Authors

Object ID

2021.1.35

Object Name

Letter

Date

7-11-1945

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Description

Typewritten letter in English addressed to “Colonel Roy Coo. Camp Dachau” and signed and stamped by five organizations

Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: The Dachau concentration camp, located ten miles from Munich was liberated on April 29, 1945 by the U.S. Seventh Army, 45th Infantry Division. Established in 1933, Dachau had been Nazi Germany’s longest running concentration camp, holding political prisoners, homosexuals, Roma and Sinti and Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as Jews. Under Commandant Theodor Eicke’s brutal administration, Dachau became the training center for SS guards and the model for all other concentration camps in the Third Reich.

In the waning days of the war, as the Allies were closing in on the Germans, Dachau became a depository of prisoners form other camps. Prisoners endured marches or were piled into freight trains, their ranks attenuated by starvation, exhaustion, and hypothermia. By the time the survivors arrived in Dachau, the overcrowding conduced to outbreaks of typhus. Just days before the Americans arrived, thousands of prisoners from Dachau’s main camp were forcibly evacuated on a death march southward to Tegernsee. When American forces finally arrived, they discovered railroad cards filled with decomposing bodies, and more than 30,000 starving survivors.

During the summer of 1945, Colonel Paul A. Roy became Allied commander of the liberated Dachau. In this communique of July 11, 1945 addressed to Colonel Roy, three months after liberation and just beginning the long road to recovery, the former prisoners are responding to receiving an order that they would be evacuated to other camps, an order that was met with swift anger and disbelief. Representatives of the various national groups of former prisoners importune Colonel Roy to understand their plight, to “enter our minds for a moment and think and feel with us?,,, It took much to live through the tyranny that was our lot…liberation was a disappointment. The barbed wires remain and the guard at the gate still plays an important role in our lives…And now we are on the move again. To another camp! And what then?... another stopping place on this dreadful road to freedom…It is the story of sudden movement, indifferent authorities, pleadings, interventions and disappointments…We refuse to move… we are tired and broken and are with little hope- we can not (sic) comply with this order. Give us our homes and we will gladly leave, until then give us a bit of peace.”

The document is signed by representatives of the various national “prisoners” groups: Hungarians, Romanians, Greeks, Poles, and other groups not organized by nationality and addresses.

Colonel Roy was in fact acutely sensitive to what these former prisoners had experienced at the hands of the Germans. He had written that they were “degraded and depressed and systematically starved”… were “suffering from deficiency diseases, tuberculosis, typhus”…”those charged with helping them had to have the utmost patience and understanding.”

Dachau may indeed have been liberated, but prisoners were still to be housed here for some months afterwards. The black typhus epidemic took a major toll on the population. Soon, however prisoners would be moved to “displaced persons” camps in Germany, Austria, and Italy, or released. Dachau would be used to confine war criminals, and it would host the Dachau trials for prisoners-military and civilian- accused of war crimes.

Dimensions

8 1/2 x 11 3/4"

Keywords

Dachau, Paul Roy

Subcollection

Bergen Belsen, Post

Communique Addressed to Colonel Paul A. Roy from Former Prisoners of the Now Liberated Camp Dachau

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