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
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
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
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
Now the SS guards were dead. But their
deaths could not avenge the thousands dead and dying there in
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
The text above is from an original copy
of the 42nd Rainbow Division Newsletter which was contributed
by Paul Lorenz, whose father was one of the liberators of Dachau.
Note that the author refers to Dachau as an "extermination
camp" and uses the expression "never again."
Many accounts of the liberation say that
the ovens were cold because the Germans had run out of coal to
burn the bodies, but this newsletter mentions that a Yugoslav
inmate was working in the crematory and that the burning of the
bodies of those who had been gassed was in progress when the
American liberators arrived.
The author of the newsletter was confused
about the "Brausebad," or shower room; he thought that
the inmates were first given a shower in the "Brausebad,"
and were then gassed to death in another room, not realizing
that the gas chamber at Dachau had been disguised as a shower
room. Actually, at the Majdanek camp near Lublin, the first concentration
camp to be liberated by the Allies, the victims were given a
shower before being murdered in the gas chamber. The hot shower
warmed their bodies which speeded up the gassing process, according
to staff members at the Majdanek Memorial Site.
The original newsletter is shown in the
two photographs below, which were sent to us by Paul Lorenz.