Hans Linberger survived the Dachau Massacre
Hans Linberger was a Waffen-SS soldier who had been wounded in battle on the eastern front and, after a long hospital stay, had arrived at the Dachau SS garrison on March 9, 1945 as a member of a Reserve Company. On April 9, 1945, the men of the Reserve Company were put into the hospital that was right next to the scene of the shooting. They had been so severely wounded that they were no longer fit for combat; Linberger had been wounded in battle four times and had lost an arm.
In his testimony given to the German Red Cross (DRK) after the war, Hans Linberger said that the American liberators came into the SS hospital armed with Machine Pistols (sub-machine guns).
Linberger stated that he went to the entrance of the hospital, carrying a small Red Cross flag as a sign of surrender; it must have been obvious to the American liberators that this was a hospital, that the soldiers there were unarmed and that one of the sleeves of Linberger's uniform was empty.
Linberger testified under oath that an American soldier shoved a Machine Pistol against his chest and then hit him in the face. Another American soldier allegedly said to him: "You fight Ruski, you no good." Ruski was German slang for a Russian. America was fighting on the side of the Russian Communists in World War II, and Linberger had been at the eastern front, fighting the Russians.
According to Linberger's sworn statement, the American who had placed the MP against his chest then went inside the hospital and immediately shot a wounded Waffen-SS soldier, who fell down to the ground motionless. When Dr. Schröder, the head of the hospital, tried to surrender, he was beaten so hard that he suffered a fractured skull, according to Linberger.
Linberger said that the wounded men in the hospital were ordered out and after the Waffen-SS soldiers were separated from the Wehrmacht soldiers of the regular Germany Army, the SS men were lined up against a wall. A movie camera was set up so that the scene could be filmed. The Waffen-SS soldiers were then mowed down with machine gun fire while the camera rolled.
The photograph below shows the hospital in the background on the right-hand side. On the roof is a red cross on a white background, which clearly marks the building as a hospital.
There is considerable disagreement about what time the photo above was taken. According to Col. Howard A. Buechner, a medical officer in the 45th Division, the photo was taken at around 2:45 p.m. during a second action when 346 SS soldiers were allegedly killed. In his book, "The Hour of the Avenger," Col. Buechner wrote that a second machine gun was located to the right, but out of camera range. Lt. Jack Bushyhead was in charge of the second machine gun, which Col. Buechner says was set up on top of a bicycle shed. However, Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Regiment, has stated that the photo above depicts a shooting which occurred around noon and resulted in 17 deaths, according to his story.
Linberger told the German Red Cross that he managed to survive only because the soldier standing next to him was shot in the stomach and when the wounded man fell to the ground, Linberger fell down with him. Linberger's head and face were covered with blood from the wound of the soldier who had been shot, so that it appeared that Linberger had been severely wounded. Linberger said that he shared some chocolate with another soldier while they waited for a shot in the neck to finish them off, as was customary in an execution.
According to Linberger, the shooting was halted when a few drunken prisoners arrived with shovels, "looking for a man named Weiss." The photo below shows a guard, named Weiss, who is being confronted by two Polish prisoners. In the background of the photograph below, one can see some of the buildings in the SS garrison and the coal yard wall where the bodies of Waffen-SS soldiers are lying on the ground after they had been executed with their hands in the air by the men of I Company, 3rd Battalion, 157th Regiment, 45th Division.
The photograph below shows Dachau prisoners celebrating with bottles of wine after the American liberators arrived. The wine was probably obtained from the SS warehouses, which Martin Gottfried Weiss, the acting Commandant, had turned over to the inmates before he escaped. The prisoners are wearing worker's caps which were adopted by some of the inmates as a symbol of their Communist affiliation. Note the man in the center in the bottom row; he is the man on the left in the photo above, and he is also in the next two photographs below.
According to Linberger's account of the shooting at the coal yard wall, a man wearing a Red Cross armband came up to the wounded men, as they were lying on the ground by the wall waiting to be finished off, and threw some razor blades to them, saying "There, finish it yourself." A wounded German soldier, named Jäger, cut the wrist of his own wounded right arm and then asked Linberger to slash his other wrist. Just as Jäger was proposing to return the favor by slashing Linberger's wrists for him, an American officer arrived with Dr. Schröder "who could barely keep himself standing," and the shooting was stopped. The SS soldiers who were still alive were allowed to drag away their wounded comrades, according to Linberger. The American officer who halted the shooting was Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment.
The photograph below shows the same liberated prisoner, now armed with a rifle. He is talking, in a bellicose manner, to a Hungarian soldier who has surrendered, while a young American G.I. looks on in amazement. The liberated prisoners were armed by the Americans and allowed to kill 40 of the Dachau guards, according to Col. Howard Buechner, who wrote about the Dachau massacre in his book "The Hour of the Avenger," published in 1986.
Later, some of the wounded Waffen-SS soldiers went to the town of Dachau where Linberger mentioned that they were in the cafe of the Hörhammerbräu, a Gasthaus in Dachau, which had formerly been the site of Nazi party meetings. Linberger said in his testimony that the barracks of the SS soldiers had been looted by the liberated prisoners. As he and other Waffen-SS survivors were walking on the road to the town of Dachau, they were spat upon and cursed by the looters who "wished we would all be hung."
Linberger testified that "During this action, 12 dead were left nameless." The "action" that he was referring to is the killing of the Waffen-SS soldiers at the wall around noon. His account agrees with that of Col. Howard Buechner, who says that there were 12 dead in the first incident, when SS soldiers were lined up against a wall and shot.
Linberger continued his testimony: "As I later found out, documents and name tags had been removed on American orders, and a commando of German soldiers were supposed to have buried these dead in an unknown location." The "commando of German soldiers" refers to a work party of German POWs who were ordered to perform forced labor in the burial of the dead. It is a violation of the Geneva convention to remove identification from fallen enemy soldiers or to bury them in an unmarked grave. In this passage of his testimony, Linberger is referring to the 12 men killed at the wall, whose name tags he says were removed.
Linberger told the German Red Cross that he found one of the mass graves of the SS soldiers, which included the body of a German soldier named Maier, who was in the SS hospital at Dachau because his leg had been amputated. According to Linberger, Maier was shot in another area of the hospital terrain near the hospital wall. "He lay there with a shot in his stomach and asked Miss Steinmann to kill him, since he could not bear the pain any longer. His dying relieved Miss Steinmann from completing the last wish of his comrade. In the proximity of the hospital/mortuary were probably other comrades executed at the walls, as I later found traces of gunfire." According to Linberger, bodies of the SS men killed during the liberation were buried in unmarked graves on the grounds of the SS garrison.
Linberger's statement to the German Red Cross was quoted by T. Pauli, the chairman of a group of survivors of the Flemish SS volunteers in their magazine called Berkenkruis in October 1988. The article, translated into English by one of the Flemish veterans, can be read on a separate page on this web site. This magazine also reported another massacre at Erfurt, where American soldiers killed 52 Waffen-SS soldiers who had surrendered.
The bodies of the dead SS soldiers were left in the coal yard until May 3, 1945 when the incident was investigated by Lt. Col. Joseph Whitaker, the Seventh Army's Assistant Inspector General. A report on the "Investigation of Alleged Mistreatment of German Guards at Dachau" was filed on June 8, 1945. It was marked secret, but the contents were later revealed to the public in 1991. A copy of the report is included in Col. John H. Linden's book "The Surrender of Dachau 29 April 1945."
The paragraphs below, from the Secret Report, pertain to the Execution of German soldiers by members of 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.
Lt. Jack Bushyhead was a Native American, a "Cherokee Indian"from Oklahoma. Col. Buechner claims that 346 Waffen-SS soldiers were executed, on Lt. Bushyhead's orders, in a second action later that day. They were lined up against a wall and machine-gunned to death while they had their hands in the air.
Dan Dougherty was a 19-year-old soldier with C Company, which was ordered to relieve I Company after the SS soldiers were killed. In an interview in April 2005 with Jennifer Upshaw, Assistant City Editor of the Marin Independent Journal in Marin County, California, Dougherty said that the men of I company had "gone berserk" under the strain.
The soldiers of the 45th division had seen dead prisoners on a train parked outside the SS garrison before entering Dachau. At least one of the men of I company, Private John Lee, knew that some of the prisoners, who were riding in open cars, had been killed by American bullets when the train was strafed by American planes during its three-week journey, through the war zone, from Buchenwald to Dachau, a distance of only 200 miles.
In the following quote from Upshaw's article in the Marin Independent Journal, Dougherty described how the men of I Company reacted to the sight of the dead prisoners:
"They became very emotional, crying," Dougherty said. "We went in to relieve them. They'd walked along that same train of boxcars. We came to the coal yard. It was a strange sight because here are about 10 reporters standing in this courtyard around corpses of SS officers."
An estimated 200 to 300 SS guards were rounded up - two to three dozen were "killed unnecessarily," Dougherty said.
"I Company, we now know they got there about noon and at 2 p.m. arrived at the southwest corner and worked over to the east side where the prison was. They were holding the prisoners of war in the coal yard. We know there something happened. About 17 (guards) were shot."
Dougherty said he has learned through his research a U.S. Army private insisted the group had fired at the guards in self defense, although the company's commanding officer said the group was not provoked.
"I think it haunted some of them," he said.
No one was ever charged with a crime,
"This mound of corpses was about 2 or 3 feet high and 15 feet across. And they were SS. One of the corporals in my company whips out a hunting knife and cuts a finger off one of the bodies. He wanted an SS ring for a souvenir."
Herbert Stolpmann was a German POW who worked for the US military at Dachau after the liberation. In an e-mail letter to me, Stolpmann wrote:
When American Troops "liberated" Camp Dachau proper, they forced all the SS-families, including women and children, out of the so-called villas, put their fathers against the wall and shot them. Most of the mothers had cyanide capsules; they gave them to their children and told them, put them into their mouths, bite onto them as soon as Daddy is shot. The American "Liberators" stopped the shooting after about 24 children were dead.
The American soldiers who were involved in the Dachau massacre were court-martialled, but the papers were torn up and then burned by General George S. Patton, Commander of the US Third Army. The Dachau massacre was kept secret until 1991 when information was finally released. This newspaper article tells about the ethics of shooting unarmed prisoners of war at Dachau.
With regard to the shooting of German POWs, Jim Stephens, a rifleman with the 63rd Division of the U.S. Seventh Army, told reporter Steven Mihailovitch that "the experience of Dachau affected his unit during the subsequent fight against the German army."
The following words of Jim Stephens were quoted in an article written by Steven Mihailovitch on November 10, 2008 for the San Marcos, CA Today's Local News website:
"We didn't bother too much with capturing," Stephens remembered. "If they stuck their head up, we didn't look if they were surrendering."
At the proceedings against the Waffen-SS soldiers accused of the Malmedy Massacre during the Battle of the Bulge, which were held in a building inside the former SS training camp at Dachau, any mention by the defense that American soldiers had killed German POWs, was ordered stricken from the record by the judges of the American Military Tribunal.