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CPL BARKER was assigned to the 42nd Infantry Division and participated in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. Below is a transcript of the 42nd Infantry division newsletter reflecting the events surrounding the liberation of the concentration camp.
42d Rainbow Infantry Divison
Tuesday 1 May 1945
DACHAU is no longer a name of terror for hunted men. 32,000 of them have been freed by the 42d Rainbow Division. The crimes done behind the walls of this worst of Nazi concentration camps now live only to haunt the memories of the Rainbowmen who tore open its gates and first saw its misery, and to accuse its SS keepers of one of the worst crimes in all history.
When Infantrymen of the 42d Division fought their way into Dachau against fanatical SS troops who met deserved violent deaths along the moats, behind the high fences and in the railyards littered with the bodies of fifty car-loads of their starved victims, these hardened soldiers expected to see horrible sights.
But no human imagination fed with the most fantastic of the tales that have leaked out from the earliest and most notorious of all Nazi concentration camps could have been prepared for what they did see there.
The keen descriptive powers of a score of ace correspondents who entered the camp while the battle of liberation was still in progress, and through whose eyes the whole world looked upon that scene, could not do justice to this story. Seasoned as they were by long acquaintanceship with stark reality, these trained observers gazed at freight-cars full of piled cadavers no more than bones covered with skin and they could not believe what they saw with their own eyes.
Riflemen accustomed to witnessing death had no stomach for rooms stacked almost ceiling-high with tangled human bodies adjoining the cremation furnaces, looking like some maniac's woodpile.
And when an officer pressed thru mobs of forgotten men of all nations inside the electric barbed wire enclosure and entered a room where lay the dying survivors of the horror traill, (sic) he wept unashamedly as limp ghosts under filthy blankets, lying in human excreta, tried to salute him with broomstick arms, falling back in deathly stupor from which most would never rouse.
Ten days before the arrival of the Rainbow Division fifty carloads of prisoners arrived at Dachau from the Buchenwald concentration camp in a starving condition after 27 days without food. When Buchenwald was threatened by advancing American troops the Nazis hurriedly crowded about 4,000 of their prisoners into open flatcars unfit even for cattle. 27 days later - days of exposure to freezing weather without anything to eat, a trainload of human suffering arrived at Dachau only to be left to die in the railyard leading into this extermination camp.
In those stinking cars were seen the bodies of these prisoners too weak even to get out. A few tried, and they made a bloody heap in the door of one of the cars. They had been machine gunned by the SS. A little girl was in that car.
In another car, sitting on the bodies of his comrades, his face contorted with pain frozen by death, was the body of one who completed the amputation of his gangrenous leg with (his) own hands and covered the stump with paper. Underneath was one with a crushed skull. "He's better off now." was the comment of one newsman. Close by was one who had been beaten until his entrails protruded from his back.
But most of them had simply died in the attitudes of absolute exhaustion that only starving men can assume. Curled up with their faces resting in fingers tipped with blue nails. With naked buttocks angling up to pivot on a skeletal pelvis. Or twisted over to show on (sic) abdomen stretched drum-tight against the spine with ribs making an overhanging bulge.
Some of the cars had been emptied and the bodies carted to the crematory. In one room adjoining the furnace room on the left they were neatly stacked. The stripped corpses were very straight. But in the room to the right they were piled in complete disorder, still clothed.
With the help of a husky Yugoslav inmate who worked at the furnaces and told that all four of them had been going "tag und nacht" ... "day and night" with a capacity of 7 bodies each, the explanation was partially unfolded. The straight neat ones had probably been brought in alive, showered in the "Brausebad" or shower-room, then gassed or hanged from hooks on the rafters in front of the furnaces. Those on the right were just as they were dumped out of the freight cars where they had died of starvation.
It was incredible that such things could happen today, but there was the visible proof. It was unbelievable that human beings were capable of perpetrating such unspeakable atrocities but there were the men who did it. The SS.
At least 25 and perhaps 50 were beaten to death by inmates who struck with all the fury of men who release years of pent-up hate.
One was lying beside his own bloody artificial limb with which his brains had been exposed.
Someone said there were 14 in the .... (several words have been obliterated by a fold in the paper)
One in a railroad car had no face left. These once swaggering Hitler-worshippers would pocket no more profits from the hair-oil, shoe-polish, thermos bottles, notebooks, stationery, brushes, porcelain works of art, and cigarette paper manufactured there by men and women from all of Europe who slaved until starvation and disease made them worthless and then they were burned.
Now the SS guards were dead. But their deaths could not avenge the thousands dead and dying there in Dachau.
Those tortured dead can only be avenged when our world is aroused so much by what the 42d uncovered at Dachau and by what others have found at all the other Dachaus scattered throughout Germany, that never again will any party, any government, any people be allowed to mar the face of the earth with such inhumanity.
By Tec 3 James W. Creasman
1 - Each Officer and EM in the Division