Col. Howard A. Buechner's account of the execution of Waffen-SS soldiers at Dachau
"Perhaps it was a technically improper act, and the deaths of these few hundred sadists could hardly atone for the millions of people who suffered and died at the hands of so many other participants in 'The Final Solution.' Nonetheless, in this instance at least, vengeance was complete. It finally occurred to me that the silence which has surrounded this episode for more than forty years should be broken and that the truth should be made known to the world. Those who survived the Holocaust, and the kinsmen of those who died in its flames, might draw some small comfort from the knowledge that the murderers of Dachau did not go unpunished." Howard Buechner, The Hour of the Avenger
For forty-one years after the liberation of Dachau, nothing was known by the general public about the execution of the Waffen-SS soldiers stationed at an army garrison right next to the concentration camp, or about the killing of the SS-Totenkopf guards who had surrendered to the Americans. The documents of the US military investigation of the Dachau massacre were marked "secret" and the soldiers who were involved rarely talked about what had happened on April 29, 1945 when the most notorious camp in the Nazi concentration camp system was liberated by the US Seventh Army. Wives and families of the SS men, who were living inside the garrison and had heard the gunfire that day, were not notified of the deaths of their loved-ones; they were told that the SS men had escaped on liberation day and were still being hunted.
When the photo shown at the top of this page was published, the caption read as follows:
SC 208765. Soldiers of the 45th Infantry Div., U.S. Seventh Army, order SS men to come forward after one of their number tried to escape from the Dachau, Germany, concentration camp after it was liberated by U.S. forces. Men on the ground in background feign death by falling as the guards fired a volley at the fleeing SS men. 157th Regt. 4/29/45."
In 1986, Col. Howard A. Buechner, a medical officer with the 3rd Battalion of the 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Division, wrote and published a book called "The Hour of the Avenger," in which he revealed the deliberate killing of 520 Prisoners of War by American soldiers, in violation of the Geneva convention, after the SS garrison and concentration camp at Dachau had been formally surrendered to the American liberators under a white flag of truce.
The Waffen-SS was an elite volunteer army that fought in battle; they had nothing to do with the concentration camp that was located next to the SS garrison. The concentration camp guards were a separate group called the SS-Totenkopfverbände, or the Death's Head SS. By the end of the war, 60% of the Waffen-SS consisted of volunteers from other countries; some of the soldiers at Dachau that day were Hungarian.
"The Avenger," in the title of Col. Buechner's book, refers to 1st Lt. Jack Bushyhead, a "full-blooded Cherokee Indian" who was the Executive Officer of I Company, 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, the unit which allegedly murdered 346 Waffen-SS soldiers in cold blood, on Bushyhead's orders. Col. Buechner explains that Lt. Bushyhead was avenging the wrong that had been done to the native population of America by the white settlers; his people had been brutally uprooted from their ancestral homes in Georgia and North Carolina and forced to walk more than a thousand miles to Oklahoma on the "trail of tears" where they had "perished in untold numbers and without retribution." According to Col. Buechner, Lt. Bushyhead felt a kinship with the Jews who had also been "harassed and driven from country to country for thousands of years." As for himself, Col. Buechner wrote: "At that time, I am not sure that I had ever heard of a concentration camp and certainly did not know what took place in these awful centers of death and destruction. They were among Germany's best kept secrets."
According to Col. Buechner, the photograph above was taken around 2:45 p.m. on April 29, 1945; the photo was snapped by T4 Arland B. Musser "only a minute or two before the author arrived on the scene." By the time Col. Buechner got there, the four soldiers still standing had already been shot.
The wall where the soldiers were shot was surrounding a coal yard. According to Col. Buechner, another medical officer, Lt. Robert Kimsey, arrived on the scene by taking a circuitous route which brought him to the other side of the wall. Kimsey climbed up a four-foot pile of coal and then jumped over the wall, barely escaping a burst of machine gun fire.
Note the building, in the background on the right, which has a red cross on a white background painted on the roof. This was one of four hospital buildings in this area, from which Waffen-SS soldiers, that had been wounded in battle on the Eastern front, were dragged out and lined up to be executed in a previous incident around noon that same day. Col. Buechner wrote that this action had resulted in the deaths of 12 Waffen-SS soldiers.
Col. John H. Linden, the son of Brig. Gen. Henning Linden of the 42nd Division of the US Seventh Army, claims that the photo above was taken during the incident around noon. He wrote a book called "Surrender of the Dachau Concentration Camp 29 April 1945" in which he said that the shooting was halted by Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, commander of the 3rd Battalion.
The photo at the top of this page and the one shown below are the only evidence that the Dachau massacre occurred, according to Col. Buechner, who wrote that the guard in the photo below was probably wounded in the leg by an American soldier and then turned over to the inmates to be beaten to death with a shovel. In the background, one can see the wall where the Waffen-SS soldiers are being executed.
Col. Buechner wrote that there were only 19 Americans among the 27 or 28 witnesses to the Dachau massacre, and only three of them were positively known to still be alive when he wrote his tell-all book in 1986. One of them was Private First Class John Degro, whom Buechner credits with being the first man to enter the Dachau concentration camp. Those present when the 346 Waffen-SS soldiers were executed, on Lt. Bushyhead's orders, included 3 American officers, 3 non-commissioned medical officers under Col. Buechner's command, Col. Buechner's driver, 3 or 4 German medics from the nearby hospital, around 4 inmates, and 12 Infantrymen under the command of 1st Lt. Jack Bushyhead.
The 346 SS soldiers, who were lined up at the wall, could have rushed the 19 Americans and the 4 inmates, taken their weapons, and killed them all, but they didn't. According to Buechner's account, they continued to stand with their hands in the air until every last man had been mowed down by the Americans, and then finished off by a pistol shot from the inmates.
Far from condemning the Dachau massacre, Col. Buechner characterized Lt. Bushyhead as a great hero in his book. He praised Lt. Bushyhead for showing restraint in not killing the German medics. Col. Buechner wrote that he and Lt. Bushyhead became best buddies after the Dachau massacre because the event had created a bond between them. Later, Col. Buechner and Lt. Bushyhead were both stationed at Augsburg in West Germany. Together, they visited the Berghof, Hitler's bomb-damaged home on the Obersalzberg, near the town of Berchtesgaden, before the building was torn down to prevent it from becoming a shrine.
Life was so good for the American soldiers in post-war Germany that Lt. Bushyhead re-enlisted after he was sent home; he was stationed in Germany with the American Occupation in 1947 and 1948, until he contracted tuberculosis and was forced to end his military career. He never recovered his health, and he died an early death on Christmas Day in 1977.
Regarding Lt. Bushyhead's motive for the killing of unarmed enemy soldiers who had their hands in the air, Col. Buechner wrote:
He (Lt. Bushyhead) was a kind and gentle person, but also a warrior, both by training and tradition. He hated injustice in any form and when confronted with the cruelty and indignities which had been inflicted on defenseless people (the Jews), he cried out for vengeance, just as his tribal leaders had done before him. An inscrutable plan of his God and theirs, was to place him in Dachau, a place of horror and death, on April 29, 1945.
In his book, Col. Buechner wrote that he was a second generation German-American whose grandfather had emigrated to the United States in 1848. Although Col. Buechner didn't mention why his grandfather had left Europe, the Germans who came to America during that year, known as "the 48ers," had been forced to leave following a failed revolution. Col. Buechner wrote that he was born in 1919 in New Orleans, Louisiana; he became a doctor in 1943 and immediately became an officer in the Medical Corps. At the time of the liberation of Dachau, Buechner had the rank of 1st Lieutenant. Bushyhead was born in 1919 in Oklahoma, so they were the same age and had the same rank.
On the day of the Dachau liberation, Col. Buechner had arrived at 11 a.m. in the town of Dachau, where he had set up an Aid Station. At the same time, forward elements of I Company of the 157th Infantry Regiment were just entering the SS garrison after viewing the dead bodies on a train abandoned on the tracks on the west side of the Dachau complex. Col. Buechner wrote that he waited for casualties to come streaming in from the battle to capture the camp, but none came, since the SS had surrendered. By early afternoon, rumors about the camp had reached the Aid Station. Col. Buechner wrote: "No one could believe the stories of horror, torture and death which the rumors contained." Col. Buechner had to see for himself. At 2:30 p.m. he was outside the SS garrison, where he met Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, who gave him permission to go inside, just in case there were wounded American soldiers there.
Entering the SS garrison with two other men of the 45th Division, Col. Buechner wrote that he had only gone a short distance when the trio was "brought to an abrupt halt by the sudden eruption of machine gun fire close to our left front." The bursts of machine gun fire were followed by the sound of shots from .45 caliber pistols. The gunfire was coming from the vicinity of hospital buildings, marked by a red cross, on the west side of the SS garrison.
Col. Buechner wrote that the time of his arrival, at the wall where the execution was in progress, was 2:47 p.m. The shooting of 346 SS soldiers had taken place only two minutes before he arrived. According to Col. Buechner, there were two separate incidents at the same wall. It was the second incident in which 346 SS soldiers were allegedly shot.
His description of the scene is as follows:
Lt. Bushyhead was standing on the flat roof of a low building which was possibly a bicycle shed. Beside him one or more soldiers manned a .30 caliber machine gun. Opposite this building was a long, high cement and brick wall. At the base of the wall lay row on row of German soldiers, some dead, some dying, some possibly feigning death. Three or four inmates of the camp, dressed in striped clothing, each with a .45 caliber pistol in hand, were walking along the line of perhaps 350 fallen soldiers. As they passed down the line, they systematically fired a round into the head of each one of their former tormentors who was still alive, granting them a death far more merciful than their fellow prisoners had experienced. Even the wounded Nazis appreciated the mercy of this act, since those who were still able to move were pointing to their heads and pleading over and over again "pistola", "pistola", "pistola". They asked for a swift death and it was not long in coming.
Behind the inmate executioners, stood a line of infantrymen, rifle at the ready and another soldier manned a second machine gun at ground level. (Shown in the photo above.)
At the far end of the line of dead or dying soldiers a small miracle was taking place. The inmates who were delivering the coup de grace had not yet reached this point and a few guards who were still alive were being placed on litters by German medics. Under the direction of a German doctor, the litter bearers were carrying these few soldiers into a nearby hospital for treatment.
When Lt. Bushyhead came down from the roof, Col. Buechner said that he asked him, "Jack, why did you do this?" At first, Lt. Bushyhead looked at him with a vacant stare and then said, "Doc, have you been to the crematorium? Have you seen the gas chamber? Have you seen the box cars? Have you seen the little people?" ("little people" was a reference to the emaciated inmates.)
At the time that the events described above took place, 1st Lt. Bushyhead was the highest ranking officer present in the SS garrison. Lt. Col. Sparks, the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, was outside the Dachau complex at a Command Post that he had set up. Lt. William P. Walsh had "placed a small detachment of men under the command of 1st Lt. Bushyhead" and had then left the camp, according to Col. Buechner. Capt. Leland L. Loy, the Chaplain of the 3rd Battalion who might have stopped the massacre, had gone back to the city of Dachau to get his camera.
Col. Buechner wrote the following in his book:
Lt. Bushyhead suddenly found himself in command of the camp and a small cadre of men armed with rifles, pistols, a Browning automatic rifle, and two machine guns. He could no longer reject the role which fate had fashioned for him and for which he seems to have been predestined. Acting with what he believed to be compelling justification, he became an instrument of vengeance and recompense for the atrocities he had witnessed.
In a matter of minutes, he ordered his prisoners to line up along a high brick wall and disposed of them with a few bursts of machine gun fire. He then armed three or four inmates with pistols and allowed them the satisfaction of completing the execution.
In the first hour of the liberation, while Col. Buechner was setting up his Aid Station in the town of Dachau, 122 SS men had allegedly been "shot on the spot," after they had surrendered to the 45th Division, according to George Stevens, Jr. who did a documentary film on the liberation; he was quoted by Col. Buechner in his book. The killing of 122 SS men in "the first hour," was also reported by Michael Seltzer in his book entitled "Deliverance Day," and subsequently repeated by many other writers.
According to Nerin E. Gun, a prisoner at Dachau, Lt. Heinrich Skodzensky was the commander of 560 SS men in the Dachau garrison. Lt. Skodzensky had been sent to Dachau because he was recovering from wounds received in battle on the Eastern front, according to Col. Buechner. In his 1966 book entitled "The Day of the Americans," Gun wrote that the American liberators rode into Dachau on a tank. The 20th Armored Division was supporting the 42nd and 45th Divisions that day, but there were no tanks at the camp during the liberation.
The Dachau Memorial Site has no information about Heinrich Skodzensky in their archives and there is no mention of him in the Berlin Bundesarchiv. There are no SS records for a soldier named Heinrich Skodzensky.
Stevens also told Col. Buechner that 40 SS guards had been beaten to death by the inmates, or shot with guns given to them by the American liberators, and 20 more SS guards were killed by American soldiers when they attempted to surrender after descending from the guard towers. Another 100 SS guards were murdered in unrelated killings by individual soldiers of both the 42nd and 45th Divisions, according to George Stevens, as told to Col. Buechner. These events had taken place during the 30 minute period of chaos, at the beginning of the liberation, before order could be restored. Lt. Col. Sparks said that during this time, "battle hardened veterans became extremely distraught. Some cried, while others raged. Some thirty minutes passed before I could restore order and discipline."
When the situation was brought under control, 358 SS men were rounded up and herded into an enclosed area that had been used as a coal yard before the camp had run out of coal. Shortly thereafter, 12 SS men were machine-gunned to death in an execution in front of the coal yard wall.
The photograph below shows American military officers inspecting the bodies of the 12 Waffen-SS soldiers who were executed in the incident at the coal yard.
The execution of the SS men at the coal yard was stopped by Lt. Col. Felix Sparks who kicked a machine gunner away from the gun. According to Lt. Col. Sparks, the machine gunner was a soldier whose nickname was "Birdeye." Birdeye had shouted "they are trying to get away," and had then cut loose with his .30 caliber machine gun. This incident brought the total number of dead to 174, according to Col. Buechner. Later, when the 346 Waffen-SS men were allegedly killed on the orders of Lt. Bushyhead, the total number of soldiers executed increased to 520. In addition, Col. Buechner wrote that 30 SS men had been "killed in combat" and 10 had escaped temporarily, but were captured and killed later, bringing the grand total to 560 SS men killed during the liberation of Dachau.
Col. Buechner could have gotten his information about the 560 SS soldiers at Dachau from an article written by Andrew Mello in 1980 in After the Battle. Mello used Nerin E. Gun's book "The Day of the Americans" as his source. Gun wrote that an SS officer named Lt. Heinrich Skodzensky had reported that there were 560 SS men under his command when he surrendered the Dachau Army garrison to the men of the 45th Thunderbird Division.
The man who surrendered the Dachau concentration camp was Lt. Heinrich Wicker, who was accompanied by a civilian Red Cross representative. The photo below shows the surrender.
According to David L. Israel, author of "The Day the Thunderbird Cried," there is no evidence of a surrender of the Dachau garrison by Lt. Heinrich Skodzensky.
An investigation was conducted by the US Army between May 3 and May 8, 1945, which resulted in a report entitled "Investigation of Alleged Mistreatment of German Guards at Dachau." Israel wrote that 23 officers and enlisted men of the 45th Infantry Division and 9 officers and enlisted men of the 42nd Infantry Division were questioned in Pullach and Munich, Germany. Lt. Col. Joseph M. Whitaker headed the investigation; the report, which was filed on June 8, 1945, is sometimes called "the I.G. Report." In 1991 a copy of the I.G. Report was found in the National Archives in Washington, DC and was made public.
The following paragraphs from the I.G. Report pertain to the shooting of SS men at Dachau by soldiers in the 45th Division:
4. At the entrance to the back area of the Dachau prison grounds, four German soldiers surrendered to Lt. William P. Walsh, 0-414901, in command of Company "I", 157th Infantry. These prisoners Lt. Walsh ordered into a box car, where he personally shot them. Pvt. Albert C. Pruitt, 34573708, Company "I"157th Infantry, then climbed into the box car where these Germans were on the floor moaning and apparently still alive, and finished them off with his rifle.
5. After entry into the Dachau Camp area, Lt. Walsh segregated from surrendered prisoners of war those who were identified as SS Troops.
6. Such segregated prisoners of war were marched into a separate enclosure, lined up against the wall and shot down by American troops, who were acting under the orders of Lt. Walsh. A light machine gun, carbines, and either a pistol or a sub-machine gun were used. Seventeen of such prisoners of war were killed, and others were wounded.
7. Lt. Jack Bushyhead, 0-1284822, executive officer of Company "I", participated with Lt. Walsh in this handling of the men and during the course of the shooting personally fired his weapon at these prisoners.
16. Lt. Walsh testified that the SS men were segregated in order to properly guard them, and were then fired upon because they started moving toward the guards. However, the dead bodies were located along the wall against which they had been lined up, they were killed along the entire line, although Lt. Walsh only claims those on one flank moved, and a number of witnesses testified that it was generally "understood" that these prisoners were to be shot when they were being segregated. These facts contradict the defensive explanation given by Lt. Walsh.
There was no mention in the I.G. Report of a second incident in which 346 SS men were allegedly shot at the coal yard wall.
As a result of the investigation, the American soldiers who were involved in the execution of SS men at Dachau were threatened with court-martial, including Lt. Col. Felix Sparks and 1st Lt. Jack Bushyhead. Buechner had not been present during the execution; he was cited in the I.G. Report for dereliction of duty because he refused to give medical aid to the SS men who were still alive after the shooting which resulted in 12 to 17 deaths in the coal yard.
Col. Buechner testified on May 5, 1945 in the investigation conducted by Lt. Col. Joseph Whitaker. The following is a transcript of his testimony:
Date: 5 May 1945. By: Lt. Col. Joseph M. Whitaker, IGD, Asst. Inspector General, Seventh Army.
The witness was sworn.
363 Q . Please state your name, rank, serial number and organization.
A. Howard E. Buechner, 1st Lieutenant, MC, 0-435481, 3rd Bn., 157th Infantry.
(The witness was advised of his rights under the 24th Article of War.)
364 Q. Do you remember the taking of the Dachau Concentration Camp?
A . Yes, sir.
365 Q. Were you the surgeon of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry, at that time?
A . Yes, sir.
366 Q. Did you see or visit a yard by the power plant where some German soldiers had been shot?
A. I did, sir.
367 Q. Can you fix the hour at which you saw this?
A. Not with certainty, but I would judge about 4:00 o'clock in the afternoon.
368 Q. Of what day?
A. I can't give the exact date.
369 Q. Describe to me what you saw when you visited this yard.
A. We learned that one of our companies had gone through the camp and that it was something to see out there. So, we got on one of the jeeps to visit there and we were detained for some time by the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 157th Infantry, because he didn't know whether the place had been cleared. When we got there we saw a quadrangular enclosure; there was a cement wall about ten feet high and inside this enclosure I saw 15 or 16 dead and wounded German soldiers lying along the wall.
370 Q. Did you determine which were dead and which were wounded?
A. I did not examine any of them, sir, but I saw several of them moving very slightly.
371 Q . Did you make any examination to determine whether or not those who were not dead could be saved?
A. I did not.
372 Q. Was there any guard there?
A. There was a soldier standing at the entrance of this yard whom I assumed to be a guard.
373 Q. Do you know the soldier or what company he was from?
A. No, sir.
374 Q. Do you know whether or not any medical attention was called for these wounded German soldiers?
A. I do not.
Note that Buechner's testimony contradicts what he wrote in his book. No other accounts of the killing of SS soldiers during the liberation of Dachau corroborate Buechner's story, as told in his 1986 book. No one knows for certain how many SS soldiers were killed on April 29, 1945 at Dachau, and estimates vary widely. General Dwight D. Eisenhower estimated that the number of SS soldiers killed at Dachau was 300.
In his book, Col. Buechner quoted the words of Jack Hallet, an eye-witness at Dachau, from "Inside the Vicious Heart," a book by Robert H. Abzug, published in 1985. Here is the quote as written in Col. Buechner's book, "The Hour of the Avenger."
Control was gone after the sights we saw, and the men were deliberately wounding guards. A lot of guards were shot in the legs so they couldn't move. They were then turned over to the inmates. One was beheaded with a bayonet. Others were ripped apart limb by limb.
Here is the same quote in it's original form, from "Inside the Vicious Heart":
Control was gone after the sights we saw, and the men were deliberately wounding guards that were available and then turned them over to the prisoners and allowing to take their revenge on them. And in fact, you've seen the picture where one of the soldiers gave one of the inmates a bayonet and watched him behead the man. It was a pretty gory mess. A lot of the guards were shot in the legs so they couldn't move and ....and that's all I can say...
Col. Buechner also quoted another passage from "Inside the Vicious Heart," as follows:
Such violence reached its peak when angry members of a squad guarding 122 captured Germans opened machine-gun fire and killed them all. When seen from the distance of four decades, this and other such incidents sometimes elicited a burning sense of guilt. The violence of Dachau had a way of implicating all, even the liberators. The Americans witnessed all this at Dachau - tears, anger, joy and revenge.
Here is the same quote in it's original form, from "Inside the Vicious Heart":
Such violence reached its peak when angry members of a squad guarding 122 captured Germans opened machine-gun fire and killed them all. When seen from the distance of four decades, this and other such incidents sometimes elicited a burning sense of guilt. One liberator talked about having problems sleeping when he thought about Dachau, but the memories were mostly of the "atrocities that were committed in the camp...by our people." The violence of Dachau had a way of implicating all, even the liberators.
The Americans witnessed all this in their first hour at Dachau - tears, anger, violence, joy and revenge.
Included in the part that Col. Buechner left out of the quote from "Inside the Vicious Heart" is this sentence:
But even these celebrations were marked by the inevitable and inescapable truths of Dachau. The cheering crowds were also carrying bodies of captured SS guards, which they were ripping apart limb by limb.
Even though Col. Buechner wrote his book in order to finally reveal the truth about the liberation of Dachau, he apparently couldn't bring himself to write all the gory details or that some of the liberators felt some guilt about their alleged war crimes.
Col. Buechner makes it clear that 1st Lt. Bushyhead felt no remorse, although he did lie about what had happened, telling General Patton and his family "I lost control of my men." It was all an accident. The following quote from Col. Buechner's book is the story that Lt. Bushyhead told General Patton and his family:
After prisoners had been rounded up, they were ordered to stand in line with their hands up, while a head count was being carried out. Some of the SS troops lowered their hands and began to move around. An American soldier thought they were planning to attack or trying to escape. He panicked and began to fire his rifle. Within moments the machine guns had joined in and before it could be stopped the guards were dead.
Col. Buechner wrote that the court-martial charges against 1st Lt. Jack Bushyhead were considered to be serious: "He was accused of violating the rules of the Geneva Convention which protected prisoners of war, regardless of the atrocities which they may have committed."
Regarding 1st Lt. Bushyhead's lack of concern for what he had done, Col. Buechner wrote the following in his defense:
He and his ancestors had always known discrimination, persecution and injustice, without retribution. In Dachau, he had seen atrocities far beyond human comprehension. The beasts of the earth had been delivered into his hands and when they mocked him, with arrogance and without the slightest indication of repentance or remorse for what they had done, he became an instrument of vengeance. He never disclaimed full responsibility for the retribution extracted at Dachau. [...] Virtually every German officer and every German soldier who was present on that fateful day paid for his sins against his fellow man. Only their wives, children and a group of medics survived. Although a few guards may have temporarily avoided death by disguising themselves as inmates, they were eventually captured and killed.
One might ask if Col. Buechner, a medical doctor and an educated man, knew that the SS men, who were allegedly executed on the orders of 1st Lt. Bushyhead, were soldiers who had recently been fighting at the front, and that they had not committed any atrocities in the concentration camp. Did he know the difference between the Waffen-SS and the concentration camp guards? The answer is Yes.
In his book, Col. Buechner includes a short history of the SS and a photograph of one of the victims who is wearing army fatigues, which is shown above. He mentions that some of the soldiers who were executed were disabled and walking on crutches. He also mentions that the commander of the garrison had been recently wounded in battle. (Lt. Heinrich Wicker, who surrendered the camp, had been wounded on the Eastern front before being assigned to concentration camp duty.) He wrote that he knew that the SS men who were executed were recent replacements and "not the real culprits." He knew that what 1st Lt. Bushyhead allegedly did was a clear violation of the Geneva convention. Still, he wrote:
Public outrage would certainly have opposed the prosecution of American heroes for eliminating a group of sadists who so richly deserved to die.
The sentence quoted above was Col. Buechner's justification for why the American soldiers who allegedly killed 520 POWs at Dachau on liberation day were never brought to justice. Col. Buechner wrote that the cover-up began immediately after the event, but when it was learned that two incriminating photos had been taken, an official investigation was begun.
In his book, "The Day the Thunderbird Cried," David L. Israel wrote:
Buechner's inaccuracies and arbitrary use of figures in citing the untrue story about the total liquidation of all SS troops found in Dachau was eagerly accepted by Revisionist organizations and exploited to meet their own distorted stories of Dachau. However, in a report published by the Dachau International Committee it is clearly stated that 160 German prisoners were utilized in cleaning up the camp in the days following liberation.
Col. Buechner's account of what happened at Dachau might have been wishful thinking: he wanted to believe that justice had been served and that every last SS man stationed at Dachau had been justifiably shot in retaliation for the horrible conditions that the Americans found at the camp that day. His attempt, to make his friend 1st Lt. Jack Bushyhead into more of a hero than he actually was, has instead brought shame to all Native Americans and to the men in the 45th Thunderbird Division.
General George S. Patton, commander of the US Third Army, had just been appointed the military governor of Bavaria and when he learned of the incident, he ordered all the reports and documentation of this war crime to be brought to his office. He tore up all the papers, dumped them into a metal waste can and then personally set it on fire. Col. Buechner's account, for which there is no proof whatsoever, has also brought shame on General Patton, who was a true American hero.
Two months after the liberation of Dachau, the camp was turned into War Crimes Enclosure No. 1, a prison for German war criminals who were tried before an American Military Tribunal in a courtroom in the former SS training camp at Dachau. All the German war criminals were charged with participating in a common plan to violate the Laws and Usages of War under the 1929 Geneva Convention, regardless of what they had personally done.
In his book, Col. Buechner mentioned the Malmedy Massacre war crimes trial conducted by an American Military Tribunal at Dachau:
The Waffen-SS troops who machine gunned American prisoners of war at Malmedy were also imprisoned and tried at Dachau. They were found guilty and sentenced to death, but their sentences were never carried out because of mistreatment which they suffered at the hands of American guards while awaiting trial. It seems that this evil place had a mysterious ability to inject brutality into the minds of men.
When the proceedings of the American Military Tribunal were finished, the former Dachau concentration camp was turned into a camp for 5,000 German refugees who had been expelled from their homes in former German territory in the Sudetenland in what is now the Czech Republic. Col. Buechner mentioned in his book that some of these refugees lived in the former Dachau concentration camp for 18 years.
This page was last updated on November 30, 2007