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Liberation of Dachau

I have obtained permission from Brigadier General Felix L. Sparks, AUS (Ret.) to add his article on Dachau to my website. I would like everyone to know who the true liberators of Camp Dachau really were. This is a factual account of what transpired before and after the liberation of Dachau.

Albert R. Panebianco

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157th Infantry Association 

FELIX L. SPARKS, Secretary 

15 June 1989

DACHAU AND ITS LIBERATION

Prologue

A day or so after the fall of Nurnberg, I was designated as a task force commander, with the mission of moving with all possible speed towards Munich, Germany. At that time, I was a lieutenant colonel commanding the Third Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, Seventh United States Army. Attached to my battalion for this mission were the entire 191st Tank Battalion,, Battery C of the 158th Field Artillery, and supporting engineers from the 120th Engineer Battalion, With the organic infantry battalion weapons, the artillery battery, and the over fifty tanks of the tank battalion, we had a formidable array of firepower. We were able to smash through the sporadic German resistance with ease, although the many blown bridges caused us some problems. 

By the late evening of April 28,, 1945, we were less than thirty miles from Munich. Shortly after midnight, I received the regimental attack order for the next day. I was ordered to resume the attack at 0730 the next morning, with the mission of entering Munich. The order stated that, if my task force encountered any delay because of German opposition, the following first and second battalions of our regiment would continue the attack into Munich by bypassing the resistance area. I was also informed that the concentration camp near the city of Dachau would be in my attack area, but my orders did not include the taking of the camp. At that time, I knew virtually nothing about Dachau, except that it was a concentration camp near the city of Dachau. In order to set the scene for the events that followed, a description of what I learned subsequently about that infamous place seems appropriate. 

In 1933, the first of the German concentration camps was established adjacent to the small city of Dachau, not far from the much larger city of Munich, Germany. Political opponents, Jews, clergymen and so-called "undesirable elements" were to be isolated there as enemies of the Nazi regime. It was organized and operated by the SS and Gestapo, whose specialty was terror and brutality. , 

The camp was constructed originally to imprison about five thousand persons, but it soon outgrew that number. In 1937, the prisoners were forced to begin the construction of a much larger camp. It is not known how many prisoners passed through the gates of the camp between 1933 and 1945, but a reasonable estimate places the figure at around 300,000. 

From the outside,, the camp appeared to be an ordinary military post, surrounded by a high brick wall. It was garrisoned by several hundred SS troops and Gestapo agents who lived in comfortable quarters. On the far side of the camp from the main gate was a large rectangular confinement area, surrounded by a water-filled moat, a high barbed wire fence and guard towers. within the confinement area were thirty-four wooden barracks, some of which were used for administrative purposes and the remainder to house the prisoners. Two connected larger buildings just inside the only entrance to the confinement area contained the kitchen, laundry, storage rooms and the "camp prison." In this dual facility, prisoners were tortured, flogged, hung at the stake, and executed. This infamous complex now houses the camp museum established by the present German government. 

Each of the prison barracks was constructed to house 208 prisoners, At the time we arrived on April 29, 1945, each of the barracks contained the impossible number of about 1,600 inmates, many of whom were dead or dying when we arrived. The several barracks used as infirmaries were also filled with the dead and dying. 

Also within the camp area was an "experimental station" operated by a Dr, Rascher, It was in this station that gruesome medical experiments were practiced on hapless prisoners. A Professor Schilling caused prisoners to be infected with various diseases, such as malaria, in order to observe their reactions and resistance. Various biochemical experiments were also carried out. Agonizing deaths were usually the common result. 

Every morning and evening, the prisoners had to parade on "roll call square." At any time that a prisoner succeeded in escaping, all the remaining prisoners were compelled to attend a subsequent punishment roll call, lasting a full night and half a day. Prisoners who managed to escape were usually recaptured. They were then confined to the penal barracks for special treatment by the SS and Gestapo personnel--torture and often death. 

Outside the confinement area,, but within the post area, was a rifle range. It is known that at least six thousand Russian prisoners of war were executed on this range. Only God knows how many others were executed there in similar fashion. While we were occupying the camp, one of the prisoners took me to a small area reserved for the execution of German officers suspected of plotting against Hitler. I was told that several German officers had been executed there in the few months before we arrived. They were forced to kneel down with their hands tied behind their backs. They were then dispatched by a single pistol shot in the back of the head. 

It is not known with any certainty how many prisoners died or were executed at Dachau. It is known with some certainty that over thirty thousand human souls perished there. The actual number may have been over fifty thousand.

THE LIBERATION

It was in this atmosphere of human depravity, degradation and death that the shocked soldiers of the 157th Infantry Regiment first set foot on the morning of April 29, 1945. The initial shock was experienced even before entering the camp. The first evidence of the horror to come was a string of about forty railway cars on a siding near the camp entrance, Each car was loaded with emaciated human corpses, both men and women. A hasty search by the stunned infantrymen revealed no signs of life among the hundreds of still bodies. Few words were spoken as the grim-faced soldiers deployed in battle formation towards the camp itself. 

At 0730 on the morning of April 29, the task force had resumed the attack with companies L and K and the tank battalion as the assault force. The attack zone assigned to Company L was through the city of Dachau, but did not include the concentration camp,, a short distance outside of the city. Company I was designated as the reserve unit, with the mission of mopping up any resistance bypassed by the assault forces. Shortly after the attack began, I received a radio message from the regimental commander ordering me to proceed immediately to take the Dachau concentration camp, The order also stated: "Upon capture, post an airtight guard and allow no one to enter or leave." 

At the time I received the order, it was not feasible to extract the two assault companies from the attack. I therefore directed the commander of Company I. the reserve company, to attack the camp. Dachau was not included in the original operations order for the day, but from my map I determined that it was only a mile or so off to my left flank. I advised the company commander that I would accompany him and would attach a section of machine guns from Company M to his command. A forward observer team from the 158th Field Artillery was already with the company. A small motorized patrol from the regimental I&R Platoon was also dispatched to the Dachau area. 

As the main gate to the camp was closed and locked, we scaled the brick wall surrounding the camp. As I climbed over the wall following the advancing soldiers, I heard rifle fire to my right front. The lead elements of the company had reached the confinement area and were disposing of the SS troops manning the guard towers, along with a number of vicious guard dogs. By the time I neared the confinement area, the brief battle was almost over. 

After I entered the camp over the wall, I was not able to see the confinement area and had no idea where it was. My vision was obscured by the many buildings and barracks which were outside the confinement area. The confinement area itself occupied only a small portion of the total camp area, As I went further into the camp, I saw some men from Company I collecting German prisoners. Next to the camp hospital, there was an L-shaped masonry wall, about eight feet high, which had been used as a coal bin. The ground was covered with coal dust, and a narrow gauge railroad track, laid on top of the ground, led into the area. The prisoners were being collected in this semi-enclosed area. 

As I watched, about fifty German troops were brought in from various directions. A machine gun squad from Company I was guarding the prisoners. After watching for a few minutes, I started for the confinement area, after taking directions from one of my soldiers. After I had walked away for a short distance, I heard the machine gun guarding the prisoners open fire. I immediately ran back to the gun and kicked the gunner of f the gun with my boot. I then grabbed him by the collar and said: "What the hell are you doing?" He was a young private about 19 years old and was crying hysterically. His reply to me was: "Colonel, they were trying to get away." I doubt that they were, but in any event he killed about twelve of the prisoners and wounded several more. I placed a noncom on the gun and headed towards the confinement area. 

It was the foregoing incident which has given rise to wild claims in various publications that most or all of the German prisoners captured at Dachau were executed. Nothing could be further from the truth, The total number of German guards killed at Dachau during that day most certainly did not exceed fifty, with thirty probably being a more accurate figure. The regimental records for that date indicate that over a thousand German prisoners were brought to the regimental collecting point. Since my task force was leading the regimental attack, almost all of the prisoners were taken by the task force, including several hundred from Dachau. 

The scene near the entrance to the confinement area numbed my senses. Dante's Inferno seemed pale compared to the real hell of Dachau. A row of small cement structures near the prison entrance contained a coal-fired crematorium, a gas chamber, and rooms piled high with naked and emaciated human corpses. As I turned to look over the prison yard with unbelieving eyes, I saw a large number of dead inmates lying where they had fallen in the last few hours or days before our arrival. Since all the many bodies were in various stages of decomposition, the stench of death was overpowering. 

During the early period of our entry into the camp, a number of Company I men, all battle hardened veterans became extremely distraught. Some cried, while others raged. Some thirty minutes passed before I could restore order and discipline. During that time, the over thirty thousand camp prisoners still alive began to grasp the significance of the events taking place. They streamed from their crowded barracks by the hundreds and were soon pressing at the confining barbed wire fence. They began to shout in unison, which soon became a chilling roar. At the same time, several bodies were being tossed about and torn apart by hundreds of hands. I was told later that those being killed at that time were "informers." After about ten minutes of screaming and shouting, the prisoners quieted down. At that point, a man came forward at the gate and identified himself as an American soldier. We immediately let him out. He turned out to be Major Rene Guiraud of our OSS, He informed me that he had been captured earlier while on an intelligence mission and sentenced to death, but the sentence was never carried out. I sent him back to regimental headquarters. 

Within about an hour of our entry, events were under control. Guard posts were set up, and communications were established with the inmates. We informed them that we could not release them immediately but that food and medical assistance would arrive soon. The dead, numbering about nine thousand, were later buried with the forced assistance of the good citizens of the city of Dachau. 

Fearful that the inmates would tear down the gate to their prison area,, I posted a number of soldiers at that point. While I was standing near the gate, three jeeps from the 42nd Infantry Division approached the gate area. Apparently someone, without my knowledge, had opened the main gate to the camp area. The first jeep contained Brigadier General Linden and a woman reporter, by the name of Margaret Higgins. The general informed me that the reporter wished to enter the compound to interview the inmates. 

At that time, a sea of inmates was pressed against the gate, awaiting an opportunity to get out. I advised the general that my specific orders were to prevent anyone from entering or leaving the compound, until otherwise advised by my regimental commander. While I was explaining this to the general, the woman reporter ran forward to the gate and removed the restraining crossbar.  The prisoners immediately surged forward, creating a brief period of pandemonium. I ordered my men to open fire over the heads of the prisoners and rush the gate, After a brief struggle, the men closed and secured the gate.

It had already been a most trying day. I therefore requested the general and his party to leave and directed one of my men to escort them from the camp. The good general was a dandy who carried a riding crop as his badge of authority. As my man approached the jeep, the general laid a blow on the man's helmet with his riding crop. I then made some intemperate remarks about the general's ancestry and threatened to remove him and his party from the camp by force. He then said I was relieved of my command and that he was taking charge. I then drew my pistol and repeated my request that he leave. He left, but only after advising me that I would face a general court-martial for my actions. 

In the meantime, the men of Company I had rounded up a number of SS troops who were dispersed throughout the camp area. From these prisoners we learned that most of the Dachau garrison, including almost all of the officers, had fled the scene the day before our arrival. Only about two hundred were left to guard the camp. We captured most of those, but some were killed. The regimental history book contains a picture of these captives, accompanied by Lt. Walsh, the Company I commander, and Chaplain Loy. Fate was much kinder to these captured SS men than they were to the inmates of Dachau. 

Later that day, Major General Frederick, the 45th Division commander, and Colonel
O'Brien, the regimental commander, appeared on the scene , and I took them around the camp. I also told them of the incident with General Linden. General Frederick advised me that he would be able to take care of that matter. 

In the original order which I received to secure the camp, I was informed that our first
battalion would relieve me at the camp in order that my task force could continue the attack into Munich. Late that afternoon, Company C arrived by truck and established various security posts. I then started moving Company I out of the camp in order to resume the attack into Munich with a full task force. Before I could again assemble the task force, I received an order that the tank battalion,, less one company,, was to be relieved of attachment to my task force. The 180th Infantry was encountering strong resistance in its sector, and the tanks were needed there. Sometime later, I received another order informing me that our first battalion would lead the attack into Munich the next day and that I was to relieve Company C at the concentration camp. I then dispatched Company L to relieve Company C. This relief was completed by about 10:00 p.m. that night. 

The foregoing narrative includes all of the rifle companies which were in the Dachau
concentration camp on the day of liberation, those being companies C, I and L. With these rifle companies were attachments from companies D and M. along with forward observer parties from the 158th Field Artillery. Small elements of other units were also there, namely a small patrol from the regimental I&R Platoon which was with Company I. and some personnel from the first and third battalion headquarters, There were some troops from the 42nd Infantry Division somewhere in the vicinity. Earlier that morning, Company I had reported that they were being fired upon by troops of the 42nd Division. This information was relayed to regimental headquarters with a request that the 42nd Division be informed that we were both on the same side. 

On the morning of April 30, our first battalion resumed the attack towards Munich. The
second battalion was also launched in that direction. Shortly after the attack began, the first battalion came upon and occupied another concentration camp. It was a slave labor camp and contained about eight thousand prisoners. In order that the first battalion could continue its attack with a complete battalion, I was then ordered to relieve the first battalion company at this second camp. I assigned this mission to Company K, where they were to remain for the next several days. 

During the morning of that day, I assembled Company I in the city of Dachau, leaving
Company L at the Dachau concentration camp. At about 6:00 p.m. that evening, Company L was relieved at the camp by the 601st Artillery Battalion from the 15th Corps. My battalion then moved into Munich, minus Company K. 

On May 1, the following morning, I received an order to relieve the 15th Corps troops at the Dachau concentration camp. I thereupon sent Company L back to the camp. During the afternoon of May 3, both companies L and K were relieved of their concentration camp duties by the 179th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division, never to return. 

At this point, I should point out that Seventh Army Headquarters took over the actual camp administration on the day following the liberation. The camp occupation by combat troops after that time was solely for security purposes. On the morning of April 30, several trucks arrived from Seventh Army carrying food and medical supplies. The following day, the 116th and 127th Evacuation Hospitals arrived and took over the care and feeding of the prisoners.

EPILOGUE

A few days after the liberation, General Frederick came to my headquarters and informed me that General Linden was trying to stir up trouble through the Seventh Army Inspector General.  He said he thought he could handle the matter, but he considered it advisable that I leave for the United States at once, He further informed me that the 45th Division had been selected to participate in the expected invasion of Japan and would soon be returning to the states in preparation for shipment to the Pacific Theater. He said that he would see that I was reassigned to the division when it returned to the states. 

Placing a command car at my disposal, the general instructed me to report to the transportationoffice at LeHavre, France, where orders would be waiting for my transportation to the states, I left the following morning, accompanied by three of my most trusted soldiers, namely Albert Turk, my driver, Karl Mann, my German language interpreter; and Carlton Johnson, my runner and rifleman. It was a long trip to LeHavre, taking several days. 

I eventually located the army transportation. office on the docks at LeHavre and informed a sergeant there of my mission. He immediately went to a telephone in the back of his office and made a call. I sensed trouble and so informed my men. Within a few minutes, an MP lieutenant appeared and courteously informed me that I was under arrest. He stated that he was under orders to escort me back to Seventh Army Headquarters in Bavaria. I suddenly had the feeling that General Frederick had not been able to take care of the Dachau matter after all. 

I politely informed the lieutenant that I would not submit to an arrest but that I would voluntarily return to Seventh Army Headquarters, Glancing around at my three men casually standing by with loaded rifles, he agreed to my proposal. He then gave me the name of the small town near Augsburg, Germany, where the army headquarters was located. We then began the long trip back, although we dallied for a few days in Paris. 

Some days later, I reported to army headquarters in the small town near Augsburg. There I learned that the Seventh Army Headquarters was being deactivated that very day. I was informed that General Patton had been appointed military governor of Bavaria and had established a headquarters in Augsburg. The very unfriendly and displeased G-1 of Seventh Army curtly told me that my pending court-martial was now in the hands of General Patton. I left immediately for Augsburg. 

The following morning I reported to General Patton's Chief of Staff and arranged for an appointment with the general that afternoon. At the appointed time, I reported to the general. He then said to me: 

"Colonel, I have some serious court-martial charges against you and some of your men here on my desk. " I replied that I had never been advised of any specific charges but that I would like to offer an explanation of the events that took place at Dachau. 

The general paused for a moment and then said: "There is no point in an explanation. I have already had these charges investigated, and they are a bunch of crap. I'm going to tear up these goddamn papers on you and your men." 

With a flourish, he tore up the papers lying in front of him and threw them in a wastebasket. He then said: "You have been a damn fine soldier. Now go home. " I saluted and left. The whole interview lasted perhaps three minutes. I then rejoined the regiment in Munich and heard nothing further about the matter.

POSTWAR TALES

For the past several years,, I have been puzzled about copies of newspaper articles which a number of our members have sent me in which the 42nd Infantry Division has been portrayed as being the liberator of Dachau. In addition to the newspaper articles, at least two national television programs have featured members of that division as being the liberators of Dachau.  The 42nd Division was never there at all, except for the brief excursion of General Linden and party as previously described in this summary. 

A few years ago, I learned of a publication entitled "The Liberators," published in 1981 by the Center for Holocaust Studies Documentation and Research, Brooklyn, New York. I obtained a copy of that publication, and I am now quite certain that it is the primary genesis of the rash of claims made by members of the 42nd Division. The publication features a story about Dachau by a Lt. Col, Walter J, Fellenz, 42nd Infantry Division. A reading of the story convinces me that the man is either a pathological or congenital liar, or both. After reciting that in his approach to Dachau he had the impression that he was "approaching a wealthy girls' finishing school in the suburbs of one of our great cities," his story reads in part,, as follows, along with my editorial
comment. 

"At the main gate I met Brigadier General Linden, Lt. Col. Bolduc, and several staff officers and bodyguards. General Linden was waiting for a report from his aide who had been dispatched inside the camp to see if the camp had been deserted by the guards. Shortly after my arrival the aide reported that the SS had apparently deserted the camp. In we went, fully prepared to fight, however." 

COMMENT: The general’s aide apparently had very poor eyesight. There were about two hundred SS guards and other German troops inside the camp, although at that time they were under custody. He also failed to note the presence of about two hundred men from my battalion, who had arrived about an hour earlier. The composition of the Linden party appears to be correct; except that, for some curious reason, Col. Fellenz does not mention the presence of a lady reporter by the name of Margaret Higgins, who was the solicitous focus of the group being there in the first place. Since I had reported our entry into the camp about an hour earlier, the Linden group already knew that we were there. 

To continue with the good colonel's story, he then states: 

"Several hundred yards inside the main gate we encountered the concentration enclosure itself.  There before us, behind an electrically charged barbed wire fence, stood a mass of cheering, half mad men, women and children, waving and shouting with happiness--their liberators had come!  The noise was beyond comprehension! Every individual (over 32,000) who could utter a sound was cheering. Our hearts wept as we saw the tears of happiness fall from their cheeks."

COMMENT: When my battalion arrived at the camp earlier,, the prisoners, except for the few who performed menial labor on the outside, were all huddled together in their various barracks.  Subsequent interviews with some of the prisoners revealed that they were all expecting to be killed by the SS guards prior to the arrival of Allied troops. They therefore tried to remain out of sight of the guards. Actually, we had been inside the camp for about thirty minutes before the prisoners realized what was happening. The scene described by Col. Fellenz then did take place, although I did not see any children. Col. Fellenz was not present when this scene took place. 

We now come to the heroic liberation part, as described by Col. Fellenz: 

"Amid the deafening roar of cheers, several inmates warned us of danger by pointing to one of the eight towers which surrounded the electrically charged fence. The tower was still manned by SS guards! Half crazed at what we had just seen, we rushed the tower with rifles blazing. The SS tried to train their machine guns on us, but we quickly killed them each time a new man attempted to fire the guns. We killed all 17 SS, then in mad fury our soldiers dragged the dead bodies from the towers and emptied their rifles into the dead SS chests." 

COMMENT: Generals, staff officers and field grade officers were not armed with rifles, much less "blazing rifles." Neither did they carry rifle ammunition belts, although perhaps the lady reporter acted as the ammunition bearer. The outside perimeter of the confinement area was over a mile in distance. The guard towers were about two hundred yards apart and were mutually supporting, They were massive steel and concrete structures and virtually impregnable to direct infantry assault. They were also surrounded by a water-filled moat. The outside perimeter of the moat was patrolled by some rather vicious guard dogs, mostly Dobermans. 

The simple way to dispose of the SS troops in the guard towers was to pick them off with rifle fire from the cover of the many buildings surrounding much of the confinement area. This is what my men did. I must admit, however, that it would have been an inspiring sight to witness the charge of an aging general and a few valiant officers with blazing rifles against the massive concrete machine gun emplacements, cheered on by a lady reporter. I am very sorry that we missed it. 

The total Fellenz story as contained in the publication is quite lengthy and grows more absurd with each paragraph. I will not therefore dwell upon it any further,, except to point out that Col. Fellenz was also the conqueror of Munich, as he himself recites as follows: 

"The next morning, the rear echelon types and the military government types arrived and we turned over the Dachau Concentration Camp to their control. C Company and I rejoined the 'Fighting First' Battalion and moved into Munich where so-called German resistance elements attempted to surrender the city to me. I got in touch with Col. 'Daddy' Bolduc and he accepted the surrender, and that night I slept in the famous beer hall in Munich." 

But wait! Comes now a Colonel Don Downard, a fellow battalion commander with Colonel Fellenz in the 222nd Infantry Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division, and brands his old buddy as a liar. Colonel Fellenz commanded the First Battalion of the 222nd, and Colonel Downard was the commander of the Second Battalion of the same regiment. In a recent letter to one of our members Dr, Howard Buechner, Colonel Downard writes in part as follows: 

"As commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, 222nd Infantry, 42nd Infantry Division, I was at Dachau from the time the gates were crashed until late that afternoon, at which time I was ordered to await arrival of our first battalion, turn the camp over to Fellenz and proceed immediately to Munich--all this a period of 5 or 6 hours. I personally pulled a live inmate from under dead ones on the box cars. Several of my soldiers were present when General Linden and his party were pinned down by SS fire right at the main gate." 

The letter is quite lengthy and more of less concludes with the statement: 

"I relate the above, not to be critical (could happen to anyone) but to emphasize that even the 'Thunderbirds' could be mistaken about events of that time....... I never saw a Thunderbird at Dachau." 

Any reader must be puzzled about which story to believe. In the Fellenz account, General Linden sent an aide into the camp through the main gate, who determined that no SS guards were present. In the Downard story, General Linden and party were "pinned down by SS fire right at the main gate." Actually, Fellenz is entitled to a bit more credibility. He was with the Linden party when they entered the camp and I exchanged a few unpleasant words with him. 

As of this date, at least a dozen other units have claimed that they were the liberators of Dachau. This number will undoubtedly continue to grow in the future as a result of the attention focused upon the many Holocaust memorial events held annually throughout the United States. Just this year, the 20th Armored Division was recognized by the Holocaust Memorial Council as being the liberator of Dachau, And so the list continues to grow.  

One very likely explanation of some of the claims is that there were a number of concentration camps in the Munich area, although only one Dachau. The other camps around Munich were slave labor camps, and they most certainly were liberated by other units of the United States Army. One such camp was liberated by our first battalion and subsequently occupied by our Company K for several days" I do not know the exact number of these camps, but there were many of them. The inmates, predominantly of Russian and Polish origin, were used as slave labor in the many factories and other installations in the Munich area. The prisoners in these camps received somewhat better treatment and food fare than did the inmates of Dachau. The number of prisoners in each of these camps was generally less than ten thousand, as compared to the over thirty thousand in Dachau. 

In conclusion, and not that it makes any great difference, I suppose the question can still be asked as to what unit liberated the concentration camp at Dachau. At least one official publication has the correct answer, In a publication entitled "The U, S. Army in the Occupation of Germany, 1944-1946," published by the Center of Military History,, United States Army, Washington, D. C., in 1975, on pages 252 and 253, credits the 45th Infantry Division with the liberation of Dachau, concluding the account with the words: "The 45th Infantry Division troops who liberated Dachau in the afternoon on 29 April were fighting in Munich the next morning and by nightfall had, along with XV Corps' other three divisions, captured the city that was the capital of Bavaria and the birthplace of nazism." 

Dachau was but one of the many monuments left behind by depraved and tyrannical ruling individuals and groups of the past, As I recall, we were often told during the course of World War II that we were fighting a war to end all wars. As I view the world scene today, it seems that very little has changed since the end of the war. In the name of nationalism, religion, political affiliation, greed, racial superiority, economics, or various combinations thereof, innocent people around the world are still being killed, kidnapped or brutalized on a daily basis. And so it shall ever be.

Felix L. Sparks

Brigadier General, AUS (Retired)

 

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It will be 64 years, 4/29/09, that Camp Dachau was liberated. Through all these years and to the present day, books have been written, documentaries made, articles appearing in periodicals, about the liberation of Dachau. Unfortunately, most of the information publicized has not been researched or substantiated. Hence, lies become part of history. There are still a few of us left trying to set and keep the records straight.

The 45th Infantry Division is recognized as a liberating unit of Dachau by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the United States Army Center of Military History

Following letters have been written recently. 

By Al Panebianco 

 

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LETTERS

JAMES R. BIRD 
57 BELLA ROAD 
MEDFORD, NJ 08055-4201 
609 267 5520 
jamesbird@skyhigh.com
 

5 March 1999

LETTER TO EDITOR 
NEWSWEEK 
251 WEST 57TH STREET 
NEW YORK NY 10019-1894 
letters@newsweek.com
 

Sirs: 

SUBJECT: "FOLLOW THE SCREAMS" page 50, Newsweek March 8, 1999 

"Don’t confuse us with facts our minds are made up." 

Despite the admonition of my friend Curtis R. Whiteway, your reporters, Mark Peyser, Steve Schabard, and Angili credit him and the 99th Infantry Division for liberating the main camp, KZ Dachau instead of Dachau 3-B, one of many sub camps of KZ Dachau many miles away. Curtis told them you would be hearing from former members of the 42nd and the 45th Infantry Divisions who were actual participants in Liberating KZ Dachau. It would have been far better for your reporters to credit Curtis Whiteway and the 99th Infantry Division for liberated the euthanasia hospital at Hadamar, Germany (a much better story) instead of forcing their good record into a preconceived decision. Your reporters are no different than Steven Spielberg’s use of fictitious liberators to enhance his movie The Last Days. 

Respectfully, 

James R. Bird, 
45th Infantry (Thunderbird) Division 

c.c. Curtis Whiteway, 45th Infantry Division Association


JAMES R. BIRD 
57 BELLA ROAD 
MEDFORD NJ 08055-4201 
609 267 5520

Honorable Joseph I. Leiberman                                             15 DECEMBER 1998
U.S. Senate 
Washington D.C. 20510

Dear Senator

I don't know who approached you to write the FORWARD to the book and the COMMENTARY on the back of the book jacket of

DACHAU 29 APRIL 1945, THE RAINBOW LIBERATION MEMOIR 

Edited by Sam Dann, and published by Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

but you were conned into becoming a "revisionist" of history because this hook is replete with misinformation and distortions. Had you checked with the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and/or the Army archives you would have learned that a small party of the 42nd infantry Division arrived at the front gate later in the day of April 29th 1945 after most of the action had taken place. Barbara Distal, curator at KZ Dachau in Germany in conjunction with Professor Wolfgang Benz wrote a History of Nazi Concentration Camps wherein she wrote, "Colonel Felix Sparks of the Third Battalion of the 157th Infantry Association of the 45th Infantry Division reported that he and his soldiers had been on their way to Munich when they were ordered via radio to first liberate the concentration camp at Dachau. 

On the morning of the fiftieth anniversary of VE-Day I heard Brigadier General Felix 
Sparks, Ret. speak at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC and tell how "revisionists" such as the Institute for Historical Review in California attempt to deny the Holocaust ever occurred. Now we have some American veterans revising the record to appropriate acclaim not deserved. 

Soldiers from the 157th infantry Regiment, 45th Division proceeded to KZ Dachau on 
orders sent down by the XVth Corps as recorded in the corps' log. However, some soldiers (not the several hundred you list) of the 42nd Division went to the camp at the urging of Marguerite Higgins, a reporter who "wanted a story." Over the years there has been quite a controversy because some veterans of the 42nd Division claimed "more stars for their crowns" than warranted by the facts. Some continue claiming to this day that "they" were the "liberators" at the expense of the 45th division veterans when in fact most of the action had been completed by the time the 42nd division soldiers arrived at the front gate. Moreover, I’ve learned that Sam Dann did not use or mention immediate post-liberation sworn testimony of several 42nd division veterans contained in the official Army Inspector General Report of Investigation in the archives documenting the army troops at Dachau. 

Moreover, your statement, "They [42nd Division personnel] opened the eyes of the world to the horror of the Holocaust." is a day late and a dollar short. The world was already cognizant of the Holocaust and Dachau was one of the last camps brought under Allied control. Auschwitz, Berkenau, Belsen, Buchenwald and others were liberated (beginning in January) quite awhile before Dachau. And, on April 29th, 1945 only about 2500 of the 31,400 prisoners still in camp were Jews. 

Despite claims by Sam Dann and other 42nd division veterans, the 157th Infantry, 45th Infantry division was there "the fustsest with the mostest." And, I have a copy of the Seventh Army Inspector General’s Report relating to the shooting of unarmed German soldiers by some of the 45th men at the coal yard at Dachau - I know and have "broken bread" with some of these men. 

Dann’s manipulation of the facts pertaining to Dachau does not stand alone, he falsely laid claim to the division’s prowess in Northwind, a fierce battle in the Alsace area in that the 42nd division was in the van in the race to munchen. Dann’s work is pretentious and I could list more errors and distortions but it would be "gilding the lily." 

Respectfully, 

James R. Bird 

Although I did not arrive at KZ Dachau until the morning of 30 April 1945, I'm recognized as a "liberator" by the Army's definition that anyone arriving at such a camp within forty-eight hours is a "liberator." A truck load of my buddies in the 45th Infantry Division and led by our First Sergeant, Napoleon Drigo arrived there in midmorning. I've enclosed a copy of Kreigserinnerungen Dachau relating my experience. 

c.c. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum; 45th Infantry Division Association; Historians LTC Hugh Foster, USA Retired; Curtis Whiteway, David Israel; Henry Kaufman, Editor, Newsletter, Jewish War Veterans, Post #113, Hollywood CA.


JAMES R. BIRD 
57 BELLA ROAD 
MEDFORD NJ 08055-4201
609 267 5520

ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCE             17 FEBRUARY 1999

8949 WILSHIRE BLVD 
BEVERLY HILLS CA 90211 1972 
SIRS: 
SUBJECT: Spielberg's TV documentary(?) The Last Days 

This combat disabled veteran of WWII wonders why Steven Spielberg needs to produce a so-called documentary that is based on fiction. I've yet to see the film, but from what I’ve read and been told he persists in crediting Paul Parks as a Liberator of Dachau. I served in the 45th Infantry Division and arrived at Dachau on the morning of April 30th 1945 and am thoroughly convinced, that in addition to units of the 42nd Infantry (Rainbow) Division, there were no Blacks involved in the liberation of this concentration camp. 

We wonder about Mr. Spieiberg's motives to produce a documentary which includes false information. There is irrefutable evidence that Paul Parks was not a "liberator" of Dachau as depicted in the film. Apparently, Spieiberg's director and editor, James Moll didn't verify his facts. 

Respectfully, 

James R Bird 

Enclosures: Steven Spielberg Screws Up by Mark Shulte, NEW YORK POST February 15th; and Klawans commentary in THE NATION, March 1st. edition; clipping from Burlington County times, 3 July 1992 

c.c. 45th Infantry Division Association 

I served through eight campaigns with the 45th Infantry Division (Thunderbirds) and was awarded a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts.


 

HENRY KAUFMAN 
10390 WILSHIRE BLVD.#901 
LOS ANGELES,CA. 90024 
PH.(310) 278-8236 

HONORABLE SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN 
U.S.SENATE 
WASHINGTON,D.C. 20510 

Honorable Senator Lieberman, 

Please accept my apologies for writing to you at a time that you are involved in a monumental historical task, but I find myself in a dilemma regarding my own historical involvement in a situation that just doesn't seem to go away. I read your foreward in the recently published book "The Rainbow Liberation Memoirs" and while I admire and respect you and those of your family that survived the holocaust, I have to support my old war time buddy, Jim Bird, from Medford, N.J., who was gracious enough to send me a copy of a letter he sent to you, dated Dec.15 1998. Although I quote from Jim Bird's letter to you, stating that "you were conned" by members of the 42nd Rainbow Division, I have to tell you that I have encountered the same thing here in California. The only exception is that not only the 42nd lays claim to being the liberator of Dachau, but I have a list of several other divisions,20th Armored,442nd Regiment,76lst Tank Battalion who have all claimed to have liberated Dachau. I must admit, it is an amazing quest that I am on trying one by one, to disprove each one’s claim. As recently as last month, there was a Rabbi out here, in L.A. who awarded a medal to an Afro/American, from San Francisco, who claimed he was with his unit, the 761st Tank Battalion, when they liberated both Buchenwald and Dachau. I attempted to see this Rabbi armed with a box full of documentation to show him that he had been "conned," but believe it or not he didn't want to see me, or my documents. Be it as it may, Jim Bird fought with me at the invasion of Anzio. He was badly wounded and also the recipient of the Silver Star. I on the other hand, was captured at Anzio and spent 15 months in many POW camps, as well as 5 days in Dachau, under sentence of death. Jim Bird arrived in Dachau on April 30 1945,one day after the liberation and although I was a POW and had nothing to do with the liberation of Dachau, it was my outfit, the 157th RCT, that liberated Dachau on April 29,1945 and two hours later, at 1630 hours that day, the 42nd division came on the scene. My outfit the 2nd battalion of the 157th is recorded in the Military Archives, U.S.Holocaust Memorial, and the 45th Infantry Museum, in Oklahoma City, as the actual liberators. Even though we readily admit that the 42nd came in 2 hours after the 157th liberated Dachau, the 42nd insists that they were the "sole" liberators and very few of their statements can be substantiated. If you request, I would be happy to send you enough documentation to convince you. 

In closing, I would like to refer back to my December, l998 Newsletter, published by the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. in Hollywood, California. You will note how I go into detail trying to disprove the many past misleading documentation and documentaries, regarding the liberation of KZ Dachau, by the Afro/American members of the 761st Tank Battalion. My biggest surprise came when I walked into a bookstore recently, and saw the #1 Best Seller "The Greatest Generation" by Tom Brokaw and again much to my surprise I noticed on page 20l, "that although the 761st Tank Battalion had an outstanding combat record during WWll, the military records indicate that contrary to all the false and misleading claims made by self-serving people, the records indicate that the 76lst, was no where near KZ Dachau or Buchenwald, as had been erroneously claimed." I'm very glad that Tom Brokaw did his homework, because the same situation applies to the 42nd Rainbow Division, who have misled you and many other people. Good luck on the Senate Impeachment Trial and I hope you get a chance to read some of the articles that I have previously written, about KZ Dachau. 

Respectfully yours, 
Henry Kaufman 

c/c Senator Diane Feinstein 
c/c Senator Barbara Boxer 
c/c Mr. James Bird 

Enc. three (3) Newsletters


 

Henry Kaufman 
10390 Wilshire Blvd. # 901 
Los Angeles,Ca.90024 
PH.(310) 278-8236 
February 24, 1999 

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science 

8949 Wilshire Blvd. 
.Beverly Hills, Ca. 90211-1972 
Att: Public Relations: 
 

Subject: Spielbergs Documentary, "The Last Days". 

To Whom It May Concern; 

Since 1992 when black soldiers decided to convince the world that they had liberated 
Buchenwald and Dachau, both concentration camps, the lie continued to persist no matter how much their "yarns" were totally disproven. 

In 1992 PBS had shown a film entitled "The Liberators" supposedly, a black Tank Battalion, the 761st had liberated both camps. There are several black ex-soldiers from the World War II era who spread these unsubstantiated falsehoods. The 761st who had an excellent World War II record, disavowed any responsibility for anyone making these claims. The end result was the "liberators" was taken off the air and never again shown. 

Now, at the present time we are facing renewed false, sublimated claims in the latest Spielberg film entitled "The Last Days." 

In this film there are three different veterans, who claim they too liberated KZ Dachau, Warren Dunn, Katsugo Miho, and Paul Parks. Although none of these three mention the units they were with, at the time of the liberation, the film is actually referring to the 42nd Division which Dunn was a member of, the 442nd RCT (all Japanese regiment) which Katsugo Miho was a member of, and the 365th Combat Engineers, which Paul Parks claims to have been a member of. 

What you are seeing in this film is that there were more divisions that liberated KZ Dachau, than there were in the entire Normandy Invasion." If Spielberg did his homework simply had to check the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and if he checked Box 226, Records Group 338 he would have found that a Lt.Colonel Felix L.Sparks of the 3rd Battalion,l57th RCT, 45th Division not only liberated Dachau on April 29,1945 at 12:30 PM, but also got into serious trouble. He and several of his men, namelyl Lt.William P.Walsh, Lt.Jack Busheyhead, Lt.Daniel F.Drain, Lt.Howard E.Buchener, all the above were in the 157th and being investigated at the time by the Inspector General for having shot and killed l7 unarmed SS guards, plus the 
Inspector-Generals report reads, "2 Germans were shot by inmates who used the service rifle of PFC Peter J.DeMarzo of the 157th RCT. 

Simply put, if all these aforementioned soldiers were accused of these crimes at KZ Dachau, although they were never tried, then how can anybody other than the 45th Infantry, claim they liberated Dachau? 

I'm hoping you discredit this film, "The Last Days" and that Spielberg is made aware that he has been "duped." My interest in the liberation of Dachau is merely that I was in "H" Company of the 157th, 45th Infantry Division. I fought in Africa, Sicily and Italy. I was captured on the Anzio Beachhead, February 22,1944. After being in many POW camps in Italy and Germany, I was transferred to Dachau for being a "trouble-maker." I was in Dachau, November 15, to November 20,1944. Unfortunately, my outfit didn't liberate Dachau until April 29,1945. I didn't wait for them, I escaped on April 8, 1945. 

Please bear in mind that these false claims are very painful to the 45th Infantry Division, since they have established an amazing outstanding record of 511 days in combat and suffered 62,560 casualties during World War II, Spielberg owes them an apology. 

Respectfully 
Henry Kaufman

wpeEF.jpg (1474 bytes)

The following article, "DACHAU LIBERATION CONTROVERSY" was sent to me by 
my good friend and historian LTC Hugh F. Foster III (Ret.)

25 June 1999

"AN OVERVIEW OF THE "DACHAU LIBERATION CONTROVERSY"

By Hugh F. Foster III

The Nazi concentration camp near Dachau, Germany, was overrun and liberated 
by American forces on 29 April 1945. This is perhaps the only fact of liberation that has remained undisputed. The exact time of day that American units arrived, which units were directly involved, and who first arrived at the gates to the concentration camp itself are subjects of continued argument. That history does not have a full and complete picture of the events is due to a number of circumstances, chief among them: 
- Official and individual efforts to obscure some of the events of liberation in order to conceal excesses by the liberating troops; 
- Sensationalist and inaccurate contemporary news accounts of the liberation by a number of newspaper reporters, unit newspapers and both official and unofficial news releases, each seeking to garner glory for the writer or the unit. 
- A decision by the US Army’s Center of Military History (made long after the war) to 
"award" liberation credit to division size units which were actual liberators OR whose 
subordinate elements passed through or near a concentration camp within 48 hours of its liberation; Recollections by liberator soldiers and camp inmates many years after the events, drawing upon fuzzy, faulty or "enhanced" memories; 
- Faulty research designed to glamorize revised unit histories; 
- Outright lies by people seeking to embellish their own war record. 
- Also adding to the confusion is the fact that KL Dachau (KL is the German abbreviation for Konzentrationslager – concentration camp) was a "headquarters camp," controlling dozens of smaller, subsidiary camps all over the area. Some researchers have called the lesser camps "little Dachaus". Virtually every American unit operating within a hundred miles of Dachau town encountered one or more of these subsidiary camps. It is quite possible that GIs involved in liberating the smaller camps have confused them in their memories of so long ago with the main KL Dachau. 

Despite official "credit" awarded to the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions and the 20th Armored Division for having liberated the concentration camp at Dachau, the facts of the matter are that only small elements of the 42nd and 45th were involved in the actual events of liberation. Regardless of claims to the contrary the 761st Tank Battalion did not liberate the concentration camp at Dachau. Nor did members of the 552nd Field Artillery Battalion, engineers with bulldozers or tanks of the 20th Armored Division. 

Mislabeled by the authoring office, the most important historical document covering the events of liberation lay misfiled in the US National Archives (and therefore unavailable to researchers) until it was discovered by accident in the late 1980’s. This document is one of only three copies prepared of the XV Corps Inspector General Report of "Investigation of Alleged Mistreatment of German Guards at Dachau". On 2 May 1945 (three days after the liberation), Lt. Col. Joseph M. Whitaker was directed to conduct an investigation to determine the facts of allegations that several German soldiers were murdered by US troops during the liberation. Colonel Whitaker began his investigation on 3 May and tendered a written report on 8 June. During the course of investigation, Colonel Whitaker compelled sworn testimony from 23 members of the 45th Infantry Division (all from the 157th Infantry Regiment), 10 members of 
the 42nd Infantry Division (from the group escorting the Assistant Division Commander and from members of the 222nd Infantry Regiment), two former civilian inmates of the concentration camp, and an American OSS officer who was also an inmate at the time of liberation. 

While Colonel Whitaker’s mission was not to determine who arrived first at "Dachau," it was necessary for him to make such a determination in order to identify potential witnesses to the shooting of the German soldiers. It is obvious from the witness statements that nearly everyone interviewed was uncomfortable with the process and was anxious not to reveal witnessed events unless specifically prodded by Colonel Whitaker, i.e., nearly everyone questioned had something he wished to conceal. In all of the witness statements, however, there is no mention of any unit participating in the liberation other than members of the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions. Colonel Whitaker’s finding concerning who was there is contained on the first page 
of his report: "The German Dachau Internment Camp was overrun 29 April 1945, by elements of the 3rd Bn, 157th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division. A small party of the 42nd Division also entered the area from the front at approximately the same time." The text of the investigation further identifies the two groups as I Company, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division and members of the battalion headquarters, including Lt. Col. Felix L. Sparks, the Battalion Commander; and a party of the 42nd Infantry Division headquarters personnel led by the Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General Henning Linden. 

Colonel Whitaker’s statement is, unfortunately, not completely correct in at least three 
respects: 

1. He was informed of the presence of two American and two Belgian journalists. Sergeant Peter Furst of the Stars & Stripes newspaper and civilian correspondent Marguerite Higgins rode together in Furst’s jeep. The two Belgians, Paul Levy and Raphael Algoet, were in a separate jeep. Depending upon which account one chooses to believe, the correspondents either led, accompanied or followed General Linden’s party to the concentration camp. Strangely, there is no mention of the correspondents in the sworn testimony of any of the investigation witnesses. 

2. Although he was aware that US Army combat photographers accompanied 
the 45th Division elements, he did not interview or identify them. 

3. He clearly stated that the "Internment Camp" was overrun by members of the 45th Division and that a small party of the 42nd Division "also entered the area from the front at approximately the same time." However, the terminology he used was not exact. The concentration camp (which Whitaker calls the "Internment Camp" was a separate facility inside an outer, military complex. There was only one entrance to the concentration camp, and that was from within he surrounding military camp. A detailed reading of the investigation text and the interview texts shows the Colonel Whitaker was not specifically of the concentration camp, but the whole complex, i.e. the military camp and the concentration camp, when he wrote that the place was overrun by members of the 45th Division while at the same time a party of the 42nd Division entered from the "front". What he meant was that the 45th Division men 
entered the outer complex - the military camp - first and that very shortly thereafter, the 42nd Division men entered the out complex from a different location. Whitaker never did specifically address which unit arrived first at the gate to the concentration camp. 

Further, Colonel Whitaker did not use the word "liberation" when describing the 
arrival of the American soldiers. We shall see that how one chooses to define "liberation" is at the heart of the "controversy". 

It is important that the reader understand some basics about the use of the name 
"Dachau" and the term "main gate". "Dachau" is used by various writers to mean the 
actual town by that name, the overall SS military camp by that name and/or the actual 
concentration camp. The town of Dachau sits astride the Amper River, and in 1945 it was completely separated from the military camp and the concentration camp, which lay about one kilometer northeast of the town. The SS military camp, called Dachau Lager, encompassed a rather large area, with the main area (cantonment, administration, medical facility, industrial areas, etc.) on the eastern side of the Amper River, and with training and weapons ranges, etc, on the western side of the river. Within the confines of the administrative part of Dachau Lager was the prisoner compound of the concentration camp, Konzentrationslager (abbreviated KL) Dachau. The prisoner compound was separated from the rest of the rest of the complex by a masonry wall around three sides, a barbed wire fence on the fourth side and seven guard towers. The prisoners worked at various factories and facilities located within Dachau Lager, but outside the prisoner compound. (See attached schematic, which depicts the prisoner compound and a portion of Dachau Lager.) 

The term "main gate" has been used interchangeably and confusingly by writers to identify both of the two southern entrances to Dachau Lager AND the entrance to the prisoner compound KL Dachau. In fact, there was only one "main gate" to Dachau Lager, a very imposing two-story structure with a two-lane roadway tunnel passing through it, flanked by two tunneled walkways – this was the formal entrance to the complex and is the gate General Linden and his party passed through. There is another entrance to Dachau Lager along its southern periphery, consisting of a "gate house" between a railroad entrance and a road entrance. The rail line entered Dachau Lager through a fence or gate (which was open when the troops arrived).
Immediately to the right (east) of the railroad gate stood (and still stands) the three story "gatehouse" building. Attached to the right (east) of this building was a gated stone portal spanning a road leading into the Lager. For simplicity, I will call this the southwestern gate. The 45th Division men entered Dachau Lager here, along the railroad tracks and, later, through the nearby road gate. 

A building known as the Jourhaus was the only entrance to the concentration camp prisoner compound, and it was accessible only from within Dachau Lager. The entrance to the prisoner compound was via a one-lane tunneled roadway through the Jourhaus. The roadway was blocked by a wrought-iron fence with a single door-sized gate into which the words "ARBEIT MACHT FREI" were worked in iron. This was the "main" (and only) gate to the prisoner compound, but it was not the "main gate of Dachau". To review: There were two southern gates to Dachau Lager (the overall complex), the southwestern gate (rail and road) and the main gate, and one entrance to the prisoner compound, the Jourhaus gate. 

Some things are very clear from the Inspector General Report of Investigation and its sworn testimony: the general routes of advance of the two units involved and a rough sequence of their arrivals. Beyond that, there is a great deal of fog. 

The 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions were advancing generally southeast, their goal being the city of Munich. Both divisions were advancing rapidly, against very light resistance and most troops were aboard trucks or armored vehicles. They were, therefore, roadbound. The 42nd was on the right, and the boundary between the two divisions neatly bisected the town of Dachau. Third Battalion, 157th Infantry, 45th Infantry Division was the division’s right-most element (to its right was the 42nd Division). Both divisions had been notified that the concentration camp was somewhere to their front and instructions from corps were that the division locating the camp was to seize and secure it. None of the advancing troops, however,
knew exactly where the camp lay, or what actually constituted the "prison camp".

As the rightmost company of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry (aboard tanks and trucks) approached the Amper River near Dachau Lager, the only bridge in the area was blown up. The company then began to follow the river to the southwest (toward the town of Dachau) looking for an undamaged bridge. In the meantime, the Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Felix L.Sparks, directed Company I to move into the town of Dachau also, and to try to locate a bridge. Ultimately, a railroad bridge was found to have been partially destroyed. Foot troops and light vehicles, but not tanks or trucks, could cross. Company I was directed to cross the bridge and then to head back to the northeast, basically to get back to the point where the destroyed bridge had halted the advance. Colonel Sparks and a couple of his radio operators accompanied Company I. 

Company I crossed the bridge, came upon a railroad spur leading to the northeast, and followed it to the southwestern gate to Dachau Lager. On that spur, but outside the Lager, the men came across the first railroad cars of what would become known as the Death Train.  There were several cars in this train, and part of the train extended through the railroad gage and into the Lager. Sickened, shocked and enraged by the sight of several hundred emaciated, brutalized, dead prisoners in and around the rail cars, the men of Company I, 157th Infantry followed the rail line and the parallel road deeper into Dachau Lager. 

Although it is known that the three platoons of Company I moved off in different directions once they entered the Lager, the actual routes of advance within the complex and the times of subsequent events have been lost to history. It is known that some of the men followed a rail spur leading generally toward the prisoner compound, that others continued farther along the main rail line before turning to the east, and that others initially were fully occupied in accepting the surrender of numerous German soldiers. 

Inside Dachau Lager, but long before the prisoner compound had been discovered, the 45th Division men began to round up dozens of surrendering German soldiers. Those who could be readily identified as SS men, were separated from the others and were collected in a walled area of the coal yard for the Lager’s power house. There, under conditions that are still clouded in mystery, several Americans opened fire on the SS men, killing about 17 of them and wounding several more. Colonel Sparks, who was nearby, heard the firing and rushed into the area and by force of his presence stopped the killing. 

At some time after the men of Company I had cleared the Death Train, but probably before the shooting in the coal yard, three jeeps, (or four – or five – depending upon whether Sergeant Furst’s jeep, containing Furst and Maggie Higgins, preceded, accompanied or followed this group, and whether or not the jeep carrying the two Belgian correspondents Algoet and Levy was there, too) carrying members of the 42nd Division headquarters encountered the train. This party had been in Dachau town, purportedly attempting to find elements of one of the divisions’s regiments, when they heard the concentration camp was nearby and set out to locate it. (In fact, there may have been as many as seven jeeps in this group, as recent research by 42nd Division veterans indicates that two jeeps carrying six men from one of the regiments tagged on to the end of the convoy.) 

The 42nd Division group halted briefly to examine the Death Train, then turned east and drove down the road paralleling the southern wall of Dachau Lager. About one-half mile down this road, the party arrived at the main gate to the Lager, which was decked out with white flags. A Red Cross representative and a couple of SS men came out of the gate carrying white flags and surrendered the camp to General Linden. During the surrender discussion, firing broke out from within the Lager, and Linden’s party took cover behind their jeeps until it stopped. 

The firing might have been the shooting of the SS men in the coal yard by members of
Company I, 157th Infantry. However, at least one post war account of the event mentions bullets flying through the air near the Linden party. If this is true, the shooting heard at this time was probably not from the coal yard, as the direction of the shooting would have precluded bullets coming anywhere near the main gate. As the men of Company I, 157th moved through the Lager, there were various incidents of shooting: at running Germans, to kill the guard dogs, which were chained near the crematory; cases of reconnaissance by fire at suspicious areas;and even some shooting at the Germans in the guard towers of the prisoner compound. While
the exact nature of this fire has never been determined, it does clearly show that members of the 45th Division were already inside Dachau Lager and were moving toward the prisoner compound – if they had not already reached it – by the time the Linden party accepted the surrender at the main gate. 

When the firing stopped, General Linden ordered his aide, Lt. Cowling, to enter the Lager and look around. Cowling entered through the main gate, looked to his right and saw guards in Tower G. He yelled to them to come down out of the tower and come to him, which they did.  Cowling sent these prisoners out through the main gate under guard and then climbed into a jeep with a German prisoner guide; they drove straight through the main gate for a block, then turned right – directly to their front, at a distance of about 100 yards, was the Jourhaus.  Cowling approached the Jourhaus, took more prisoners and then sent for General Linden to come forward. 

At about the time Linden arrived at the Jourhaus, the prisoners, who had been inside their barracks, fearing they would be shot by the guards, discovered that Americans were on the scene. The prisoners swarmed out of the barracks and rushed the Jourhaus screaming and yelling with joy. Some were killed on the electrified fence before a soldier managed to turn off the power. Linden ordered his men to fire over the heads of the prisoners to get them under control and to keep them inside the compound. Almost all account agree that men from both divisions were at the Jourhaus when Linden ordered the firing. However, whether Lt. Cowling was the first American to arrive at the Jourhaus, or if the 45th Division men were already in the
vicinity remains one of the many facts in dispute. 

Once the prisoners had been generally calmed down (at least temporarily) the GIs noticed that there were still German guards in the towers. A group of the 42nd Division men ran down to Tower B, ordered the Germans to come out lined them up and then shot them all to death, perhaps finishing off some who were only wounded in the initial volley. Between 7 and 17 Germans were killed in this incident. Since several of the bodies fell into the canal and were washed away, an exact count of the dead was never recorded. Some accounts state that 45th Division men participated in this shooting. Essentially, after the shooting of the Tower B guards, the liberation was completed, for the Americans were in control of the whole complex. 

Still, there is controversy. Clearly, the 45th Division men were already inside the outer complex at the time General Linden and his party arrived at the main gate – Linden himself reported hearing firing from within the complex. It is also clear that it was General Linden who accepted the formal surrender of the complex. Men from both divisions, however, have claimed that it was their unit that "liberated Dachau" (45th Division was first inside the Lager; 42nd Division accepted a formal surrender), and men from both divisions are adamant that men from their unit were the first to arrive at the Jourhaus, 

It is highly likely that the answer to who arrived at the Jourhaus first will never be factually determined. The question, however, is more complex than merely who arrived at the Jourhaus first. The question at the heart of the controversy is "who liberated the concentration camp?" Does the formal surrender to members of the 42nd Division equate to "liberation"? Does the fact that 45th Division men were already in control of the Lager – and were very near, if not already at the concentration camp – at the time of the formal surrender negate the effect of the surrender? (in effect, was the SS officer "surrendering" something that had already been seized
and occupied?) Veterans from both divisions have made up their minds; and they do not agree 

The arguments continue. They are fueled in the main by personal animosity. Veterans have called others liars, and have disparaged their character. "Family names" are seemingly at stake. Some have been exposed after years of embellished stories. Even descendants of some veterans have "taken up the fight" to clear the name of a relative long dead. To some it has become an obsession. 

Many find this squabbling among victors to be senseless, and at times comical. To the people who were most affected by the liberation – the inmates – it did not matter what shoulder patch was on the uniform of the first man to arrive at the Jourhaus. It was an American soldier, who with his buddies had come a long way, risking life and limb countless times on the journey. He was there to free them from their Nazi jailers, to return to them freedom – life – and that was ALL that mattered then. And it really is all that matters now.

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DACHAU - BUCHENWALD LIBERATION

April 2002 will be 57 years since the liberation of Dachau and Buchenwald Concentration Camps. The controversy continues on as to which American military units liberated these camps.

"Liberators" without end - and no end to "Liberators" written by Ulrich Koch, Berlin, expresses thoughts on this ongoing problem.

Who liberated Dachau, Buchenwald and other concentration camps?

Please refer to:http://www.shoa.de for his complete report.

Al Panebianco
25 January 2002

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Dachau's indelible mark

Jewish prisoner, U.S. liberator recall concentration camp

By Jim Sheeler, Rocky Mountain News
April 29, 2003

In the shadow of Dachau, the man they called 69970 finally fell.

"Go ahead. Shoot me," the Jewish prisoner defiantly told the German soldier bearing down on him.

"Shoot me."

By the end of April 1945, the 21-year-old had made it through three concentration camps. At Sachsenhausen, his uncle and cousin were killed. At Auschwitz, his father was shot, his mother was gassed to death and he was tattooed with the number that would follow him the rest of his life.

In the nearly six years since his arrest, he had seen women and children tortured and had lost everyone he knew. He had seen thousands of walking skeletons, then became one.

After being marched around the massive Dachau complex for days, 69970 was ready to die.

"Get up!" commanded the German soldier.

The prisoner looked back, confused. For the rest of his life he would wonder why he was given a second chance.

"It won't be long, now. The Americans are almost here," the soldier told him.

"The Americans are right around the corner."

In the shadow of Dachau, 69970 slowly stood, and continued to walk.

Soldiers smelled death

About a mile from the barbed wire, 27-year-old Lt. Col. Felix Sparks received a call on his military radio.

"You are to proceed immediately to the concentration camp at Dachau. Once inside, you are to secure it and let nobody in or out."

By the end of April 1945, Sparks and the 157th Infantry Regiment had slogged through thousands of miles, all the way from North Africa. At the end of the war, the 157th - which had it roots in the Colorado National Guard - spent more time in combat than almost any other unit.

On the afternoon of April 29, Sparks and his men smelled death. Then it glared back at them, from boxcars filled with bodies.

The trains had arrived from Buchenwald, where, weeks earlier, the Nazis had sent prisoners away in an attempt to hide them from the advancing Allies. Very few prisoners survived the trip. None survived Dachau.

At the edge of one of the railroad cars, Sparks saw the body of a man who managed to crawl a few feet from the train. A guard had crushed his head with a rifle butt.

As they passed each rail car, the soldiers' anger boiled. If they found the men who did this, a few swore, there would be hell to pay.

Honoring men of the 157th

Inside his home in Lakewood, 58 years after he got the order to take Dachau, Sparks watched as an old friend rolled up his sleeve to expose a tattoo. The Nazis called him 69970. His name is Jack Goldman.

As they sat together last week, the two men talked about the day that would end the war for both of them and about the people who weren't there to see it.

"These are the ones in railroad cars," Sparks said as he took out a stack of photos.

"This girl. I can still remember her face. Boy, I remember her face," Sparks said.

"There were a lot of photos taken of that young girl. She just happened to be on top of the other bodies."

Though they never met each other at Dachau, the two men have spoken out for years about their experiences from both sides of the prison gates. This year, to commemorate the 58th anniversary of Dachau's liberation, Goldman suggested another honor.

At a special ceremony, the Hebrew Educational Alliance plans to remember the men of the 157th and their successors in the Colorado Army National Guard. Tonight, the group plans to unveil a memorial boulder designed by Goldman, etched with the logo of the 157th alongside a Star of David. The symbols are joined by barbed wire.

Inside Sparks' home last week, the two veterans - Sparks is now 85 years old, Goldman is 79 - continued to look through the stacks of pictures. Their memories are nearly as tangible.

In another famous photo, a young lieutenant colonel stands with his pistol raised in the air.

He is screaming at his men to stop shooting.

Veteran soldiers crack

Once inside the gates at Dachau, Sparks and his troops quickly rounded up most of the German soldiers that had not already deserted. Members of the SS were taken to a coal yard, and a young private was told to guard them with a machine gun.

"I told him to just keep 'em there," recalled Sparks, who then left to secure the rest of the camp.

"Then the machine gunner cut loose on those prisoners. Why he did that, I don't know.

"I ran back as fast as I could, I kicked him down with the back of my foot. I grabbed him by the collar and said, 'What the hell were you doing?' He said, 'But, colonel, they were trying to get away.'

Sparks shook his head.

"They weren't trying to get away."

At that point in the war, the troops had seen 511 days of combat. Dachau was different. For a few of them, it was too much.

"I'll tell you a story that I haven't told, but I can tell it now since the guy's dead," Sparks said.

"At one point, I came around a corner and saw my company commander running after a German, hitting him in the head with the barrel of his carbine. He kept chasing him and hitting him and saying, 'You sons of bitches. You sons of bitches. You sons of bitches.' That's all he could say.

"I ran forward, and he wouldn't stop, so I hit (the GI) with the butt of my .45 and knocked him down.

"He laid down there and started crying. Just crying."

Inquiries into killings of SS

"Q: Do you remember the taking of the Dachau Concentration Camp?"

"A: Yes."

So begins the questioning of dozens of American soldiers, during a military investigation following the camp's liberation. After the war, the documentation of the incident was filed away for decades in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

"About 20 years ago, I decided to hire someone to find that report," Sparks said. Books had been written about what did or did not happen during the liberation - most of them inaccurate, Sparks said. By then, Sparks had retired from the military as a brigadier general and served as a justice on the Colorado Supreme Court.

These days, Sparks is known as an outspoken advocate for the prevention of handgun violence - a cause he took up after his grandson was shot and killed. Meanwhile, veterans from his unit - along with others in the National Guard - are asking the government that he receive the Medal of Honor for his achievements during the war.

Each year, about this time, it all returns. In his home, he still keeps the stacks of investigations he was never shown.

"Q. Who ordered the killing of these SS men?" one of the investigators asked one of the soldiers during the inquiry.

"A. Well, I don't think there was any orders given, but it was the general feeling of the troops when we saw those bodies and one or two skinny fellows that came out that no prisoners would be taken among our own troops."

"Q. What did (another officer) tell you about what happened?" a different GI was asked.

"A: He told me that some of our men had lined some SS troopers against the wall and used their machine guns to kill them with. He said that some of the SS troopers were not killed by the machine gun fire and that one or two had cut their own throats. He said it was the worst thing he had ever seen since being in the Army."

After the war, Sparks was called into the office of Gen. George S. Patton to account for the incident.

"(Patton) said, 'Colonel, I have some serious charges here against you and some of your men,' " Sparks remembered.

"I said, 'Yes, and I'd like to explain them.'

"He said, 'I've had these g-damned charges investigated, and they're a bunch of crap. You've been a damn fine soldier. You go on home.'

"I never heard another word about it. Never heard another damn word."

Accounts differ on how many German prisoners were killed after surrendering. Sparks says his men killed 30. Others, Sparks maintains, were killed by other troops not under his command.

Some of the Germans were literally torn apart by the newly liberated prisoners:

"Testimony of Walenty Lenarczyk, Inmate No. 39272 at Dachau, formerly of Warszaw, Poland.

"After the shooting, prisoners swarmed over the wire and grabbed the Americans and lifted them to their shoulders among many cries. I helped to lift the soldiers . . . And while this was going on, other prisoners caught the SS men . . . The first SS man elbowed one or two prisoners out of his way, but the courage of the prisoners mounted, they knocked them down and nobody could see whether they were stomped or what, but they were killed. All we cared about was the Americans. For the past six years we had waited for the Americans, and for the moment the SS were nothing. We were, all these years, animals to them and it was our birthday. It was ordered by Himmler that the SS kill all prisoners before the Americans arrived and so when they came fast it was truly our second birthday."

Out of tears

Over the years, historians and authors have debated the impact of what happened during the liberation at Dachau. As a U.S. veteran of the Korean War (he enlisted shortly after emigrating), Jack Goldman says he understands the importance of following the Geneva Conventions, the necessity of remaining above the level of the murderers.

He also wants to make sure nobody forgets the real prisoners in the camp and the millions who died before them.

"I don't blame (the Americans) for shooting (the German soldiers). They deserved it," Goldman said. "They should not feel bad for having done it."

"If I was there (in the machine gunner's position), I suppose I could have done it. I don't know if I would have. I don't know. I just don't know."

When Goldman heard about his father being killed at Auschwitz, he said he didn't cry. By then, he said, he was out of tears. Instead, he clenched his hand into a fist. He didn't hear about his mother's death until after the war. By then, his fist had begun to open.

"Vengeance is . . . " he began, and then stopped to think.

"I knew men in camp who had sworn by everything that was holy to them that if they ever got out that they would kill every German in sight. They had to watch their wives mutilated. They had to watch their babies tossed in the air and shot."

He stopped again.

"My philosophy is that I will not blame Germans for something that their parents may or may not have done.

"I have never preached hatred. Just the opposite. Hatred doesn't get you anywhere."

One vivid memory

In the shadow of Dachau, Jack Goldman still stands.

When survivors are asked about their memories of the liberation of the camp, some prisoners remember the cheers as the Americans arrived. Some recall their first time outside the gates. For the man who was once 66970, all of that remains a blur.

As he stood near one of the liberators nearly six decades later, Goldman uncovered a memory he holds above them all.

"After the Americans arrived, they took our names. For the first time, we were no longer numbers," he said.

"They asked for our names."

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Our sincere thanks to Mr. Cizewski for his contribution, 45th Division News dated 
May 13, 1945, to our website. Articles like this will keep the memories, stories and 
experiences of WWII ongoing.
 

Hi Mr. Panebianco,

Thank you for your support. And thank you for your service. I can't think of a better way to honor 
and remember my late father and his service than by sharing what he chose to save from 
his WW2 experience.

Thank you for your website. Not only as you discovered there is very little information about the 
45th on the web, there is shortage of information on many other units. I hope to help fill a tiny
piece of that gap by sharing what I found in my late father's collection

I doubt you would have met my father. He recovered enough from frostbite to get out of the 
hospital and be reassigned to the 45th Signal Company about the same time you went in the 
hospital.  My understanding is that men like my father would have been just behind riflemen like 
you, setting up communication lines and bringing up supplies.

I looked at your website and saw the picture of you in Munich. Did you see the picture of my father
 in Munich?:

 http://personalpages.tds.net/%7Ecizewski/Felix/munich.html

I've finished adding the other four pages to the May 13, 1945 edition of The 45th Division News.

Page 6 has the photo of the 157th command post in the Hofbrauhas that you have on your website.
http://www.ibiblio.org/cizewski/dachau/d6.html

I've also added the May 9, 1945 Extra edition reporting the end of the war in Europe.
http://www.ibiblio.org/cizewski/45thnews/warends1.html
You are welcome to link to any of these pages.

Again thank you. And tell your grandson he did a great job teaching you how to use a computer!

Leonard H. Cizewski, Madison, Wisconsin
Son of the late PFC Felix A. Cizewski, 45th Signal Co., 45th ID

Please note: By clicking on the following images, you can access a more easily read version with larger type.

 

Dachau Report: 45th Division News, Vol. V, No. 32, Page 1, May 13, 1945

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