April 27 1945

September 22 2013

Hartmann’s piano sonata called 27. April 1945. See this recent post about the Munich composer. In German on first page of score (quotation via Schott):

“On 27 and 28 April 1945 an endless stream of Dachau ‘prisoners of war’ trudged past us – unending was the stream – unending was the misery – unending was the sorrow”

Am 27. und 28. April 1945 schleppte sich ein Menschenstrom von Dachauer ‘Schutzhäftlingen’ an uns vorrüber – unendlich war der Strom – unendlich war das Elend – unendlich war das Leid

Siegfried Mauser, pianist. Afro Basaldella, artwork. TheWelleszCompany, uploader.

Dachau in this post refers to the camp, not the town, unless otherwise stated.

Himmler had opened Dachau in March 1933 to hold Communists, Socialists and similar enemies of the state. Later, the Nazis began to send ordinary German Jews there. In the early years, Jewish prisoners were offered permission to emigrate if they “voluntarily” gave their property to the state. Austrian and Czech prisoners started arriving in 1938, Poles in 1940. Poles were the majority when Dachau was liberated.

At least 160,000 prisoners passed through the main camp, 90,000 through the sub-camps. Incomplete records indicate that at least 32,000 of the inmates died at Dachau and its sub-camps, but countless more were shipped to extermination camps elsewhere.

Bergen-Belsen (Lower Saxony), Buchenwald (Thuringia), Dachau (Bavaria) and Theresienstadt (Sudetenland, now Czech Republic) were concentration camps. Auschwitz (Upper Silesia, now Poland) and Treblinka (northeast of Warsaw) were extermination camps.

Late 1944: as Allied forces advanced toward Germany, the Germans began to move prisoners from concentration camps near the fronts, hoping to prevent their liberation. Transports from the evacuated camps arrived at Dachau. After days of travel with little or no food or water, the prisoners were weak and exhausted and often near death. Typhus epidemics became a serious problem.

April 27 1945: 7,000 prisoners, mostly Jews, were forced in turn to begin a death march from Dachau to Tegernsee, far to the south, where the SS had built defences against American forces advancing from Bad Tölz.

Similar death marches had happened elsewhere: Himmler had ordered the evacuation of Auschwitz in January 1945, requiring camp commanders to make sure that “not a single prisoner from the concentration camps falls alive into the hands of the enemy”. On January 17, 58,000 Auschwitz prisoners left under guard, mostly on foot. Thousands of them died in the subsequent death march west. About 20,000 Auschwitz prisoners made it to Bergen-Belsen, where they were liberated by the British in April 1945.

April 28 1945: many SS guards abandoned Dachau.

April 29: the US Seventh Army’s 45th Infantry Division entered Dachau after a brief battle with the remaining guards. Nearby, the Americans found more than thirty railway carriages filled with bodies in various states of decomposition. Inside were more bodies and 30,000 survivors, most severely emaciated. Some of the American troops were so appalled by the conditions that they machine-gunned at least two groups of captured German guards. The German citizens of the town of Dachau were later forced to bury 9,000 dead inmates.

Hitler committed suicide on April 30. The German Instrument of Surrender was signed on May 7.

After the surrender, Dachau held SS soldiers awaiting trial.

After 1948, it held ethnic Germans who had been expelled from eastern Europe and were awaiting resettlement.

For a time, Dachau was an American military base. It was closed in 1960. It is hard to believe that it was used at all after April 29 1945.

In the early summer of 1970, I stayed with a family called Pscheidt at 99 (or was it 199?) Dachauer Straße in Munich in a school exchange (with the Rupprecht-Gymnasium). The father was a policeman. I think one or both parents were Sudeten Germans (or was the father Sudeten and the mother Czech?), and perhaps they had been resettled via Dachau. Googling tells me that the son, Edgar (with whom I have had absolutely no subsequent contact, and if it is he), has actually worked for the Sudetendeutsches Archiv and has written papers on refugees in post-war Bavaria. For example, Als Flüchtling in Bayern: Zwischen Integration, Auswanderung und Rückkehr in Zeitschrift für bayerische Landesgeschichte, Band 53, 1990.

Regensburg, to the northeast, on April 27; no explanation or sound:

Another piano sonata: 1.X.1905 (old post).

One Response to “April 27 1945”

  1. […] Three days earlier, 7,000 prisoners, mostly Jews, had been forced to begin a death march from Dachau to Tegernsee, at little to the northeast of Garmisch, where the SS had built defences against American forces advancing from Bad Tölz. […]

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