachau gas chamber were from Allied countries, so this charge was not included.

Crimes against German citizens, and others who were not civilians or military personnel in an Allied country, were not included; it was left up to the German courts to bring charges against the concentration camp staff members for crimes against victims from non-Allied countries. The charges included only Violations of the Laws and Usages of War and not Crimes against Humanity.

In 1963, charges of gassing prisoners were brought by a German court in Frankfurt against 22 former staff members of the Auschwitz death camp, but the staff members at Dachau never had to answer to a German court for gassing prisoners at Dachau. In fact, the head of the Institute for Contemporary History, Martin Brozat, had declared in 1960 that there was no gas chamber at Dachau.

The charges against Martin Gottfried Weiss, and the 39 other members of the Dachau staff, were based on the theory that all of them had participated in a "common design" to run the concentration camp in a manner which had caused the prisoners great suffering, severe injury or death. The period of time covered by the charges was from January 1, 1942 until April 29, 1945. Although the camp had been in operation since March 22, 1933, this was roughly the period of time that the Dachau camp had been in existence while America was at war with Germany.

The basis for the prosecution of staff members of the Nazi concentration camps was that some of the inmates had been captured enemy soldiers who were Prisoners of War and consequently they should have been treated according to the rules of the Geneva Convention, including the Russian POWs, although the Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention and had not followed it during the war. Other inmates in the Nazi camps were political prisoners, partisans, resistance fighters or insurgents from German-occupied countries; they were considered by the American prosecutors to be comparable to Prisoners of War although the 1929 Geneva Convention did not give insurgents the same rights as POWs. In fact, the resistance fighters in German-occupied countries had violated the rules of the 1929 Geneva Convention themselves by continuing to fight after their countries had surrendered.

Of the 40 men who were prosecuted in the main Dachau case, all had held some position of authority in the concentration camp, although not all of them had served at the same time and they did not necessarily know each other. Nine of the men had at one time been camp commandants or deputy camp commandants; one was an adjutant and three were on the administrative staff of the commandant. Five of the accused were medical officers and two were medical orderlies. Three were guards and one was an officer in charge of a battalion of guards. Four were Kapos, or prisoners who were in charge of other inmates, and one was the supply officer. Four of the accused were block leaders who were SS men in charge of a barrack, as well as being in charge of work parties.

Johann Kick, one of the accused, was in charge of the political department at Dachau. Otto Schultz was a carpenter in the Dachau camp. Engelbert Niedermeyer had worked in the crematorium. Vinzenz Schoettl had previously worked at the Auschwitz III-Monowitz camp and Otto Moll was a former staff member at Auschwitz II-Birkenau. Moll was put on trial at Dachau because he had preventd prisoners from escaping as he led an evacuation march from the Kaufering II sub-camp to the Dachau camp. Albin Gretsch and Johann Schoepp were guards who had prevented prisoners from escaping from transports to Dachau.

These 40 were not selected, out of the thousands of SS men who had worked at the camp, because their crimes were the most heinous. Rather, they were selected as a representative group because included among them were staff members from every category of personnel in the concentration camp. The purpose was to show that anyone connected with a Nazi concentration camp was guilty of a crime, regardless of his personal behavior.

Witnesses for the prosecution were former prisoners in the Dachau concentration camp who were given room and board and a payment of 1,000 Deutschmarks for their testimony, according to Joshua M. Greene, in his book ""Justice at Dachau." They were housed in the SS buildings on the former Avenue of the SS, which was named Tennessee Road by the Americans who were working on the trials. The photograph below shows one of these buildings which is still standing.




Building where prosecution witnesses were housed


There were seats for 300 spectators in the courtroom at Dachau and for each day of the trial, there were 300 tickets issued to German civilians in the nearby towns.

The following quote is from "Witness to Barbarism," written by Horace R. Hansen, one of the prosecutors at Dachau:

For each day of the trial, we issue 300 tickets to civilians in different towns near Dachau. American personnel trucks will pick them up. They will receive a warm lunch and be returned to their homes about 5:30 P.M. Signs to this effect are posted in each town.

The tickets go quickly. The German civilians who attend the trial see each prisoner point out his torturer, according to a defendant number (1 to 40) hung on his chest. This is the first time that most of the spectators hear the truth. American soldiers who dress as locals and speak in the local dialect give us before-and-after reactions of the civilians. Before distributing tickets for each town, two soldiers listen to groups of civilians, who usually say, in effect: "Those Americans on the radio are lying about what went on in the Dachau camp." The two then return to the town to listen again, after the civilians have heard some of the testimony. This time they say, "It was terrible what went on in that camp."

From the accumulation of evidence, we know that German civilians living near main camps or subcamps occasionally saw the gaunt, ill-clad prisoners being marched along roads toward nearby factories. At times, a civilian close to a main camp caught the stench from a tall chimney and perhaps deduced cremation. The civilians certainly knew the prisoners were foreigners working against their will. But the only information the civilians received from the controlled media was that the workers were common criminals or enemies of the Reich.

Alex Piorkowski

Alex Piorkowski was the SS Camp Commandant of Dachau concentration camp in Germany for nearly three years from 7 January 1939 until 2 January 1942.

The proceedings of an American Military Tribunal against Alex Piorkowski, a former Commandant of the Dachau Concentration Camp, started in early January 1947 and Piorkowski was sentenced to death by hanging on January 17, 1947. This was a subsidiary case conducted after the main proceedings against Martin Gottfried Weiss, and 39 others on the Dachau concentration camp staff, which began in November 1945.




Alex Piorkowski after he was captured by the British in 1945


The photo above supposedly shows Alex Piorkowski, but there is a remarkable resemblance to another Dachau Commandant, Hans Lortiz, whose photo is shown at the Dachau Museum.

Like all the other Dachau accused, Piorkowski was convicted of participating in a "common design" to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Convention of 1929. His alleged crimes included acts of brutality against concentration camp prisoners who were civilians, or members of the armed forces, in countries that were allied with America in World War II.

The Piorkowski case was unremarkable and would have been quickly swept into the dust bin of history, had it not been for the vigorous protest of his sentence by the chief defense council, Major Bigelow Boysen of the US Army. Boysen believed so strongly in Piorkowski's innocence that he even tried to bring the case before the Supreme Court of the United States, but it was rejected. After Boysen was discharged from the Army, he continued to fight for the release of Piorkowski, although he was no longer responsible for his defense.

Alex Bernhard Piorkowski was the Commandant at Dachau in 1941 and 1942, but during the winter of 1941 and 1942, he was away from the camp for extended periods due to illness.

According to Harold Marcuse in his book, "Legacies of Dachau," Heinrich Himmler "punished several of the sadistic and corrupt concentration camp commandants" including Piorkowski who was fired from his position as Commandant of Dachau, as of September 1, 1942 when Martin Gottfried Weiss replaced him. However, it was brought out during his trial that Piorkowski was transferred out of Dachau in June 1942.

According to Paul Berben in his book "Dachau 1933 - 1945, The Official History," Piorkowski was later kicked out of the Nazi party. Berben wrote that Piorkowski "rarely entered the prisoners' camp. He was not active, and left most things in the hands of his subordinates. They were given a free reign and could treat prisoners as they wished."

Heinz Höhne mentions in his book, "The Order of the Death's Head: The Story of Hitler's SS," that Piorkowski was indicted for murder, but not convicted, by SS officer Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, who was an investigator and the judge of an SS special court.

As a defense witness for the SS, Morgen testified at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal on 7 August 1946 that he had looked at 800 documents that pertained to the concentration camp cases of corruption and murder. His investigations began in 1943 at the Buchenwald camp and eventually resulted in 200 indictments including 5 concentration camp commandants who were arrested and put on trial. Dr. Morgen mentioned in his Nuremberg testimony that he was imprisoned in the bunker at the Dachau camp while the Military Tribunals were in progress and his cell mates included some of the people that he had arrested and investigated, which might have included Piorkowski.

Berben mentioned in his official history of Dachau that investigations of camp conditions at Dachau were conducted by Morgen between May and July of 1943. However, by that time, the Commandant of Dachau was Martin Weiss, the successor of Piorkowski.

The crimes which were charged against the accused at the Dachau trials were only those committed between January 1, 1942 and May 8, 1945 during the time that Germany was engaged in a war against America and its allies. This meant that any atrocities committed in the Dachau concentration camp before January 1, 1942 would not count. Piorkowski had only been present in the Dachau camp for approximately 6 months during this period. Under the "common design" concept of co-responsibility, Piorkowski was guilty of any violations of the Laws and Usages of War while he was the Commandant, regardless of his personal conduct toward the prisoners.

During the proceedings in the Piorkowski case, he was accused of working with an SS man named Sitte on the medical experiments at Dachau in 1942. Major Boysen checked the SS records and learned that Piorkowski and Sitte had not served at Dachau during the same time period.

As in all the Dachau cases, Piorkowski's trial was reviewed by the US Military after sentencing. The lawyer who reviewed the Piorkowski case was First Lieutenant Elmer Moody. At the end of his report, Moody wrote, regarding Piorkowski: "He participated in the common design to a very substantial degree. The evidence is sufficient to support the findings and sentence of the Court."

Major Boysen tried to get clemency for Piorkowski by pointing out letters that had been sent to the War Crimes Group by former inmates who claimed that Piorkowski had not committed any atrocities. These letters, which were probably sent at the suggestion of Boysen himself, were dismissed by the War Crimes Group because it didn't matter what Piorkowski did personally in the camp; he was the Commandant of the camp and as such was a participant in the common design to violate the Laws and Usages of War.

According to Joseph Halow's book, entitled "Innocent at Dachau," one of the letter writers was Lt. Col. R.H. Stevens, a Prisoner of War at Dachau. Stevens was a spy in the British Secret Intelligence Service in Holland, who was arrested as a conspirator in the failed plot to kill Hitler with a bomb placed in a Munich beer hall by Georg Elser, a former prisoner at Dachau who had recently been released. In his letter, Stevens described his treatment at Dachau: he was given a private room, not a cell. His room was furnished with a good bed, a desk and a chair. Piorkowski had brought him occasional gifts of flowers or wine or real coffee. He even permitted Stevens to swim in the SS officer's swimming pool when no one else was around.

Another letter writer, Dr. Konrad Stromenger, a Protestant religious dissident who spent seven years at Dachau, said that the inmates at Dachau were well-fed and rested. He maintained that Dachau, under Piorkowski's administration, had the best reputation of all the German camps.

As quoted in Halow's book "Innocent at Dachau," the review board, after reading the letters, wrote the following report:

It must be presumed that these statements are as favorable as anything they would have said in court. These two statements were accompanied by others from members of the clergy and from lay persons, all Germans. All of them were found to be without merit by a War Crimes Board of Review on the ground "they testify to individual acts of kindness to individuals, and in no way negative (sic) the atrocious treatment meted out to the vast majority of non-German nationals."

The prosecution's case against Piorkowski was based on the testimony of 34 paid witnesses who were former prisoners at Dachau. The defense produced a witness who testified that Piorkowski was bedridden at his home for two months during the winter of 1941-1942 during the time that prosecution witnesses testified that Piorkowski had beaten prisoners in the camp.

Another innovative idea used by the America prosecutors in the war crimes proceedings was that any findings and sentences in the main trials would become matters of judicial notice at subsequent subsidiary trials. In other words, any atrocities proven in a prior trial could be used as proof of guilt against future defendants since they were all being tried under the common design concept.

Major Boysen pointed out that the prosecution's allegation that 6,000 to 8,000 Soviet POWs had been executed at Dachau in the spring of 1942 had not been proved in the main trial of Dachau camp personnel, yet it was put into evidence in the Piorkowski trial, along with other atrocities that had become matters of judicial notice and did not have to be proved again. According to Joseph Halow, Major Boysen concluded that he was of the "definite opinion that no such massacre occurred at Dachau as is factually stated to have taken place there in Prosecution Exhibit 1." The Dachau Memorial Site currently maintains that 4,000 Soviet POWs were executed at Dachau.

The Soviet POWs at Dachau were allegedly shot for target practice at a firing range, but the POWs were given a more humane execution at Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen where the POWs were shot through a slot in a measuring device.

After the main Dachau trial had been concluded, Major Boysen learned that the Dachau railroad station commander, a man named Rohrmuehler, had been a witness to the arrival of the trains bringing Soviet Prisoners of War to Dachau. Rohrmuehler said that no more than 500 Russians had ever passed through the Dachau camp, and that the claim that 6,000 to 8,000 Soviet POWs had been massacred at Dachau was absurd. The testimony about the killing of Soviet POWs had not been subjected to cross-examination in the courtroom, according to Joseph Halow.

Major Boysen also objected to the inclusion of events that had happened outside the time frame of the period covered by the charges against Piorkowski, which was from January 1, 1942 up to June, 1942 when he had been transferred.

The following quote is from Joseph Halow's book entitled Innocent at Dachau:

Boysen recalled that the prosecution had spoken with him before the trial, asking him if he would agree to the prosecution's including in the charges an incident which he indicated had taken place before the period January-June, 1942. This involved the notorious "Christmas tree whippings," which supposedly took place in Dachau in 1939, when Piorkowski, who was alleged to have been present, was camp custody leader. Boysen had refused, stating that if the prosecution were to include this incident in the dossiers, he would tell the court not to read the dossiers until it made a ruling on the matter.

Major Boysen's request was denied and the court members did read the dossier. Major Boysen said that this should not have been permitted because it colored the court's thinking.

In spite of all of Boysen's efforts to obtain clemency for Alex Piorkowski, he was hanged at Landsberg am Lech prison on October 22, 1948.

Gustav Petrat

Gustav Petrat appears calm just before his execution

Gustav Petrat was a 19-year-old dog handler in the infamous Mauthausen concentration camp. He was assigned to the camp as a guard with a leashed dog, after being wounded in battle as a soldier in the Waffen-SS. He was brought before the American Military Tribunal at Dachau in a subsidiary case of the Mauthausen trial, and was charged with being a war criminal because he allegedly beat and killed prisoners in the camp, a charge which he denied. He was convicted and hanged in Novemeber 1948 when he was just short of his 24th birthday. All of the accused in the Dachau proceedings were first interrogated in order to obtain confessions from them. Petrat accused the American interrogators of beating him to get him to sign a confession.

Quoted below in its entirety is Gustave's last statement to the court, written while he was in Landsberg/Lech prison, awaiting his execution.

I, Gustav PETRAT, born 12 November 1924 in Wirballen/Litauen [Lithuania], presently in Landsberg/Lech, make the following sworn statement after I have been informed that this statement is to be submitted to the Military Governor of the U.S. Zone and that any false statement may be severely punished.

1. In May 1944, on account of my wound, I was transferred to the guard personnel of the Mauthausen concentration camp and served there as dog leader with the 16th Guard Company. My rank was Corporal (Rotten Führer) in the Armed (Waffen) SS.

2. On 10 May 1945, I was taken prisoner by American soldiers in Ried near Mauthausen and taken to the Tittling camp. When I got there I was mistreated with whips, fists and feet, as was the general custom at that time for newly arrived prisoners.

3. Like many others I was quartered in a potato patch in the open air, so that we all were exposed to the weather.

4. On 26 May 1945 I had my first interrogation there, which was one of the most memorable of my entire captivity. Even before they asked me the first question, they struck me so that I collapsed. After I had managed to stagger upright again in spite of my weak condition and aided by the necessary kicks from the interrogator, the real interrogation began. They asked me questions that I could not have answered if I had had the best will in the world to do so. I was to state where the leader of the Mauthausen concentration camp was. It was impossible for me to give the information, since I really didn't know, and as a little corporal I couldn't know. My reply loosed a hail of blows.

The second question concerned myself. They asked me how many prisoners I had shot and beaten, to which I replied truthfully and with a clean conscience, "Not one."

The interrogator drew a pistol and threatened to kill me if I did not tell the truth immediately. He meant, however, that I should be hanged. I told him again that I only spoke the truth and he could kill me if he wanted to, that at least I would be freed from the whole mess. Then more blows, and with a push in the small of the back I fled.

5. On 9 May [sic] 1945 I was taken to the Moosburg internment camp with about 80 other prisoners. On 7 September 1945 I had my second interrogation, in Moosburg, at which they asked me the same questions they asked in the Tittling camp. There too, I received blows from a whip. This consisted of a wooden handle about 30 cm. long to which leather straps had been fastened. Since I had to answer the questions in the negative, they told me that there were other ways and means to force me to tell the truth. Then the interrogator left the room for a few minutes, and returned with a second interrogator. Since I had to reply to this man's questions in the negative also because I did not know of any killing, he struck me with his fists and threatened to "hang" and "shoot" me. After I stuck to my guns, I was taken back to my quarters.

On 10 February 1946 I was transferred to the Dachau internment camp.

6. There I was interrogated two times. At the interrogation on 21 June 1946 they read statements to me that said that I had shot eight prisoners in the Mauthausen concentration camp. I was to sign this, but I vigorously refused because I never shot a prisoner. After repeated requests to sign, I was struck with fists and kicked with feet. They put a paper in front of me to sign in which it said that I had never been beaten by American interrogators and soldiers. I refused, and only after repeated blows with the threat that I would never leave the room alive until I had signed, and that they would know how to break down my obstinacy, did I put my name to it.

I had never had anything to do with the court in my life and I was afraid that they would make my life even more difficult

7. In January 1947 the so-called "line-ups" commenced in the Dachau Special Camp. I was confronted with prisoners three times, yet, no one accused me of the least thing. The man in charge of the line-up, Mr. ENTRESS, told the prisoners that I was said to have shot many prisoners and beaten them to death, whereat only a burst of laughter arose. At that time I was 22 years old. When I was 19 I came to Mauthausen as dog-leader. A former prominent prisoner, Dr. SANNER, asserted he did not know me, but if a dog leader had beaten prisoners to death or shot them that would certainly have become known in the camp. Many other former long-term prisoners joined in this exonerating testimony.

8. At mid-July 1947 I and my seven co-accused were presented for the first time to our official defense lawyer, Major William A. OATES. To his question whether I knew what I was accused of, and by whom, I could only reply that I was not conscious of any guilt and also had never counted on being brought to trial, since I had never mistreated or killed anyone.

Major OATES told me that he too, knew nothing, that he could not get a glimpse of the incriminating papers of the prosecution, and therefore he would have to go by my statements, the general charge sheet, and the testimony of the prosecution witnesses at the trial.

Since only the prosecution had access to the records, my lawyer did not see them, and so naturally it was very difficult for him to prepare a defense. Major OATES promised to do everything he could. Also I gave him the names of the witnesses who were important for me, and who themselves were interned in Dachau.

9. On 15 July 1947 I received a general charge sheet and was transferred with my co-accused to the Bunker I, Camp Dachau. It was impossible for me to procure any exonerating material there. One was cut off from the outside world. Letters to relatives or acquaintances in which something was said about witnesses or the approaching trial were so cut up that the receiver received only scraps from which he could glean nothing. For that reason it was made impossible for me to procure any defense material. Requests for special letters to witnesses or prior reports to the defense lawyer were fruitless.

Already in little things they were making the procuring of exonerating material impossible. Also the time before the beginning of the trial was far too short to obtain any material

10. On 6 August 1947 the trial began, and lasted until 21 August.

11. The prosecution witnesses had every support of the prosecuting authorities. When they were shown to be lying, up jumped the prosecutor, Mr. Lundberg, and accused the defense lawyer of intimidating the witnesses and trying to make out that they were liars.

12. In reality, the opposite was the truth. Defense witnesses were intimidated by the braying of the prosecutor or were branded as false. It happened that defense witnesses were threatened and beaten by foreign former prisoners so that the former had no more interest in appearing for the defense. They were afraid that they too would be accused of something, which the foreign prisoners were quite capable of, as they hated everything German and were out for revenge.

13. In the courtroom were Polish, Jugoslav and Jewish prisoners as spectators who served as an information bureau, that is, during the court recesses they told their comrades, who were still waiting for their interrogation, everything that had been discussed during the course of the trial. On the basis of this information the latter were then able to reinforce the accusations and bring to naught the exoneration, which was scanty enough anyway.

For this reason it was also possible to always bring out the same points in the accusations.

14. The questionnaires we had filled out were handed to the prosecution witnesses by the prosecutor or by his interpreter. In this way each exact date could be looked up in order to incriminate the accused without having to fear that a false statement was being made. In spite of this, it happened that they contradicted themselves in cross-examination. However, because the witnesses were under the protection of the American court, they had nothing to fear from perjury, which they committed repeatedly.

15. We, as accused, had no right to give our opinion. At the beginning of the trial the defense lawyer told us that we had to keep quite still and the questions we wanted to have put to the witnesses we were to write on a slip of paper and give to his interpreter, Mr. BARR. I did not understand most of the trial, since I am a Lithuanian and only know a little German. I had to find out during the court recesses, from my comrades, of what I was accused.

17. [Sic. The paragraph is misnumbered in the original document.] There was no final argument by the defense lawyer. I was sentenced to death on 21 August 1947. The sentence was approved on 26 June 1948.

Landsberg/Lech, 10 September 1948 /s/ Gustav PETRAT.

US vs. Franz Kofler, et al (including Gustav Petrat)



Franz Kofler was executed in Nov. 1948


A subsidiary case in the US Military Tribunal proceedings against the staff members of the Mauthausen concentration camp was known as "The United States versus Franz Kofler, et al." The case began on 6 August 1947 and ended on 21 August 1947. There were 8 accused men in this case, including four native Germans: Hermann Franz Buetgen, Quirin Flaucher, Arno Albert Reuter and Emil Thielmann. Franz Kofler was from Austria. Michael Heller and Stefan Lennert were both born in Romania, but were ethnic Germans serving in the SS. Gustav Petrat was an ethnic German from Lithuania, who had become a German citizen in 1942.

This case was tried after the main trial of the Mauthausen staff members, which was known as "The United States versus Hans Altfuldisch, et al." In the parent case, the president of the court, Major General Fay B. Prickett, declared "Special Findings" which said that there was enough evidence to convict any staff member in any of the following subsidiary cases without further proof.

In all of the Allied war crimes trials, the accused were presumed to be guilty until proven innocent and the burden of proof was on them, but in the subsidiary cases of the Mauthausen staff, they had already been convicted under the Special Findings even before the proceedings began. The court in the main case had ruled "...that the mass atrocity operation was criminal in nature and that the participants therein, acting in pursuance of a common design, subjected persons to killings, beatings, tortures, etc., and that [the court] was warranted in inferring that those shown to have participated knew of the criminal nature thereof." What this meant was that anyone in the camp, whether Kapo or SS guard, knew of the atrocities in the camp and was therefore guilty of participating in a "common design" to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the 1929 Geneva Convention, by virtue of that knowledge. All that was necessary for the prosecution to prove was that the accused was present in the camp when the atrocities were committed.

All of the following information is from the book entitled "Innocent at Dachau," written by Joseph Halow, a court reporter who was assigned to take down the testimony in the Franz Kofler subsidiary case.

One of the accused, Gustav Petrat, made a name for himself by writing a detailed account of how he was tortured by the American interrogators. There were numerous similar accusations against the Jewish interrogators by the other Nazi war criminals who were tried at Dachau.

Gustave Petrat was convicted by the Dachau Military Tribunal mainly on the testimony of a beautiful Polish woman named Danuta Drbuszenska, who was 19 years old at the time that she claimed that Petrat beat her in the camp. Petrat was around the same age. According to the court reporter, Joseph Halow, Petrat blushed a deep red and wore a sheepish grin on his face as Danuta testified. Halow wrote that he "guessed immediately that there had been not cruelty, but deep intimacy between the two."

Halow also said that Danuta lived in the barrack which was a brothel for the SS men and some of the prisoners. Major Oates, the defense lawyer for Petrat, asked Danuta on the witness stand if she had had a love affair with Petrat, but she dodged the question and said, "I would kill him if I could." The defense then asked Danuta if she had been trying to kill Petrat at the time that he struck her with an object. She answered that she had been swearing at Petrat at the time because she didn't want to have anything to do with him.

Another witness against Petrat was a 17-year-old Jew named Andor Fried, who accused Petrat of killing stragglers on a march from Mauthausen to the sub-camp of Gunskirchen. Fried claimed to have seen these killings from a distance of one and a half city blocks. Witnesses for the defense said that Petrat would not have been assigned to accompany a march because he could not ride a motorcycle since he had been wounded at the front before he was assigned to Mauthausen.

Petrat was a dog handler who was assigned to guard prisoners outside the Mauthausen camp. Witnesses accused Petrat of allowing his dog to tear pieces of flesh out of the inmates. Defense witnesses said that Petrat's dog was not vicious and would not attack.

Stefan Lennert was acquitted of the charge of participating in the common design to commit atrocities at Mauthausen because he was able to prove that he was at home on furlough in Romania, not in the camp, when the atrocities were committed. All the others were found guilty because the prosecution proved that they were in the camp at the time that atrocities, presented in the parent case, were committed.

Hermann Buetgen was sentenced to three years hard labor in prison. His light sentence was due to the fact that the paid witnesses for the prosecution had confused him with Michael Heller, also on trial. Simon Bressler, a paid witness, testified that he had seen Buetgen beat every prisoner in the 800-man detail working in the quarry. Buetgen had not been a guard in the quarry, although Michael Heller was.

Josef Feldstein, another paid witness for the prosecution, who had been a prisoner at Mauthausen from the end of 1942 until May 1945 when the camp was liberated, testified that Buetgen had performed duties in the quarry that were actually the duties assigned to Michael Heller. However, Feldstein claimed that Heller was one of the good guys who always expressed horror at the atrocities committed in the quarry. Feldstein did not know Buetgen's name, identifying him as a guard named "Wittingen." (Wittingen is the name of a city in Germany.) He testified that he had seen "Wittingen" kill about 300 inmates, beating them to death because they carried stones that were too small up the "Stairs of Death." He also claimed that Buetgen had shot other inmates or forced them to touch the electrically charged barbed wire.

Another prosecution witness, Jacob Sztejnberg identified Buetgen as a block leader in the camp, a description that would fit Michael Heller, but not Buetgen. He also claimed that Buetgen was a guard in the quarry who had beaten prisoners to death when they carried stones that were too small.

Another prosecution witness, Wilhelm Mornstein, testified that he had witnessed atrocities committed by Emil Thielmann but Michael Heller was "the opposite of Thielmann." In spite of all these discrepancies in testimony of the prosecution witnesses, Michael Heller was sentenced to death by hanging.

Franz Kofler was also sentenced to death by hanging. Two prosecution witnesses, Herbert Melching and Peter Bleimueller, testified that Kofler had beaten Jewish prisoners and killed them by forcing them into the electrically charged barbed wire fence. Kofler was a Kommando and roll call leader in the camp. In his defense, Kofler pointed out that he was in charge of Block 5 and none of the 180 Jewish prisoners in that block had accused him of forcing Jews to the wire. The one and only witness who charged him with killing Jewish prisoners was from Block 4, a barrack that he was not responsible for.

Another witness against Kofler was Josef Schwaiger, who had frequently been sent outside the camp to work in the home of Mrs. von Schwertberg, who lived nearby. Schwaiger accused Kofler of beating prisoners during roll call. Kofler's defense lawyer, Major William A. Oates, accused Schwaiger of trying to get revenge on Kofler because he had stolen Schwaiger's girl friend, Mrs. von Schwertberg.

Arno Albert Reuter was sentenced to two years at hard labor. The testimony against Reuter, that he had beaten prisoners, was weak and this resulted in a lighter sentence for him.

Sztejnberg was also a prosecution witness against Quirin Flaucher, whom he identified as "Laucher." His testimony against Flaucher was vague and when the prosecutor, Lundberg, asked him a question, Sztejnberg made caustic comments, resulting in the court president calling him before the judges to instruct him to make "no more smart remarks."

Jean Loureau, a French prisoner, testified that Flaucher was a homosexual who used young boys in the camp "as women." Herbert Wisniewski, a young Polish Jew, testified that after the Warsaw uprising in 1944, a large number of 14 and 15-year-old boys were brought to Mauthausen. He testified that Flaucher would beat these boys if they refused to sleep with him. Flaucher was a convicted German criminal who was a Kapo in the camp, assigned to be in charge of Block 8 at Mauthausen. Wisniewski fainted on the witness stand during his testimony and refused to return to the court to be cross-examined. This did not matter since witnesses did not have to available for cross-examination, according to the rules of the tribunal.

US vs. Lauriano Navas, et al




Indalecio Gonzalez was hanged for beating a prisoner to death


The proceedings of the American Military Tribunal at Dachau against the Spanish Kapos at Mauthausen was known as "The United States versus Lauriano Navas, et al." This was a subsidiary of the Mauthausen parent case which was called "The United States versus Hans Altfuldisch, et al."

The verdict in the parent case had included "Special Findings" which declared that "every official, governmental, military and civil, and every employee thereof, whether he be a member of the Waffen SS, Allgemeine SS, a guard, or civilian, to be culpably and criminally responsible" for anything that happened at Mauthausen or its sub-camps. The "Special Findings" also stated that every person associated with Mauthausen had knowledge of the deaths by "shooting, gassing, hanging, regulated starvation, and other heinous methods of killing, brought about through the deliberate conspiracy and planning of the Reich officials" and was therefore "guilty of a crime against the recognized laws, customs, and practices of civilized nations, and the letter and spirit of the laws and usages of war, and by reason thereof is to be punished." In other words, the accused in all the subsidiary trials of the Mauthausen parent case had already been declared guilty even before the proceedings began.

On May 7, 1945, two days after the Mauthausen Concentration Camp was officially liberated by American soldiers, Lauriano Navas, a Spanish Kapo in the camp, was taken into custody. On May 13, 1945, three more Spanish Kapos were taken into custody. Kapos were concentration camp prisoners who had been assigned to supervise the other prisoners, and some of them were even more cruel than the SS guards, according to the witnesses who testified against them. The Spanish prisoners at Mauthausen, known as the "Spanish Republicans," were former soldiers who had fought to defend the Spanish Republic against General Francisco Franco's Falangists (Fascists) in the Spanish Civil War which began in 1936 and ended in 1939.

After Franco's victory, the soldiers of the Spanish Republic escaped to France, where they were interned as detainees in camps run by the French government. Navas was released after he agreed to join the French Army. When France was defeated by the Germans in 1940, the Spanish Republicans were brought to Mauthausen, where they were not treated as Prisoners of War under the rules of the Geneva convention, but as a special category of political prisoners because they were thought to be Communists or anarchists, and therefore enemies of Nazi Germany.

The American prosecutor, William G. Miller, based his case on the fact that the Spanish Kapos were included in the "Special Findings" of the parent Mauthausen case, so their guilt had already been established. The testimony of the paid prosecution witnesses was not actually necessary to convict the accused, and the testimony of the defense witnesses had no credibility since these witnesses were war criminals themselves, according to the Special Findings.

The attorney for the defense was Major Louis F. Benson, assisted by Harry W. Ebert. The head of the panel of judges was Colonel Russell R. Louden. Other members of the judge and jury panel were Colonel Victor Wales, Colonel John H. Keating, Colonel Harry P. Gantt, and Lt. Colonel Harry P. Holz. The law member of the panel was Colonel Gordon O. Berg. One of the court reporters, Eve Hawkins, who spoke a little Spanish, served as the translator, although she protested that her knowledge of the Spanish language was not good enough for a life and death matter.

Witnesses for the prosecution were professional witnesses who were paid; they were housed in the barracks of the former Dachau concentration camp so that they could be available as witnesses in many of the other proceedings at Dachau. According to Joseph Halow, a court reporter at several of the Dachau proceedings, who wrote a book entitled "Innocent at Dachau," the professional witnesses in the Spanish Kapo case "caused the prosecutor various embarrassments. He was often forced to remind these witnesses of important details from their pretrial statements, including beatings and killings, which they seemed, bewilderingly enough for uninitiated observers, to have entirely forgotten on the stand. Their testimonies included inconsistencies of a wildness to embarrass all but the most gullible of bigoted hearers." Halow wrote the following regarding the witnesses at the trial of the Spanish Kapos:

"Predominantly Eastern European Jews, their stock testimony, repeated in trial after trial, was that the accused had been known to beat inmates, that they had witnessed one or more such beatings, and that they had seen the accused beat the inmates so severely they died."

The men on trial were referred to as the "accused," rather than the "defendants" because they were considered to be guilty and the burden of proof was on them, not on the prosecution. The rules of the American justice system did not apply here. Prior to the proceedings of the military tribunal, the accused war criminals were interrogated to obtain confessions. One of the accused in the Spanish Kapos case, Moises Fernandez, tesitifed on the witness stand that he had been beaten by his American interrogators in an effort to force him to confess to killing two men. He named the man who beat him the most severely as Stanislaus Feldman, who had also served as an interpreter on the first day of the proceedings. This accusation was not unique; many of the men on trial at Dachau claimed that they had been beaten by their Jewish interrogators. (See the statement of Gustav Petrat)

One of the accused in the proceedings against the Spanish Kapos was Indalecio Gonzalez, an Oberkapo at the Gusen sub-camp who was nicknamed "Astoria." He was from Asturias in Spain, which was the origin of the name given to him by the other inmates. Jean Loureau, a French army lieutenant, testified that Gonzalez had, together with other Kapos, beaten a prisoner to death because he had tried to escape work by hiding in a hole in the ground.

The sentences were read by Colonel Louden, the court president.

Felix Domingo was sentenced to a term of two years in prison at hard labor. Domingo was then released because he had already been in prison for two years by the time he was sentenced. His lighter sentence may have been because he was able to show that he had actually been a barber in the camp, not a Kapo.

Moises Fernandez was sentenced to twenty years in prison at hard labor and Indalecio Gonzalez was sentenced to death by hanging. Lauriano Navas was sentenced to life in prison.

Every case that was tried at Dachau was subsequently reviewed before the sentence was carried out. The review officer in the case of the Spanish Kapos was Captain Irma V. Nunes of the US Army, who was, ironically, of Spanish ethnicity herself. She may have had sympathy for the Spanish prisoners, but she had to follow the orders of her superiors. In her "Review and Recommendations" report, signed on 14 January 1948, Nunes followed the guidelines established in the Special Findings of the court in the main Mauthausen proceeding, which declared that anyone associated with the Mauthausen camp in any way was automatically guilty. In her report, Captain Nunes stated that

"The Court was required to take cognizance of the decision rendered in the Parent Case, including the findings of the Court therein that the mass atrocity operation was criminal in nature and that the participants therein, acting in pursuance of a common design, subjected persons to killings, beatings, tortures, etc., and was warranted in inferring that those shown to have participated knew of the criminal nature thereof. (Letter, Headquarters, United States Forces, European Theater, file AG 000.5 JAG-AGO, subject: 'Trial of War Crimes Cases,' 14 October 1946, and the Parent Case).

According to Joseph Halow, Nunes's "review statement of the case is full of such disgraceful errors, indicating an almost complete lack of consideration of the trial files, if she even read them." In her review statement, Captain Nunes had referred to one witness in the case as two separate individuals, according to Halow. Captain Nunes had found, in her review of the Domingo case, that the finding of guilty was not warranted by the evidence. Under the heading of Sufficiency of Evidence, Captain Nunes wrote that "The evidence does not satisfactorily establish that the accused [Domingo] gave encouragement to the common design or participated therein."

Nevertheless, Captain Nunes upheld Domingo's sentence of two years in prison because he was automatically guilty under the "Special Findings" in the parent case, which held that everyone who was associated with Mauthausen in any way, even a prisoner who was the camp barber, was guilty of any and all atrocities committed at Mauthausen, including the gassing of prisoners.

The review of the case of United States versus Lauriano Navas was completed on January 14, 1948 when the Deputy Judge Advocate's Office, 7708th War Crimes Group, issued its report. On September 23, 1948, the court reporter, Eve Hawkins, who had served as a translator in the case, wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Post in which she agreed with a letter written by Col. William Denson, the prosecutor in the Ilse Koch case. Col. Denson had expressed shock that Koch's sentence had been reduced to time served, after she had been accused of the most heinous crime imaginable. General Lucius D. Clay had reduced Koch's sentence, after reviewing her case, because he was of the opinion that the charges of making lamp shades from human skin had not been proved in court. Col. Denson and Eve Hawkins were both outraged at this miscarriage of justice.

In her letter, Hawkins mentioned that she had been an interpreter in the case against the Spanish Kapos and that she "was drafted into the job of interpreter over strong objections that she was not qualified to interpret in court for men on trial for their lives." Her letter caused quite a stir when it was read by JAG officers in Washington, D.C. By this time, the Dachau trials were the subject of controversy amid accusations by many of the men on trial that they had been beaten and tortured by their Jewish interrogators to get them to confess.

Joseph Halow wrote in his book "Innocent at Dachau" that "The public doubt that had been cast on the Army's judgment by an American participant in the trials had made its leadership react strongly. From then on they could never have admitted their judgment might be wrong." The review board upheld the death sentence of Gonzales.

Meanwhile Lauriano Navas had retained a German civilian lawyer, Otto Kranzbuehler, to plead his case during the review process. Kranzbuehler wrote a letter to the War Crimes Group in which he argued that the American military lacked jurisdiction in the case of Navas because he was a lieutenant in the French Army. As a member of the Allied armed forces, he could not be tried by the Allies as a war criminal. Kranzbuehler pointed out that there was only one witness that had testified against Navas, a Polish prisoner named Nakladezuk. Nakladezuk had offered hearsay testimony that a doctor at Mauthausen had told him that a prisoner who was beaten by Navas had died. (Hearsay testimony was allowed by the Military Tribunal.) Kranzbuehler refuted this testimony on the grounds that no one was permitted to enter the dispensary without special authorization, and that the victim was a man whose name Nakladezuk did not know, so how could the doctor have known which prisoner Nakladezuk had witnessed being beaten the week before.

The judges in the Navas case were required to take the Special Findings into consideration in their decision. Kranzbuehler was able to successfully argue that Navas was not covered under the Special Findings because he was a Lieutenant in the French Army and thus not within the class of persons presumed to be guilty by mere presence at the camp. As an officer in the French army, Navas could not have been part of the common plan of Nazi conspiracy to commit war crimes, even if he had, in fact, beaten a prisoner to death. In a similar case brought before the Military Tribunal at Dachau, Marcel Boltz, one of the accused in the Malmedy Massacre case, was released before the proceedings began because he was a French citizen, born in Alsace before that province was annexed into Greater Germany after the French were defeated in 1940. He had been arrested and charged with killing American POWs at Malmedy, but because he was a French citizen, he could not be accused of a war crime, even if he had, in fact, killled American POWs.

On April 18, 1951 the Army report on the review of the Navas case included the following statement:

We thus find that we have an accused who has been sentenced to life imprisonment on the testimony of one witness, whose testimony, though strong in reference to an actual incident of beating, appears shaky as to the actual identity of the person doing the beating.

Navas' sentence was reduced to time served and he was released in 1951. He had spent more than 10 years in prison and 6 years of that time, he was a prisoner of the Allies, on whose side he had fought in the French Army.

Frau Ilse Koch

16 Apr. At the Buchenwald trial, Dachau, Germany, Frau Ilse Koch, known to the inmates as the bitch of Buchenwald. She is being tried for atrocities committed in the Buchenwald concentration camp. She has lampshades made of human skin and lamp stands of human bones. Army Signal Corps photo

Ilse Koch, August 19, 1947 Photo Credit: INP Soundphoto

The most notorious German war criminal, of all those who were brought before the American Military Tribunals at Dachau, was unquestionably Ilse Koch, the wife of Karl Otto Koch, the infamous former Commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp. Karl Otto Koch had already been put on trial by the Nazis themselves and executed before the war ended. Ilse Koch was among the 31 accused war criminals from Buchenwald who were brought before an American Military Tribunal at Dachau on April 11, 1947.

Ilse Koch became pregnant while she was held in prison at the former Dachau concentration camp. The two photos above show how she lost weight during the trial; her baby was born in September 1947.

Frau Koch had been previously investigated for 8 months by Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, an SS officer who had been assigned in 1943 to look into accusations of corruption and murder in the Buchenwald camp. She had already been put on trial in December 1943 in a special Nazi Court where Konrad Morgan was the judge. The rumor, circulated by the inmates at Buchenwald, that lamp shades had been made out of human skin, was thoroughly investigated, but no evidence was found and this charge against Frau Koch had been dismissed by Morgen.

Even though Ilse Koch had been acquitted in Morgen's court, the former inmates at Buchenwald were convinced that she had ordered prisoners to be killed, so that their tattooed skin could be made into lamp shades. When the American liberators arrived, they were told about the gory accessories in Frau Koch's home. A display table was set up and a film, directed by Billy Wilder, was made to document the atrocities in the camp.

The photograph below is a still shot from the film. It shows preserved pieces of tattooed skin laid out on a table, and a table lamp with a shade allegedly made from human skin.

Display table at Buchenwald was part of the grand tour of the camp

The story of the making of human lampshades at Buchenwald received a great deal of attention by the American press, and in the two years between the liberation of the camp and the start of the Buchenwald trial at Dachau, there had been considerable coverage in American newspapers.

American soldiers who participated in the liberation of Buchenwald, including Harry Herder and Sgt. Blowers, had told horrible stories about the camp which they had learned from the prisoners. By the time the trial got underway, there was not the slightest doubt in the minds of most Americans that Ilse Koch was indeed guilty of this despicable crime.

The following quote is from this web site.

Sergeant Blowers told us some things about the Commandant of Buchenwald and his wife. We could see their house down the hill through the leafless trees from our seats on the front steps (of the barracks). Blowers painted a picture of truly despicable human beings. The wife, Ilse Koch, favored jodhpurs, boots, and a riding crop. He told us this story about her: Once, she ordered all of the Jewish prisoners in the camp stripped and lined up; she then marched down the rows of them, and, as she saw a tattoo she liked, she would touch that tattoo with her riding crop; the guards would take the man away immediately to the camp hospital where the doctors would remove the patch of skin with the tattoo, have it tanned, and patch it together with others to make lamp shades. There were three of those lamp shades--the history books say there were two, but there were three. One of them disappeared shortly after we arrived. This may give you a glimmer of an idea of what Ilse Koch was like--and her husband--and the camp "doctors."

Ilse Koch testified that her home was near the zoo at Buchenwald, which means that her home was up the hill from the barracks, not "down the hill through the leafless trees" as described by Sgt. Blowers, which suggests that he and Harry Herder may not have been among the liberators of Buchenwald.

Ilse Koch points to the location of her home near the camp zoo

In the photograph above, taken on July 8, 1947, Ilse Koch points out the location of her home in the Commandant's house. In the lower left-hand corner of the map, the buildings shown in a semi-circle are the barracks of the SS soldiers. To the right, down the hill from her home, are the barracks for the prisoners. Lt. Col. Denson, the chief prosecutor, is standing to her left, with his back to the camera. Members of the press are sitting at a table on the left. An interpreter is standing to the right of Frau Koch.

The courtroom had a capacity of 300 spectators, but as many as 400 people crowed into the room to hear the testimony in the Buchenwald case. The photograph below shows a group of American clergymen, who journeyed to the Dachau courtroom to witness the trial of "the Bitch of Buchenwald."

14 American clergymen attended the trial of Ilse Koch

The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, which began on November 20, 1945 was based on Control Council Law No. 10 which included all war crimes committed by the Nazi regime against any and all nations and individuals between January 30, 1933, when Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany, and July 1, 1945.

However, the American Military Tribunal proceedings against the staff at Buchenwald included only crimes committed against Allied nationals between January 1, 1942 and April 11, 1945, the day that Buchenwald was liberated. This was roughly the period of time during which America was at war with Germany. The charges against the accused in the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal did not include Crimes against Humanity, Crimes against Peace, nor War Crimes, as defined in Control Council Law No. 10 at the Nuremberg IMT.

The Buchenwald camp had been in existence since July 1937, and Ilse Koch had been at the camp since August 1937, but there were no charges that involved crimes committed in the camp before January 1, 1942, nor were there any charges involving crimes committed against German citizens at Buchenwald. Any lamp shades made from human skin that came from prisoners killed at Buchenwald before January 1, 1942, if any existed, could not be included in the evidence against Ilse Koch at Buchenwald.

Ilse Koch had previously been a secretary in Dresden until she became a female guard in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin when it opened in 1936. Her future husband, Karl Otto Koch, was an SS officer who had been assigned to be the first Commandant of Sachsenhausen. In May 1937, Ilse became the second wife of Otto Koch, whose first marriage had failed. When Koch was transferred to Buchenwald to become the first Commandant there in August 1937, she accompanied him.

Ilse Koch was born in 1906 and was nine years younger than her husband. Although the prisoners at Buchenwald had given her the title of Commandeuse, Ilse was nothing more than a housewife and mother of three children; she lived in the Commandant's house just outside the prison compound until she was arrested by the Nazis in August 1943 and taken to the jail in the nearby city of Weimar to await trial on charges of embezzlement and incitement to murder.

After the war, Ilse Koch did not go into hiding, and after former prisoners in the camp told stories about her behavior to the American military, it was easy to track her down and arrest her as a war criminal. She was charged with participating in the "common design" to violate the Laws and Usages of war, but the specific charge against her was the horrific crime of selecting Buchenwald prisoners to be killed by her alleged lover, Dr. Waldemar Hoven, in order to have lamp shades made from their tattooed skin.


Prosecution witness Dr. Kurte Sitte identifies 3 pieces of tattooed skin

Three pieces of tattooed skin and a shrunken head were exhibited in the courtroom at Dachau as evidence of the ghastly crimes committed by the staff at Buchenwald. The photograph above shows Dr. Kurte Sitte, on the far right, who is identifying the three pieces of tattooed skin, found in the pathology department at Buchenwald. This same exhibit was shown at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal on December 13, 1945 as evidence of Crimes against Humanity.

According to the forensic report prepared for the trial, the three pieces of skin were determined to be human. Joseph Halow, a court reporter for some of the other Dachau trials, claims that he saw a lamp shade that was part of the evidence at the proceedings against Ilse Koch, but if this lamp shade was tested, the results were not included in the forensic report. No one else, that I know of, ever mentioned seeing a lamp shade in the Dachau courtroom.

In the testimony given at Dachau, there was no reference by any of the attorneys to a lamp being on display in the courtroom during the proceedings. Dr. Sitte identified the shrunken head that was exhibited in the courtroom, but he did not mention a lamp being in the courtroom during his testimony.

Dr. Sitte, who had a Ph.D. in physics, was one of the star witnesses against Ilse Koch. He had been a prisoner at Buchenwald from September 1939 until the liberation. He testified that tattooed skin was stripped from the bodies of dead prisoners and "was often used to create lampshades, knife cases, and similar items for the SS." He told the court that it was "common knowledge" that tattooed prisoners were sent to the hospital after Ilse Koch had passed by them on work details. Dr. Sitte's testimony of "common knowledge" was just another word for hearsay testimony, which was allowed by the American Military Tribunal.

According to Joshua M. Greene, author of "Justice at Dachau," Dr. Sitte testified that "These prisoners were killed in the hospital and the tattooing stripped off."

Under cross-examination, Dr. Sitte was forced to admit that he had never seen any of the lampshades allegedly made of human skin and that he had no personal knowledge of any prisoner who had been reported by Frau Koch and was then killed so that his tattooed skin could be made into a lampshade. He also admitted that the lampshade that was on the display table in the film was not the lampshade made from human skin that was allegedly delivered to Frau Koch. Apparently the most important piece of evidence, the lampshade made from human skin, was nowhere in sight during the trial.

During his cross examination of Dr. Sitte, defense attorney Captain Emanuel Lewis tried to introduce a plausible explanation for the removal of tattoos at Buchenwald when he asked:

"Is it not a fact that skin was taken from habitual criminals and was part of scientific research done by Dr. Wagner and into the connection between criminals and tattoos on their bodies?"

Dr. Sitte answered:

"In my time, skin was taken off prisoners whether they were criminal or not. I don't think that a responsible scientist would ever call this kind of work scientific."

According to Joshua M. Greene, author of "Justice at Dachau," the prosecution introduced ten witnesses who testified against Ilse Koch. One of these witnesses, Kurt Froboess, testified that he had seen Frau Koch's photo album, which he said had a tattoo on the cover. He said that he had seen this tattoo on a piece of preserved human skin, which he said had been removed from a fellow prisoner, in the pathology department at Buchenwald, and he later recognized this same tattoo on the cover of the photo album.

Apparently this photo album was confiscated by the American liberators, but it was not introduced into evidence in the courtroom. In her plea for mercy from the court, Ilse Koch pointed out that Newsweek magazine had published an article in which it was stated that the US military government in Germany was in possession of her photo album. Frau Koch claimed that the album contained several photos of her home which showed lampshades made from dark leather; Frau Koch said the photos showed that the lampshades were clearly not made from human skin.

At least two witnesses testified about a lamp with a shade fashioned out of human skin and a base made from a human leg bone, which they claimed had been delivered to Frau Koch. One of these witnesses, Kurt Wilhelm Leeser, testified that he had previously seen the tattoos on this lamp shade on the arms of a fellow prisoner, Josef Collinette, before he died. This lamp was not introduced into evidence in the courtroom and there were no witnesses from the American military who testified about its existence.

The Jewish religion frowns upon tattoos and a Jew who is tattooed cannot be buried in consecrated ground, so it would have been unusual for a Jewish prisoner at Buchenwald to have had a tattoo. It was pointed out by defense counsel that Dr. Wagner was doing a study of tattoos and criminal behavior at Buchenwald. Tattooed skin had been removed from dead criminals and preserved at the pathology department where autopsies were done.

The recent photograph below shows the crematorium at Buchenwald. The pathology department was located in the annex of this building. The black rocks in the foreground outline where a barracks building once stood. The Buchenwald concentration camp was built on the slope of a gentle hill and all the prisoners could see the crematorium, with its tall smoke stack, at the top of the hill. Unlike the layout of other camps, such as Dachau and Sachsenhausen, the pathology department building at Buchenwald was within plain sight of all the prisoners.


Crematorium and pathology department at Buchenwald


Ilse Koch, née Köhler (22 September 1906, DresdenKingdom of Saxony – 1 September 1967), was the wife of Karl-Otto Koch, commandant of the Nazi concentration campsBuchenwald from 1937 to 1941, and Majdanek from 1941 to 1943. She was one of the first prominent Nazis to be tried by the US military.

After the trial was remitted under worldwide media attention, survivor accounts of her actions resulted in other authors describing her abuse of prisoners as sadistic; a shadow image as "concentration camp murderess" transfixed itself to post-war German society. She was accused of taking souvenirs from the skin of murdered inmates with distinctive tattoos. She was known as "The Witch of Buchenwald" ("Die Hexe von Buchenwald") by the inmates because of her alleged cruelty and lasciviousness toward prisoners. She is also called in English "The Beast of Buchenwald" and "The Bitch of Buchenwald". The "Queen of Buchenwald" The "Red Witch of Buchenwald" The "Butcher Widow".

Koch was born in DresdenGermany, the daughter of a factory foreman. She was known as a polite and happy child in her elementary school. At the age of 15 she entered an accountancy school. Later, she went to work as a bookkeeping clerk. At the time the economy of Germany had not yet recovered from Germany's defeat in World War I. In 1932 she became a member of the rising Nazi Party. Through some friends in the SA and SS, she met Karl Otto Koch in 1934, marrying him two years later.

In 1936, she began working as a guard and secretary at the Sachsenhausen concentration campnear Berlin, which her fiancé commanded, and was married the same year. In 1937 she came to Buchenwald when her husband was made Commandant.

In 1940 she built an indoor sports arena, which cost over 250,000 marks, most of which were taken from the inmates. In 1941 she became an Oberaufseherin ("chief overseer") over the few female guards who served at the camp. In 1941 Karl Otto Koch was transferred to Lublin, where he helped establish the Majdanek concentration and extermination camp. Ilse Koch remained at Buchenwald until 24 August 1943, when she and her husband were arrested on the orders of Josias von Waldeck-PyrmontSS and Police Leader for Weimar, who had supervisory authority over Buchenwald. The charges against the Kochs comprised private enrichment, embezzlement, and the murder of prisoners to prevent them giving testimony.

Ilse Koch was imprisoned until 1944 when she was acquitted for lack of evidence, but her husband was found guilty and sentenced to death by an SS court in Munich, and was executed in Buchenwald in April 1945. She went to live with her surviving family in the town of Ludwigsburg, where she was arrested by U.S. authorities on 30 June 1945.

Koch and 30 other accused were arraigned before the American military court at Dachau (General Military Government Court for the Trial of War Criminals) in 1947. Prosecuting her was future United States Court of Claims Judge Robert L. Kunzig. She was charged with "participating in a criminal plan for aiding, abetting and participating in the murders at Buchenwald." On 12 August 1947 she was sentenced to life imprisonment for "violation of the laws and customs of war".

After she had served two years of her sentence, General Lucius D. Clay, the interim military governor of the American Zone in Germany, reduced the judgment to four years' prison on 8 June 1948 on the grounds "there was no convincing evidence that she had selected inmates for extermination in order to secure tattooed skins, or that she possessed any articles made of human skin."

News of the reduced sentence did not become public until 16 September 1948. Despite the ensuing uproar, Clay stood firm. Under the pressure of public opinion Koch was re-arrested in 1949 and tried before a West German court. The hearing opened on 27 November 1950 before the Assize Court at Augsburg and lasted seven weeks, during which 250 witnesses were heard including 50 for the defence. Koch collapsed and had to be carried from the court in late December 1950, and again on 11 January 1951. At least four separate witnesses for the prosecution, testified that they had seen Ilse Koch choose tattooed prisoners, who were then killed, or had seen or been involved in the process of making human-skin lampshades from tattooed skin. Although this charge was dropped by the prosecution, when they could not prove lampshades or any other items were actually made from human-skin.

On 15 January 1951, the Court pronounced its verdict, in a 111-page long decision, for which Koch was not present in court. It was concluded that the previous trials in 1944 and 1947 were not a bar to proceedings under the principle of ne bis in idem, as at the 1944 trial Koch had only been charged with receiving, while in 1947 she had been accused of crimes against foreigners after 1 September 1939, and not with crimes against humanity of which Germans and Austrians had been defendants both before and after that date. She was convicted of charges of incitement to murder, incitement to attempted murder, incitement to the crime of committing grievous bodily harm, and on 15 January 1951 was sentenced to life imprisonment and permanent forfeiture of civil rights.

Ilse Koch appealed to have the judgment quashed, but the appeal was dismissed on 22 April 1952 by the Federal Court of Justice. She later made several petitions for a pardon, all of which were rejected by the Bavarian Ministry of Justice. She committed suicide by hanging herself at Aichach women's prison on 1 September 1967; she was 60 years old.


  • 22 September 1906~1 September 1967

Commandant Franz Ziereis

After Commandant Ziereis fled from the camp, he was hunted down by the American liberators and eventually captured in late May 1945. The dates and location of his capture and death vary according to who is telling the story.

Ziereis was shot three times by American soldiers, allegedly while trying to escape. He was brought back to the hospital at the Gusen camp and interrogated by an Austrian anti-Fascist political prisoner named Hans Marsalek, who later wrote Ziereis's deathbed confession in which Ziereis said that, on the order of SS-Hauptsturmführer Dr. Eduard Krebsbach, a gas chamber had been built in the form of a bathroom and that Mauthausen inmates were gassed in this room.

The death of Franz Ziereis, Commandant of the Mauthausen concentration camp




Photo in Mauthausen Museum - Franz Ziereis at Gusen, 24.5.1945


This photo of a display board in the Museum at the former Mauthausen concentration camp shows Mauthausen Commandant Franz Ziereis as he allegedly gave his deathbed confession at the Gusen sub-camp of Mauthausen on May 24, 1945. His confession was written up from memory, ten months later, by one of the prisoners at Mauthausen and entered into the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal as proof that Jews were killed in gas chambers at Mauthausen and at Hartheim Castle.

Note that Ziereis has been propped up for the photo, and a harness around his chest, with straps over his shoulders, appears to be holding his body upright. An unidentified man wearing an American Army cap is sitting very close to Ziereis while the arm and hand of another man can be seen in the upper left hand corner. Everything has been carefully posed to show Ziereis as he allegedly makes his death-bed confession, but notice that the three elements of the photo do not match; it looks like three separate photos that have been put together. This is a flash photo but there is more light on the arm in the background than on the soldier in the foreground. Was Ziereis really still alive when this photo was taken?


Deathbed confession of Mauthausen Commandant displayed in Museum


The photo above, taken in the Mauthausen Museum, shows a display board right next to the photo of Franz Ziereis, which is shown at the top of this page. The first paragraph on the sign in the photo states that Ziereis was shot on 23.5.1945 and that he died several days later in a U.S. Field Hospital in Gusen.

The second paragraph on the display board shown in the photo above is a quote from the alleged confession of Franz Ziereis in which he said that a gas chamber, disguised as a bathroom, was built at Mauthausen on the order of Dr. Krebsbach; the prisoners were gassed with Cyklon-B. Besides this, there was a special vehicle which traveled between the Mauthausen main camp and the Gusen sub-camp, in which prisoners were gassed along the way.

In the official version of the story, Ziereis died in an Army field hospital at the Gusen 1 sub-camp, 6 kilometers west of the Mauthausen main camp, but not before he talked for 6 to 8 hours, confessing to the deaths of millions of prisoners, including the killing of prisoners in the gas chamber at Mauthausen and the castle at Hartheim.

In a sworn affidavit, dated April 8, 1946, that was entered into the Nuremberg IMT as document 3870-PS, Hans Marsalek, a prisoner who worked as a clerk at the Mauthausen concentration camp, wrote the following:

On 22 May 1945, the Commandant of the Concentration Camp Mauthausen, Franz Ziereis, was shot while escaping by American soldiers and was taken to the branch camp of Gusen. Franz Ziereis was interrogated by me in the presence of the Commander of the 11th Armored Division Seibel; the former prisoner and physician Dr. Koszeinski; and in the presence of another Polish citizen, name unknown, for a period of six to eight hours. The interrogation was effected in the night from 22 May to 23 May 1945.

Marsalek gave the date of Ziereis's death as May 23, the morning after his interrogation. According to Marsalek, Ziereis freely confessed because he knew he was dying.

U.S. Associate Trial Counsel Col. John Harlen Amen read parts of the Marsalek affidavit on April 12, 1946 at the Nuremberg IMT, including the part pertaining to an order allegedly given by Ernst Kaltenbrunner to blow up all the prisoners at the Gusen camp. Ernst Kaltenbrunner was on trial at Nuremberg, charged with Crimes against Humanity which included the gassing of prisoners, to which Ziereis had confessed, according to Marsalek's affidavit.

Kaltenbrunner objected to the reading of the affidavit, saying:

This Hans Marsalek whom, of course, I have never seen in my life, had been an internee in Mauthausen as were the two other witnesses. I have briefly expressed my views as to the value of a statement concerning me from a former concentration camp internee and my inability to speak face to face with this witness who now confronts me, and my application will be made through my counsel. I must ask here to be confronted with Marsalek. Marsalek cannot know of any such order. In spite of that he states that he did.

The "order" that Kaltenbrunner referred to was the alleged order to kill all the prisoners just before the Americans arrived. Kaltenbrunner's request to be confronted with Marsalek was denied and Marsalek never took the witness stand at Nuremberg.

The Commander of the 11th Armored Division was Richard R. Seibel, who arrived at Mauthausen some time in April 1945, before the camp was officially liberated, and stayed there for 35 days before being assigned to duty in the Austrian Alps, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Two American field hospitals were brought in, according to the USHMM.

The caption on the photo at the top of this page says that the photo on display was taken on May 24, 1945 at the Gusen camp. The soldier in the photo is not identified, but allegedly Col. Richard R. Seibel, the commander of the 11th Armored Division was present when Commandant Franz Ziereis was questioned by Hans Marsalek. Col. Seibel did not testify at the Nuremberg IMT, nor did he sign his name as a witness to the confession of Ziereis.

In the upper left hand corner of the photo at the top of this page can be seen what looks like the sleeve of a striped prison uniform on the arm of a person who is taking notes, possibly Dr. Koszeinski, a prisoner whom Marsalek alleges was present, or Marsalek himself.

The name of the photographer is not mentioned on the display, but Francois Boix, a prisoner who worked in the photography department at the main Mauthausen camp, was allegedly present when Ziereis made his confession. Boix worked in the darkroom at Mauthausen and had the means and the opportunity to put three photographs together to make a fake photo.

Boix testified at the Nuremberg IMT that Mauthausen was an extermination camp where the only way out was through the chimney, and that there were gas chambers there, but he was not asked about the confession of Franz Ziereis.

The Army Signal Corp photo below shows Boix at the main Mauthausen camp with a camera around his neck. At the Nuremberg IMT, Boix identified a photo of Ernst Kaltenbrunner, which proved that Kaltenbrunner had visited the camp.




Francois Boix is on the far left with a camera hanging around his neck


In his alleged 6-to-8-hour confession, which was written up from memory ten months later by Hans Marsalek, Ziereis named Dr. Krebsbach as the man who was responsible for setting up the gas chamber at Mauthausen. Ziereis also allegedly confessed that he personally drove a gas van between Mauthausen and Gusen, killing prisoners with carbon monoxide on the way, and that between 1 million and 1.5 million prisoners were gassed in the 192-square-foot gas chamber at Hartheim Castle.

In the photo below, taken in the camp at Mauthausen, Commandant Franz Ziereis is the third man from the left. Sturmbannführer Eduard Krebsbach, the camp doctor at Mauthausen until June 1943, is the man standing to the left of Ziereis in the group photo.




Staff officers at Mauthausen concentration camp


In his book entitled "The 186 Steps," Christian Bernadac gives information which disputes the official version; Bernadac indicates that Ziereis was taken prisoner and interrogated by two prisoners before he was shot.

Bernadac quotes the following information given by Razola and Constante, two Spanish prisoners at Mauthausen, regarding the death of Ziereis:

Commander Ziereis, recognized in spite of the fact that he was wearing civilian clothing, was taken prisoner and led to the camp where his interrogatory was conducted by (Hans) Marsalek and (Francisco) Boix. There was nothing courageous in his attitude. He was quibbling and sniffing, and argued that he was not responsible, and that all he did was carry out the orders of his government. He was executed by an American officer of Cuban origin who took the responsibility of seeing that justice was done and in this way made it impossible for the American authorities to intervene against the deportees (prisoners).

A variation in the story of the death of Franz Ziereis, quoted below, was written by Robert Whealey in a recent article entitled "The Spanish Holocaust and the Cover-Up that Lasted a Generation" which was published in 2008 on the History News Network web site:

The last days of SS Colonel Ziereis may be typical. On the evening of 23 May in the village of Spital, Chief Warrant Officer Walter S. Kobus (US Army) with three G.I.s and two ex-prisoners, a Spaniard and a Czech, captured Ziereis as he was preparing for suicide with a pistol. He bungled the attempt. Taken back to KL (Konzentrations Lager) Mauthausen, he was interrogated by three other ex-prisoners. Ziereis blamed his actions on his superiors: Obergruppenfuehrer (Four Star General) Oswald Pohl, Himmler and Hitler. The Czechs and Spaniards thought the US 11th Armored Division, then in charge of the stinking camp, would somehow allow Ziereis to go free, so they shot him in a trap which would allow him to believe that he could escape. The wounded Ziereis was taken by the U.S. Lt. Colonel in charge to a US field hospital where he died the next day. Ziereis's son witnessed the final hours and spat on his dying father.

The reason that the son of Ziereis allegedly spat on his dying father might have been because his father had given him a rifle for his tenth birthday. Richard Sonnenfeldt, a 22-year-old Jew, who was the chief American interpreter at the Nuremberg IMT, wrote the following in his book entitled "Witness to Nuremberg: The Chief American Interpreter at the War Crimes Trial":

One visit to Austria took us to the concentration camp at Mauthausen. We were seeking witnesses to prove that Ernst Kaltenbrunner, the senior surviving SS officer who was likely to be a defendant at Nuremberg, had personally observed the butchery going on at Mauthausen during repeated visits. Though "only" a few hundred thousand had been killed at Mauthausen, as compared to millions at Auschwitz, this concentration camp was not just an ordinary death factory. Mauthausen was infamous for the extreme cruelties and satanic tortures invented and practiced by Franz Ziereis, it's commandant. Ziereis himself had died before we arrived, wounded mortally while trying to escape. But we did talk to Ziereis's wife and teenage son.

Although I have forgotten the son's name, my conversation with him is burned in my memory. He was a fresh-faced towhead, who could have been an American kid by his looks, but not by his words or experiences. I asked him, "How did you get along with your dad?"

"My father was okay," he said. "The only thing I have against him is that he gave me a rife as a present on my tenth birthday, then had six prisoners lined up, and I had to shoot until they were dead. That took a long time and it was very hard and I did not like it."

I later found out that the gun was of very small caliber and that Commandant Ziereis had invented this particular pastime because he knew it took dozens of shots to kill prisoners this way.

Another version of this story is that Ziereis gave his son 50 prisoners to shoot as a present for his eleventh birthday. An unsubstantiated rumour is that Ziereis allowed his son to shoot prisoners from the "front porch" of his house in Austria.

Regarding the death of Ziereis, Abram L. Sachar wrote the following in his book entitled "The Redemption of the Unwanted":

On May 23, U.S. intelligence learned he was hiding in nearby Spital. Ziereis opened fire on the squad sent to arrest him and was seriously wounded in the exchange of shots. Taken to a hospital in one of the subcamps, he was put into the care of a Jewish prisoner who had been spared only because his medical skills were indispensable. The physician felt obliged by his Hippocratic oath, and his own integrity, to do his best for Ziereis. As the former commandant babbled in self-justification, hundreds of orders and records were retrieved. These, along with instruments of torture, were assembled to serve as evidence in the later trials of the war criminals. Even a cursory review of the documents indicated that between one and a half and two million prisoners had been starved or worked to death in Mauthausen and its subcamps. Ziereis himself died in the hospital before he could be condemned and probably executed.

Eye witness account of the last days of Commandant Franz Ziereis

Cpl. Donald Leake was a 21-year-old soldier with the 11th Armored Division, 21AIB, of General Patton's Third Army; he was among the first soldiers that liberated Mauthausen on May 5, 1945. Along with other U.S. soldiers, Leake was assigned to live inside the Mauthausen concentration camp and guard the prisoners in order to prevent them from killing each other and to keep them inside until the typhus epidemic could be brought under control.

In an e-mail to me on July 6, 2008, 84-year-old Donald Leake described his first day at Mauthausen when he saw the dead bodies of three guards before rigor mortis had set in:

When we arrived at the camp we found a guardhouse with 3 bodies. Apparently they thought suicide was better than the prisoners getting hold of them. They had tried glass to cut their arms and when that didn't work they wrapped their belts around their necks and fastened them to a heater radiator and slumped down so they would choke to death.

Leake was first assigned to guard a pit where potatoes were being stored. The sick prisoners at Mauthausen were being fed a thin potato soup by the Americans and Leake's job was to prevent the prisoners from stealing the potatoes and killing themselves by over eating.

After the Mauthausen camp was liberated, 3000 prisoners allegedly died from disease or from eating too much of the rich food that the Americans gave them. Leake told how he had to fire a few shots into the potato pit to ward off three starving prisoners who were trying to steal potatoes.

In one of a series of e-mails, Donald Leake wrote the following, regarding what happened to the guards at the camp:

The only one I saw had a rope around his neck and was being led around the camp by prisoners, and appeared to have his tongue cut out. He was asking for help, but could not speak well. I told an officer and he said "tough, let it be." It is difficult not to help anyone being tortured.

Donald Leake wrote in another e-mail to me that, on May 23, 1945, the U.S. soldiers at Mauthausen were alerted that there was a "disturbance" going on at a nearby village. According to Leake, several soldiers were sent to the village to take care of the problem, and Ziereis was shot 3 times in the back with a 30 cal. rifle by an American soldier with the rank of private.

Leake did not witness the shooting, but he wrote that the death of Ziereis

...was of such interest to me that I asked around and found the soldier who shot him encamped with his company nearby, and asked him the circumstances of the shooting. His squad was walking toward a house where there was a disturbance and he (Ziereis) came running out, and that was when he was told to halt 3 times, then he (the soldier) fired.

Leake saw Ziereis when he was brought into the Mauthausen main camp, and put into the room where the SS guards spent time when they were not on duty.

Donald Leake wrote the following regarding the last days of Ziereis's life:

I was told to stay in his room to guard him from the prisoners who would like to get hold of him. I heard no confession or any threats to him while I was on duty. About 2 or 3 days later the Doctor said to me "he is dying but I have many other patients to take care of. Call me if you see any change in him." After about 20 minutes he (Ziereis) began gasping and breathing heavy, so I sent a soldier to get the Dr. He came and said "since he's dying this is a last resort" and he gave him a shot directly into his heart [adrenaline?] but he died soon after.

According to Leake, the Doctor who took care of Ziereis was an American wearing civilian clothes who had only recently arrived; he was not a prisoner in the camp.

Donald Leake wrote that Commandant Franz Ziereis was unconscious when he was brought to Mauthausen and that he never recovered consciousness while Leake was on duty. Leake's job was to guard Ziereis to keep the prisoners from getting to him to exact revenge.

In answer to my question about whether Hans Marsalek could have heard a confession from Ziereis, Donald Leake wrote the following in an e-mail on July 6, 2008:

He (Ziereis) was in a room the guards of the camp used for down time. No one questioned him while I was on duty. I would have seen anyone had they come into the room. I never saw him conscious or speak on my guard time. Anything could have happened on my off time but I doubt he could have conversed with anyone. My orders were "shoot to kill if any prisoner tried to get to him." I thought they just wanted to patch him up for a war trial. No one seemed excited that they had the commandant there. I thought it was very important. I also thought that 2 or 3 30 cal shots were excessive to bring a man down. One of the holes seemed to go into his armpit and possibly lodge in his lung. I certainly would have seen Marsalek if he had entered while I was on duty.

According to Donald Leake, Ziereis did not die immediately after he was shot, but lingered in an unconscious state for a couple of days before he died. Ziereis was never taken to a hospital, according to Leake. Leake believes that the photo of Franz Ziereis on his death bed was taken after he was already dead.

The official version of the death of Ziereis is that he died in a hospital in Gusen and his body was hung on the fence at Gusen by the prisoners and left there for a couple of weeks. However, Donald Leake saw the body of Ziereis hanging on a fence in the Mauthausen main camp after his death.

Regarding what happened after the death of Ziereis, Donald Leake wrote the following to me in an e-mail:

The Doctor said I could leave, and someone would take care of the body. I wasn't comfortable with this so I sent someone to my squad leader and he said to leave for other duties. I don't know how, but I later saw his body hanging on the fence with swastikas painted all over him. What else the prisoners did, I didn't see, but after a few days the odor was bad. I told an officer it was growing rank and he said he would take care of it which he did.

Prof. Dr. Klaus Schilling

"A physician, Dr. Klaus Sch. (sentenced to death by the Allied court), wanted to test a remedy for malaria. Malaria, a tropical disease, did not prevail in Dachau. He could have gone to the tropics to make his tests there. But why go to such trouble? One could make everything more convenient in the concentration camp." Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, What Was It Like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?


Dr. Klaus Schilling on the witness stand, 7 December 1945


Dr. Klaus Schilling was one of the world's foremost experts on tropical diseases when he was ordered by Heinrich Himmler, the head of all the Nazi concentration camps, to come out of retirement to work on a cure for malaria after German soldiers began dying of the disease in North Africa. Before his retirement, Dr. Schilling had worked at the prestigious Robert Koch Institute in Berlin. He began specializing in tropical diseases after he himself contracted malaria.

After the war, Dr. Schilling was arrested by the American Army and charged with participating in a "common plan" to violate the Laws and Usages of War because he conducted experiments on Dachau prisoners, using various drugs in an effort to find a cure for malaria. Most of his subjects were young Polish priests whom Dr. Schilling infected by means of mosquitoes from the marshes of Italy and the Crimea, according to author Peter Padfield in his book entitled "Himmler." The priests were chosen for the experiments because they were not required to work, as were the ordinary prisoners at Dachau.


Johann Maria Lenz, a Catholic priest, testifies at Dachau


One of the prosecution witnesses at the trial of the German Major War Criminals at Nuremberg was Dr. Franz Blaha, a Czech medical doctor who was a Communist political prisoner at Dachau. An affidavit signed by Dr. Blaha was entered into the main Nuremberg trial. It was marked Document Number 3249-PS, Exhibit USA-663. His comments in this affidavit about Dr. Schilling are quoted below from the transcript of the Nuremberg trial for January 11, 1946

"3. During my time at Dachau I was familiar with many kinds of medical experiments carried on there on human victims. These persons were never volunteers but were forced to submit to such acts. Malaria experiments on about 1,200 people were conducted by Dr. Klaus Schilling between 1941 and 1945. Schilling was personally ordered by Himmler to conduct these experiments. The victims were either bitten by mosquitoes or given injections of malaria sporozoites taken from mosquitoes. Different kinds of treatment were applied including quinine, pyrifer, neosalvarsan, antipyrin, pyramidon, and a drug called 2516 Behring. I performed autopsies on the bodies of people who died from these malaria experiments. Thirty to 40 died from the malaria itself. Three hundred to four hundred died later from diseases which were fatal because of the physical condition resulting from the malaria attacks. In addition there were deaths resulting from poisoning due to overdoses of neosalvarsan and pyramidon. Dr. Schilling was present at my autopsies on the bodies of his patients."

The 74-year-old Dr. Schilling was convicted at Dachau and hanged. In his final statement to the court, Dr. Schilling pleaded to have the results of his experiments returned to him so they could be published. During his trial, he tried to justify his crime by saying that his experiments were for the good of mankind.

Erhart Brauny



The accused in the Nordhausen proceedings stand in the Dachau courtroom


After World War II ended, hundreds of the concentration camp guards and staff members were brought before the Military Tribunals conducted by the American military occupation at Dachau. The photograph above shows the accused in the 1947 proceedings against the staff members of the Nordhausen concentration camp. Erhart Brauny is the second man from the left; he appears to be wearing a light-colored women's suit jacket that is too small for him.

As far as I know, there was no special trial or American Military Tribunal at Dachau for the men responsible for the Gardelegen massacre where prisoners, who had been evacuated from several concentration camps, were herded into a barn that was then set on fire. According to a booklet, which I purchased in Gardelegen, entitled "Die Todesmärche and das Massaker von Gardelegen" by Diana Gring, the man who gave the order to burn the prisoners, Gerhard Thiele, escaped by disguising himself in the uniform of a German soldier and traveling with false papers. He lived in the Western zone of occupation and later in West Germany under a false name. He was never brought to justice.

However, at least one of the SS men involved in the Gardelegen massacre was put on trial in 1947, according to Gring. She states on page 34 that SS-Untersturmführer Erhart Brauny was sentenced to life in prison. According to Gring, Brauny had been assigned to the Rottleberode sub-camp in 1944 and he was the transport leader for the prisoners evacuated from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp who subsequently wound up in Gardelegen and were herded into the barn which was set on fire.

Brauny, who was born in 1913, had served as a guard at the Buchenwald camp, starting in 1939, according to Gring's booklet. Gring wrote that Brauny died in 1950, but she did not give his cause of death. Presumably, he died a natural death while in prison. The photograph below shows Erhart Brauny standing before the three-judge panel which sentenced him to life in prison.




Erhart Brauny was sentenced to life in prison in Dachau courtroom


The prisoners who were burned in the barn at Gardelegen had been previously evacuated from several forced labor camps; they were put on a transport train which left on April 4, 1945, carrying prisoners from the Nordhausen, Rottleberode, Wieda and Ilfeld camps. The prisoners had been workers in the underground factories which produced airplane parts and V-2 rockets. The train was headed northwest; its destination was probably the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northwestern Germany.

The transport train was forced to stop in the village of Mieste, near Gardelegen, because Allied bombs had destroyed the tracks. The prisoners were then forced to march to Gardelegen where they were temporarily housed in the stables of the Remonteschool Garrison, which was a Cavalry School for German soldiers. Another transport train had stopped in the village of Letzlingen on April 11, 1945 and there was a mass escape of the prisoners, who proceeded to rape, loot and kill German civilians. A few of these escaped prisoners were shot in the town of Gardelegen.

According to Joseph Halow, in his book "Innocent at Dachau," Erhart Brauny "had risen to commander of the subcamp Rottleberode, a part of the Dora/Nordhausen complex." Regarding the Dora/Nordhausen cases before the American Military Tribunal held at Dachau in 1947, Halow wrote: "The prosecution referred to him (Brauny) scornfully as "the handsome 'innocent' who cannot remember anymore." According to Halow, Brauny was accused of "numerous and terrible beatings, mistreatment of prisoners and acts of personal sadism against inmates of Rottleberode" in addition to being charged with responsibility for the Gardelegen massacre because he was the leader of the evacuation from Rottleberode to Gardelegen.

Regarding the Gardelegen massacre, Halow wrote the following in his book "Innocent at Dachau":

"The prosecution attempted to present a strong case for Brauny's responsibility for the illegal execution of approximately one thousand inmates, during an evacuation march from Nordhausen. The march, projected for about four days, was slowed by the rapid American advance. It was impossible to move the inmates by train, since by April, 1945, the time of the evacuation, the American planes had complete aerial superiority and much of the transportation system had been destroyed.

The evacuation march got only as far as a small town called Gardelegen. There, according to testimony, the Kreisleiter of Gardelegen had recommended to Erhart Brauny that the inmates be shot, in accordance with a cabled order from Himmler, by which no inmate was to be taken alive by the Allies. After several proposals for disposing of the inmates were entertained, the inmates were locked in a barn and the barn was set on fire.

The entrapped inmates were able twice to extinguish the fires, which were set by the Volkssturm (a replacement army, largely of boys and old men, and usually headed by Nazi Party officials). The third time, the barn went up, and the screaming victims inside were burned to death. Several who tried to escape were shot. Only two or three seem to have survived. When the Americans arrived the next day they found the bodies of the dead inmates, many of them still in the barn, while other corpses had been transported to a nearby mass grave.

Erhart Brauny, who commanded the evacuation march, testified that he had no role whatsoever in the killing of the prisoners. Not only had he not approved the action, but he had left Gardelegen well before then. The Kreisleiter had acted entirely on his own, Brauny said."

Halow points out in his book that the order from Himmler was allegedly sent by cable but no record of it has ever been found. Himmler was in charge of all the concentration camps and, as Halow points out, he would have had to have cabled at least 1,000 orders to the various commanders of all the concentration camps, but none of these cables have ever been found. Himmler's cable was allegedly sent to the Kreisleiter of Gardelegen, Gerhard Thiele, who was a civilian Nazi official, not a person in authority in the concentration camp system. Halow wrote that it would have been unusual for Himmler to have cabled an order, to kill concentration camp prisoners, to someone who was not connected to the concentration camp system.

In her booklet about the Gardelegen massacre, Diana Gring wrote: "Ungefähr zwanzig SS-Leute sollen nach Augenzeugenberichten sofort in Gardelegen von den Amerikanern erschossen worden sein." My translation of this sentence is as follows: "Approximately twenty SS people, after an eyewitness report, should have been shot immediately." It is not clear to me, after reading this booklet, whether any SS men were actually executed or not by the American soldiers.

In the booklet, Diana Gring also wrote: "Inwieweit sie sich in Prozessen für ihre Taten versantworten mußten, is zur Zeit erst unzulänglich bekannt." My translation of this is as follows: To what extent they had to answer for themselves in court proceedings for their deeds, is at the present time only insufficiently known.

The barn at Gardelegen was made of stone and brick, with sliding wooden doors that had no lock. The prisoners were herded into a grain storage barn which was about 3 miles from the town of Gardelegen, in order to prevent looting and attacks on German civilians. There is evidence that some of the prisoners were shot as they tried to escape from the barn, as the photograph below shows.




Victim with bullet hole in his coat lies on unburned straw in barn doorway

Rudolf Merkel

Sixteen-year-old Rudolf Merkel was the youngest war criminal in the Dachau trials and, at 19, the youngest inmate of Landsberg prison. He was tried before the US military tribunal at Dachau in 1947, along with 14 other German civilians, for the murder of three American flyers whose planes were shot down in August 1944 in the vicinity of Gernsbach, a German village near the French border. All of the flyers had surrendered, and according to international law, should have been treated as Prisoners of War by the civilians who were at the scene. But these German villagers were seeking vengeance because American and British planes had been bombing civilian targets and killing innocent people. The British and American policy of deliberately bombing civilians was designed to destroy the morale of the German people and force them to surrender. An estimated 600,000 German civilians were killed in the Allied bombing and virtually every city in Germany suffered bomb damage.

In three separate incidents near Gernsbach in August 1944, a group of local men brutally beat a downed American flyer, then deliberately killed him, and buried the body in the local cemetery. Merkel was a 16-year-old farm boy at the time, and like all German boys his age, a member of the Hitler Youth. He was 6 months too young to be in the German Army, and all the others in the case were too old to fight on the battlefield. One of the downed pilots had parachuted to earth and landed on a hill near Merkel's home in the village of Weisenbach. Merkel was one of three villagers who found the wounded pilot under a bush and started to carry him down the hill. They were interrupted by another villager, Adolf Eiermann, who ordered them to beat the pilot, later identified as Sgt. Robert A. McDonough. According to testimony at the trial, Merkel was urged by one of the participants, Hermann Krieg, to strike the flyer twice with a stick after the man was most likely already dead. For their crimes, Merkel was sentenced by the American military tribunal to hard labor at Landsberg prison for life, and Krieg received the death sentence.

In his final statement to the court, before the verdict was handed down, Merkel indicated that he had not known that he was participating in a "common design" to commit war crimes, the first charge in the Charge Sheet. As quoted by Joseph Halow in "Innocent at Dachau," his statement was as follows:

Yes. I must tell the High Court here that I didn't know anything about the first charge as it is in the Charge Sheet. The first charge accuses me, but I must say that at that time I was only 16 years old and I didn't know anything about that; I didn't know what was being done, and later on, in order to prevent anything like that from happening, I carried the flyer down there; and I must mention here I never have had any previous conviction and my parents never had any, either. And I would like to say also, that we have a small farm at home. My mother and father live there alone with two small children, the house is broken down and everything has gone to the dogs, and I beg the High Court to pass a just verdict.

When the Gernsbach case came up for review, three of the 14 convictions were overturned, and 2 of the death sentences were reduced, including Krieg's sentence which was reduced to 10 years. The guilty verdict for Rudolf Merkel was upheld, but his sentence was reduced to 15 years at hard labor. In the opinion of the review counsel, the evidence against Merkel was sufficient to establish that "he participated in and acted in furtherance of the common design embraced in the particulars of Charge I." However, the review counsel also said that "Notice should be taken of this accused's tender years at the time he committed these offenses."

Note the use of the word "accused," rather than the usual term "defendant." All the German war criminals were called "the accused" because they were presumed guilty and the burden of proof was upon them. Note also the use of the plural "offenses" although Merkel had only struck one of the flyers and was not even present when the other two were killed. Under the "common design" of the charges, all the accused were guilty in all three incidents because they were carrying out a common plan to deliberately kill downed American pilots. Nevertheless, because of his young age at the time of his crime, the review board considered his life sentence at hard labor to be too harsh.

Merkel hired a German lawyer and petitioned for clemency. The man who had urged Merkel to participate in beating the downed flyer, Hermann Krieg, had been originally sentenced to death by hanging, but the review board had reduced his sentence to 10 years in prison. For some inexplicable reason, the review board had ruled that Merkel's punishment should be more severe than Krieg's. Because of this, Merkel's German lawyer asked for his client's sentence to be further reduced.

According to court reporter Joseph Halow, in his book "Innocent at Dachau," Merkel's petition for clemency contained an accusation against Harry Thon, a Jewish interrogator for the Dachau trials. He quotes Merkel's statement to the court as follows:

"During the interrogation on August 1946, the interrogator, allegedly Mr. THOM (sic), who spoke German well, laid a pistol on the table and said to me I could choose now; if I told the truth they would turn me loose, otherwise there would be the pistol. I understood this to mean that he would shoot me if I did not testify how he wanted me to. I kept stating what is true."

Rudolf Merkel was finally released from Landsberg prison on September 18, 1951 after his sentence was commuted. He was 23 years old. Krieg was released 5 months later. Four of the other accused civilians in the Gernsbach downed flyers case were executed by hanging, including Adolf Eiermann, the instigator in the beating of McDonough. All the others were released from prison within ten years.

Malmedy Massacre Trial

"I recognize that after the battle of Normandy my unit was composed mainly of young, fanatical soldiers. A good deal of them had lost their parents, their sisters and brothers during the bombing. They had seen for themselves in Köln thousands of mangled corpses after a terror raid had passed. Their hatred for the enemy was such, I swear it, I could not always keep it under control." SS Standartenführer Jochen Peiper, 1st SS Panzer Division, Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler


Joachim Peiper, one of the accused in the Malmedy Massacre


Following the defeat of the German Army in World War II, the Judge Advocate Department of the Third US Army set up a War Crimes Branch which conducted 489 court proceedings in which 1,672 German war criminals were charged. This was apart from the proceedings against the major German war criminals before an International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg. Most of the secondary proceedings conducted by the American occupation forces were held at Dachau, on the grounds of Germany's most infamous horror camp, between November 15, 1945 and 1948.

The most controversial of the Dachau proceedings, and the one that is still discussed to this day, is the infamous Malmedy Massacre case against the Waffen-SS soldiers who were accused of the murder of American Prisoners of War and Belgian civilians during the intense fighting of the Battle of the Bulge.

The Malmedy Massacre, or the shooting of 84 American soldiers who had surrendered, took place on December 17, 1944, the second day of the Battle of the Bulge. After the war, during the summer of 1945, the US occupation authorities rounded up over 1,000 former soldiers in the 1st SS Panzer Division and interrogated them. Seventy-five of them were originally charged as war criminals in the Malmedy case. One of those who were charged was 18-year-old Arvid Freimuth who committed suicide in his cell before the trial started. Charges were dismissed against Marcel Boltz after it was learned that he was a French citizen. That left 73 men who were ultimately prosecuted by the American Military.

The Malmedy case became officially known as U.S. vs. Valentin Bersin, et al. Bersin's name was the first in the alphabetical list of the accused, and he was the first to be sentenced to death for killing Belgian civilians in the village of Wanne.

The proceedings in the Malmedy Massacre case started on May 12, 1946 and the verdicts were read on July 16, 1946. All of the 73 men on trial were convicted and 42 were sentenced to death by hanging. The list of the names of the 73 men are on a separate page.

Although popularly known as "the Dachau trials," these court proceedings by the American Military Tribunal at Dachau were not conducted like a typical trial in the American justice system. Guilt was established beforehand by interrogators assigned to obtain confessions from the accused who were then presumed guilty; the burden of proof was on the defense, not the prosecution. A panel of American military officers acted as both judges and jury and the defense attorneys were also American military officers. The judges took judicial notice of the crimes that were allegedly committed, which meant that the defense was not permitted to argue that the crimes had not taken place. Hearsay testimony was allowed and affidavits could be submitted by witnesses who did not appear in the courtroom and thus could not be cross examined by the defense.

In some of the proceedings at Dachau, the prosecution witnesses were paid to testify. Some of the accused were not permitted to testify in their own defense. Thus the outcome of the Malmedy Massacre proceedings was never in doubt.

The accused in the proceedings included General Josef "Sepp" Dietrich, commander of the Sixth Panzer Army, who was a long-time personal friend of Adolf Hitler, and Col. Jochen Peiper, the commanding officer of "Kampfgrüppe Peiper," the armored battle group which spearheaded the German attack in Hitler's Ardennes Offensive, better known to Americans as the Battle of the Bulge. Peiper's rank was the equivalent of an American Lt. Col. when he was assigned on December 16, 1944 to lead the tank attack, but after the battle, he was promoted to Colonel. Peiper preferred to be called by his nickname, Jochen, rather than his real first name, Joachim.

Both Peiper and Dietrich were members of the "Leibstandarte-SS Adolf Hitler," an SS outfit which was established in 1933 under the command of Dietrich. SS stands for Schutzstaffel which means "Protection Squad" in English. The SS was an elite group that was separate from the regular German army, which was called the Wehrmacht. The Schutzstaffel had started out as a private protection squad, whose purpose it was to personally guard Adolf Hitler.

Another branch of the SS was the SS-Totenkopfverbände, which served as the guards in the concentration camps. The SS was a unique branch of the German armed forces; it was a volunteer army which had many divisions made up of recruits from almost every country in Europe. The Waffen-SS soldiers swore an oath of loyalty to Adolf Hitler, rather than to their country, as did the Wehrmacht soldiers.




General Sepp Dietrich wearing Death's Head emblem on cap


The SS men was more hated by the Americans than the regular Wehrmacht soldiers. The men in all the SS Panzer (tank) divisions wore the Totenkopf or Death's Head symbol on their visor caps, the same symbol that was also worn by the Einsatzgruppen when they followed behind the troops, killing the Communists and Jews, when the German Army invaded Russia on June 22, 1941, and the same symbol that was worn by the guards in the Nazi concentration camps.

Dachau was selected as the site for the German war crimes proceedings that were conducted solely by the American military, partly because of the abundant housing available at the former concentration camp and the huge SS Training Camp there, but primarily because it was the place most associated with German atrocities in World War II. The mere mention of the word "Dachau" was enough to convince most people of the guilt of any accused German war criminal. The American prosecutors in the Dachau proceedings, most of whom were Jewish, had only to walk a few yards to the infamous gas chamber, that was located just outside the former Dachau concentration camp, to know what the Germans were capable of.




Courtroom at Dachau where proceedings took place


Lt. William Perl, an Austrian Jew who had emigrated to America in 1940, was the chief interrogator of the Malmedy Massacre accused. Perl was an active Zionist who had worked to get European Jews into Palestine illegally before he came to America. His wife was a survivor of Ravensbrück, the Nazi concentration camp for women, where she was sent in 1943. Perl was assisted by other Jews on the interrogation staff, including Josef Kirschbaum, Harry Thon and Morris Ellowitz. The Americans needed all the help they could get from native German speakers which is the reason that German Jewish refugees were used in the investigative process.

The chief prosecutor, called the Trial Judge Advocate, was Lt. Col. Burton F. Ellis, a Jewish attorney who had no prior experience in a military courtroom. He took over the case which had been handled by another Jewish prosecutor, Dwight Fanton, during the interrogation phase. His chief assistant prosecutor was another Jew, Raphael Schumaker.

The lawyer for the defense was Lt. Col. Willis M. Everett, who had never been involved in a criminal case before, had never fought in combat, couldn't speak German, and had only just arrived in Germany a few weeks before the proceeding began. On the opening day, Everett and his defense team had not yet interviewed all 73 of the men they were representing in the court room.

Everett was ably assisted by Herbert J. Strong, a civilian attorney who had volunteered to work on the war crimes military tribunals. Strong was a German-born Jew who had emigrated to America after the Nazis came to power. Except for the accused, most of the people in the courtroom were Jews, including two of the court reporters, and it was understandable that they had nothing but hatred and contempt for the ruthless and sadistic SS men.




Lt. Col. Everett on the left, Lt. Col. Ellis on the right


A panel of high-ranking American army officers acted as both judge and jury. Seven members of the panel are shown in the photograph below. The president of the panel was Brigadier General Josiah T. Dalbey, who is the fourth man from the left in the photo. The dominant member of the panel, Col. Abraham H. Rosenfeld, was the "law member," who ruled on all motions and legal matters during the proceeding.

Col. Rosenfeld was Jewish, and a graduate of Yale. He had had experience in over 200 court martial cases before coming to Dachau in March 1946. "Rosenfeld" was a name that was very familiar to General Dietrich because his close friend, Adolf Hitler, always referred to President Franklin D. Roosevelt by that name, claiming that FDR was both a Communist and a Jew.




Col. Rosenfeld sits under the flag with his hand on his chin


Of all the proceedings before the American military tribunal at Dachau, the one that was the most highly publicized was the Malmedy Massacre case. The proceedings were filmed and scenes were shown in the newsreels in American theaters. The accused complained that they were being blinded and cooked by the hot lights needed for the movie cameras. This case was important because every school child in America knew the name of the Battle of the Bulge. It was the most decisive battle on the Western front, the battle in which the Allies crushed the enemy army, leading to Germany's final defeat.

Besides bringing war criminals to justice, the Nuremberg and Dachau military tribunals were designed to educate the public, both in Germany and in America, that World War II was "the Good War," the war fought by the American good guys against the German bad guys, who were rotten through and through, from their evil leader right down to the teenagers who died defending their country. The purpose of the Dachau military tribunals was to establish once and for all that the Germans had committed unspeakable atrocities, which were all part of an evil conspiracy masterminded by Adolf Hitler.


US vs. Josias Erbprinz zu Waldeck-Pyrmont

The Trial of Hans Merbach


Hans Erich Merbach


One of the most horrific war crimes committed by the 31 Buchenwald war criminals was perpetrated by Hans Merbach, who was the 35-year-old SS man assigned to supervise the evacuation of Buchenwald prisoners to Dachau to prevent them from being released by the American liberators. The train had left the Weimar station near Buchenwald on April 8, 1945 and didn't arrive at Dachau until almost three weeks later. By that time, many of the prisoners were dead.




Dead prisoner on train from Buchenwald that was delayed for 3 weeks


One of the Jewish prisoners who survived the evacuation transport from Buchenwald to Dachau was Martin Rosenfeld, who testified for the prosecution at the proceedings against the Buchenwald staff members by an American Military Tribunal held at Dachau, which began on April 11, 1947. On the witness stand, Rosenfeld claimed that 350 of the Buchenwald prisoners were shot as they walked the 5 miles from the concentration camp down to the train station at Weimar; he testified that he personally saw Merbach shoot ten of the prisoners.

Rosenfeld also testified that Merbach used a Machine Pistol to kill civilians in the Czechoslovakian town of Pilsen because they had heard about the train on the radio and had brought food for the prisoners when the train stopped. He claimed that when the train made another stop along the way, Merbach went from one boxcar to another, shooting the prisoners, including 20 in the boxcar that Rosenfeld was riding in.

According to Rosenfeld, Merbach ordered all of the French prisoners out of the boxcars and then mercilessly gunned them down. The remaining prisoners were forced to bury the bodies and those who were too weak for the task were shot.

The train was strafed by Allied planes on the way and the prisoners were forced to stay in the open boxcars, while the SS men took cover in the woods, according to Rosenfeld's testimony, as quoted by Joshua M. Greene in his book "Justice at Dachau." Other survivors of the Death Train testified that Merbach had shot dying prisoners and prisoners who had been wounded by American bullets.

During direct examination by his defense attorney, Merbach testified that there were already dead bodies lying beside the road from Buchenwald to Weimar before the prisoners were marched to the train station on April 7, 1945. These prisoners had died on an earlier evacuation march out of Buchenwald to the Flossenbürg camp, or on the April 2nd evacuation march from the Ohrdruf sub-camp to the main camp at Buchenwald.

Merbach claimed that he had gone out of his way to get additional food for the prisoners after he realized that the train would be delayed because the tracks had been bombed by Allied planes. He said that when he tried to get more food, he was told that there was "barely any bread left" at Buchenwald.

When the train stopped at Dresden, the captain of the police there told Merbach that "it was impossible to get a piece of bread because the city was overrun with refugees." The refugees were German women and children who were trying to escape from the advancing Russian soldiers. Dresden had been fire bombed by American and British planes, only 8 week before, and thousands of civilians had been killed.

Merbach testified that at every stop, he sent four prisoners to the National Socialist Welfare Association to get buckets of water for the other prisoners. The photo below shows one of the box cars with a bucket in it.




Prisoners on death train were given buckets of water on the way


In his defense, Merbach testified that the citizens of Pilsen in Czechoslovakia had not brought food to the train and he cast doubt on Rosenfeld's claim that the residents had heard about the train's arrival from a Czech radio station. The next stop was Namering, a town in Upper Bavaria. There the prisoners did receive rations from the people in the town, according to Merbach. This was confirmed by the mayor of Namering.

Merbach said that some of the prisoners had escaped from the train, which sounds plausible since they were riding in open boxcars. Merbach's crime was that he was part of the "common plan" to kill the Buchenwald prisoners because he had prevented the escape of most of the prisoners from the train. Merbach said that he could not release the prisoners because "every time a prisoner escaped the most incredible things were happening among the civilian population."

The purpose of evacuating these prisoners had been to keep them from being released by American troops who were nearing Buchenwald. After Buchenwald was liberated, the Americans did release some of the prisoners and provided them with guns and American jeeps. The prisoners went down to Weimar where they engaged in an orgy of raping, looting and killing innocent German civilians.

Due to the Allied bombing of the German railroad tracks, the trip to Dachau took almost three weeks instead of the originally estimated 24 hours to travel 220 miles from Buchenwald to Dachau.

In the proceedings of the American Military Tribunals at Dachau, the accused were considered guilty until proven innocent. Their guilt had already been established by interrogations beforehand.

The interrogation of Hans Merbach took place at Freising on July 11, 1945 at which time Merbach testified that "Officers were beaten with a piece of cable in the face. And that, I suppose, is why the most incredible stories came out, particularly concerning this transport."

When Merbach was asked by the prosecuting attorney if he wanted to change his sworn statement, made in Freising when his memory was fresher, Merbach addressed the tribunal directly with the following statement, as quoted by Joshau M. Greene in his book "Justice at Dachau":

Yes, my memory in Freising was better, but the methods of interrogation caused me to say crazy things. Among the accused here are other officers who were beaten at that time. May it please the court, I was raised by decent parents. In 1917, when I was only seven, my mother got sick and a Jewish physician named Falkenstein treated her every day. I was very much grateful to him, although I knew he was Jewish. Even during my maneuvers with the Wehrmacht in 1936 and 1937 I didn't make any difference between Aryans and half-Jewish soldiers. I hated to participate in this fight of the government against religion. For me existed only one thing, love of my country and my people. It was not in me to participate in cruelties against unarmed people, to mistreat them or kill them. I am horrified about the accusations that are made here in court against me. About the transport, I have told you everything I know. I am imprisoned now for the past two years, and every day I search myself and weigh the good and the bad. I got food for prisoners, helped wherever I could and had deepest feelings for these poor people. If you members of the high court find me criminal in this transport, I have confidence you will at least not put me on the level of men who had bad intentions. Judge me as a man who tried to do his best. I had to obey crazy orders. Until the end I always tried the best. I await your judgment.

On August 14, 1947, Hans Merbach was convicted by the Tribunal at Dachau and sentenced to death. He was the last of the war criminals in the main Buchenwald trial to be hanged; the date of his execution was January 14, 1949.

Not to have convicted Hans Merbach would have been a great miscarriage of justice since he was indirectly responsible for the massacre of Waffen-SS soldiers who had surrendered at Dachau. The American liberators justified the killing of unarmed POWs by claiming that they had been enraged by the sight the dead bodies on the Death Train.

US vs. Josias Erbprinz zu Waldeck-Pyrmont

Commando 99 - the execution of Soviet Communist Commissars




Hermann Helbig points out the place were Russian POWs were killed


The charge against all of the accused in the main Buchenwald trial was participating in a "common plan" to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the Geneva Convention of 1929 and the Hague Convention of 1907. Under this charge, one of the main crimes committed at Buchenwald was the shooting of Soviet Prisoners of War, which was a violation of the Geneva Convention.

The prosecution was of the opinion that the defeated Germans should be held to the rules of the Convention with regard to Soviet POWs, even though the victorious Army of the Soviet Union, which had not signed the Geneva Convention, had committed some of the most horrendous atrocities against captured German soldiers, including sodomy and cannibalism, not to mention the unspeakable actions of the Russian soldiers against innocent German civilians.

At the time that the Buchenwald proceedings were taking place, millions of German POWs were working as slave laborers in the Russian gulags in Siberia. Only a few of them survived this ordeal and finally returned home after 10 years of working as slave laborers.

America had signed the 1929 Geneva Convention and was responsible for treating German POWs according to the rules of the Convention. However, in March 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower had designated all captured German soldiers as Disarmed Enemy Forces who were not entitled to be treated according to the Geneva Convention. At the time that the Buchenwald trial was taking place, the former Dachau concentration camp had been turned into War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 where German soldiers were being denied their rights under the Geneva Convention.

Before the invasion of Russia on June 22, 1941, Hitler had ordered that all captured Russian soldiers who were determined to be Communist Commissars were to be brought to one of the major concentration camps and executed. Not all of the Russian POWs were killed, just those who were political functionaries. At Buchenwald, the work of executing the Communist Commissars was done by a group called "Commando 99."

In the photograph above, Hermann Helbig identifies the stable where Russian Commissars were shot. Helbig was one of the executioners. Helbig's defense was that he had been a soldier for 25 years, and that he was only carrying out orders from his superiors. He said that he had no reason to question the legality of the order.




Hermann Helbig


Hermann Pister, the Commandant of Buchenwald, was charged by the Tribunal with being responsible for the executions, although he wasn't present when the executions took place and he was not the person who had given the orders. Under the "common plan" theory, which was unknown in international law, Pister's position as the camp Commandant was enough to make him automatically guilty of a war crime with respect to the execution of the Russian Commissars in his camp.

Rudolf Höss, the former Commandant of Auschwitz, wrote the following in his autobiography, regarding the execution of Soviet POWs who were Communist Commissars:

The reason for this action was given as follows: the Russians were murdering any German soldier who was a member of the Nazi party, especially SS members. Also, the political section of the Red Army had a standing order to cause unrest in every way in any POW camp or places where the POWs worked. If they were caught or imprisoned, they were instructed to perform acts of sabotage.




Horst Dittrich, on the far right, testifies about Commando 99


According to Horst Dittrich, an SS man who was a defendant in a subsidiary trial at Dachau, and a witness for the prosecution at the main Buchenwald trial, the Russian Commissars were killed by a shot fired through a slit in the wall of a medical examination room set up in the horse stable at Buchenwald. This horse stable had originally been built for Ilse Koch, who loved to ride horses, to the accompaniment of music played by an SS orchestra. The photograph above shows Horst Dittrich as he points out the location of the room where the Russian Commissars were executed. Dittrich had confessed during his interrogation, so he was a valuable witness for the prosecution.


Measuring device with slit through which shots were fired



Room where shooter stood behind the slit in the measuring device


The measuring device which was allegedly used to kill Russian Commissars was invented by the Commandant at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, according to the Russians who liberated the Sachsenhausen camp. A film of the Sachsenhausen camp was made by the Russians in which this method of execution was explained. The horse stable at Buchenwald has long since been torn down, but a reconstruction of the measuring device is currently shown at the Buchenwald Memorial Site, as pictured above. The measuring device used at Sachsenhausen is also long gone, and there is no reconstruction of it.

Horst Dittrich had no explanation for why this surreptitious and inefficient method of killing was allegedly used to murder 8,000 Russians at Buchenwald, even though the executions had been ordered by the Reich Security Main Office on the authority of Adolf Hitler himself. Dittrich testified that the room had to be cleaned with a water hose after each execution. At Dachau, 6,000 Russian Commissars were allegedly taken to a firing range outside the camp and executed.

Defense attorney Captain Emanuel Lewis argued at the Buchenwald trial that "We think the language of the Convention is simple and binding. It binds only those nations who sign it as between themselves. It is not binding as between a signatory and a nation that has refused to join the family of nations."

The argument over whether Germany should have been held to the rules of the Geneva convention with respect to the Russians who had not signed the Convention and were not following it, was never resolved in the Dachau courtroom. Another argument by the prosecution was that the execution of the Russian Commissars was murder because they had not been given a trial.

Hermann Pister, Commandant at Buchenwald, pointed out in his testimony that many of his comrades had been executed by the Allies without a trial. He claimed that Waffen-SS Lt. Gen. Schmidt was summarily executed without a trial because he was considered to be responsible for the horrible conditions found in the Mauthausen concentration camp when it was liberated by American troops, even though he was not in charge of the camp. The Commandant of Mauthausen,Franz Ziereis, did not get a trial; he was shot "while attempting to escape."

The former Dachau concentration camp was a strange choice as the location for the proceedings of the American Military Tribunals against German war criminals, who had allegedly violated the Geneva Convention, because Dachau was the site of the bloody massacre of surrendering Waffen-SS soldiers who had no connection with the concentration camp next door to their garrison.

The Trial of Dr. Hans Eisele


Dr. Hans Eisele stands in the courtroom at Dachau


One of the accused in the Buchenwald case, which was tried before an American Military Tribunal at Dachau in 1947, was Dr. Hans Eisele who had previously been convicted in the first Dachau trial which started in November 1945. This was the case against former Dachau Commandant Martin Gottfried Weiss and 39 others. Dr. Eisele had been condemned to death in that case, but he still had to answer for crimes that he had allegedly committed in the Buchenwald concentration camp.




SS 2nd Lt. Hans Eisele handled his own defense at the Buchenwald trial


In the photograph above, Dr. Hans Eisele is shown standing behind the defense table as he cross examines a witness, acting as his own defense attorney.

According to Joshua M. Greene, author of "Justice at Dachau," Dr. Hans Eisele was a Waffen-SS officer who had been assigned to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp after he was wounded at the front. At Sachsenhausen, he was known as "the Angel" and the former prisoners gave him a good report. He was later transferred to Dachau where his treatment of the prisoners changed, according to Lt. Col. William D. Denson, who prosecuted Dr. Eisele twice, once for crimes at Dachau and then a second time for crimes committed at Buchenwald.

According to Harold Marcuse, author of "Legacies of Dachau," Dr. Eisele had served as an SS camp doctor successively at Natzweiler, Buchenwald, Mauthausen and Dachau from August 1941 until the liberation of Dachau in April 1945. He was first brought before an American Military Tribunal as one of the 40 accused war criminals who were staff members at Dachau. He was sentenced to death for participating in the "common plan" to commit war crimes at Dachau, but his sentence was commuted to life in prison because he had only been at Dachau for 2 and 1/2 months and he had not been personally accused of any mistreatment of the Dachau prisoners. At Buchenwald, which was a Class II camp for hard-core Communist political prisoners, Dr. Eisele became known as "the Butcher" for his alleged mistreatment of the prisoners.

In the Buchenwald case, Dr. Eisele was convicted of murdering prisoners by injection and of doing improper surgery. He was sentenced to death again for his crimes at Buchenwald.




Dr. Hans Eisele


On June 28, 1948, a new War Crimes Board of Review reduced Dr. Eisele's Buchenwald death sentence to life in prison. In August 1948, another commission recommended that his Buchenwald sentence be reduced to 10 years in prison, but his life sentence was confirmed in December 1948.

Harold Marcuse wrote the following regarding Dr. Eisele:

Two years later in October 1950, another commission recommended remitting the Dachau sentence entirely, and reducing the Buchenwald sentence to ten years with ten days off for each month of good conduct. The recommendation was approved and, and on 19 February 1952, Eisele was released from Landsberg. As far as the new West German government was concerned, Eisele had been captured and imprisoned by the enemy, so that he was eligible for compensation payment (Heimkehrerentschädigung).

Eisele used his government award to open a licensed family practice in Munich, where he lived untroubled by his past until 1958, when testimony in the trial of a sadistic Buchenwald guard before a West German court heavily incriminated him. Warned by sympathetic officials that he would be arrested, he personally dropped off a letter to the editor of the Munich Evening News, in which he defended his reputation, and boarded an airplane to Egypt, where he was employed within a network of former Nazis in an army hospital.

The "sadistic Buchenwald guard," referred to above, was Martin Sommer who was in charge of the bunker or camp prison. He was indicted by Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen in 1943 at the same time that Commandant Koch and his wife Ilse were put on trial. Dr. Morgen was an SS judge who was assigned by Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler to investigate charges of cruelty and corruption at the concentration camps. After his trial in Dr. Morgen's court, Sommer was transferred to the Russian front where he was wounded in action. The West German court delayed bringing Sommer to trial until 1958 because he was a paraplegic as a result of his war wounds. Sommer was convicted by the West German court of the murder of 25 Buchenwald prisoners by injection and was sentenced to life in prison. Sommer is famous as the innovator of the hanging punishment in which prisoners were hung by their arms from a tree. This punishment was discontinued in 1942 by order of Heinrich Himmler.

Dr. Eisele died in Egypt in 1967 at the age of 55. His release from prison was a great disappointment to Lt. Col. William D. Denson, the prosecutor who had twice won his case, resulting in two death penalties for Eisele. According to his biographer, Joshau M. Greene, Denson often spoke of Dr. Eisele in his lectures to law students in America. Denson was still convinced that Eisele was guilty and that his crimes became worse and worse as he became more cruel in each new camp where he worked. Although he had started out as a decent man before the war, Dr. Eisele had become cruel because cruelty was commonplace in the camps, according to Denson.

US vs. Josias Erbprinz zu Waldeck-Pyrmont

Trial of 31 war criminals from Buchenwald concentration camp

On March 4, 1947, war crimes charges were brought against Hermann Pister, the Commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp from 1942 to 1945, and 30 others associated with the camp.

The proceedings against the 31 accused Buchenwald war criminals began on April 11, 1947, the second anniversary of the liberation of the camp by the 6th Armored Division of the US Third Army.

The "Buchenwald trial" was held in a courtroom at the Dachau concentration camp complex; it was officially known as US vs. Josias Erbprinz zu Waldeck-Pyrmont, Case No. 000-50-5-9. Waldeck was an SS general and the highest ranking person among the accused.




Josias Erbprinz zu Waldeck-Pyrmont


Ilse Koch, the wife of former Buchenwald Commandant Karl Otto Koch, was the most famous of the 31 war criminals in the Buchenwald case. She was accused of having prisoners killed at Buchenwald and then having their tattooed skin removed to make human lamp shades.

Among the accused was Hans Merbach, the SS soldier who had been in charge of the transport train on which around 5,000 Buchenwald inmates were transported to the Dachau concentration camp, and only about 25% of them survived the trip. This was the infamous Death Train which was discovered by the American liberators on the day that they liberated the Dachau concentration camp.

The Nazi concentration camps had been declared to be a criminal enterprise by the Allies. Under the Allied concept of co-responsibility which was used in all the World War II war crimes trials, anyone who worked in one of the camps in any capacity was a war criminal. The 31 accused persons in the Buchenwald trial included at least one person who represented each job title in the camp.

The relatively low number of Buchenwald war criminals might have been due to the fact that 76 of the SS staff members had been hunted down and killed by the inmates with the help of the American liberators. It was not a war crime for American soldiers to kill German POWs at that time because General Dwight D. Eisenhower had had the foresight in March 1945 to designate all future German POWs as Disarmed Enemy Forces in order to get around the rules of the Geneva Convention of 1929, which America had signed.

The list of the 31 accused war criminals in the main Buchenwald case is as follows:

Otto Barnewald
August Bender
Anton Bergmeier
Arthur Dietzsch (Kapo)
Dr. Hans Eisele (Camp doctor)
Werner Greunuss
Philipp Grimm
Hermann Grossmann
Heinrich Hackmann
Gustav Heigel
Hermann Helbig
Dr. Edwin Katzen-Ellenbogen (prisoner)
Josef Kestel
Ilse Koch
Richard Koehler
Hubert Krautwurst
Hans Merbach
Peter Merker
Wolfgang Otto
Hermann Pister (Camp Commandant)
Emil Pleissner
Guido Reimer
Helmut Rocher
Hans Schmidt
Max Schobert
Albert Schwartz
Josias, Erbprinz von und zu Waldeck-Pyrmont (SS general)
Dr. Walter Wendt (Kapo)
Friedrich Wilhelm
Hans Wolf
Hans Zinecker




Famous photo shows emaciated Buchenwald prisoners


The charges against the 31 accused war criminals in the Buchenwald trial was that they had participated in a "common design" or a "common plan" to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the Hague Convention of 1907 and the Geneva Convention of 1929. These two conventions stated the rules of warfare pertaining to Enemy Prisoners of War.

Buchenwald was not a prisoner of war camp, but in the proceedings of the American Military Tribunals at Dachau, the prisoners in the Nazi concentration camps were regarded as detainees who were entitled to the same treatment as POWs under the Geneva Convention of 1929. It was not until 1949, after all the Military Tribunals had been concluded, that a new Geneva Convention gave all detainees the same rights as POWs.

In the photo below, a Russian Prisoner of War points an accusing finger at a German guard whom he claimed had abused him at the Buchenwald camp; this photo was taken on April 14, 1945, three days after the camp was liberated.




Buchenwald guard is identified by a Russian prisoner



Photo Credit: USHMM


A panel of American military officers, guided by "law member" Lt. Col. John S. Dwinell, who made legal rulings, served as both judge and jury for the proceedings. The court president was Brig. Gen. Emil Charles Kiel. The accused were defended by American military officers, led by Captain Emmanuel Lewis, the chief defense counsel. Dr. Richard Wacker was one of the defense attorneys.

The chief prosecutor was 34-year-old Lt. Col. William Denson, who had a conviction rate of 100% in similar proceedings against the staff members of the Dachau, Mauthausen, and Flossenbürg concentration camps.




Josias Erbprinz zu Waldeck-Pyrmont sentenced to life, August 14, 1947


Josias Erbprinz zu Waldeck-Pyrmont, the highest ranking prisoner among the accused, was an SS-Obergruppenführer and head of judicial matters in the district which included the city of Weimar and the Buchenwald camp. Waldeck was a member of the German royalty, who had joined the SS in 1929. He is shown in the photograph above, as he faced the Tribunal to hear his sentence of life in prison. His crime was that he had allowed Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, who reported directly to Hitler, to maintain a concentration camp at Buchenwald which was in his district.

Waldeck was the one who blew the whistle on Buchenwald Commandant Karl Otto Koch in 1943 after he noticed the name of Dr. Walter Kramer on a list of political prisoners who had been executed on Koch's orders. By that time, Koch had been transferred to the Majdanek death camp in Poland, but his wife, Ilse, was still living at the Commandant's house in Buchenwald. Waldeck ordered a full scale investigation of the camp by Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, an SS officer who was a judge in a German court. It was during this investigation that prisoners at Buchenwald told Dr. Morgen about the lampshades allegedly made from human skin.

After American soldiers had liberated the Buchenwald camp, they were astounded when the Communist prisoners took them on a tour of the camp, showing them pieces of tattooed human skin, two shrunken heads, preserved human body parts, an ash tray made from a human bone, and a table lamp with a lampshade allegedly made from human skin. The shrunken heads resembled those made by primitive tribes in South America.

A movie about the Buchenwald camp, directed by famed Hollywood director Billy Wilder, had been made by a film crew of the Signal Corps of the US Army shortly after the liberation of the camp; it included some footage of a display table. The photograph below is a still shot from the film which was shown during the proceedings at Dachau.




Body parts in jars, shrunken heads, tattooed skin and table lamp


The proceedings against the 31 accused in the "Buchenwald trial" began with the showing of the film made by Billy Wilder. The defense objected, pointing out that the film had been made three or four days after the camp came under the control of the American Army, and that it did not show anything that had occurred prior to that time. The objection was overruled and the film was shown. The defense also objected to the display of the two shrunken heads, but this objection was also overruled.

The narration in the film, as quoted by Joshua M. Greene, in his book "Justice at Dachau," is as follows:

This is a pictorial record of the almost unprecedented crimes perpetrated by the Nazis at the Buchenwald concentration camp. In the official report, Buchenwald is termed an extermination factory, and the means of extermination: starvation complicated by hard work, abuse, beatings, tortures, incredibly crowded sleeping conditions, and sicknesses of all types. This is the body disposal plant. There inside are the ovens that gave the crematory a maximum disposal capacity of four hundred bodies per ten-hour day. The ovens are extremely modern in design, made by a firm that specialized in baking ovens. All bodies were finally reduced to bone ash. One of the first things that German civilians from neighboring Weimar see on a forced tour of the camp is the parchment display. A lampshade, made of human skin, made at the request of an SS officer's wife..."

The SS officer's wife, who was mentioned in the film, was none other than Ilse Koch, the "Bitch of Buchenwald," and the wife of the former Commandant, Karl Otto Koch.

Dr. Kurte Sitte, a 36-year-old doctor of Physics at Manchester University who had been a political prisoner at Buchenwald since September 1939, testified at the Buchenwald trial that a shrunken head, which he identified in the courtroom, was the head of a Polish prisoner who had been decapitated on the order of SS Doctor Mueller at Buchenwald. Although the prisoners in all the Nazi camps had their heads shaved, this Polish prisoner had long black hair at the time he was decapitated.




Prosecution witness Dr. Kurte Sitte holds shrunken head in the courtroom


Defense attorney Capt. Emmanuel Lewis objected to the admission of the shrunken head into evidence because Dr. Mueller was not on trial, but his objection was overruled. Under the rules of the American Military Tribunals, any and all evidence was admissible, whether or not it pertained to the case, because the charges against all of the accused was participating in a "common plan" to commit war crimes.

At the suggestion of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, a group of newspaper reporters and U.S. Congressmen were flown in from America; they were taken on a grand tour of the Buchenwald camp on April 24, 1945 and shown all the gory artifacts on the display table pictured above. Every major newspaper in America carried the story of how Ilse Koch, the wife of the Commandant, had imperiously ridden her chestnut stallion through the Buchenwald camp, selecting tattooed prisoners to be killed by her lover in order to make human lamp shades for her home.

The nickname, "Bitch of Buchenwald," was given to Isle Koc