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April 29, 1945: The Liberation of Dachau

On April 29, 1945, James W. Garner from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, stepped through a freshly blasted hole in the wall of Dachau Concentration Camp. Garner, a provost marshal with the 42nd Infantry Rainbow Division, emotionally recalled it as, “the most searing moment of my life … you can’t imagine what humans can do to humans,” he said. Dachau was liberated 75 years ago this month when the U.S. Seventh Army’s 45th Infantry Division, the 42nd Infantry Rainbow Division, and the 20th Armored Division entered Dachau, rescuing 32,000 prisoners.

Prisoners at Dachau Cheer Approaching American Soldiers

Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp and was established in 1933. Originally built to house a maximum of 10,000 political prisoners, the population of Dachau and its subcamps swelled to more than 60,000 as prisoners from other camps arrived on transports ahead of advancing Allied armies in 1944. Overcrowded conditions, lack of food and sanitation, and executions led to staggering death rates in the camp. Prisoners were subject to horrific torture and laboratory experiments.

As American soldiers neared the camp on April 29th, they came upon 40 railway cars filled with corpses in various stages of decomposition. The Nazi work of unloading the bodies and sending them to the crematory had been interrupted. Just days earlier as Allied soldiers neared, SS guards had received orders to evacuate the camp. Some 7,000 prisoners set out on a forced death march from Dachau to Tegernsee. Guards shot anyone that couldn’t keep up. When American soldiers arrived on April 29th, more than 30,000 prisoners remained in the camp. After passing the railway cars, American soldiers continued toward the gates.          

Bodies in Railway Cars Outside of Dachau

Prisoner Arnold Shay, Dachau No. 135584, remembered seeing Garner appear through the blasted hole in the wall. He and other prisoners assembled in the compound yard waiting in line for their turn at the gas chambers. The arrival of the Americans brought a flood of relief to Shay and other prisoners, ending a nightmare that began when Nazi soldiers burst into his family’s home in the Jewish ghetto. The soldiers beat his father until Shay could, “hear the bones cracking,” and ran forward to help him. He was struck in the head with a rifle rendering him unconscious. When he awoke, he was en route to Dachau. The arrival of American forces meant his nightmare was finally over.

After a brief battle with a few remaining guards, the Americans took control of the camp. Some Nazi guards were rounded up and killed by American forces so infuriated by what they saw.

Dachau Prison Barracks Soon After Liberation

American soldiers began the process of interviewing survivors, caring for the critically ill, and documenting the atrocities in the camp. German soldiers destroyed many of the camp records three weeks before the arrival of the Americans, making an exact accounting difficult.  

An estimated 188,000 prisoners were incarcerated in Dachau between 1933-1945, and approximately 28,000 prisoners died in the camp between 1940-1945. If you would like to learn more about Dachau Concentration Camp, see records from the Dachau Entry Registers, historical records from the U.S. Seventh Army, and an astounding secret diary kept by an inmate at Dachau and later recovered by American soldiers. Search these records and others including our Holocaust Collection on Fold3 today!


  1. I congratulate all the writers of these comments so long after these criminal evil actions. It is important that we all recall thee evil things done by brutal evil people.

  2. Everyone needs to read “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor E. Frankl. He was a German Jewish psychiatrist who labored in 4 different camps, and he decided to study the mind of his Nazi guards. He found they were more in prison mentally than he was. He said we cannot avoid suffering, but we can learn to cope with it. I have given away many of these little paperbacks.
    A must read!

    • Linda , please don’t tell me you’re trying to defend those SS guards . They were monsters & I let out a big “Yes !!” when I read some were executed by the infuriated U.S. troops .

    • Linda,
      I wish to see a copy of this book- I work with many German people who left Germany after WWII , and are now Members of the Senior Center where I work.

    • Viktor E. Frankl wasn´t a German but an Austrian.

    • Nelson wrote on April 4, 2020 at 1:07 pm

      “Linda , please don’t tell me you’re trying to defend those SS guards . They were monsters & I let out a big “Yes !!” when I read some were executed by the infuriated U.S. troops .”

      Words from an ignorant fool. Not only does he ignore thatthe SS-men murdered by US-troops were trsnefered into the camp only days before while the real staff did flee.
      Additionaly he ignores that US-newspapers published articles about the KL Dachau already in SPRING 1934, that´s one year after the Nazis gained power in Germany.
      And what did theUSA from this time until Pearl Habrour happened? Nothing? Oh no, even worse!
      They turned away Jewish refugees from the US shores and sent them back into hell, Look up “St. Louis”!
      And tell me, why did 83% of the US population ( = 100+ million citizens!) in 1938 oposed to save even Jewish children? Why did the US not save German and Austrian Jews as long as it was possible (until Dec 31st 1941!)?

  3. Thank you for this sad reminder of this most horrible event. My father was a Master Sargent in a combat engineer battalion supporting the 45 infantry division in April 1945. They built a pontoon bridge across the Rhine River and crossed over in hot pursuit of the Germany Army trying to cut them off at Munich. He told me for several days they were aware of a terrible stench in the air which they believed was from factory for tanning hides. On the morning of April 29 scouts came to him and reported they cane upon the factory but it was being guarded by SS troops. He gave the order to approach with caution. As they crawled up toward the main gate his buddy shot the SS guard from the tower. They jumped up and ran behind a 21/2 ton truck which crashed through the main gate. At the same time they heard machine gun fire from the other side of the complex. Once inside they were shocked to find thousands of starved human beings staggering toward them. They immediately radioed for support and once they realized the camp was sickened with typhoid they secured the gate. Soon after they learned that the stench they smelled for several days was the stench of human flesh from the crematorium which was still hot. I have done a bit of research on the liberation of Dachau and I learned that several Army groups all came upon it at about the same time. I also understand that the Allies were aware of the existence of the camp and there was to be an official surrender of the camp later that same day but the advanced elements of the 42nd and 45th were moving so fast they arrived sooner than anticipated. He was not aware of any of that he just knew what was in front of him. As he told me there were long periods where they had no idea what month it was. Hard to imagine today but that was 75 years ago.

    My father had gone ashore in Algeria in November 1942. He fought through N Africa, Sicily , Italy through the surrender of Rome , Southern France and into Germany. He was part of a combat engineer battalion that at various times supported different infantry divisions. They built pontoon bridges and dismantled land mines under fire , maintained the transportation and fought along side the infantry in combat. He did not tell us too much about the real horror he saw but the one story that stayed with him till the morning he died March 4 1982 was the day they came upon Dachau and how some of the toughest men the world has ever known vomited and openly cried at the sight of what man could do to man.

    I have a number of pictures he took that day including the box cars full of bodies , the gas chamber and the crematory. By unbelievable luck one day searching the internet I found a UPI photo of three US soldiers guarding the front gate of the camp. My father was the one in the middle.

    • Amazing ,
      The account of your father on that day 75 years ago leaves me speachless and tears in my eyes.
      Seldom do things bother me but when it comes to suffering , especially a scale of that magnitude, well it leaves me with questions, the types of which have no answer.
      Thank you for letting us not to forget what had taken place and that the nightmare in fact did happen. Some day maybe we can teach tolerance, love and compassion to our very young ones, not give them toy guns and knives as birthday presents showing them cartoons where taking the life of a carecter is normal and those unspeakable things of what your father and mine experienced would never and will never happen again.
      This I can dream for.
      May Peace, Love and Joy fill your thoughts and your heart.

    • Just read your article. My dad followed much the same path as yours. I am not for sure if he was in the freeing of Dachau but he did talk of seeing those from concentration camp. he was a member of the 179th combat engineers. He died in 1980 and did not talk much about his experiences in the war. I would like to hear from you if possible. Thank you for sharing.

    • I have a friend whom I met while taking a Jewelry making class, who did not talk much about her life.

      When, at first I recall meeting this woman, with a polish accent, who loved to cook meat and fruit filled pastries for people in the class, I noted she had a interesting sense of what people should and should not do! In time, she made jewelry that reflected her background, such as the Star of David, a Dreidel, and such, at which I was beginning to wonder if she was in Poland during the occupation. What she did tell us was that she was a little girl during that time, but little more, which I figured was her prerogative and I did not go any further.

      One day, after a year or so, we were cleaning and polishing our works, and the normally long sleeves of her blouse were pulled up, I saw a long number on her sleeve, and then I knew why she was so private about her life in Poland.

      Later that day, I asked the teacher about her, and he said she told him that she lost her parents, and siblings there in one of the camps, and she was the only one left of her family and the only reason she was spared was because she could sing for the guards in the mess hall, and sew their clothes. Food was passed to her by some who were compassionate enough to give it to her.

      I gained a greater sense respect for her, as I could only wonder what horrors she witnessed, what family and friends she lost, and what she had to endure just to survive.

      I also gained a greater respect for people, not knowing what their background is, and then learning and knowing what possibilities might lead people to where they are today!

      As of 4 years ago, she was still going strong, though she does not make jewelry anymore. she was 83!

    • Dan I would like to correspond with you as well. Please email me at [email protected]

    • Hi James.

      Great thanks to you father and the other heroes of that God awful time in history. My father fought in the Pacific however my Uncle, also a Sargent, was with the Armored Battalion that also liberated Dachau. I am in possession of a letter he wrote to his mother, my grandmother that graphically described what he saw that day. It was read at his funeral lest no one forget. I would be interested in comparing notes with you. A good chance my uncle Harry Kraft knew of your father and quite frankly could be in a picture of two from your records.

      Ps. I had two uncles who were in the D Day invasion. Uncle Harry was one of them. Both survived to pass on their stories of their experiences.

      Jim Kraft
      York, Pa

    • No 2 1/2 ton truck crashed through the main gate.

      The heavy bridges across the Amper bridge were destroyed. The only surviving bridge was able to support jeeps only.

    • I went to Dachau in ‘92 or ‘93 with a group of high school soccer players. I insisted we go to Dachau so that these young men would never forget what happened. They had a video to watch first, then we walked around the camp. It was very sobering. There was not a word spoken until we got back to Munich. My son is now 42 and he still remembers everything about Dachau and all the emotions he felt that day! Such a travesty against all humankind.

    • Wow! Truly fortunate to find the photo of your dad. I visited Dachau in 2015. Such a sobering experience. When true evil is unleashed and allowed to flourish.

    • Dear James,

      your father was a incredible hero! Why I write you today? Because my father was liberated a day later on his way to be killed after dead march and Ausschwitz and Łódź Ghetto in Munich by exactly the division of your father. Can you belive… I just found out a few month ago. I would love to hear from you a see the pictures and what your father went through and about you. Without your father and the brave camerades of your father I wouldn’t be here today to write you!!! Please write me [email protected]! I am on Facebook under the name Aron Krochmalnik. I heard that some last members of the rainbow division had planned to come to Munich in July and was planning to invite them all but now in this crazy times would. It be possible! It’s so important that we the rescuers 2 G and 3 G and the childs of the victims tell the world what happened especially in this dark times… Thank you James to tell us here and please please contact me! All the best LOVE and stay strong

    • May your father RIP.
      God bless him

    • Your father was a true hero!!! Thank God for all those brave men✝

    • I wept as I read your words. Thank you for sharing! This must NOT be forgotten!!

  4. Very emotional reading this. My late father Waclaw Kowalewski was a POW in this camp. He was one of the lucky ones, he survived and emigrated to Australia in 1950 but the stories he told were horrendous.

  5. My wife and I toured Germany in May, 2014. The most sobering stop was the Dachau concentration camp. To this day, this remembrance sends chills down my spine. It is impossible to imagine the horrors the inmates suffered. The doubters of the Holocaust should be required to visit one of these camps to experience a little of the shame the camps represent.

    • “Sobering” is a good word. Difficult to describe the feeling that overcomes you as you walk through this empty camp. Even though the buildings are no longer there, you can feel the death and sadness that lingers yet. And those atrocities occurred right in the middle of Munich and life went on as though NOTHING was happening. I agree Carl, anyone who enters wouldn’t leave a “doubter.”

    • Sharon Replogle wrote ” […] And those atrocities occurred right in the middle of Munich […]”

      Nonsense. The camp is located on the outher edge of the town. Only 200 yards nowadays to the open fields. And this area was not inhabitated at this time.

  6. My Father was there, he had just turned 20 years old. I cannot imagine seeing such things at that age. He never spoke of his time in the war. After passing away in 2017, we found a story he had written describing his time, “I saw three railroad boxcars loaded with bodies, some of the bodies were covered in lime (I call them bodies but, they were more skeletons with flesh). This will live in my mind forever.”
    At his service, one of his neighbors approached us. He told us of a dinner he attended with other neighbors. He saw my Dad in the corner talking to a couple from down the street. When he walked up, he said my Dad and the couple were crying and began to hug. They discovered that the couple were at Dachau and my father was one of the soldiers who rescued them.

    • How beautiful to cross paths again! I pray some how that healed a part of him knowing he saved lifes!

  7. Thank you for this. This must never be forgotten.

  8. My father, Irvin E. McDaniel, was one of those American soldiers at Dachau. He had nightmares the rest of his life about the horrors he saw there. He was also at the bridge at Remagen, Germany that was saved long enough for the Americans to cross over.

    • My father, Fred Veinfurt was at the bridge at Remagden too. He maintained he was in the first jeep to cross. He rarely spoke about the camps except to say it was the most horrible thing he witnessed.

  9. Jenny, thank you for posting this information. My father was a member of the 283rd FABN (a Pennsylvania field artillery unit, 105’s), attached to the 157th Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division in the early morning hours of April 29th, 1945. He and I went back in 1995 and retraced his Units steps, from Normandy (coming across the beach at Ste. Germain de Varriville (Utah)) to Berchtesgaden (May 7th/8th, 1945). A wonderful trip filled with many memories and stories. Good wishes to everyone!

  10. This is an important site. Many thanks to those responsible for it. To-day is my 90th birthday and I am reading Deborah Lipstadt’s book on the trial in which she was sued for libel by David Irving because she had named him as a Holocaust denier. They have not gone away. I remember seeing the pictures in the newspaper at the end on January 1945 of the prisoners released by the British Army from Belsen. We need to keep their memory alive if only to ensure that people like Irving cannot keep spreading their evil lies.

  11. I have a friend whose father was one of the first through that hole. He made his way to the commandant’s office and kicked in the door. The Commandant was at his desk and had his pistol aimed at my friend’s father. My friend’s father shot the pistol out of the Commandant’s hand. My friend still has that pistol along with the monogrammed holster.

  12. My father, Othmar Mathias, was one of the American soldiers who liberated Dachau and the rest of his life, like other soldiers, had nightmares about it till he passed away. He has pictures of the camp and gave to the Holocaust museum in Washington DC. The last 15 years of his life, he would go to the grade schools and high schools in Southern Indiana and explain the tragedy of war and the Holocaust.

    • What a great gift your dad gave to those youngsters. War isn’t like in video games. They need to understand that. How touching that he shared his experiences over and over. What a caring human. ❤️

    • My Dad , Newell S. Bugbee, was at Dachau when it was liberated. He said only officers and doctors were allowed in because of the diseases the people had. He didn’t see much, other than “people walking around inside”. Some soldiers took pictures and he brought home pile of them. He must have thrown them away because I haven’t seen them since I was young.

  13. My parents were survivors from Poland. Any time I read of the atrocities & first person accounts, I cry. My mother’s home was destroyed in the bombing at the start of the war & she suffered from nightmares for many years. It is very important that the world does not forget what occurred!

    • What kind of survivors? Ethnic Poles or Jews who escaped the Polish collaborateurs or Polish partisans eg. from the Armia Krajowa, who also murdered Jews (to name only on example).
      Do you know that in Poland already Jews were murdered in pogroms in 1918, when no German or Soviet soldier was in the country? Yet even after WWII Holocaust survivors were murdered by Poles, eg. in 1946, again in the town of Kielce!
      Do you know about the anti-Jewsih regulations in Poland prior WWII? When not, look it up.

  14. “He and other prisoners assembled in the compound yard waiting in line for their turn at the gas chambers.”

    Nobody was ever gassed to death at Dachau. This is not ‘holocaust denial’ but a recognised historical fact. Indeed, there were no ‘death camps’ in the entire territory captured by the western allies.

    • How sad anyone believes what you posted. I knew a U S Officer who was one of the first into the Liberated Camp. EVERYTHING IN ALL THE OTHER POSTS ENTIRELY TRUE! I am sorry for your belief.

    • To L.d.d. – If you have physical evidence that anyone was gassed to death at Dachau then please produce it.

      Read this:

    • John – please study the issue a little more. Starting in the 1970’s thru 2012 (as a military dependent, a military member, a DOD contractor), I have made at least 12-15 trips to Dachau and no one has ever claimed that the chamber facilities weren’t used or were just training “classrooms”. Gassings occurred at Dachau and evidence was presented during the trials at Nuremberg in addition to the fact that opened Zyklon-B packaging from IG Farben were found at the site. I agree that Dachau was not intended to be an extermination camp but killings did take place there and I would dare say every other camp in the system including allied Luftstalag/POW camps.

    • To Jim Kinne – The presence of Zyklon-B is not evidence of mass murder by gassing. Zyklon-B was a pest control product. There were ‘gas chambers’ at Dachau, but they were small rooms with air tight doors where Zyklon-B was used to fumigate clothing and bedding in order to kill typhus carrying lice. The doors were clearly marked with a skull and crossbones and the words “Caution! Gas! Life danger! Do not open!”

      The US government used Zyklon-B in the 1930s for similar purposes:

      “From 1929, the United States Public Health Service used Zyklon B to fumigate freight trains and clothes of Mexican immigrants entering the United States. Uses in Germany included delousing clothing (often using a portable sealed chamber invented by Degesch in the 1930s) and fumigating ships, warehouses, and trains.”

    • Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful comments. The statement about the prisoner waiting in line to be gassed comes from a first-hand interview with him. You can click the link to see his statement.

    • John is correct in that the gas chambers were not used to gas people at Dachau. This does not mean that Dachau was not a death camp; it was. I toured the camp in 1985 and even though I knew what had happened there, just being there was as some have said here, “sobering.”

    • You need to face FACTS

    • Correct, John!
      All extermination/death camps of the Aktion Reinhard were built in Poland for a reason. To hide it from the German public.

  15. The 1st photo has been photo shopped covering up the faces. nice article of history, maybe the article will reach just 1 person to see what socialism is. Ever Democrat needs to be shown this and as many pictures one can show.
    educate the younger folks that are for socialism. They do not know the history.

    its horrible what they did to people.

    • Democrats nor Republicans do not believe in Socialism. That’s a lot of propaganda put on Facebook by those wanting to create division of parties and hate. We are always Americans first! If we don’t like either political party, we can start another one in which we believe. American needs to be put first before a party.

    • Gin, this wasn’t the time or place. Not even close.

  16. My husband and I toured Germany near the places he was serving as an Army Veteran in the early 1950’s. His older brother had died in WWII while serving in Germany immediately after the D-Day Invasion. He is buried in an American Military Cemetery in Belgium. While touring Germany my husband wanted me and our daughter to see Dachau. Unbelievable! What not using one’s common sense and following a person who would demand that people of another race or religion be destroyed is beyond my thinking! Destruction of humans like this is taking and teaching hate to the highest level. The feeling of love is removed from the followers’ minds. The Devil and his army won for a length of time at Dachau, but the Christian army finally intervened and rescued those suffering.

    As bad as Dachau is a physical reminder of our past history, to keep it as a teaching tool for future generations to see what can happen to humans by other humans is a must for our future generations to learn kindness and love is the answer to survival.

  17. Thank you for this article. I just finished reading,”The Stone Crusher”, by Jeremy Dronfield. The book is a true story of a Father and Son’s fight for survival in Auschwitz.

    I’ve been researching my father’s activities during WWII. He was, William R. Nicholson, a Staff Sergeant in the 42nd Rainbow Division, 232, Company K. Like so many vets, he never spoke about his experiences during the war. A few things were transmitted, second hand, through our mother. She once said, “His group was involved with the liberation of Dachau”. I’ve learned that the 42nd Rainbow division was directly involved, but am still trying to determine if the 232, K Company had any direct involvement. Any suggestions of source material that could provide that kind of information?

  18. My dad was at Daucau when the war ended
    They were preparing to go to Japan.
    He was also part of General Patten’s

    • My grandfather was there too, he described the prisoners, the starved barely alive people, and stacks of bodies, stacked as high as cordwood, he described how they were so hungry and my grandfather had nothing to offer but chewing gum, a few of the prisoners chewed up and swallowed it right down. It was August 29, 1945, he was a half track armored driver for the 27th AAA for General Patton. He died in January 1961. 44 yrs old

  19. Thank you for reminding us of the horrific atrocities committed at Dachau. May we never forget, lest we repeat again.
    Thank you to those wonderful men and women who sacrificed so much to liberate and expose the truth.

    • Beautifully stated thank you

    • Only a pitty that the USA didn´t care earlier, right!?
      Instead they requested from Jewish refugees trying to save ttheri lives that they bring a lot of money with them so that their care wouldn´t cost tax-$. Or that they find a sponsor in overseas who would be willed to give them an affidavit.
      Humanity is something different. But we know how the USA is treating nowadays refugees, thus no surprise that they didn´t handle it differently at this time.
      BTW, what about 4 centuries of murder of Indian native people and apartheid until the early 60s? Colored people are still considered 2nd class humans in the US in 2020.

  20. Since history is notorious for repeating itself in one form or another, this is why articles like this should be written, put in school books, and remembered every single year. World War II did show that the Americans who served should forever be remembered as the “Greatest Generation.” My father’s first lesson for me after the War was, Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death. And that generation did just that. So we never forget…………their bravery, their sacrifice, and places and the people of Dachau.

  21. Jenny Ashcroft wrote:

    “Thanks to everyone for your thoughtful comments. The statement about the prisoner waiting in line to be gassed comes from a first-hand interview with him. You can click the link to see his statement.”

    It is clear that Ms. Ashcroft is not as well informed about KZ Dachau as she thinks she is. There were no functioning gas chambers at the camp. Nonetheless, the Germans managed to kill over 30,000 inmates by shooting, disease and general neglect.

    • No functioning gas chamber used to murder the inmates of KZ Dachau.

    • Dave Kerr – little difference whether the prisoners were gassed to death, shot, or put in the ovens, which Dachau had. They were all murdered. It really isn’t relevant how.

  22. James Gaughan

    I would recommend that any one interested in learning more please obtain” Dachau Liberated The Official Report by The US Seventh Army Edited by Michael W Perry. Inkling Books. Seattle 2000. I purchased this book on line a few years ago. The report does confirm that Dachau was not originally intended as an extermination camp. However , On page 52 the book does confirm the use of the gas chamber for detainees who were sent there for the purpose of execution. Mostly Jews and Russians. The description of the gas chamber with a sign saying “ shower “ and bars of soap outside and racks for hanging clothing are consistent with my fathers account and a photo I have that he took. I have no further evidence but this is sufficient for me.

  23. U.S. Holocaust Museum:

    “In 1942, the crematorium area was constructed next to the main camp. It included the old crematorium and the new crematorium (Barrack X) with a gas chamber. There is no credible evidence that the gas chamber in Barrack X was used to murder human beings. Instead, prisoners underwent “selection”; those who were judged too sick or weak to continue working were sent to the Hartheim “euthanasia” killing center near Linz, Austria. Several thousand Dachau prisoners were murdered at Hartheim. Further, the SS used the firing range and the gallows in the crematoria area as killing sites for prisoners.”

  24. My dad was lifer in the US Army and he was stationed in Augsburg Germany from 1956 to 1958 and while we lived there we would visit Dachau when were we visited the area.

    I was in the first to third grade and to this day I can tell exactly how the main building was laid out from one end to the other. We walked through the undressing room through the shower (gas chamber) to the ovens.

    At that time I was told later that they were wired with dynamite set to be blown up just in case the Soviet Union started a war.

    • We visited Dachau in 2015, and it’s just as you say. I can still recall that long hallway with the tiny cells, going inside the cells, walking through the larger rooms, past the tall wooden bunks in a huge room, the showers, then the ovens. That last room with pictures hanging from the ceiling of individuals who died at Dachau and their stories will stay in my mind forever.

  25. My father, at the age of 20, was in the 473rd AAA bn and he also reported being at Dachau when the camp was liberated. He said bodies were stacked there and local residents were forced to bury the dead, in part so they could never deny the atrocities there. Anyone else have a relative from the 473rd AAA? Please contact me. I’ve done research on the unit but can’t find records of them being there. I did visit graves of 473rd AAA in Brittany and at Omaha Beach.

  26. I’m glad to have Fold3 make these records more available. It’s a very sad chapter in mankind’s history. As a missionary for the Mormon Church in Germany in the early 1960s, I worked in Munich and, with the permission of the Mission President my companion and I took the train out to Dachau, just a few miles away. It was a soul-searing experience to learn and see evidence of what had gone on there, though of course we didn’t see what the soldiers had seen just a few short years before us. It was an education, and that is yet understatement; the start of a life-long tutorial on totalitarian regimes, the evils of power run amok and unrestrained, the very much less than simple Christian teachings of forgiveness and accountability for wrong-doing, and rendering righteous judgments. Those years and since have fostered a deep appreciation for the contribution of European peoples and cultures, including Germans, to Western Civilization, which in turn have contributed also to a solid grounding in what the United States Constitution has meant for tempering man’s inclination to exploit and misuse; not perfect, of course, but more perfect and influential than anything else in the history books. Exploring Dachau in the summer of 1962, with numerous other like opportunities, has broadened my world and seasoned my perceptions and understanding. Such is, I suppose, the purpose of education.

  27. My father Andrew Gross was one of the survivors liberated on 4/29/45 from Kaufering a subcamp of Dachau. Starving and sick and 15 years old, he had told me of the exhilaration upon being rescued by the American soldiers on that day. He has said one more day he would not have lived if not for the rescue on 4/29. Thank you to the brave men and women who liberated my dad from the bottom of my heart. He was forever thankful and grateful for his life and his freedom.
    Let us never forget.

  28. What an amazing description, explanation, and portrayal of this horrific place. In 1967 my husband and I toured the museum and grounds of Dachau Concentration Camp. Memorials were still being constructed but needless to say it still left a very heavy impression on us. Outside the main building and before the long walkway along the area of the barracks was the pit where the dead and near-dead were tossed. When we returned from Germany, a close friend of the family, Gordon Boudreau, listened as we talked about it and then he told us he was in the first line of soldiers to enter when the camp was overtaken. He remembered many of the things that have been stated in this article and in the comments here. He talked about the guard in the tower being shot, the U.S. officers who “lost their cool” as they entered and shot many of the German officers over what they saw. Someone told of a friend in one comment that he entered the office and shot the officer at the desk. This he related to us also. But the biggest impression he preferred to remember was the smiles of all the people who could still stand and came to greet them. His family told us they had never heard him talk about any of this before. Most of us will never totally understand the horrible memories our military has about any war time event.

    • Gordon Boudreau belonged to I Company, 157th Infantry Regiment, of the 45th Infantry Division. His company plus L company were indeed among the first Americans to enter the SS Camp adjacent to KZ Dachau as well as KZ Dachau itself on 29 April 1945. There may have been an officer shot at his desk but it was not the camp commandant. He had fled the day before the Seventh Army arrived.

    • ” Someone told of a friend in one comment that he entered the office and shot the officer at the desk.”

      Wrong. The person claimed that the soldier shot a gun out of the hand of the SS-officer/camp commander who sat on a desk.

  29. My father, captured P47 pilot Andrew Chasko, was part of the liberation of Dacchau.
    He had escaped his POW camp and met up with Patton’s 14th Armored Division, and returned on the front of the first tank in to liberate Mooseburg’s 120,000 Allied POWs
    He said, “it was the greatest sound I ever heard.”
    He then went on to liberate Dacchau. I assume it was also with the 14th armored Division but I don’t know.
    He became an honorary member of the 14th.
    He was there to liberate Dacchau but he was astonished that ‘they just laid there,’ and did not respond to liberation. They were so far gone.
    This makes me think that he had liberated the typhus camp, one of the 6 camps at Dacchau.
    His few words to Mom were, “Did you know the top soil in the Black Forest is twelve feet deep?”
    I visited Dacchau in 1971 with my hubby who served in the US Army in Germany in the 60s.
    I slept in the German commandant’s house as a guest of my hubby’s roommate’s brother who was US Army officer in charge. (Neither Dacchau nor West Berlin were returned to Germany after the war.)
    I did not know then, that Dad had liberated Dacchau.
    We walked thru the ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ gate in the morning and silently walked thru the silent camp alone.
    You could still smell burnt flesh, in the ovens, in 1971.
    Horrid beyond human comprehension

    • Actually, the 14th Armored Division did not liberate KZ Dachau, the main camp.

      But it did liberate several of its sub-camps.

    • While on TDY to Germany in October 1978 several of us visited Dachau. I still can remember the stench that still lingers in the camp, now preserved as a memorial to human injustice and prejudice.

    • “You could still smell burnt flesh, in the ovens, in 1971.”

      Bull. That´s not possible.

  30. Sickening what people do to each other

  31. And we think we have a hard life. Nothing compares to the horrific treatment one human can inflict on others. I hope this period in history is never brushed aside by current events.

  32. A great report, even though evil and horrible. Just not enough words to express feelings of grief and loss for so many people, MILLIONS. So much pain, sorrow, for the survivors. I grieve for your loss, yet today. May your descendants be blessed.

  33. My father TSgt Steven A. Ulosevich, US Army, served in WW II. Areas of operations included Greenland (during the German torpedoing/sinking of the Dorchester) and Europe. As fate would have it, my father took part in the liberation of Dachau. It was the most dreadful experience of his five years in the Army.

    While growing up under his roof, I cannot recall one time my father would tolerate being in the same room as someone who wore stripped pajamas, which, unfortunately, were frequently worn by his father-in-law (my maternal grandfather). The experience of seeing the dead and emaciated living prisoners dressed in stripped garb at Dauchau was so emotionally traumatic that my father could not even tolerate seeing pin-stripped pajamas on a character in a movie or on a TV show. He was tough to live with at times. No one knew what PTSD was at the time he was still trying to process the terrible memories he made at Dachau.

    Because of his language skills, blue-collar upbringing on the lower east side of NYC, and graduating from high school in NJ, my father was assigned to interview the captured German guards and the prisoners, who were coherent and strong enough to undergo an interview. During the interviews, the prisoners related about experiments performed by German medical doctors and scientists using prisoners as human subjects. The prisoners also explained how some had been tortured as the objects of guard/police dogs undergoing training.

    Naked men were hung on a wall with all four appendages splayed out and secured by four iron cuffs that were welded to chains. The last link of each chain was welded to a steel plate bolted to one of the walls of the torture chamber. Using a long thin stick, the dog trainer jiggled the genitals of each defenseless man. The dogs were free to attack the men at will. After bleeding out, most of the dismembered deceased were taken to the oven that served the trainers, doctors and scientists. My father saw the blood spattered walls upon which the men were tortured while the guard dogs underwent a portion of Dachau’s sadistic training curriculum.

    Also, a few dead prisoners were skinned before being sent to the oven. The German captors made lampshades of the harvested human skin. My father saw the lampshades on the lamps which sat on the desks of higher-ranked officers.

    Although my father did not see evidence of the torture that some women reportedly underwent before going to the ovens, the prisoners told my father about scientists inserting hollow glass rods into the vaginas of the prisoners and then crushed the rods. After they died, their skin was harvested before the bodies were sent to the ovens.

    • Naked men were hung on a wall with all four appendages splayed out and secured by four iron cuffs that were welded to chains. The last link of each chain was welded to a steel plate bolted to one of the walls of the torture chamber. Using a long thin stick, the dog trainer jiggled the genitals of each defenseless man. The dogs were free to attack the men at will. After bleeding out, most of the dismembered deceased were taken to the oven that served the trainers, doctors and scientists. My father saw the blood spattered walls upon which the men were tortured while the guard dogs underwent a portion of Dachau’s sadistic training curriculum.

      Also, a few dead prisoners were skinned before being sent to the oven. The German captors made lampshades of the harvested human skin. My father saw the lampshades on the lamps which sat on the desks of higher-ranked officers.

      Although my father did not see evidence of the torture that some women reportedly underwent before going to the ovens, the prisoners told my father about scientists inserting hollow glass rods into the vaginas of the prisoners and then crushed the rods. After they died, their skin was harvested before the bodies were sent to the ovens.”

      Your father and the prisoners had too much phantasy. No skin was harvested there nor did human skin lamp ever exist.


  34. My Dad was one of the soldiers who liberated the camp. He spoke fluent German as he was bilingual, do served as an interpreter. He never talked about it. And never forgot the horror he saw. Thanks for sharing these moving pictures.

  35. I visited Dachau about 23 years ago. It was so quiet. It was so sobering. We didn’t dare speak above a whisper. It was so haunting and so sad.
    I relived that exact same feeling 8 years ago when I visited the now beautiful World Trade Center park to pay my respects to those who lost their lives that day.
    In 2014 I met a concentration camp survivor. Nick as 93 at the time we met, and my neighbor. He was not Jewish. He was a political prisoner who not do the work the Nazis tried to force all the young men to do for their cause. He told me his story. He told everyone he could his story. He did not want these atrocities to be forgotten. He found his liberators when he moved to the US, and he and his wife attended a reunion with them every year. He was so grateful to his liberators.
    Thank you for doing this article.

  36. Excellent article, Fold3 and Ms. Ashcraft.

    One of my father’s friends and my 9th grade science teacher and coach, Jimmy Gentry of Franklin, Tennessee, told us only very briefly that he had served with the 42nd Infantry Division and was there with it when Dachau was liberated. He really did not like to recall its horrors and talk about it at all; we knew it was rare for him to tell us even the little bit that he did on that day back in 1976.

    Only later in his life has Coach Gentry talked and written in more detail about what he and his fellow soldiers encountered. Thirteen years ago, he went back to Dachau. Some of that can be found here:

    Your excellent post brought back to my mind Jimmy’s recollections of his experiences on that day in late April 1945.

    Thank God for the service of Jimmy Gentry and for that of his peers of the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions, who liberated the long-suffering and horribly victimized prisoners of Dachau, and who helped crush the bestial Nazi regime.

  37. Over the 12 years of use as a concentration camp, the Dachau administration recorded the intake of 206,206 prisoners and deaths of 31,951. Crematoria were constructed to dispose of the deceased. Visitors may now walk through the buildings and view the ovens used to cremate bodies, which hid the evidence of many deaths. It is claimed that in 1942, more than 3,166 prisoners in weakened condition were transported to Hartheim Castle near Linz, and were executed by poison gas because they were deemed unfit. [From Wikipedia]

  38. And they want to take this out history!!!! I know of some of this stuff, when in Germany
    in 1965,we made friends with a German. He showed us slides of all these men and all of their conditions. how can people live with themselves?? These slides,were to be destroyed. I will do give his name, but must be gone by now. I wish we would leaen from our mistakes.

  39. I lived in Gelnhausen in 89-92 with 3rd Armor Division. My Captain told me when I arrived I had a free day any day I wanted to go visit one of three Concentration camps close by and then come back and talk with him. I went to Desert Storm and came back and took a lot of leave and planned a Dachau trip alone. I was suffering from PTSD . I am glad I got the trip after my own War experience it put things into perspective. I was only 18 when I went to war myself. I walk up to the gates and seen all the pictures that lined the room of the people that had died. All the Shoes and Sleeping quarters. It was left Undisturbed, so that we could see for ourselves. I looked at the German people different that day. And I was in the Country for a reason. I came back to Gelnhausen and my Captain cornered me in mess hall and was like hey didn’t you go visit Dachau? I was like yeah and he was like come have lunch with me. He said what did you see? I sat there and cried as I was trying to tell him what I seen. Couldn’t even eat my meal that I had just got. He looked me dead in the eyes and was like if you ever hear or see a naysayer, you confront him on the spot and say your lying and I seen it myself. Don’t you dare try that with me . You be a witness. And a Patriot. Because this can never happen as long as you and I walk this earth. It changed my life.

    • Why do Muricans not reflect their own history?
      Slavery, murder and persecution of native tribes for over 4 centuries, apartheit until the 60ies, and wars, wars, wars, throughout it´s history! It keeps the weapon industry running, right!?

      Words from an US- Army colonel:
      “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians! … I have come to kill Indians, and believe it is right and honorable to use any means under God’s heaven to kill Indians. … Kill and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.
      — Col. John Milton Chivington”

  40. I knew a man who liberated the camp. He found Nazi pictures that documented what the Nazis did. They were small like todays postage stamps. He kept them. In the 60s he showed them to his son and I when he thought we were old enough. They were the most horrible gruesome things I ever saw. They were worse than those in our history books. What the German Nazi people did was unforgivable. After he died (late80s) they were donated to a museum. My wife and I visited Dauchau in 1975 and it’s a very somber and sad reminder the torturded.

  41. My mother was a USArmy nurse at the liberation of Dachau. She told us stories of the horrors that people did to people and that she and other nurses and doctors tried to repair. She said we must never forget and must never allow a repeat.

  42. My Father, Master Sgt, Louis T. DeLucia was one of the soldiers that arrived to assist in their liberation. I have some pictures I can attach.

    • Please attach pictures! Better, send them to me via email. Many thanks. See my April 5th post.

  43. As I sit in my home reading these accounts the tears well up. My husband was born in a Displaced Persons camp outside of Bad Richenhal. In 1981 we visited Dachau, to this day I remember walking through the gate and I immediately started to cry. Walking through the building with the pictures hanging from the ceiling caused me to become hysterical but I couldn’t leave I had to see every last item displayed. As we walked the grounds I cried. I will never forget how I felt. We must remember this awful time in history and teach it to the children.

  44. And here the world is AGAIN with china as the RING LEADER to DESTROY as many humans as possible. I will NEVER forget those that have TRIED to destroy us.

  45. Thank you for the post. My father is in the front row, left foreground, bright white pajamas, hat raised over his head in this famous liberation shot. He will be 90 in May, please God. One of the things I do is paint. I sign all of my work Martin Scott, ben 116288 to highlight that the final solution did not work. 116288 is George Scott’s number and “ben” means son in Hebrew. This story reminds me of the gratitude I have for the brave men who broke down the gates of hell where work never set anyone free.

    • Martin – WOW! Thank you for sharing that. Please give your dad a big collective hug from all of us.

  46. In1965 when I was 14 y/o, my family visited Dachau while we were in Munich. My father was in the USAF and we were stationed overseas. He had visited Dachau soon after the war was over and wanted us to see for ourselves and experience the human suffering that had occurred. I already was well versed about the Holocaust, as my parents wanted us to be knowledgeable about it. To give some contrast, this was only 20 years after the war and Dachau did not look like it does now. I mostly remember the deep somber quiet upon entering under the “work will make you free” sign above me. It was quiet, empty, no sounds of trees rustling, no birds chirping, no sound at all, just a heavy feeling descending on me. I bent down to scoop some soil into my hand and found it very oily even then. I still have that soil. There was no museum then, only a small cabin like structure that housed some graphic pictures and some Nazi “souvenirs” found by the Americans upon liberation. There was a lampshade made from the skin of a prisoner, a small bag made also from skin of a prisoner. We then continued and saw the chambers were they were gassed using zyclon B, and the ovens where the bodies were cremated, some looking like there was still residue in them, but perhaps that was my 14 year old mind playing tricks on me. Everywhere was the total silence and cloying feeling of despair pressing upon me. I am 69 now and have never forgotten what I saw and felt. I haven’t been back to Dachau and don’t know what it looks like now, but I will forever remember how it was in 1965. Lest We Forget.

    • “There was a lampshade made from the skin of a prisoner,”

      Fake story, there was no human skin lampshade. Additonaly it is from the KL Buchenwald and not the KL Dachau near Munich!

  47. “Some Nazi guards were rounded up and killed by American forces so infuriated by what they saw. ”

    What a nice whitewashing of a war crime and the violation of the Geneve Conventions! Hopefully you´re not proud about?

    • Reply to Roman April 5, 2020 at 8:42 am post:

      What I saw I will never forget. You weren’t there and are obviously a naysayer. I have pictures from that day, given to me by my father who was there in 1945 along with my own pictures taken at the time. The lampshade was there as were other items. Were you there then? Doubt it, so don’t speak of what you don’t know!!

  48. My parents(col and mrs r.b.mckay) took me to dachau in 1947. We were among the first dependents into Europe after ww.2.
    My memories of that visit are vivid, I was 7, and are still in my mind.
    Marilyn McKay.

  49. My father in law was with the 504th MP BN and had the misfortune to help liberate the camp. I still have his brownie camera pictures of the rail cars, and the camp. And yes, American troops did kill some of the hard core nazi guards. Scum like that didn’t deserve a trial or an mercy. I would have done the same had I been there. War Crime? Really? Just what does anyone call what the nazi’s were doing.

    • “And yes, American troops did kill some of the hard core nazi guards. Scum like that didn’t deserve a trial or an mercy.I would have done the same had I been there. War Crime? Really? ”

      Words from an uneducated ignorant. Those guards whom the US troops caught were Waffen-SS and only transfered there days before. According the Rules of War and the Geneve Conventions the murder of POW is a war crime. And so is holding them at gunpoint to allow former inmates to torture and murder them.
      BTW, your statement doesn´t surprise, US troops kill even unarmed journalists in war zones and people who only try to render first aid. And US troops kill wounded enemy soldiers instead to render aid as requested byinternational treaties. And the best, they show their violations on social media!

  50. Gee, and just what were the nazi’s doing there? I’m glad that they did that. Those guards deserved no mercy for what they had done. Go ahead and judge those troops in hindsight. You don’t know what you would have done in their place. So don’t be holier than thou in your self-righteous pronouncements.