Friday, February 17, 2017

DACHAU CONCENTRATION CAMP (Report on a two-day visit, 1-2 May)

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    Mr Crossman 

  • 12 May 1945. 
  • Personal File 
  • DACHAU CONCENTRATION CAMP (Report on a two-day visit, 1-2 May) 

  • 1. INTRODUCTION The purpose of the visit to Dachau was to obtain documentary and photographic material directly after liberation for a motion picture on German atrocities to be shown in Germany. The material presented here, gathered in the disordered conditions of the second and third days of liberation, should therefore be read only as a preliminary report. 2. DACHAU'S SIZE AND PLANT The Dachau penal and correctional institution consists of a main camp (STAMMLAGER) surrounded by several subsidiary or work camps (UNTERLAGER), all situated on land owned or leased by the SS. The central Dachau compound, about ten acres in size, encloses some twenty-five semi-permanent prisoner barracks buildings, a permanent block of prison cells, an isolated barracks (known as the EHRENBUNKER) for special political prisoners receiving preferential treatment, kitchens, warehouses, guard rooms, special rooms used for corporal punishments, tortures, and medical experiments on prisoners, and a three-acre yard. In a special stockade outside the compound proper are the crematory, gas chamber, and war-dog kennels. A complex of SS and Waffen-SS administration buildings and warehouses abutts on the camp. 3. NUMBER AND TYPES OF INMATES At the time of liberation, about 65,000 prisoners were being carried on the Dachau roll, of whom 32,000 were housed in the main compound. Although the largest single national representation was Polish, men from every European state were present, including 5,660 Germans. Highly conflicting statements on the ratio of criminal to political prisoners were obtained; a United States officer assigned to the Camp Review Board explained that numerous non-German convicted criminals, on having refused the invitation to join the Wehrmacht had been transferred to the status of political prisoners. At the other end of the scale, among the inmates interviewed on 1 and 2 May were several Canadian paratroop officers, a Czech newspaper and motion-picture editor (Paul HUSAREK), the former Berlin correspondent of the Havas Agency (M. RAVOUX), a German Communist organizer who had spent twelve years at Dachau (George BIEBER), an Austrian aristocrat (Count LODRON), an Albanian Cabinet member (Ali KUCI), the former Polish Consul General in Munich (GRABINSKY) and a British Naval Officer (Lieut. Comdr. Patrick OREARY). The French General DELESTRAINT, also an inmate, had reportedly been executed two days before Dachau's liberation. A group of especially well-known prisoners, including Martin NIEMOELLER, formerly quartered in a special barracks, had been removed late in April to the camp at Innsbruck. About 450 women were at Dachau, also quartered apart. Among these was stated to be the widow of Field Marshal von WITZLEBEN. 4. LIVING CONDITIONS It was stated that the Dachau main compound, now holding 32,000 prisoners, had been designed to house a maximum of 10,000. Overcrowding had been aggravated during April by the arrival of some 15,000 evacuees from the Buchenwald, Auschwitz, and Kaufering camps. The bread ration CONFIDENTIAL

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    2. CONFIDENTIAL formerly consisting of 1/4th and later of 1/5th of a loaf of black bread per man per day, had been reduced during this period to 1/8th of a loaf. Housing facilities at Dachau are as follows : each barracks building is subdivided into four units, each of which consists of a bunk hall about 50 feet square, a mess hall about half as large, a washroom, and a latrine. In Dachau's early period, it is stated, these units accommodated about 100 men each. As observed on 1 May, however, the units were housing 300 to 400 men each. Sleeping accomodation was provided in three-tiered bunks about six feet wide, each sleeping from three to five and six men to a tier, and with less than two feet of head room above the top tier. The variations in density of population reflected a distinction between the "upper-class barracks" (NOBLEN BARRACKEN) which housed somewhat more favored prisoners, and the run of common barracks for the mass. Even in the NOBLEN BARRACKEN, however, sanitary facilities appeared to be hopelessly overtaxed. In the louse-infested poorer barracks, prisoners were observed eating their meal in the stench of latrines. In one of these units alone, more than a hundred bed-ridden cases were observed, the chief sicknesses being spotted typhus, dysentery, and diarrhoea (the latter being classed by the inmates as a fatal disease, in view of the impossibility of obtaining diet changes). Corpses were found in the bunks, and before the barracks door. 5. MEDICAL CARE A special barracks - not, however, isolated from the others - had been reserved as an infirmary (KRANKENREVIER). Several prisoners stated that for long periods the infirmary had been without the services of a doctor, and had relied on medical orderlies alone. This circumstance, to which was added the fear of being turned over by the orderlies to the medical experimental station for guinea-pig purposes, appears to have dissuaded many prisoners from answering sick-call. A prisoner in charge of the Dachau muster role reported that on 1 May, 3,900 prisoners were being carried on the infirmary list. According to estimates made by American medical officers on the same date, however, a total of 8,500 Dachau inmates were bed-ridden. Although the German authorities had made an attempt to isolate several of the regular barracks for typhus cases, typhus was by no means restricted to these. As an exception to the general medical picture, prisoners admitted that the German authorities had carried on an effective de-lousing campaign during the last months by means of a newly invented ultra-shortwave process. 6. DEATH RATE AND DISPOSAL OF THE DEAD The following figures on deaths during recent months were obtained from prison records : January 1945 2,888 February 1945 3,977 March 1945 3,750 Prisoners stated that these figures did not include certain executions and "disappearances". The prevalent method of disposal was to remove all clothes from the body and, after attaching an identification tag to its foot, to cart it to the crematory. At times when the four furnaces of the crematory were overtaxed, or when coal was short, bodies were dumped in a pit in the back of the camp. The clothes were turned over to the local agency of the DEUTSCHE TEXTIL- UND BEKLEIDUNGSWERKE, G.m.b.H., a private corporation whose stockholders were SS officials, which reclaimed and repaired the garments (with the use of unpaid prison labor), and then re-sold them to the camp clothing depot for the use of other prisoners. CONFIDENTIAL

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    CONFIDENTIAL 3. 7. PUNISHMENTS AND EXECUTIONS Routine punishments, as reported by prisoners who had undergone them, were : for having leaned on one's shovel while at work in the quarry, one hour's suspension by the hands from a ring attached to the wall; for having smoked a cigarette during work hours, twenty-five lashes at the whipping post. A special punishment, reported by several witnesses, was that of making the entire camp population stand at attention in the yard all night long, in expiation for the escape of a prisoner. The first of these NACHTSTEHEN, during which prisoners were forbidden to wear caps, coats, or gloves, took place during the cold and rainy night of 23 January 1939, on the order of the Schutzhaftlager-fuehrer, SS Obersturmfuehrer HOFFMAN. An unusual form of torture was that of ordering a prisoner to climb to the top of a tree, and then ordering a second prisoner to chop the tree down. The use of dogs to attack naked men who had been trussed up in the crematory yard appears to have been frequent. A gas chamber with sixteen nozzles served for executions. Prisoners reported (without giving details) that in the period from early 1942 to early 1943, anywhere from 200 to 300 Russian military and political prisoners had been shot each day, and that their bones had been used to pave streets. They also reported that during the week before the arrival of American troops, executions by shooting numbered about 30 per day. 8. DACHAU AS A PROFIT-MAKING INSTITUTION The cost to the SS of maintaining a prisoner at Dachau (including food, clothing, and amortization) was stated to be RM 1.70 per day. All prisoners other than the bed-ridden and those needed for essential camp services were put to work on projects that brought in to the camp administration an income well in excess of its outlay. Receipts for the labor of convict engineers, carpenters, clerical workers, etc., who had been farmed out under guard to manufacturers in Munich and Dachau ranged from RM 4 to 6 per man per day. Other prisoners were put to work in the SS-owned quarry at Ueberlingen. About 1400 prisoners were kept working at DIE PLANTAGE, a large farm near Dachau specializing in medicinal herbs. Ownership of the farm was vested by the SS in a private corporation among whose chief stockholders reportedly were General der Waffen-SS POUL and Hauptsturmfuehrer VOIGT. The work of reclaiming the clothes of dead prisoners for the account of the DEUTSCHE TEXTIL- UND BEKLEIDUNGSWERKE was shared by Dachau prisoners with those at Oranienburg and the women's camp at Ravensbrueck. Between sixteen and twenty Dachau women prisoners were employed as prostitutes inside the camp (their establishment being visited only, prisoners stated, by criminal and "asocial" elements); and it is believed that the SS deducted a share of their earnings. 9. MANAGEMENT Administration of Dachau and its subsidiary camps fell under the authority of the Inspector of Death's Head Units of the SS. Management was vested in a Camp Commandant aided by an immediate staff of 32, a subordinate staff of 212, and about 3,300 guards, matrons, trusties, etc. The last Camp Commandant was SS Sturmbannfuehrer WEITER (who was captured by troops of the American 45th Division). His executive officer inside the stockade was the Camp Leader, RUPPERT. Other officials named by prisoners were SS Oberscharfuehrer BONGARTZ, head of the crematory and chief executioner; SS Oberscharfuehrer EICHBERGER, an administration officer who was present at executions; and SS Oberscharfuehrer BACH, who in spite of his low rank was the camp's Chief Investigator (VERNEHMUNGS-FUEHRER), and as such was reported to be responsible only to the SS Central Office. Internal supervision of camp discipline and labor was placed in the hands of trusties (KAPOS) selected by the SS officials from among the prisoners. The men chosen were generally criminals or CONFIDENTIAL

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  • such political prisoners as could be lured by the prospects of favored treatment or power into turning against their fellows. No evidence obtained at Dachau suggested that members of any particular political group or party were predominant in KAPO ranks. The most powerful and hated trusties during the final period of the camp were WERNICKE, a veteran SA man (believed to hold Party badge # 202) who had been convicted of profiteering and whose post was that of LAGERPOLIZEI-KAPO, and the Senior Prisoner (LAGERAELTESTE), an Armenian named MENSARIAN. 10. THE FINAL WEEKS AT DACHAU Prisoners state that in mid-April the SS Central Office decided that the Camp Commandant, WEITER, had "gone too far" in his methods, and ordered a reorganization. The SS High Court (OBERSTGERICHT) came to Dachau to investigate and at the same time to seek to exonerate the Central Office from what had happened there. Its decision was to remove the camp leader, RUPPERT, and to arrest the trio of BACH, WERNICKE, and MENSARIAN, who had bossed and terrorized the compound. The Inspector-General of all concentration camps, WEISS (himself a former commandant of Dachau) was sent down to oversee WEITER. WEISS had barely started on this work, however, when on 24 April he was ordered to evacuate all concentration camps and, it is stated, "to see to it that none of the prisoners arrived at their destination". Preparations for the evacuation of Dachau began that same night. Twenty-one hundred Jewish prisoners were given a quarter of a loaf of bread apiece and placed in railroad cars for shipment southward. For three days the train waited in the yard for a locomotive. During that period, prisoners state, 300 of the evacuees died. On the evening of the 26th, about 5,000 more prisoners were evacuated from Dachau, carrying four days' bread rations and some cheese. Meanwhile, Dachau was itself the scene of an influx of prisoners from camps to the north. Of a column 480 strong which had left Auschwitz on 24 April, on foot and wearing thin clothing, 120 survivors arrived. On 25 April, 1,600 survivors of a convoy of 2,400 prisoners from Buchenwald reached camp; more than 100 of these died within the next twenty-four hours. On 28 April a mixed train of passenger and freight cars arrived after a slow trip from the camp at Kaufering, and hundreds of bodies were found among the living. (This is the famous "death train" which was found standing on a siding beside a public thoroughfare in Dachau, still littered with corpses, when American troops arrived). On 27 April, rumors spread through the camp that other prisoner convoy which had started out from Buchenwald had been exterminated entirely en route. When General Assembly was sounded on that day, therefore, many prisoners went into hiding or played sick. A round-up of the camp was ordered, but the SS guards needed for the carrying out of this order were just then absent from the camp, standing by to meet a possible American paratroop attack for which they had been alerted. Prisoners state that this paratroop alarm had been spread by their own underground confederates operating in the countryside around the camp, in order to distract and confuse the guards. It is also stated that a band of prisoners - most of them veterans of the Spanish International Brigade - broke out of the compound and exchanged fire with the SS guards, as a result of which three of their own number were killed. Since the guards and panicky trusties were unequal to the situation inside the camp, evacuation was put off another day. Next morning, WEISS disappeared. RUPPERT and BACH, now out of arrest took over control of the compound, and prisoners feared that they might order a general massacre. That afternoon, however, RUPPERT and BACH fled, along with the administrative and commissary officials, leaving behind only an outside guard of 200 SS men. This guard did not venture into the compound, and organized prison life at Dachau thus came to an end. CONFIDENTIAL

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    5. CONFIDENTIAL Early on 28 April each national group of prisoners had met to elect representatives. Toward evening these men, organized as the International Committee, took over the internal management of the camp. The chief trusties, WERNICKE and MENSARIAN, were placed under guard. Since the camp food stocks had come to an end, all available Red Cross food parcels were opened and their contents divided throughout the camp. During 29 April the prisoners were left quite to themselves, save for one attempt by several hysterically shouting SS men on motorcycles to stampede them into the electrically-charged stockade wires. At 1730 hours, American troops reached the camp gates, and the SS guards surrendered without a fight. About forty of them were shot out of hand or killed by the prisoners, and with them were WERNICKE and MESARIAN. 11. DACHAU'S PLACE AMONG CONCENTRATION CAMPS Prisoners who had had experience of other camps in Germany were unanimous in stating that conditions at Dachau were generally superior. Several divided Germany's camps into three classes : first and best, camps like Dachau; second, "hard-labor" camps like Ohrdruf and Ueberlingen; third and last, "death camps" (VERNICHTUNGSLAGER) like Mauthausen. The greatest fear of many prisoners was that they might be transferred to Mauthausen; of 1,600 Dachau inmates who had been thus transferred in the fall of 1939, it was stated that 900 died before the following spring. WILLIAM HARLAN HALE, Deputy to Assistant Chief of Division for Directives & Current Propaganda

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