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How I helped liberate Dachau camp

                        A few years ago, I heard about General Russ Weiskircher, who had helped liberate Dachau concentration camp. He lives 40 minutes from us. He is still active and helps lead the Georgia Holocaust Commis…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

From www.sethbarnes.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few years ago, I heard about General Russ Weiskircher, who had helped liberate Dachau concentration camp. He lives 40 minutes from us. He is still active and helps lead the Georgia Holocaust Commission. 

I’ve found that the best history is often oral history, so I called him up and asked if I could bring my children by one Saturday morning to hear his story.

If there’s one thing I hope you take away from this blog beyond the fascinating story he recounted, it’s that there are people like Weiskircher within a short distance from you who have amazing stories to tell. You parents owe it to your children to help them interview a few war veterans or missionaries and ask them to tell their stories. You will be richer for it. Expand your worldview.

Weiskircher said, “Sure.” So, the kids and I drove up the road to his home in Helen and were amply rewarded. His story is fascinating and I took notes high-speed as he recounted it. Here it is:

I believe we landed in North Africa and then went to Sicily and then into Anzio and then up the boot. We were in Rome when D-Day was happening. We were a diversion down in Italy. We began to turn the war around when we hit the ball bearing plant and they couldn’t move their tanks.

When we got close to Dachau – 2 miles away, the stench was horrible. There were 42 boxcars outside. People were put in there – taken there to be cremated. But there was no rail systems. They lived as long as they could get fresh air.

Piles of bodies everywhere. They spilled out of the box cars.

We couldn’t drive into camp – the bridges were destroyed. We went in by different paths. We went to the main gate and my Lt. Colonel suspected what we might find. Orders were to take it and let no one in or out. We were told that the 42nd division was on our right and they may participate. Our commander was a 37 yr. Old Major General.

I said, “what can we expect?” He said, “a POW camp.” Because Eisenhower kept the lid on it – we didn’t know what would we’d see. It was April, but a chilly day. Big massive gate. High stone walls.

My boss jumped on my shoulders and stood on the wall and then pulled me up. I was the 2nd man thru the main gate. There wasn’t a soul to be seen. There were less than 200 guards in the camp (mostly Ukranians, anti-Semitic) they were encouraged to brutalize the prisoners.

The S.S. and the colonel all got away. The prisoners were in the barracks. They were made to hold 60 people, but there were up to 1600 in there. They began to hide. They were under the barracks.

There were over 30,000 in the camp. We kept them in camp. Every disease ever created was in the camp. We saw the naked bodies in the showers and in front of the ovens. They were all cataloged with tags on their toes.

When our people found all these victims, God help any Germans who were there. Our soldiers went crazy – uncontrollable rage. Kill anything that moves that isn’t a prisoner. One kid killed 17 unarmed Germans with a machine gun before we stopped him. They broke into labs and saw bodies being skinned, bodies were being frozen. They were performing all these laboratory experiments. They would hang people from the fence and tie meat to them and then turn the hungry dogs loose on them.
 
We couldn’t feed the camp prisoners because they couldn’t eat. We gave them bullion cubes, but many of them died anyway.

A little girl, about six years-old, crawled up to the barbed wire. And all she knew was she used to have a mommy and her name was “mommy.” The girl’s name was the number tattooed on her arm. She didn’t know her name.

In the midst of this I found this little German officer who was in charge. He informed us that he was hiking to the mountains and passing thru. The prisoners all said, “he’s the one in charge.” I went over to get him. I told him that he should surrender. He said, “I won’t surrender to an American sergeant because I am a major and you are a sergeant.” 

I said, “go over there.” I was mad enough to kill him, but took my carbine and hit him over the head and broke the stock. He fell to the ground and screamed for morphine.

For 30 minutes there was chaos. Some of our people left there in straight jackets or handcuffs.

Then everybody heard about what we’d found and they wanted to see it. We had to keep out the curious people. I picked up a Leica in the commandants office – that was the first thing I liberated in the camp. I went around for days and took pictures.

With each passing minute, sanity returns. Up comes a General [not named here so as not to offend his family] and his staff. The General was put in his position so that he could get good PR and ride in a parade in New York and then run for the governor of New York.

From www.sethbarnes.comThe hotheads have subsided and order is returning. The radio won’t quit, everybody calling in. General Bradley and others.

My colonel doesn’t care what I did. I go back for three days and get pictures. A woman named Maggie, a reporter, the General’s concubine, comes in. She is trying to interview the prisoners. We grab her like a sack of flour. We take her back and handcuff her to the jeep. The General goes over to my associate and hits him. The kid said, “You’re a dead man. I’m going to write you up.” So then the General goes around getting names.

My boss calls Gen’l Fredericks and he offers support. And then the war is over and then all the protective brass go away. And then the General crawls out from under a rock with his claims about me and the others. So they send the court martial charges on us to Gen’l Patton. He summons us to a suburb of Munich and he had an apartment for his office. Our colonel went in to talk to him.

George Patton comes out and he had his pearl handled pistols. We’re standing there rigid and fearful. What will he say? Will he court martial us? Our knees are knocking.

He says, “Gentlemen, General Patton salutes you. These charges are ridiculous! You were taught to kill, and you killed. I will make sure you are all decorated. And if the person who tendered these charges is not a civilian, I will make him one!”

The General who charged us was told about this and he got back to the U.S. and became a civilian. But he never was in a New York parade and never became governor of New York.

From www.sethbarnes.comIn the Dachau guesthouse there was a guest book. The local Germans could parade their families through the camp to see what was happening to the Jews. We took pictures of the guestbook that had their names in it and blew them up big so that everyone could see their names. We put them on the walls outside the theaters with a sign that said, “We want you to know that we know that you knew.”

Later the Bavarians tried to cover it up, but the international treaty required that it be opened. They are still trying to do that. Now in 2001 [when this conversation took place], 1500 WWII vets are dying a day. That’s why I’m cataloging firsthand testimonies of it.

The pictures that you see of Dachau camp are the ones I took with that Leica camera. They later doctored the pictures to include military people.

 

For further info, check out this site and this excellent Fox News interview. Weiskircher recounts his initial years in the war in North Africa and the beachhead of Anzio, Italy here.

Comments (15)

  • Gen. Weiskircher is a great man. Seth, I thank you for making me aware by writing this blog. And, you are a great parent for having the instinct to make this interview a part of your childrens’ education.

  • Seth, I am blown away by this. I am so blessed that you posted this. I can’t wait to read the rest. Thank you for teaching me too.

  • as much as i’ve learned about WWII and the concentration camps…never have i heard a story like this one, from the perspective of a soldier who took part in the liberations.
    thank you.

  • I’ve always been fascinated with stories like this. I used to take care of a man in his late nineties, and he would always share stories of his childhood and the war with me. Stories like this are meant to be heard, so thank you for sharing it with us.

  • hello! im sorry this is sooooo random! but i came across your page because when i was about 14 i visited dachau and i wanted to look up pictures to see if i remembered whatit looked like.. its been YEARS since i have been there ( i am now 22) and i am reading a book called “man’s search for meaning” that has alot to do with a first account of a person who was in a concentration camp and the agony he went through. so i randomly came across your blog and its so amazing to read an american soldiers perspective on the liberation at dachau… amazing. i have almost tears in my eyes reading it… because it connects with the book i am reading and i am so moved… anyways great blog! just wanted to share my thoughts 🙂

  • that was truley amazing but that image has changed my life and i respect all your points and opinions the germans were wrong what they did to people;

  • Im doing a project on the holocaust. This blog realy helped to give me an image of what it was liked there. Thanks.

  • My grandfather was there… he told me about this camp lot of things. He’s still alive and I want to travel there with him this summer. I can’t think that a nice person as my grandfather was in a place as this.

  • Thanks for re-linking this, Seth. Up here in Boone NC, where we live, there’s one of the US Army liberators living just 2/10 mile from us: Joe Coffey. He was with the Rainbow division, that moved onto Dachau from the other side, after fighting the Battle of the Bulge. Katie and I talked to Joe just before she left for India back in August. Joe showed us memory books (they look like college yearbooks) with pictures from the Rainbow division’s trek through France, Belgium, and into Germany. The memory book had pictures from the Dachau liberation, including shots of the main gate, and the railroad cars with bodies inside:
    evidence of human depravity in need of the Saviour.

  • last year in August me and my man visit Dachau for the first time. It was about +29 C that day but I have never ever frozen like I did. We walked there for over 4 hours, not much was said btw us as we couldnt find the words. I am from Sweden and my father helped a lot of the surviving jews that came to Sweden and he told us kids to NEVER EVER forget!!! I have told the same to mine,

    Thank you for what I read. Let us never forget it and let us remember them all that lived and died here and in many other concentration camps.

    Thank you/Annmarie in Sweden

  • ???????????????????

    Wow! What a powerful message. I am learning about the Holocaust in school and I cant belive that some people dont belive this actuly hapend. I have to do a project over Dachau and what happend there just blew me away. The pictures and stories make my hart tear. I cant wait untelll the story is complete.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.



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