The Liberation of Dachau.
"Lieber Gott, mach mich dumm, damit ich nicht nach Dachau kumm"
Dear God, make me dumb, that I may not to Dachau come. That was the short little song that many German children were taught. They seemed willing to forget that this camp was meant for the "enemies of the Reich... the Jews.
It is a known fact that common Germans, not of Jewish or Roma decent, were also sent to Dachau. They went their for reasons that the song above hints at. They knew too much, they talked too much, they didn't give the Hitler salute just right... for whatever reason they could end up in Dachau. They could die with the Jews.
The purpose for building Dachau is also a well known fact. To prepare the first true death camp. To make the model for all others that would follow. It was a prototype in many ways. In other ways it was its own unique corner of Hell itself.
The prisoners sent to Dachau could expect to be forced into hard labour, work designed to bring about a slow death, and then in the end be forced to push their predecessors' corpses into the camp's furnaces. By the time this camp was liberated by the United States Army on April 29Th of 1945 the permanent smell of death lingered in the air about it. The scent of burnt human hair and singed flesh seemed to permeate the very bricks that built the camp crematoriums.
In March of 1933 the Dachau furnaces were ignited and would not be extinguished till the camps liberation. In the beginning of the camp's existence it was mainly political opponents of the Nazi party that would be sacrificed to the fires of Dachau. This changed as the Nazis began their drive to exterminate the Jewish population of Germany and the newly occupied territories. By the end of the camp's existence there would be a larger number of Poles being fed to Dachau's fires than any other ethnic group.
Officially there were around 200 sub camps that reported to and supported the operations of Dachau. Most were camps where weapons and ammunition were constructed with the use of slave labour. Others were sites where the overflow of dead were burnt. All however were linked to the main camp through the use of trails or "Green Toms" (trucks used to gas prisoners on their way to the crematoriums).
As the war drew to an end more and more prisoners were being transported from outlying camps of the crumbling Third Reich. In late April of 1945 the last train from the soon to be liberated camp of Buchenwald arrived. Of the 4,800 prisoners on the train only 800 were received alive. The corpses of those who had died or been shot in transit were left on or around the train till the 5Th Army of the United States arrived.
On April 28Th the head of the camp, Camp Commandant Martin Gottfried Weiss abandoned his post and fled as the United States Army approached. History is kinder than I am to this cowardice Nazi. It is clear to me that Martin Gottfried Weiss did not simply fear capture but had left the SS Totenkopfverbande (Death's Head Unit) to destroy the camp and its prisoners as he and his loyal camp guards fled for Berlin. His orders were clear... kill them all.
(7Th Army Soldiers force Hitler Youth boys to examine the trains they helped to deliver to Dachau)
Late in the day the SS Commander Heinrich Wicker finally surrendered Dachau to the United States Army. From the report that was issued it is clear that Heinrich Wicker believed that the United States would pick up where the Nazis had left off. This is why he left his SS soldier with guns facing in on the remaining prisoners of Dachau.
"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."
Officially it is noted that the Seventh United States Army had liberated the death camp of Dachau. However it is commonly believed that units of the Fifth United States Army had been the first to enter Dachau and its outlying camps. In either case the camp's operations were put to an end and the Nazi SS soldiers were lined against the walls of Dachau and shot. No trial was needed for these dogs. No need for forgiveness for these worthless soulless monsters.
Army records report that only about fifty SS soldiers were shot that day. Other reports show that the number could have been 120 to 520 SS soldiers. These numbers are hard to accept since their was fewer than 300 SS soldiers manning Dachau and its surrounding camps when it was surrendered. In any case they should all have been shot as they knelt before their former prisoners. May their souls rot in Hell.
Trials of those who remained after the days that followed the surrender of the camp began in November of 1945. The coward SS Commander Martin Gottfried Weiss was hung as a result of these trials.
Today we should remember the heroic acts of our boys in arms. We should recall their bravery in coming face to face with the greatest evil our nation has faced in its history. And we should be proud of their reaction to it... the bloodying of evil men.
May we also keep in mind the fates of those who perished at Dachau and its supporting camps. We should never forget what was done as the world turned its eyes away from the suffering of innocent men and women. We should honestly and without exception finally be able to say "Never Again".