Frequently Asked Questions about Dachau
What are the visiting hours for the former concentration camp at Dachau?
The former Dachau concentration camp is now a Memorial Site which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The Memorial site is closed on Christmas Day and Yom Kippur, but is open every other day of the year, except on Mondays. Admission to the Memorial Site is free. No advance reservations are necessary and there is no timed entry. Backpacks do not have to be checked at the door and there is no X-ray machine at the entrance.
How do I get to the Dachau Memorial Site?
The Memorial Site is located in Dachau Ost, a district on the eastern side of the town of Dachau, which is 18 kilometers (12 miles) north of Munich. There are direct flights from America, Great Britain, France and other countries to Munich. You can take a Taxi from the Munich airport to the former Dachau camp, but it is fairly expensive. Trains run from the Munich airport to the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) in Munich, and there is also a bus every twenty minutes from the airport to the Hauptbahnhof. From the Hauptbahnhof, you can take the S-Bahn train number S-2 going in the direction of Petershausen to Dachau. Trains run very frequently and the trip to Dachau takes about 20 minutes each way. There is a special office called EurAide at the main train station which has English speaking clerks who can help you buy your ticket and give you detailed instructions on how to get to Dachau.
At the Dachau train station, take bus number 726 or 724, both of which stop at the entrance to the Memorial Site. (Use your train ticket for your bus fare.) Bus number 726 does not run on Sundays and Holidays. Taxis are available at the Dachau train station or you can walk about 3 kilometers (2 miles) to the camp.
To drive to Dachau, take the Autobahn from the Munich airport and watch for the exit sign to Dachau. When you get to the town of Dachau, look for the numerous signs which point to KZ-Gedenkstätte - the German name for the Memorial Site. It is located on the east side of the town of Dachau, near the corner of Sudetenlandstrasse and Alte Römerstrasse.
Visitors coming from Munich will probably enter the town on Theodor-Heuss-Strasse. Continue driving north on this street, until you intersect Sudetenlandstrasse, then turn right onto Sudetenland, and drive east until it intersects Alte-Römerstrasse. Turn left onto Alte-Römer and continue north a short distance until you reach the Memorial Site, which is on your left.
How can I take a tour of the Dachau Memorial Site?
Go to the EurAide office near Track Number 11 in the Munich Hauptbahnhof (main train station) to get information about tours of Munich and Dachau. Radius Tours has an office in the Hauptbahnhof near Track Number 26; they provide bus tours to Dachau and other nearby attractions.
Where did you get the information for your web pages on Dachau?
From reading numerous books about Dachau and the Holocaust. The most comprehensive book about Dachau, and the one that was the most helpful to me is
Legacies of Dachau by Harold Marcuse
I also obtained a lot of information from the books listed below, which I have quoted from extensively.
Dachau: The Hour of the Avenger: An Eyewitness Account by Col. Howard A. Buechner
Surrender of the Dachau Concentration Camp, 29 Apr. 45: the true account by Col. John H. Linden
Innocent at Dachau by Joseph Halow
Dachau: A Guide to its Contemporary History by Hans-Günter Richardi
Obere Moosschwaigestrasse 6 d
How can I contact the Memorial Site to ask for information?
Write to this address:
Alte Römerstraße 75
D - 85221 Dachau
Phone: From the USA, dial 011-49-8131-669970
Fax: From the USA, dial 011-49-8131-2235
The official web site of the Dachau Memorial Site is at this URL:
Can one do research at Dachau to find information about former prisoners in the camp?
Yes, the Museum has a library with 14,500 documents and over 5,000 books. There are records with names of the former inmates of the camp. You can write to the Museum at the address given above to find out about a specific prisoner.
Can children visit the Dachau Memorial Site?
Anyone can enter the Memorial Site. There is no guard at the gate who turns visitors away because they are too young. The main area of the Memorial Site has a Catholic chapel and a Catholic convent, a Protestant Church and a Jewish Memorial house of prayer which are suitable for children. There is also a Russian Orthodox Memorial Chapel. The gas chamber and crematory ovens are in an area which is separate from the religious memorials. Young children and sensitive adults should avoid looking at the ovens which are at the north end of the gas chamber building. There is no special exhibit for children at the Dachau Museum, and no exhibit of children's paintings or any other art work. Some of the exhibits in the Museum are horrible, but I did not see any sign warning that the museum is not suitable for children.
Does the Dachau Memorial Site have wheelchair access?
Yes, the Memorial Site is 100% accessible to wheelchairs. The site is on completely level ground with no steps. All the buildings have wheelchair ramps.
Is there a cafeteria at the Memorial Site?
Yes, there is a new cafeteria, just outside the Memorial Site, which opened in 2008. The closest restaurant is on Alte Römerstrasse, one long block south of the entrance to the Memorial Site. They serve excellent food and it is a friendly place.
When was the Dachau camp first opened and why?
The Dachau concentration camp was opened on March 22, 1933 in a former gun powder factory. The first prisoners were 200 members of the Communist and Social Democrats political parties who were arrested after the Reischstag (German Congressional building) was deliberately set on fire on the night of February 27, 1933. Some of the first prisoners were members of the Congress, who were suspected of plotting to overthrow Hitler who had just taken office as the German Chancellor on January 30, 1933. They were at first held in Landsberg prison which was the same prison where Hitler served time after his attempt to take over the government on November 9, 1923.
Was Dachau the first concentration camp?
Concentration camps were first used by the British in the Boer War when 76,000 women and children were incarcerated in South Africa. The Soviet Union had an extensive network of concentration camps, called gulags, which were first opened in 1918 after the Communist revolution in November 1917. The gulags continued to operate into the 1950ies and 4.5 million out of the 18 million inmates died in the gulags. Dachau is recognized as the first official concentration camp in Germany, but there were other camps opened around the same time. Dachau was the first camp opened in the state of Bavaria. A camp was set up at Oranienburg near Berlin around the same time that the Dachau camp was opened in March 1933. The Oranienburg camp was rebuilt as the Sachsenhausen camp, starting in 1936. The rebuilding of Dachau began around the same time period.
What was the total number of inmates at Dachau?
According to the Nazi records, the total number of registered inmates was 206,206. According to the US Seventh Army report, there were 221,930 inmates brought to the camp between 1933 and April 26, 1945 plus an additional 7,000 who were brought to the camp in the last few days before it was liberated. These 7,000 prisoners had been evacuated from other camps and were not registered when they arrived at Dachau.
How many Jews were murdered at Dachau?
The precise number of Jewish deaths at Dachau is unknown. According to the Nazi camp records, there were a total of 31,951 recorded deaths from all causes at Dachau, which included people of all religions and ethnic groups. Dachau was primarily a camp for political prisoners, common criminals and religious dissidents. The majority of the prisoners who died in the camp were Catholic. It was the policy of the Nazis to send the Jews first to ghettos and then to extermination camps in Poland, not to concentration camps in Germany. When the death camps in Poland were closed between June 1944 and January 1945, the surviving Jews were transferred to camps in the Greater German Reich, including some who were brought to Dachau and then sent to the sub-camps of the main Dachau camp. In the final days of the war, Jewish prisoners in the sub-camps were brought to the Dachau main camp, along with Jewish prisoners evacuated from Buchenwald. There were 2,539 Jews at the Dachau main camp when it was liberated.
How many Jews were murdered in the gas chamber at Dachau?
According to a book published by the US Seventh Army immediately after the war ("Dachau Liberated, The Official Report by The U.S. Seventh Army), there were a total of 29,138 Jews brought to Dachau from other camps between June 20, 1944 and November 23, 1944. This report says the Jews were brought to Dachau to be executed and that they were gassed in the gas chamber disguised as a shower room and also in the four smaller gas chambers. According Barbara Distel, the former director of the Memorial Site, the gas chamber at Dachau, which was disguised as a shower room, was never used for any purpose. The Dachau Memorial Site also says that the four smaller gas chambers were disinfection chambers used to kill lice in the camp clothing.
Was Dachau a death camp?
Although people died in the Dachau camp, including some Jews, Holocaust historians do not refer to Dachau as a death camp because Jews were not sent there for the express purpose of being murdered. The six Nazi death camps where Jews were gassed were Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka, Belzec, and Auschwitz-Birkenau, all of which were in what is now Poland.
How many people were tortured in medical experiments at Dachau?
Approximately 150 to 200 prisoners were forced to participate in experiments conducted by Dr. Sigmund Rascher for the German Air Force. About half of them died as a result. The Nazis claimed that the subjects were chosen from the German criminals or the Russian Communist Commissars in the camp who had been condemned to death. At least one of the subjects was Jewish; he had been condemned to death for breaking the Nuremberg Law against race mixing. There were also approximately 1200 Dachau inmates who were used for experiments, done by Dr. Karl Schilling, to find a cure for malaria. The subjects of these experiments were Catholic priests who were prisoners in the camp.
Did the inmates at Dachau have a number tattooed on their arm for identification?
No, incoming inmates at Dachau were not tattooed. Auschwitz-Birkenau was the only camp where prisoners were tattooed. However, prisoners who were transferred to Dachau after the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp was closed already had a tattoo when they arrived.
Were there women prisoners at Dachau?
Dachau was primarily a camp for men, but in the last days of the war, a few women were transferred to Dachau from other camps that had been evacuated. When the Dachau camp was liberated, there were 225 Jewish women there. They had arrived at Dachau only a few weeks before liberation. There were also a few women who were held as "special prisoners" in the bunker, as the camp prison was called; they were the wives of VIP prisoners, such as Kurt von Schuschnigg, the former Chancellor of Austria.
Where are the inmates who died at Dachau buried?
The very first prisoners who died at Dachau were buried in the Old Cemetery in the town of Dachau. Later, the bodies of those who died at Dachau were cremated in the ovens there in an attempt to prevent epidemics. The ashes were put into urns and sent to the families of the deceased during the early days of the camp. Ashes of Dachau victims from other countries were buried in the woods on the northwest side of the Crematory. These graves of unknown victims are marked with a Jewish monument and Catholic Crosses. There is also a box of ashes in front of a wall with the inscription "Never Again," located in front of the east wing of the Museum.
Inmates who died after the camp was liberated are buried in the Waldfriedhof, another cemetery in the town of Dachau. A new cemetery on Leitenberg hill was opened by the Nazis in October 1944 when they ran out of coal to cremate the bodies of the dead inmates. There are 7,439 mostly unknown Dachau prisoners buried in mass graves there, including some who died after the camp was liberated. Leitenberg hill is on the outskirts of the town of Dachau in the former suburb of Etzenhausen. After Dachau was liberated, there were 800 bodies of the victims cremated in the ovens at Dachau; their ashes are presumably buried at Dachau.
When was Dachau liberated and by whom? Was Dachau the first camp to be liberated?
Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945 by soldiers of the US Seventh Army. There were two divisions involved, the 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division commanded by Brigadier General Henning Linden and the 45th Infantry (Thunderbird) Division, commanded by Lt. Colonel Felix Sparks. Dachau was not the first camp to be liberated. That distinction belongs to Majdanek in Lublin, Poland, which was liberated by the Russian Army on July 23, 1944. The first camp to be liberated by the American Army was Buchenwald, on April 11, 1945.
Why is the 45th Infantry Division not honored with a plaque on the wall of the gatehouse at Dachau?
Both the 45th Infantry Division and the 42nd Infantry Division were invited to put up a plaque in honor of their liberation of Dachau, but the 45th declined. The 20th Armored Division was providing tank support for these two Infantry Divisions which were on their way to capture Munich when they came across the Dachau camp. When the 45th declined to be honored, the 20th Armored accepted an invitation to put up a plaque in their honor on the wall opposite the plaque in honor of the 42nd.
How many people were in Dachau when it was liberated?
According to the last roll call taken at Dachau on April 26, 1945, three days before the liberation, there were 30,442 prisoners in the main camp which is now the Memorial Site. There were an additional 37,223 in the sub-camps surrounding Dachau. Many of the Dachau prisoners were survivors who had been evacuated from other camps and had only arrived in Dachau a few weeks before the liberation. Additional prisoners from other camps arrived at Dachau after the final roll call and the official count by the US Seventh Army at the time of liberation was 31,432 prisoners in the camp.
If few people were gassed at Dachau, as the Museum claims, how did 31,951 inmates die during the 12 years the camp was in operation?
Many of the deaths resulted from epidemics of typhus and other contagious diseases. There were horrendous epidemics in all the concentration camps after survivors from Auschwitz were brought to Germany in late 1944 and early 1945. Typhus is caused by body lice and the epidemic was carried to Germany from Poland by prisoners who had body lice. Out of the 31,951 deaths in Dachau, 13,158 of them occurred during the typhus epidemic in the last four months that the camp was in operation, according to the Nazi records. According to the US Seventh Army official report, there were 16,717 non-Jews who were executed at Dachau between October 1940 and March 1945. The report also says that 15,724 prisoners were brought to Dachau and were not included in the official count of 206,206 registered inmates. Many of those who were executed at Dachau were Russian POWs who were shot on orders from Adolf Hitler who issued a command before the invasion of Russia in 1941 that all captured Communist Commissars in the Soviet Army should be executed.
How many people died in the Dachau camp after it was liberated?
In the month of May 1945, there were 2,226 Dachau inmates who died in the typhus epidemic which was still raging. There were 196 more deaths in June 1945. The epidemic was finally brought under control by the Americans with the use of DDT to kill the lice and typhus vaccine to stop the spread of the disease. The Germans did not have DDT or vaccine to prevent typhus.
Did the people in the town of Dachau know about the camp and why didn't they help the inmates?
The Dachau concentration camp was never a secret. The town residents saw the inmates on a daily basis when they were brought to the town to work in factories there. Prisoners also worked on building roads and a new cemetery in the town. New inmates arrived at the train station in the center of town and walked two miles through the town to the camp. The townspeople tried to help the inmates in any way they could. The town residents sent packages of food and medicine, which the Nazis distributed to the inmates. When work details from the camp came to the town, the residents risked being imprisoned themselves in order to give food to the inmates while they were working, a practice which was forbidden by the Nazis. The pharmacies gave free medicine to the inmates when they were working in the town and the town dentist secretly provided dental care for the prisoners.
Did the Red Cross distribute food to the Dachau inmates?
The Nazis honored the 1929 Geneva Convention with respect to prisoners from all countries which had signed the convention, including allowing the Red Cross to distribute food packages in the concentration camps, beginning in August 1942. Between the Autumn of 1943 and the end of the war in May 1945, the Red Cross distributed 1,112,000 packages containing 4,500 tons of food to the Nazi concentration camps including Dachau and even the Auschwitz death camp.
Is the former Dachau concentration camp original or a reconstruction?
The two barrack buildings are reconstructions. The concrete outlines around the gravel beds which denote the former locations of the barracks are not the original foundations of the buildings. The guard towers have been modified or reconstructed. The barbed wire fences and the ditches in front of them are reconstructions. The Museum building was originally used as the camp administration building, but it has since been modified. The bunker, as the camp prison was called, is original with some modifications. One wing of the bunker, which was used to imprison SS men who broke the rules, has been torn down. Baracke X, the building which houses the crematory ovens and the gas chambers is original, although the disinfection chambers have been repainted.
The gate house is original, but the "Arbeit Macht Frei" sign on the iron gate is a reconstruction. The original sign was removed by the Americans, along with all other Nazi signs and slogans, which were forbidden by the American military occupation forces. The poplar trees were replanted after the original ones were cut down. The trees around the Catholic and Protestant memorials were planted when the camp was made into a Memorial Site. All the original buildings in the prison compound, which were part of the gunpowder factory, were torn down and replaced by new buildings, starting in 1936. Of those new buildings, only the administration building, the gate house, the bunker, and the two crematoria buildings outside the prison compound are still standing.
Who was the first Commandant of Dachau and what happened to him?
The first guards at the "Dachau Prison Camp" were Bavarian state police officers from Munich who were requisitioned by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, the Acting Chief of Police of Munich since March 9, 1933. Police Captain Schlemmer was in command of the police unit. On April 1, 1933 Himmler was appointed Commander of the Bavarian Secret Police; at the same time he was also put in charge of all existing and future concentration camps by a special decree of Minister of Interior Adolf Wagner. After April 1, 1933, Himmler was also in charge of the political auxiliary police, a unit of the Bavarian State Police that was now a part of the SS. The first guard unit of 60 SS men to enter Dachau after April 1 was under the command of SS-Sturmführer Robert Erspenmüller.
The SS officially took over the guarding of the camp on April 11, 1933, by which time the number of guards had increased to 138. By April 30, 1933 there were 234 SS men guarding the inmates at Dachau. With the changing of the guards on April 11, Bavarian State Police Captain Schlemmer was replaced by Captain Winkler, but the state police no longer had any power over the guards.
The guards were now under the command of SS-Sturnhauptführer Hilmar Wäckerle. On April 19, 1933 Wäckerle began referring to himself as the Camp Commandant. Wäckerle was instructed by Himmler to draw up a set of rules for discipline in the camp. His rules were extremely harsh and a number of prisoners died after being punished. Some of these victims were Wilhelm Aron, Dr. Rudolf Benario, Fritz Dressel, Sepp Götz, Ernst Goldmann, Arthur Kahn, Erwin Kahn, and Karl Lehrburger. Herbert Hunglinge committed suicide to escape the unbearable conditions in the camp.
The deaths in the Dachau camp came to the attention of the Munich prosecutor after Sophie Handschuch made a formal complaint in 1933, demanding to know the true cause of death of her son who had been an inmate at Dachau. After an investigation by the Munich police, Wäckerle was charged with murder for the deaths of Louis Schloss on May 16, Leonard Hausmann on May 17, Dr. Alfred Strauss on May 24 and Sebastian Nefzger on May 25. Because of the criminal charges, Himmler was forced to relieve Wäckerle of his command, as of June 25, 1933. The charges against Wäckerle were later dropped and he left Dachau on July 15, 1933. He was posted to a new position in Stuttgart. After the war started, Wäckerle was sent to the front as a Waffen-SS officer; he died in battle.
Who were the other Commandants at Dachau?
Hilmar Wäckerle was succeeded by Theodor Eicke who took command on June 26, 1933. Eicke was promoted to Inspector of all the Concentration Camps and was later transferred to headquarters in Oranienburg. Eicke was killed in a plane crash during the war.
The next Commandant of Dachau was Heinrich Deubel who was dismissed by Heinrich Himmler after a few months for being too lenient with the prisoners. He was succeeded by Hermann Baranowski, who was subsequently transferred to the Sachsenhausen camp where he became the first Commandant there.
Between April 1936 and 1941, the Commandant of Dachau was Hans Loritz; he was later transferred to Sachsenhausen where he became the next Commandant, succeeding Baranowski. Loritz committed suicide in February 1946 after he was arrested as a war criminal and imprisoned by the Soviet Union.
Loritz was replaced by Alex Piorkowski who served as the Commandant of Dachau for six months in 1941 - 1942. Piorkowski was fired from his position by Himmler. He was accused of murder and was tried by a special SS court headed by an SS officer, Konrad Morgen. He was not convicted, but was nevertheless expelled from the Nazi party. Piorkowski was also tried by an American military tribunal at Dachau; he was convicted and was hanged in 1948.
Piorkowski was replaced by Martin Gottfried Weiss who served as the Commandant of Dachau from September 1942 to October 1943. Weiss had previously been the Commandant of the Neuengamme camp from April 1940 to August 1942. He was transferred to the Majdanek camp in Poland where he was the Commandant from November 1, 1943 to May 1944 when he was appointed department head of the Office Group D in the SS Main Office of Economic Administration (WVHA). That same year, Weiss was ordered to supervise the Dachau subcamp complex at Mühldorf.
Weiss was replaced by Wilhelm Eduard Weiter who was the Commandant of Dachau from November 1, 1943 to April 26, 1945 when he left the camp with a transport of prisoners. Weiter committed suicide on May 6, 1945, according to Joshua M. Greene in his book "Justice at Dachau."
In March 1945, Weiss came back to the main Dachau camp when the Mühldorf camp was evacuated. As the highest ranking SS officer, Weiss took over for two days after Weiter left on April 26, 1945; then he escaped with most of the guards on April 28, 1945.
Who was the Commandant of Dachau when the camp was liberated?
The last Commandant of Dachau was Wilhelm Eduard Weiter, who replaced Martin Gottfried Weiss on November 1, 1943. As the commander of the Mühldorf sub camp complex, Weiss was brought back to Dachau in March 1945 when Mühldorf was evacuated. Weiss was in charge of the Dachau camp for two days after Eduard Weiter left the camp on April 26, 1945. Weiss left the Dachau camp on April 28, 1945, the day before it was liberated, leaving SS Lt. Johannes Otto in charge. Weiss was hanged on May 29, 1946 after being convicted in the first proceedings of the American military tribunal at Dachau, which began on November 15, 1945.
Who surrendered the Dachau camp to the American liberators?
The Dachau concentration camp was surrendered by 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker to the 42nd Infantry Division of the US Seventh Army, accompanied by a Red Cross representative carrying a white flag. He was later reported missing by his mother and sister, who had been staying at the SS garrison while they were visiting him. He is presumed to have been killed after the surrender.
Who was the first prisoner at Dachau?
The first inmates were 200 Communists who were brought by the Bavarian State Police in four trucks from the Landsberg am Lech prison to Dachau on March 22, 1933. They were registered alphabetically, so Prisoner No. 1 was 24-year-old Claus Bastian, a law intern from Munich. He was released from Dachau in September 1933. He had a successful career as a lawyer and lived for awhile in the town of Dachau.
Who were some of the famous survivors of the Dachau camp?
The Rev. Martin Niemöller - one of the founders of the Confessional Church
Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler - Catholic Bishop
Kurt von Schuschnigg - former Chancellor of Austria, who opposed the Anschluss
Edouard Daladier - premier of France at the time of the German invasion
Leon Blum - premier of France in 1936 and 1937 and France's first Jewish premier
Georg Scherer - native of city of Dachau who later became Mayor of Dachau
Other well know survivors were Josef Müller, Leonard Roth, Walter Neff, Richard Titze, Eric Preuss, Nico Rost, Bruno Bettelheim, Arthur Haulot, Max Mannheimer, Hjalmar Schacht, Oskar Müller, Zola Philipp, Joel Zak, Kurt Schumacher, Georges Walraeve, Eric Braun, Werner Cahnmann, General Andre Delpech, Alfred Haag, Josef Huber, Hans Kaltenbacher, Otto Kohlhofer, Otto Pies, Heinrich Stöhr, Rene Simon, Wadim Sobkov, Vldek Spiegelmann, Walter Cieslik, Robert Eisinger, Bernt Englemann, Otto Färber, Leopold Figl, Paul Hussarek, Eugen Kessler, Edmond Michelet, Reimund Schnabel, Hans Schwartz, Walter Vielhauer, and Alfred Werner.
Who were some of the members of the Communist International Prisoners Committee (IPC) which took over the Dachau camp in the final days?
Albert Guérisse (aka Patrick O'Leary) Canadian Army Major from Belgium - President
Nikolai Michailow - Russian Army General - Vice President
Arthur Haulot - Belgium Communist - Vice President
Lt. Rene Jean Anare Guiraud - American member of the OSS (now the CIA) - Vice President
Some of the prominent members were Oskar Müller from Germany, Alfons Kothbauer from Austria, Dr. Franz Blaha from Czechoslovakia, Ali Kuci from Albania, Edmond Michelet from France, Willem Boellaard from Holland, Giovanni Melodia from Italy, Rasmus Becker from Norway, Vincens Parra from Spain, Georg Pallavicini from Hungary, Oscar Juranie from Yugoslavia, and Josef Kokoszka from Poland. The Dachau Memorial Site was created under the supervision of surviving members of the IPC.
Who is the elderly gentleman who used to hang out near the gas chamber building and talk to tourists?
He is Martin Zaidenstadt, a Jewish resident of the town of Dachau who claims that he was an inmate at Dachau, although the Dachau Museum says they have no record of him in their files. You can learn more about him from a book by Timothy W. Ryback, entitled "The Last Survivor, Legacies of Dachau." On my last two visits to the camp in May 2001 and May 2003, he was not at the camp.
How many Americans were prisoners in Dachau?
When Dachau was liberated, there was one American, Lt. Rene J. Guiraud, a member of the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS) who had been arrested as a spy. There were also 5 other American civilians who were prisoners in the camp, according to Marcus J. Smith in his book, "The Harrowing of Hell." According to Nerin E. Gun, a survivor of Dachau, there were 11 Americans imprisoned at Dachau at various times in its history.
How many Waffen-SS soldiers and SS guards were executed by the American liberators?
This depends on whom you believe. There are several versions, which differ widely, as cited below:
According to a US Seventh Army report written by Lt. Col. Walter J. Fellenz, there were 17 SS-Totenkopf guards in Tower B who were killed during the liberation of the camp by soldiers of the 45th Thunderbird Division and the 42nd Rainbow Division.
According to Col. Howard A. Buechner, the chief medical officer of the 45th Infantry Division, who arrived on the scene moments after the shooting of Waffen-SS soldiers at Dachau, there was a total of 520 SS soldiers executed by the 45th Infantry Division and 40 SS guards were shot or beaten to death by the liberated prisoners. Col. Buechner wrote his version in a book entitled "The Hour of the Avenger."
In his book "Deliverance Day," Michael Selzer wrote that the American liberators marched 122 of the Waffen-SS soldiers who had surrendered to a wall, and with their hands up in the air, shot them with machine guns.
According to 45th Division Commander Col. Felix Sparks, the number of German POWs who were executed with their hands in the air at Dachau "did not exceed fifty with thirty probably being a more accurate figure," before he stepped in to stop the shooting by his men. Col. Sparks was quoted by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in a book entitled "1945: The Year of Liberation."
Did any African American soldiers participate in the liberation of Dachau?
The US Army was segregated during World War II and black soldiers did not fight alongside white soldiers. The 42nd Rainbow Division was composed of white soldiers only, but there were some Native Americans in the 45th Thunderbird division which participated in the liberation of Dachau. There were no black soldiers involved in the liberation of the Dachau main camp.
Were there any black prisoners at Dachau?
There was one prisoner from the Belgian Congo: Jean (Johnny) Voste, who was there when the camp was liberated. Voste was a Belgian Resistance fighter who had been arrested in 1942 for an act of sabotage in the town of Malignes, near Antwerp. Photographs show that there was also at least one black prisoner at Allach, a sub-camp of Dachau.
Who was the artist who designed the statue of the Unknown Prisoner which stands in front of the Crematory? What do the words on the base of the statue say? Who designed the sculpture in front of the Museum building?
The statue of the Unknown Prisoner was designed by Fritz Koelle. It was erected in 1950. The German inscription reads in English: "To honor the dead, To admonish the living." The large sculpture in front of the Museum, which is part of the International Monument, was designed by Yugoslavian artist Nandor Glid.
Why are there Christian chapels inside the former Dachau camp where so many Jews died in the Holocaust?
The majority of the prisoners who lived and died at Dachau were Christian. It was primarily a camp for political prisoners, German criminals, and Christian clergymen who opposed the Nazis. Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, who was a prisoner at Dachau, was a Catholic Bishop and it was his suggestion to build Christian memorials in honor of the Christians who died there. He also suggested that a Jewish memorial be built. One of the most famous prisoners at Dachau was the Rev. Martin Niemöller, a Protestant minister.
Why was a Catholic convent and a Catholic Church with a Christian cross on top of it built just outside the Dachau camp, only a few yards from the Jewish Memorial?
The convent and the Church with the cross on top of it were built prior to the building of the Jewish Memorial. No religious services are held at the Dachau Jewish Memorial, although Mass is said every week inside the Catholic Church. The prayer room of the Jewish Memorial is underground and the Christian cross cannot be seen from there. The majority of the prisoners who died at Dachau were Catholic. Dr. Johannes Neuhäusler, a former prisoner at Dachau, is buried inside the convent church.
How many homosexuals were prisoners at Dachau?
The number of homosexual prisoners in the Dachau camp, throughout its 12-year history, is unknown, but according to Paul Berben, the official historian of the Dachau camp, there were 110 homosexuals counted on April 26, 1945, the day of the last roll call. According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the total number of homosexuals sent to all the concentration camps in Germany, during the 12 years of Hitler's regime, was around 10,000. Most of the homosexuals in Germany lived in Berlin and the majority who were arrested were sent to Sachsenhausen, a large concentration camp near Berlin. Many of them were released after serving a minimum of six months. Some of the 10,000, who were sent to concentration camps after being arrested under Paragraph 175, the law against committing homosexual acts, were actually male prostitutes who were not homosexual, according to Rudolf Höss who was an adjutant at Sachsenhausen before becoming the Commandant of the Auschwitz death damp.
Who were some of the famous men who were trained at the SS training camp at Dachau?
Adolf Eichmann, Rudolf Höss, Josef Kramer, Theodor Eicke, Martin Gottfried Weiss, Karl Richard Baer, Hermann Baranowski, Karl Fritzsch, Max Koegel, Hans Loritz, Egon Zill, and Johann Aumeier
How large is the town of Dachau and can I get a hotel room there?
Dachau has a population of 50,000 people. There are several nice hotels there, including two historic hotels in the heart of Old Town Dachau.
How do the residents of Dachau feel about the former Nazi concentration camp in their town?
The townspeople of Dachau feel resentful that Dachau is the only town in Germany that has been demonized and defamed because a Nazi concentration camp was formerly located there. They resent being made to feel guilty about something over which they had no control. While the camp was in operation, most of the townspeople were not members of the Nazi political party and they were sympathetic to the prisoners, who were mainly Communist and Social Democrat political prisoners.
Would it be worth my time to visit the town itself while I am there to visit the Memorial Site?
That depends on your interests. Dachau was formerly an artists colony and there are two art museums there. It was formerly the home of Ludwig Thoma, one of German's most famous writers. There is a regional Museum in Dachau which has items used in everyday life in Germany in past centuries. Dachau has been highly touted as a 1200-year-old town, but there are no buildings there that are 1200 years old. The town gates have long since been torn down. There is one wing of a castle which has been converted into a restaurant and cultural events center. Dachau is a charming town with well-preserved buildings, clean streets, and friendly people, but some visitors might be disappointed. There is no synagogue there and no Jewish historical sites, although a few of the Jewish inmates of the camp settled in the town after the war.
This page was last updated on Sept. 8, 2010