On the 29th of April 1945, the Nazi Concentration Camp, Dachau, was liberated by the United States Army.
Intended to hold political prisoners of the Nazi Regime, Dachau was the first Concentration Camp opened by Hitler’s Reich in 1933. It was opened by leader of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, with a purpose of inducing hard labour and eventually the imprisonment of members of the Jewish Faith, deemed “undesirable” by the Nazi’s “pure Aryan” standards, as well as German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries that Germany occupied or invaded.
The camp system of Dachau grew to include almost 100 sub-camps, which were mostly work camps or Arbeitskommandos, located across the south of Germany and Austria.
Prisoners of Dachau lived under constant fear, with the brutal treatment they experienced and the terror detention forced upon them. With standing cells, floggings, the so-called tree or pole hanging, and standing at attention for extremely long periods being common methods of both. Such treatment led to 30,000 documented deaths, notwithstanding thousands of others which went undocumented – it is difficult to determine just how many people died as a result of the cruel treatment by the guards and the vile punishments they received.
Upon liberation, the United States Army freed 31,601 prisoners, but it is estimated that between 10,000-30,000 of these individuals were excessively sick. On the day before the liberation of the main camp, the acting Commandant, Martin Gottfried Weiss, had turned everything over to a group of prisoners called the International Committee of Dachau and had then fled along with most of the regular guards that night. According to Arthur Haulot, a member of the International Committee, German and Hungarian Waffen-SS soldiers were then brought to the camp in order to surrender the prisoners to the U.S. Army.(1)
Now a memorial site open to the public, it serves as a reminder to the brutal nature of human history, in the hopes that such events may never be repeated.