Monday, February 04, 2008

Dachau.

Since I posted photos of my recent visit to the Dachau concentration camp, I soon after received an email from a reader telling me about her father who was a part of the liberation of Dachau. She allowed me to share her emails with you. Here is her first email:

I felt I had to write to you to tell you that my dad, who died last year, was a Screaming Eagle paratrooper with 101st Airborne (along with the Band of Brothers though he was in an anti-tank unit that attached to different companies).

He was with his division when they liberated Dachau. He wrote about it in his personal war recollections and said that they rounded up a large group of German citizens (men), including local officials, and forced them to bury the great numbers of dead because they all pretended they knew nothing about the camp.

He could never talk about liberating the camp without being still deeply shocked at what he saw -- the condition of the living in Dachau bothered him as much as the dead -- and we could never listen without tears. When I read about those who say the Holocaust never happened, all I can think is: Of course. Because evil doesn't see itself.

(second email message was removed)

I asked her if her father published his experiences because I have a new interest in reading the stories from those that were a part of liberating the concentration camps.

I also heard from another woman whose father was the first unit (42nd Rainbow division) to enter and liberate Dachau. I can't even imagine what this experience was like. But would like to learn more. If you know of any books about the experiences from the liberators of the concentration camps, please let me know.

5 comments:

Sara said...

wow, thank you for sharing those emails, and the pictures of your trip. I really need to make time for a visit there.

I am a little hesitant to post the rest of this comment, as I don't want it to be taken the wrong way, but the part of the readers comment about her family hating German people in general made me very sad. I have a bit of a feeling for two sides of the story, having had Jewish family who was in Germany at the time, and now being married to an Austrian man. I can very much understand (and do feel) hatred for the people who did these horrible things, and for the people who stood by while they were done, I don't think that hate is too strong a word for them. But I also see the strong sense of guilt my husband has for his country (an indirect guilt as his only family involvement was his grandfather being sent to jail for not cooperating), and how much it hurts him when people make mean comments about it to him (I was shocked the first time someone did, it was a man in Holland).

I'm not trying to say that we shouldn't be angry, or that the decedents of all Germans and Austrians and people in various other European countries who were collaborators are now good people who don't have hatred in them. I guess I'm just trying to say that we should, even though it is difficult, give everyone a chance before we hate them.

Lothlorian said...

Emily, if you have an interest in this my dad took me to a museum in Holland about the war, I will see if he remembers the name. We holidayed a lot in Holland and stayed near a place called Arnhem which I think still has an army barracks. There is a special graveyard there that is where a lot of the un-named soldiers were buried, as a young teen I found it both a truelly sad and yet beautiful place.

Jennifer said...

Hi Em- I appreciate these posts. Don't know any books by liberators, but if you've never read Victor Frankl's "Man's Search for Meaning," I recommend it on many levels.

Also thanks to Sara, your poster with the eloquent words against hate. Hate is part of what got us into the Holocaust. That, and indifference to others and the need to be part of something bigger than oneself.

If we are honest with ourselves we recognize that we are all vulnerable to being swept into hatred, persecution, and abuse of our fellow people. Or the ignorance (intentional or innocent) of their suffering. I'm reminded of Mother Teresa's quote: "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."

Reader said...

Sara, I sent the (removed) e-mail to Emily not realizing that she thought I had given permission to publish them both. It's true that my relatives have some bitterness but the truth is, if they met a good person with a good heart, they would like them no matter what nationality. They aren't so hate-filled that they have lost any sense of humanity.
Nations and borders may be how we choose to live but I agree, they should always be flexible so that being HUMAN is what prevails, not what ideology your country follows. Or else we're all in trouble.
If I had thought the 2nd e-mail would be public, I would have taken the time to think of how the general public might perceive it. YES, there are some hard feelings about Hitler's regime -- none of us can run away from that reality -- but we all need to heal and never let that happen again, how true. I think the people who lived through it know that and understand that very well, even if they still fight some feelings of bitterness.

Max6050 said...

I was stationed in the Dachau concentration camp when the war ended. I was a member of a 5 man intelligence team searching for war criminals. More than 20 American infantry organizations claimed to have liberated Dachau. I spent 18 years researching the happenings at Dachau on the day of liberation. The Rainbow division for sure were there that day as well as the 45th division That was the day the Thunderbird cried....they were the men of the 45th division. The full Dachau story is told in the bookk titled, "The Day the Thunderbird Cried". You can check all the facts on www.thunderbirdcried.com
as well as on the worldwide library catologue www.worldcat.org
There are many pictures and untold stories in the book which is the most comprehensive account of Dachau written in simple English.
david