Liberation of the Dachau concentration camp

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Prisoners, some in striped concentration camp prisoner clothing , after the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, photo from April 29, 1945

The liberation of the Dachau concentration camp and its satellite camps took place by Allied troops at the end of April 1945. Groups of prisoners arriving and marching away frequented the camps at this time. Many of the Dachau satellite camps had previously been cleared by the SS . The main camp was liberated by soldiers of the 7th US Army on April 29, 1945, and after the terrible conditions, the liberators later called the Dachau massacre an act of revenge against a 39–50 group of still im SS members in the camp.


On April 14, 1945, had Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler ordered the "total evacuation," which he later Reich German , eingrenzte Russians, Poles and Jews. The Dachau SS forced the concentration camp prisoners to go on evacuation and death marches on foot .

The main camp in Dachau was in the process of being cleared. Most of the original Dachau concentration camp personnel were preparing to flee or had long since fled. On April 23, the work details did not leave the main camp for the first time. H. they were no longer to work assignments (eg. as Bombenräumungs- command used).

Liberation of the satellite camps

On April 26, both the US and French armies moved into the Allgäu, about 100 km southwest of Dachau . On April 27, they took the Kottern-Weidach subcamp, which was almost empty .

The Kaufering satellite camp was also to the west of Dachau. Members of the SS guards set fire to Kaufering IV camp on the morning of April 27, although there were concentration camp prisoners no longer able to walk there. The Allies arrived only a few hours late.

Death train from Buchenwald

Conditions in the main camp with which the liberators were confronted

On April 27th the train arrived at night with prisoners from Buchenwald , many of whom had starved and died of thirst. Some of the corpses remained in the wagons. Among other things, this terrible sight two days later - when the US Army arrived - turned into shock, horror and American retaliation.

On the following day, April 28 at lunchtime, concentration camp inmate Karl Riemer, who had escaped from the camp two days earlier, met approaching US troops. He described the situation in the camp to the US commander and asked for immediate help. Riemer, who was imprisoned in the camp for twelve years, could not have known that the US order to liberate the main camp had been issued a few hours earlier.

Liberation of the Dachau main camp

It was Saturday, April 28th, when Major General Max Ulich withdrew the 212th Volksgrenadier Division from the camp grounds. He wanted to avoid unnecessary losses. Meanwhile, the Dachau uprising took place in the city of Dachau . The prisoners heard the noise of the battle in their barracks at night and excitement arose. The prisoners ' committee was therefore formed , which set itself the task of alleviating the growing excitement in the camp for the next few hours. The prisoner committee wanted to ensure that the opening of the camp with 32,000 prisoners could proceed in a fairly regulated manner.

In the morning, inmates stepped onto roll call square and discovered from there that the white flag had been hoisted on an SS watchtower . Nevertheless, the last guard had reinforced the crew of the eight watchtowers and aimed 16 machine guns at the camp to prevent the prisoners from escaping. Victor Maurer, delegate of the Red Cross , had feared this. The rampant typhus epidemic would have spread even further as a result of fleeing prisoners. SS camp leader Heinrich Wicker, who had only been given this post provisionally in the last few days, announced that he would withdraw his troops from the camp. Maurer, who was housed in an SS building, negotiated with Wicker. Ultimately, they were able to agree that the watchtowers should remain occupied. The rest of the SS guards left the camp.

On Sunday, April 29, 1945, Colonel Sparks' 3rd Battalion of the 157th Infantry Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division (along with soldiers of the 42nd Infantry Division; both formations were part of the 7th US Army ) marched in the camp. For a while they hadn't known exactly where it was. With them was the war correspondent Marguerite Higgins . Numerous “ evacuation marches ” had long since left the camp. An American reconnaissance plane circled near the facility. Only a few SS men, including those who had recently been drafted, were still in the camp. Most of the original camp SS had withdrawn. Those who stayed behind offered little resistance and surrendered. In the tumult and jubilation of the liberation, tragic deaths occurred when prisoners tried to climb over the camp fence, which was still live.

The US troops came from the west, but the only access to the prisoner's area, the so-called Jourhaus , was in the east. The US troops marched across the camp area of ​​the SS. There they met the train with countless shot and starved prisoners (around 2,300 dead). Some US soldiers later described the first impression of this train as extremely shocking and disturbing. Full of horror and anger at the terrible conditions, the US soldiers whispered, “ We're not taking any prisoners here! " on. Because of the excitement over the terrible conditions in the camp, SS men were assaulted and murdered by US soldiers and liberated prisoners. This war crime was later referred to as the Dachau massacre .

Contemporary witnesses report that the liberation was a poignant event. In the days that followed, those inmates who were not completely physically weak held simple celebrations and gatherings with music.

Liberation of the remaining satellite camps

Survivors of the Mühldorf satellite camp on May 4, 1945, a few days after the liberation by the US Army
Recordings of the Special Film Project 186 (May 1, 1945)
Dachau roll of honor from 1992 for members of the 7th US Army and the 42nd
Rainbow Division

On April 29th, the satellite camps near Landsberg and Kaufering were liberated. After the end of the war, the European Holocaust Memorial was built on this sub-camp complex.

After the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, US troops marched into Munich on April 30, where the Bavarian freedom campaign had previously been active. The day the troops captured the capital of the movement was also the day Adolf Hitler committed suicide in Berlin . However, his suicide was not immediately known.

On that day, in the Munich area, they encountered other prisoner transports, for example a train from the Mühldorf external command , in which Max Mannheimer was also.

On April 30, the Allies stopped a train that had left on April 25 with 3,000 prisoners (from Emmering via Munich-Wolfratshausen-Kochel am See to Seeshaupt am Starnberger See). The evacuation transport from April 26th via Emmering – Munich – Wolfratshausen – Penzberg – Staltach with 1759 Jews could also be liberated on April 30th. Likewise, the march with around 7,000 prisoners that began on April 26th and led via Pasing, Wolfratshausen and Bad Tölz to Tegernsee.

The US Army liberated the Mühldorf camps east of Munich on May 1st and 2nd.

An evacuation transport was on the way with the Reichsbahn via Emmering – Munich – Wolfratshausen – Mittenwald to Seefeld in Tyrol . These 2,000 prisoners were released on May 4th.

Hitler's Berghof , which was more than 120 km southeast of Dachau, was captured on May 4th. On May 5th, other US troops came to Sudelfeld, where the SS-Berghaus Sudelfeld satellite camp and the Sudelfeld - Luftwaffe satellite camp were located.

On May 8, VE Day , the unconditional surrender of the Wehrmacht came into effect.


Every year at the end of April there is a day of remembrance with which today's memorial wants to remember the years in the camp and the days of liberation. To mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation, a memorial service was held at the Dachau concentration camp memorial, in which an incumbent Federal President (Horst Köhler) took part for the first time.



Biographical novel on Felix Sparks

  • Alex Kershaw : The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau. Crown Broadway, New York 2012, ISBN 978-0-307-88799-3 .
    • The Liberator: The Story of an American Soldier in World War II. From the English by Birgit Brandau. German Taschenbuch-Verl., Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-423-28030-3 (ISBN e-book: 978-3-423-42238-3).
  • Barbara Distel , Wolfgang Benz , (Ed.): Liberation. In: Dachauer Hefte No. 1, Dachau 1985.
  • Hans Günter Richardi : SS hostages in the Alpine fortress. The deportation of prominent concentration camp prisoners from Germany to South Tyrol. Edition Raetia, 2005.
  • Sabine Schalm: Survival through work? External commandos and satellite camps of the Dachau concentration camp 1933–1945. Metropol, November 2009 Dissertation .
  • Andreas Wagner: Death March. The evacuation and partial evacuation of the Dachau, Kaufering and Mühldorf concentration camps at the end of April 1945. Ingolstadt, 1995.
  • Stanislav Zámečník : (Ed. Comité International de Dachau): That was Dachau. Luxembourg 2002, ISBN 2-87996-948-4 .
  • Tatiana Lukina: The Russian Munich. Chapter: Gleb Rahr . Verlag Mir eV, Munich 2010. ISBN 978-3-9805300-9-5 .




  1. ^ Zámečník: That was Dachau . P. 383.
  2. Dachau Archive, DA-7510. Zámečník: That was Dachau . P. 390.
  3. ^ Report of the ITS, DA-10059
  4. ^ Zámečník: That was Dachau . Pp. 390-398.
  5. See four sources on this in: Jürgen Zarusky: That is not the American Way of Fighting. In: Dachauer Hefte 13 - Judgment and Justice. P. 36.
  6. ^ Whitaker, interrogation protocol pp. 77, 856 f., 884 f .; Buechner: Avenger. P. XXIX.
  7. Prisoners in the Dachau concentration camp - liberation and repatriation at
  8. Route of the Marches ( Memento of October 30, 2010 in the Internet Archive )
  9. ^ Dachau concentration camp: 65 years of liberation on
  10. Original film recording and the liberation of the concentration camp Kaufering IV on April 27, 1945 by the 103rd Infantry Division of the Allied US armed forces, re-enacted by Steven Spielberg's film team