Sunday, April 04, 2010

April 30, 1945 - liberation of Dachau (New York Times)

This second New York Times article is about the liberation of Dachau.
Dachau captured by Americans who kill guards, liberate 32,000
DACHAU, Germany, April 30 - Dachau, Germany's most dreaded extermination camp, has been captured and its surviving 32,000 tortured inmates have been freed by outraged American troops who killed or captured its brutal garrison in a furious battle....

Prisoners with access to records said that 9,000 captives had died of hunger and disease or been shot in the past three months, and 14,000 more had perished during the winter. Typhus was prevalent in the camp and the city's water supply was reported to have been contaminated by drainage from 6,000 graves near the prison.

39 Cars Full of Bodies

A short time after the battle there was a train of thirty-nine coal cars on a siding. The cars were loaded with hundreds of bodies and from them was removed at least one pitiful human wreck that still clung to life. These victims were mostly Poles and most of them had starved to death as the train stood there idle for several days. Lying alongside a busy road near by were the murdered bodies of those who had tried to escape.

Bavarian peasants - who traveled this road daily - ignored both the bodies and the horrors inside the camp to turn the American seizure of their city into an orgy of looting. Even German children rode by the bodies without a glance, carrying stolen clothing....

The camp held 32,000 emaciated, unshaven men and 350 women, jammed in the wooden barracks. Prisoners said that 7,000 others had been marched away on foot during the past few days. The survivors went wild with joy as the Americans broke open their pens, smothering their liberators with embraces.

Bodies were found in many places. Here also were the gas chambers - camouflaged as "showers" into which prisoners were herded under the pretext of bathing - and the cremation ovens. Huge stacks of clothing bore mute testimony to the fate of their owners.

A French general was slain last week as he walked toward a truck, believing that he was to be evacuated, prisoners reported. They said that Elite Guards [SS] had shot him in the back.

The Americans stormed through the camp with tornadic fury. Not a stone's throw from a trainload of corpses lay the bleeding bodies of sixteen guards shot down as they fled....

When Lieut. Col. Will Cowling of Leavenworth, Kan., slipped the lock in the main gate, there was still 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 a half dozen baseball diamonds - and Colonel Cowling was all but mobbed.

Rescued by soldiers

He was hoisted to the shoulders of the seething, swaying crowd of Russians, Poles, Frenchmen, Czechs, and Austrians, cheering the Americans in their native tongues. The American colonel was rescued by soldiers, but the din kept up.

Flags appeared and waved from the barracks. There was even an American flag, although only one American was held there. He is a major from Chicago captured behind the German lines when he was on special assignment for the Office of Strategic Services [predecessor of the CIA during WWII - RL].

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