Jews in the Dachau camp
Dachau was never an extermination camp for Jews, but from the very beginning, Jews were killed there. Some of the first Jews to be murdered at Dachau were Ernst Goldmann, Arthur Kahn, Erwin Kahn, Karl Lehrburger and Wilhelm Aron. Herbert Hunglinge committed suicide to escape the unbearable conditions in the camp.
The Commandant of Dachau, Hilmar Wäckerle, was charged with murder for the deaths of Louis Schloss on May 16, 1933 and Dr. Alfred Strauss on May 24, 1933. Wäckerle was never put on trial, but he was dismissed from his position as Commandant and transferred to another camp.
On August 7, 1933, Felix Fechenbach, another Jewish prisoner at Dachau, died in the camp after being punished. He was a newspaper editor from Detmold.
After Wäckerle was dismissed because of his cruel punishment of the prisoners, the new Commandant, Theodor Eicke, issued a new set of rules for the camp in October 1933. The SS guards and administrators were forbidden to strike the prisoners or to punish them on their own authority. Punishment for such offenses as stealing or sabotage had to be approved by headquarters, which was at first located in Dachau, but was later moved to Oranienburg near Berlin.
According to Martin Gilbert, author of a book entitled "Holocaust":
"News of individual Jewish deaths in Dachau continued to reach the West. On October 10 (1933) Dr. Theo Katz who had worked in the camp hospital was killed. Also in October, Dr. Albert Rosenfelder, a Jewish lawyer, disappeared while in his cell, and was never heard from again.
According to information in a display in the bunker at the Dachau Memorial Site, Dr. Albert Rosenfelder was among the first people to be arrested by the Nazis in March 1933; he was sent to Dachau on April 13, 1933.
Dr. Rosenfelder was well known because of his involvement in a criminal court case in which the defendant, a non-Jew named Huszmann, was accused of a murder in which the motive was said to be "unnatural lust." The murder victim was 20-year-old Helmuth Daube whose body was found in front of his home in Gladbeck, Germany in March 1928. His throat had been cut and his genitals were missing; there were wounds on both hands, and a stab wound in the abdomen, although no blood was found near the body. Huszmann was acquitted and subsequently Julius Streicher, the notorious editor of an anti-Semitic newspaper called "Der Sturmer," made the outrageous statement that Daube's death had been a "ritual murder" committed by Jews.
The Dachau bunker exhibit says that Dr. Rosenfelder was responsible for Streicher being sent to prison in 1929. Streicher had been convicted of "libeling the Jewish religion under Paragraph 166 of the Weimar Penal Code" and his newspaper was banned for a time. No one knows if Dr. Rosenfelder's disappearance was the result of a revenge murder or if he escaped, or was secretly released and allowed to leave Germany.
By February 1942, when the roundup of all the Jews in Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe began, most of the Jews had been released from Dachau and the other camps in Germany, or they had died during their imprisonment. Martin Gilbert mentions that Peter Spatz, who was sent to Buchenwald during the Kristallnacht arrests, was later transferred to Dachau, where he died in 1940.
According to an unnamed former Jewish prisoner, who had been sent to Dachau on February 4, 1938, the Jews received far worse treatment than the other prisoners in the camp. Martin Gilbert quoted from an account published in Paris in 1939, which was written by this unnamed prisoner after he was released from Dachau:
The Jewish prisoners worked in special detachments and received the hardest tasks. They were beaten at every opportunity - for instance, if the space between the barrows with which they had to walk or even run over loose flints was not correctly kept. They were overwhelmed with abusive epithets such as "Sow Jew", "Filth Jew" and "Stink Jew". During the working period, the non-Jewish prisoners were issued with one piece of bread at breakfast - the Jews with nothing. But the Jews were always paraded with the others to see the bread ration issued. [...] When, during great heat, it was allowed to fetch water for the working detachments, it sometimes happened that the Jews were forbidden to drink.
In spite of this public relations disaster, the Nazis continued to release Jewish prisoners from Dachau. According to Martin Gilbert, author of "Holocaust," there were 15,000 Jews from Austria sent to Dachau and Buchenwald in June 1938, following the Anschluss of Germany and Austria. One of the Jews, who was in Dachau during this period and was later released, reported that "In June (1938) a Jew was brought here under suspicion of 'race pollution'. He was so ill that we had to wheel him into camp on a wheelbarrow, and to wheel him to morning and evening roll-call, as the doctor would not put him on the sick list. In a week he was dead."
In November 1938, there were 10,911 Jews brought to Dachau, after they were taken into "protective custody" during the pogrom known as Kristallnacht. On the night of November 9th and 10th, the windows in all of the Jewish stores were smashed and merchandise was thrown into the street. All of the Synagogues were burned. The name given by the Nazis to this destruction was Kristallnacht or Night of Broken Glass. Another 20,000 Jews were sent to either Sachsenhausen or Buchenwald after Kristallnacht.
Most of the Jews arrested after Kristallnacht were released within a few weeks after they promised to make arrangements to leave Germany. Around 8,000 of the 30,000 Jews, who were taken into "protective custody," were allowed to enter Great Britain without a visa and thousands more went to Shanghai, where no visa was required. Altogether, more than 50,000 German Jews found safety in Britain before World War II started, including 10,000 Jewish children, who were sent on Kindertransports, according to Martin Gilbert.
Walter Loeb was arrested in Karlsruhe on Nov. 10, 1938 during Kristallnacht; he was 22 years old. According to a news article, he spent a year in the Dachau concentration camp before being released in 1939. He arrived in the United States in 1940, and served in the U.S. Army
According to a news article by Noah Rosenberg, 19-year-old Werner Kleeman arrived at Dachau concentration camp on November 20, 1938, following his arrest during the Kristallnacht pogrom.
In October 2009, almost 71 years later, Kleeman returned to Dachau for the first time. But, on this occasion, he was escorted to the gate by a friend and welcomed by the Dachau museum's director, Gabriele Hammermann, who had cordially extended an invitation to Kleeman to visit and speak as a "memorial witness."
In his article, Noah Rosenberg wrote that on Kleeman's prior visit to Dachau, Kleeman said he had "Nothing to eat, no clothes to wear, nothing to do but stand on the parade ground 12 to 16 hours a day in cold weather" and worry, as people were "dying all day long."
Kleeman was released after spend 30 days at Dachau and came to America, courtesy of a distant Midwestern relative. On his return visit to Dachau, Kleeman spoke of his induction into the American Army, which sent him back to war-torn Europe, where he played a hand in Germany's defeat, ultimately arresting the German officer who had thrown him into Dachau.
Rachel Zimbler's father, an Austrian Jew in Vienna, who was arrested the day after Kristallnacht, managed to get out of Dachau after only 48 hours. A month later, on Dec. 10, her father put Rachel and her brother on a "kinder transport" which took the children to Holland.
A few of the Jews arrested after Kristallnacht remained in Dachau for as long as 3 years before they were released, as late as 1941, on the condition that they leave Germany immediately, according to Theodor Haas, a Dachau survivor who was among the Jews taken into "protective custody" on November 9, 1938.
Below is an excerpt from an interview with Theodore Haas, conducted by Aaron Zelman, founder of the organization called "Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership." Haas was living in America and was a member of this organization at the time that he gave this interview.
Haas still has nightmares about the persecution he endured as a Jew in Nazi Germany. He survived the Holocaust only because he was released from Dachau in 1941, two years after World War II started, but before plans for the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question" were made on January 20, 1942 at the Wannsee Conference. In February 1942, deportation of all the Jews to the death camps in Poland began.
The interviewer, Aaron Zelman, asks the questions and Theodore Haas answers:
Q.) How did you end up at Dachau? How old were you?
A.) November 9th, 1938 was Kristallnacht
-- The Night of
Q.) What did you think when you were
sent to Dachau? What
A.) My first thoughts were those of many
others: "The world has
Q.) How did you accept the fears of Dachau?
A.) Due to the constant hunger and extreme
cold weather, one
Q.) What were the living conditions like in Dachau?
A.) We were issued one quarter of a loaf
of bread. That was
Q.) Do you have residual fears? How do
you feel about German
A.) I have nightmares constantly. I recently
dreamed that a
Q.) You mentioned you were shot and stabbed
A.) They were punishment. I very often,
in a fit of temper,
Q.) Do you remember some of the steps
taken by the Nazis to
A.) If you had treated an animal in Germany
the way we
Q.) What was the routine like at Dachau?
A.) Three times a day, we were counted.
We had to carry the
Q.) What did people do to try to adjust
to Dachau? Keep
A.) There were some actors, comedians,
and musicians among
Q.) Did people ever successfully escape?
Do you remember
A.) Nobody escaped, only in the movies
does the "hero"
Q.) Did the camp inmates ever bring up
the topic, "If only
A.) Many, many times. Before Adolph Hitler
came to power,
End of Interview
This page was last updated on November 13, 2009