University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


America at Dachau

Administration at Dachau

Dachau revealed the genius of the Nazi mind for organization. Areas in the concentration camp had been alloted for specific purposes. For example there were the SS barracks where the troopers lived under modern but not luxurious conditions. There were great warehouses where tremendous quantities of captured foreign materials were stored, and much reserve material for SS purposes. There were areas of factories where all sorts of things were made and repaired, for the prisoners and the specific war effort of Germany. Among the factories there were modern shoe shops, a well equipped and arranged sewing establishment for uniforms, a pottery where not only beautiful vases and statuary were made, but also the more substantial items such as pitchers, plates and cups; huge machine shops equipped for most intricate work in the manufacture and, repair of light weapons and field pieces; a complete ordnance area for the repair of all types of automotive equipment. There was also a large wood working establishment which turned out modern furniture, children's toys, and truck bodies; last but not least a well equipped factory for the manufacture of vitamins.

The warehouses held vast quantities of medical supplies, primarily vitamins, blankets, blanket cloth. cloth and parts of uniforms, leather, soaps, stoves, boots, and even such smaller items as insignia, buttons, thread, drums, bugles, fifes and of course, food.

The above mentioned covered only a part of the whole, but I would fail to give the picture did I not also mention the tennis courts, swimming pool, race tracks and stables, a tremendous plantation and a good hospital (for the SS).

Here then, was a vast reserve which could supply a good portion of an army. It had been the central supply depot for the SSers in Germany. I sometimes wonder if this plant was not a part of the Nazi scheme of defense and reserve for her southern fortress

The SS (Schultz Staffel) or Elite protection detachment of the Nazi party differs from Storm Trooper, which is called SA (Storm Abtellung). The SS is divided into two sections. the Waffen SS (armed troops) and Deinst (administrative troops). Both types of SS were at Dachau. and complete files found in vaults.

But Nazi organization was now chaotic;, for what Nazis had not fled, lay prone upon the ground dead, or in hiding. Into this chaos on April 29th came Lt. Col. Martin W. Joyce with Capt. Marcus J. Smith, as observers for the 7th Army. They were also to assist and instruct a temporary review board for the Screening of the criminals, the collaborators, and the actual Nazis among the Internees. The regular review board arrived late that night. While Joyce returned to make his report to G-5, Col. Barret of the XV Corps took command; and on May 3rd Joyce returned to take over the command. Immediately the following took place, although not necessarily in this order:

Two DDT teams arrived; several personnel among them, whom were Lt. Patterson who became adjutant, sad Maj. Louis A. Nolfo supply officer. Two Evacuation Hospitals had been assigned and were already on the field preparing for their task. The senior officer, Col. A. L. Bradford of the 127th Evac, was appointed camp surgeon in addition to his other duties.

An immediate and strict quarantine had been clamped down on all personnel in the camp, Including the members of the hospital staffs, by order of Lt. Gen. Patch on May 2nd. Four companies of guards arrived and were almost Immediately relieved by members of the 72nd AAA. DDT and inoculation was the order of the day, and no one was permitted to enter or leave the area without proper passes and dusting. It almost became monotonous for numbers who had to go in and out several times a day.

It was imperative to relieve the crowded condition of the compound area as soon as possible, and for this purpose warehouses were emptied or combined, and beds set up. Inactive shops were relieved of the burden of the machinery which was either piled to one side, or in some Instances carelessly thrown out of doors by the prisoners. Passes were issued to those whose services outside of the compound area required them to go out, and then only after they had been thoroughly cleaned and dusted. These selected individuals helped in the work of preparation of the new living quarters.

The evacuation hospitals quickly cleaned out the SS barracks area and were ready to receive patients the number of which was increasing daily. It took an estimated 1200 man hours to prepare each building for occupancy; then later the refuse was carted away and burned.

The entire compound area including the barracks and personnel was given a thorough dusting by the DDT team. This in itself was no small job and represented a good share of the necessary work in the prevention and the spread of typhus and other louse borne diseases. It is estimated that the first dusting required approximately 1½ tons of DDT powder

The material in the warehouses had to be inventoried and catalogued for future use, and guards placed to' safeguard it against further looting.

The thorough screening of the internes by the Intelligence which was on the Job was necessary because a number of SS'ers and other Nazis tried to lose themselves among the thousands of internees. Their attempts at deception failed miserably.

Another serious health problem was posed by the dead. In addition to those who were dying each day from the dread typhus, starvation. plegmon and other diseases, there was the backlog of bodies in the rooms at the crematory, and those who died aboard the ill-fated transport. A mass grave was prepared, and bodies were placed there: further description and detail is given in section IV which concerns my ministry at Dachau.

Thus order gradually emerged out of the chaos that was Dachau; and the terrors that reigned from lurking SS guards gradually subsided as they were brought in one after another, having been detected and captured by American soldiers or internees.

On 11 May 1945 Col. Oral B. Bolibaugh and staff arrived to take over general medical administration.

Then the 45th Infantry Division which had first liberated the camp with the 42nd arrived on the scene to further aid in the situation. Brig. Gem Paul D. Adams, Division Artillery commander showed an enthusiasm and genius at getting things done, and done with dispatch. I had always thought that Generals were "Way up and beyond", but from my first contact with him I must say that I enjoyed each one, but generally left with more work! Things could now move much faster because there was a much larger staff and men and resources with which to get them done, and Gen. Adams, with the logic of his training ordered them done.

But all was not easy, for all problems are not solved by the simple command of a General., There were constant situations which arose day after day, which required tact and insight to handle; for although Dachau was only one camp, there were some 33,000 people to begin with; and this was gradually reduced. But this large number of people was made up of many nationalities; for example, one day's breakdown after we had been there about three weeks showed the following:

Organzied National Groups male female & children tot.
Austria 349 2 351
Albania 40  
Bulgaria 6  
Turkey 11  
Belgium 429  
Czechoslovakia 1837 13 1850
France 3139 1 3140
Germany 892 31 923
Greece 181  
Holland 491 4 495
Hungary 1200 112 1312
Italy 1323 4 1327
Jugoslavia 2791 4 2795
Luxembourg 146  
Norway 80  
Poland 9464 73 9537
Roumania 363 11 374
Spain 188  
USSR 3952 9 3961
Armenia 1  
Denmark 2  
England 5  
Estonia 3  
Latvia 25  
Lithuania 261 8 269
Portugal 1  
Stateless 8 1 9
USA 2  
27,190 273 27,463

It should be remembered that this table was made out some three weeks after the arrival of the Americans, and the number at the camp had already been reduced. In fact the first few days saw probably 2,000 to 3,000 escape, before guards and order took on any semblance at all. A number of these found the going too rough on the roads and they soon returned, glad for the protection the Concentration Camp afforded.

Those who remained had troubles which had to be solved, After the first great "hoorah" was over, speeches made, pictures taken, and Senatorial and other investigating committees gone there grew up a feeling of discontent. The feeling was general that, since the camp had been liberated, everyone should immediately take what few belongings they had, add what they looted, and depart for home. And to put it into the words of one Russian, who addressed his comrades thus, "For what purpose are we liberated? To stay here only to die?" Time after time it was explained that the entire camp was in quarantine for the purpose of stamping out and preventing the spread of typhus, but those who felt well could not or would not take into consideration the fact that there is such a thing as an incubation period of from 12-18 days, during which they could come down with that disease even though they were perfectly clean and had no lice. This impatience gradually grew to a rumble, and the rumble to a loud roar; unrest was seething throughout the camp, and may instances the liberators were not looked upon as good friends, because the internment camp was still an internment camp.

Then too, food presented a problem. The army had moved at such a great speed during these last days in the conquest of Germany that supply of food for the army was a tremendous problem, to say nothing of adding thousands of liberated individuals to the list to be fed. The general policy of the Army and Military government was that all people, Germans and those whom they had imported into Germany, were to be fed from existing food stocks. The theory was excellent; the practice was difficult. Germany's transportation system had broken down, and all food had to be carried in American trucks; they were busy transporting Americans and their supplies. Existing stocks at the camp could last but a limited time; and then they were not the types of food needed for these starved peoples. Demands by the internees were made. and gradually things were ironed out.

The problem of getting the people home was another difficult problem to iron out, for there were international complications which only the well informed could understand, and the internees had not been kept too well informed by their former captors. There were large. numbers of Poles and White Russians who had their opinions concerning their governments; many did not want to go back, but would rather stay in Germany.

To take up the problems, the International Prisoners Committee which had been formed and functioned underground before the Americans came, worked overtime. Some of the problems they themselves could meet, others were referred to the camp commander. Petty Jealousies and questions of special privilege arose, and were met with adequately. The committee was first headed by Patrick O'Leary, Lt. Commander in the British Navy who had been a prisoner for several months, and was succeeded by a Russian, Nikolai Michallow, and a Belgian, named Arthur Haulet, as Vice President. A Pole was Secretary-General, and most every nationality was represented on its roster.

With an adequate number of guards now posted at the warehouses, Maj. Nolfo did a good job at inventory of the supplies at the camp and issuing them to those who required them. For example, dress materials were given to the women for new dresses before they left.  Boots or shoes, and new clothing, were issued to all internees before they left the camp. It was really laughable sometimes to see the combinations of clothing that were worn, but the prisoners all took it with good humor, and often laughed about it themselves. I'll never forget one evening, Judah Srebrnick, a Polish Jew, whom I saw nearly every day. showed up in a new outfit, as pleased as a five year old child. He had been wearing the striped prison suit with a knitted cap which had ear muffs on it and had always carried the most ragged bag with his personal belongings in it. (It was necessary to do that, for otherwise they would be picked up by some other DP.) This time he appeared in a brand' new SS trooper's woolen uniform, with a cap (very much like a Turkish fez) with the SS skull and cross bones embroidered on it; tassel and all! He had a pair of heavy wooden soled boots with 'the felt tops, which came up inside the trouser legs nearly to his knee, and presented a most comical appearance. Instead of the dilapidated old bag, he now had a smart leather map case slung over his shoulder and appeared to be an entirely new man.

The hospital supplies were also a problem as well, supplying camps for miles around with the things which were at Dachau, and which were sorely needed, especially beds and bedding. soap, and clothing.

So Administration, efficient and orderly, emerged out of the chaotic confusion that was Dachau.

Perhaps the problem uppermost in the mind of the majority of the 32,000 prisoners was the question GIs asked as soon as hostilities ceased, "When are we going to get home ?"

That is the problem with which the administrative officers came to grips, immediately on liberation, because of the necessary quarantine, misunderstood by so many to be further incarceration.

It has been mentioned that a number escaped to find their way home by difficult roads. However, many returned. Others tried various means to evade the necessary pass at the gate. Some tried getting out with groups as they passed and roll calls put an end to that; others attempted riding through on the underslug part of wagons or trucks; but the prize was pulled when a truck of one well known nationality was glanced into by a GI and under the load of filth, the truck carried, were 28 men all set to go home (and carry the diseases along with them!)

I believe the Government of Luxembourg was the first there ready to take its nationals, and the Prince made a thorough inspection of the camp. However, it was several days before any real movement began, and when General Adams arrived. and had adequate transportation at his command, people really began to move in numbers of several hundred to several thousand per day.

Although sleep disturbing, it was a joy to realize that day after day the number in the camp was gradually being reduced, and that the internees were being taken to DP (Displaced Personnel) centers of their own nationality not too far away, and from thence, as soon as transportation was available and the way cleared, they could be taken home

Trucks would be ready at about 6 o'clock in the court yard, and those who were to go that day would march from their part or the camp, bringing with them their belongings. Their voices would mount. and excitement increase to that time when cheers amid the noise of truck motors actually announced that now, after months, and in many cases years, they were now on the first lap of their journey home. Home, did I say? When they should get there, I often wondered, what would they find? I also questioned, pessimistically to be sure, what percent would ever get home, because their incarceration and starvation had weakened them. Others had, contracted the disease which would gradually weaken them until they could go on no longer -- TB.