Almost all of the 560 German guards at Dachau were murdered by the end of the day.
The horrific scenes encountered by U.S. and British troops when they entered German concentration camps at the end of World War II have been used to prove a German policy of extermination of the Jews. As gruesome as these scenes were, it was soon discovered that most of the deaths in the German camps were caused by disease and other natural causes. None of the autopsy reports show that anyone died of poison gas. Also, contrary to publicized claims, no researcher has been able to document a German policy of extermination through starvation in the German camps. The virtual collapse of Germany’s food, transport, and public health systems and the extreme overcrowding in the German camps at the end of the war led to the catastrophe the Allied troops encountered when they entered the camps. Germany’s War p.383
Allied Crimes Committed Upon Liberation of German Concentration Camps
Dachau was liberated on April 29, 1945, by the I Company of the Third Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th (Thunderbird) Division, which was part of the Seventh Army of the United States. Soldiers who liberated Dachau saw a trainload of dead bodies, horrific scenes of sick and dying prisoners, piles of dead bodies strewn around the camp, and smelled a stench in the air from the rotting dead corpses. A soldier writing home about what he had seen at Dachau wrote:
“No matter how terrible, revolting or horrible any newspaper reports are about Dachau; no matter how unreal or fantastic any pictures of it may seem, believe me, they can never half way tell the truth about this place. It is something I will never forget.”
It was in this environment that American troops committed the mass murder of the German guards at Dachau. The German roll call morning report of April 29, 1945, stated that 560 German guards were stationed at Dachau on the day it was liberated by American troops. This figure of 560 was reported by Lt. Heinrich Skodzensky and a Swiss Red Cross official when they attempted to surrender the camp to American forces. Almost all of the 560 German guards at Dachau were murdered by the end of the day.
About 10 SS guards managed to escape by disguising themselves as inmates. However, they were quickly discovered and either shot, beaten to death, or taken prisoner. Approximately another 10 soldiers at Dachau were shot in the guard towers while attempting to man machine guns. Along with perhaps 20 more guards who tried to resist or escape, they are the only guards who can be classified as killed in combat. All of the remaining 520 guards at Dachau were murdered in one way or another.
Escaped or released inmates seeking revenge executed approximately 40 guards. The inmates used weapons obtained from American soldiers or taken from fallen SS troops to kill the German guards. Jack Hallett, one of Dachau’s liberators, stated in regard to these executions:
“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 them 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….”
Left: Photograph of about 90 dead or wounded German guards. Only about one fourth of the wall is visible. Hospital building for inmates is to the right. The remaining standing guards were shot moments after the picture was taken. Right: German guards shot and brutally beaten to death.
Approximately another 122 German guards were shot on the spot by American forces. This number includes Lt. Skodzensky, the newly arrived Camp Commander who was stationed at Dachau while recovering from wounds sustained at the Russian front. Eventually the situation was brought under control and the 358 surviving guards were rounded up and herded into an enclosed area and placed under guard. However, a machine gunner from M Company nicknamed “Birdeye” lost control and used a .30 caliber machine gun to murder 12 more German soldiers. This left 346 surviving German guards at Dachau.
American Lt. Jack Bushyhead was left in charge to guard the remaining German prisoners. Acting with what he believed to be compelling justification, Bushyhead lined up the remaining German guards along a high brick wall and disposed of them with bursts of machine gun fire. He then allowed three or four liberated inmates the satisfaction of completing the execution.
First Lt. Howard A. Buechner later asked Bushyhead why he had allowed the mass murder of the remaining German guards. Bushyhead, who was an American Indian, said that he and his ancestors had always known discrimination, persecution, and injustice without retribution. When in Dachau he saw death and atrocities far beyond human comprehension, he became an instrument of vengeance. Lt. Bushyhead claimed full responsibility for the murder of the German guards at Dachau.
Accusations were drawn up against at least four officers and five enlisted men for the murder of the German guards at Dachau. Lt. Bushyhead was accused of violating the rules of the Geneva Convention, which protect prisoners of war regardless of atrocities they may have committed. The following is a report of how Gen. Patton handled the illegal American execution of the Dachau guards:
After a brief interchange, Patton ordered every officer, who had participated in the Dachau investigation to report to his office. He also demanded that they bring every document and photograph which they had collected. He then asked if they had placed every scrap of evidence in his hands. When assured that nothing had been withheld, he dumped all the papers into a metal wastebasket, asked for a cigarette lighter and personally applied the flame to the documents. The charges against Lieutenant Bushyhead had been dismissed. But, of greater importance, with this act, the written records of the executions at Dachau were stricken forever from the annals of military history. The incident would remain alive only in the minds of men, and here it was buried for more than 40 years. Officially, the hour of the Avenger had never occurred.
The court martial charges were dropped and all records of the mass murder of the German guards at Dachau were destroyed. Gen. Patton had decided that to pursue the matter further would have led to adverse publicity. One of the tragedies of this episode is that most of the German guards who were killed were a hastily assembled group of replacements for guards who had fled Dachau. These replacement guards at Dachau were innocent of wrongdoing and should never have been murdered.
Left: Gen. Patton one of the greatest military figures in history Right: Lt. Bushyhead
One of Lt. Bushyhead’s victims a German Guard who died with his Rosary in his hand. These replacement guards at Dachau were innocent of wrongdoing and should never have been murdered.
Buchenwald and Bergen-Belsen
Similar to Dachau, the American troops who liberated Buchenwald saw horrific scenes of sick and dying prisoners with piles of dead bodies strewn around the camp. Following the takeover of Buchenwald by American troops on April 11, 1945, approximately 80 German guards and camp functionaries were murdered. Most of these deaths occurred when inmates brutally beat the Germans to death with the aid and encouragement of American soldiers. Approximately 20 to 30 American soldiers took turns beating six young German guards to death. Buchenwald inmates were also allowed to use American jeeps to drive to Weimar, where they looted and randomly killed German civilians. None of the murdered German civilians at Weimar had been responsible for any crimes committed at the Buchenwald camp.
The British troops who liberated Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945, also lost no time mistreating the SS camp personnel. Most of the German guards were beaten with rifle butts, kicked, stabbed with bayonets, shot, or worked to death. The British liberators in an act of revenge expelled the residents of the nearby town of Bergen, and then permitted the camp inmates to loot the houses and buildings. Much of the town of Bergen was set on fire. As with the vandalized and murdered civilians at Weimar, none of the residents at Bergen were responsible for any crimes committed at the Bergen-Belsen camp.
British journalist Alan Moorehead described the treatment of some of the camp personnel at Bergen-Belsen shortly after the British takeover of the camp:
As we approached the cells of the SS guards, the [British] sergeant’s language became ferocious….The sergeant unbolted the first door and…strode into the cell, jabbing a metal spike in front of him. “Get up”, he shouted. “Get up. Get up, you dirty bastards.” There were half a dozen men lying or half lying on the floor. One or two were able to pull themselves erect at once. The man nearest me, his shirt and face splattered with blood, made two attempts before he got on to his knees and then gradually on to his feet. He stood with his arms stretched out in front of him, trembling violently.
“Come on. Get up” the sergeant shouted [in the next cell]. The man was lying in his blood on the floor, a massive figure with a heavy head and bedraggled beard…“Why don’t you kill me?” he whispered. “Why don’t you kill me? I can’t stand it anymore.” The same phrases dribbled out of his lips over and over again. “He’s been saying that all morning, the dirty bastard,” the sergeant said.
As at Dachau, none of the Allied soldiers who committed atrocities at Buchenwald or Bergen-Belsen were ever punished for their crimes.
Dachau Images: Zundel Site
Patton Image: Patton Site
 Buechner, Howard A., Dachau: The Hour of the Avenger, Metairie, LA: Thunderbird Press, Inc., 1986, p. 29.
 Ibid., p. 5.
 Ibid., p. 96.
 Ibid., p. 97.
 Abzug, Robert, Inside the Vicious Heart: Americans and the Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985, p. 94.
 Buechner, Howard A., Dachau: The Hour of the Avenger, Metairie, LA: Thunderbird Press, Inc., 1986, pp. 98-99.
 Ibid., pp. 91-92, 106.
 Ibid., p. 119.
 Ibid., pp. 107, 120.
 Abzug, Robert, Inside the Vicious Heart: Americans and the Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985, pp. 49, 52.
 Higgins, Marguerite, News Is a Singular Thing, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1955, p. 78f.
 Hilberg, Raul, The Destruction of European Jews, 3 vols., New York: Holmes & Meier, 1985, p. 987.
 Belgion, Montgomery, Victors Justice, Hinsdale, IL: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1949, pp. 80-81.
 “Bergen-Belsen,” Der Spiegel, Hamburg, Nov. 30, 1985, p. 71f.
 Moorehead, Alan, “Belsen”, in Cyril Connolly (ed.), The Golden Horizon, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1953, p. 105f.