Gatehouse into Dachau prison compound
The photograph above shows a view of the Dachau prison compound gatehouse, looking north toward the location of the old crematorium which was outside the camp. This was the direction from which soldiers of the 45th Thunderbird Division of the US Seventh Army approached the Dachau concentration camp gatehouse on April 29, 1945, according to William Donahue of the 42nd Rainbow Division, as quoted by Flint Whitlock in "The Rock of Anzio":
Pretty soon, the 45th came along from the north, along the moat. Some of them had been drinking. The general took a bottle from one of them and threw it in the moat. The prisoners were starting to rush the gate so the general sent me upstairs, where some of the prisoners were climbing over their own bodies to get up to the windows and were trying to come in.
The iron gate shown in the background in the photo above was not there when the camp was in operation. This fence was erected in 2005 when the entrance to the Memorial Site was changed.
The SS Army Garrison was separated from the Dachau concentration camp by the Würm river canal, which is shown in the old photo below. The gatehouse is on the right, and Tower B can be seen in the background. Note the line of poplar trees on the left which have since been replaced by other trees, as shown in the second photo below.
The photo below shows the bridge over the Würm river canal which separated the prison compound from the SS Army Garrison at Dachau.
On liberation day, April 29, 1945, some of the prisoners climbed up to the second story windows of the gatehouse and a few then climbed out the ground floor windows on the outside of the camp to freedom.
The photo below shows Brig. Gen. Henning Linden standing on top of one of the barriers of the stone bridge, while the liberated prisoners are looking out of the windows of the gate house.
Brig. Gen. Linden, the man standing on top of the bridge, was the commander of the 42nd Rainbow Division which accepted the surrender of the prison compound from 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker, the tall German soldier shown on the far left in the photo above. The man with a white arm band is Red Cross representative Victor Maurer who assisted in the surrender of the camp.
The Dachau gate was designed to open from top to bottom to allow vehicles or a group of prisoners to enter. It was secured by a bar, which had to be removed to open the gate. It also had a pedestrian gate with a lock that could only be released by remote control from inside the building.
The photograph above was taken by Lt. William J. Cowling III on the day that Dachau was liberated, April 29, 1945. This view is looking east towards the inside of the camp where the prisoners are attempting to get out while American soldiers are standing outside the gatehouse trying to keep them inside.
This YouTube Video shows that the Dachau gate opened just like the gate into the Sachsenhausen camp which is shown in the 1999 photo below. The second photo below shows the pedestrian gate at Dachau which was reconstucted with a replica of the sign that was stolen when the camp was liberated. The gate at Dachau opens just like the Sachsenhausen gate, but with the Arbeit Macht Sign on the right half of the gate, instead on the left.
In the background of the photo above, one can see the West Wing of the administration building, now the Dachau Museum, where the incoming prisoners took a shower and exchanged their clothes for a striped prison uniform before being assigned to a barrack in the concentration camp.
The photograph below shows a view of the gatehouse building from inside the camp. The official name for this building is Dienstgebäude, which means duty house, but it was always called the Jourhaus. The building was completed in June 1936. It replaced a wooden building that was used before the Dachau prison compound was completely rebuilt. The Buchenwald camp near Weimar and the Sachsenhausen camp near Berlin both have a gatehouse modeled after this one.
The guard tower at the top of the gatehouse building was called Tower A. Entrance to the tower was through the building. A machine gun, behind a sliding glass window, was trained on the prisoners in the camp, ready to fire in case of a prison riot or disturbance. The photograph below shows a museum exhibit which was in the Dachau Museum when I visited the Memorial Site in 2001. The museum exhibit has since been changed and this photo is no longer shown.
Note that the buildings in the background of the photo above are the old factory buildings which were turned into barracks for an SS Army Garrison at Dachau in 1936. Workers can be seen at work on the construction of the new barracks for the concentration camp prisoners in an area where some of the old factory buildings were torn down. The final layout of the former Dachau prison camp was not completed until 1938 when the present museum building was finished.
This page was last updated on March 17, 2008