All the armies had crossed the Rhine before the end of March. On the 28th Eisenhower set Ninth Army on the north, and First and Third Armies, on the south, moving to snare the Ruhr in a sweeping envelopment that would reach east 120 miles to the Weser River. Later in the day, in a cable addressed "Personal to Marshal Stalin," Eisenhower told the Russians, as he had already informed the British and U.S. Chiefs of Staff, that he proposed to close an encirclement of the Ruhr in the vicinity of Kassel and then turn the armies east to meet the Russians, probably in the Leipzig-Dresden area. Subsequently, to keep the Germans from setting up a redoubt in the Bavarian and Austrian mountains, he would send forces south to link up with the Russians on the Danube between Regensburg and Linz.
Having lost the West Wall and having failed to hold on the Rhine, the German armies, reinforced by over-age and underage Volkssturm men, were nothing like the opponents they had been even a few weeks earlier. On the southern arm of the encirclement, First and Third Armies were already halfway between the Rhine and the Weser by nightfall on the 28th. Ninth Army drove east and south, met the First Army point at Lippstadt on 1 April, and closed the noose tightly around German Army Group B in the Ruhr the next day.1
The two PWD captains, Gittler and Padover, followed behind Ninth Army and described the scene:
The traffic keeps going endlessly to the east. Streaming back are the huge
COM Z trucks bearing the prisoners. They smile, wave, stare with awe at the busy
Americans building bridges, patching roads, unloading, loading, bearing forward.
You can stand on an intersection and count the prisoners by the thousands. When
they look at the ruined towns where there had been resistance, they just stare
and shake their heads.
Past the main cities of resistance, past the broken roads and shattered farmhouses and torn-up fields, we suddenly come upon towns that stand intact and fields that are green and farmers who are at their job working. There was no fighting in these areas, and the people have profited. Then in the open country behind Muenster and south to Paderborn, you see thousands and thousands of liberated foreign workers and prisoners of war from every army in Europe. Mingling with them are German workers walking back home from the Ruhr. This is the great migration. When you talk with them you see the senseless, desperate measures the Nazis took to transport labor back and forth across the land during the last six weeks.
In Lippe, where the Germans were surprised and surrendered by the thousands, the ancient picturesque beauty of the towns and countryside is preserved. The towns operate normally ; the fields are rich with cattle. The farms and houses stand as before. Rarely do you see American soldiers in these towns. Nevertheless, there is order and tranquility, even without German or Allied authority.
Allied proclamations, however, are posted in every village all the way up to
the most forward lines. German children wave as you pass by and the old people
smile. Everyone falls over himself to give you help and information and
From Lippe you suddenly come to Paderborn. And again appear the familiar ruins and broken life; people searching in the rubble for some trinket or possession. Here there had been resistance and the city had paid for it. We talked to a saddlemaker who was trying to clear away the debris around his business. He is angry and apologetic. "We should have used our hunting guns on the Nazi Lieter," he says. "Then this would not have occurred and we would have saved something." 2
Had death not all too often still been waiting around the next corner, the war would have been little more than a sour joke by April 1945. At Arolsen, when an SS officer candidate school pulled out the day before the Americans came, the people hurried to fill in the antitank ditches around the town. The 9th Panzer Division troops detailed to defend Olpe drove themselves to a prisoner of war cage in their own trucks.3 In one small town, a military government public safety officer, called to quell a disturbance, found a displaced person beating a German over the head with a yard-square, framed picture of Der Fuehrer.4 When ECAD Tech. 4 Kenneth Dennis found himself the only American in a German town, he commandeered a bicycle from a rack in front of a cafe and rode down the street shouting: "Achtung. Amerikanische Bomben." While the Germans, including three officers whom he saluted out of habit, scrambled for cover, he pedaled through town and back to the American line.5
Third Army's 5th Division captured Frankfurt on 29 March. Caught in a narrowing pocket between First Army on the north and Third Army on the south and east, the people had known what was coming for nearly a week. The Gauleiter ordered the men to leave the city on the 24th. Some did; many did not, preferring to wait out the end in the cellars and air raid bunkers. The next day was Palm Sunday. On Monday artillery shells began to fall in the city, and at night, when the firing subsided, the roar and rattling of American tanks carried across the Main River from the south. The weather was fine, more like May than March. The city went on a spree as looters plundered the property of those who had left. The shopkeepers tried to sell out their stocks. Butter, scarce since before the war, could be bought by the case and wine sometimes by the bucketful, and the butchers gave out four or five times the legal meat ration. On Thursday the Americans came: the scouts and skirmishers first, keeping under cover close to buildings and behind the rubble piles lining the streets; and then the columns with rifles slung on their shoulders.6
The war was over for Frankfurt. After twenty air raids, the bombing was ended. The sirens would not be heard again, nor the antiaircraft guns. But the city was all but dead. The business district was a brick and stone wilderness in which the old residents could hardly find their way around. No trains were running and no streetcars.
US TANK CRASHES THROUGH RUINS OF A GERMAN TOWN
The telephones were out, and the electric lines and water and gas mains would take months to repair. The Chief Military Government Officer, Lt. Col. Howard D. Criswell, Detachment F2D2, found a non-Nazi former editor of the Frankfurter Zeitung, Wilhelm Hollbach, and had him sworn in as Oberbuergermeister. In the railroad yards, Germans and displaced persons raided stranded Wehrmacht supply trains, and seventy Russians died from drinking methyl alcohol taken in a raid. Of the 31,000 Jews who had inhabited Frankfurt, one of the oldest Jewish communities in Germany, military government officers found 140. They had been employed under the Nazis in cemeteries and at cleaning toilets. Living in segregated houses, one family to a room, they had in the past three years not received any egg, meat, milk, white flour, wine, tobacco, or clothing rations. Military government requisitioned houses and a hospital for them.7
On the edge of the Grueneburg Park in Frankfurt stood a marvel, a spacious high-rise office building belonging to the I. G. Farben cartel, untouched by bombs and
with hardly even a window broken. It seemed likely to be the only building big enough to house SHAEF (and USFET) left standing in western Germany, and Smith cabled Washington to make sure that Frankfurt, which might be considered for assignment to the French zone, was kept in the US zone.8 The Germans later suspected that the US Air Force had spared the building deliberately. More likely, the antiaircraft batteries in the Grueneburg Park and the adjacent Palm Garden had influenced the bomber pilots to pick less hazardous targets.
Advancing north from Frankfurt, Third Army cut into the future Soviet zone when it occupied the western tip of Thuringia. On 4 April, the 90th Infantry Division took Merkers, a few miles inside the border in Thuringia. On the morning of the 6th, two military policemen, Pfc. Clyde Harmon and Pfc. Anthony Kline, enforcing the customary orders against civilian circulation, stopped two women on a road outside Merkers. Since both were French displaced persons and one was pregnant, the MPs decided rather than to arrest them to escort them back into the town. On the way, as they passed the entrance to the Kaiseroda salt mine in Merkers, the women talked about gold that the Germans had stored in the mine-so much gold, they said, that unloading it had taken local civilians and displaced persons who were used as labor seventy-two hours. By noon the story had passed from the MP first sergeant to the chief of staff and on to the division's G-5 officer, Lt. Col. William A. Russell, who in a few hours had the news confirmed by other DPs and by a British sergeant who had been employed in the mine as a prisoner of war and had helped unload the gold. Russell also turned up an assistant director of the National Galleries in Berlin who admitted he was in Merkers to care for paintings stored in the mine. The gold was reportedly the entire reserve of the Reichsbank in Berlin, which had moved it to the mine after the bank building was bombed out in February 1945. When Russell learned that the mine had thirty miles of galleries and five entrances, the division, which had already detailed the 712th Tank Battalion to guard the Merkers entrance, had to divert the whole 357th Infantry Regiment to guard the other four.
The next morning, after having steam raised in the boilers overnight to generate electricity for the lifts and ventilators, Russell went down into the mine with a party of division officers, German mine officials, and Signal Corps photographers. Near the entrance to the main passageway they found 550 bags containing a half billion in paper Reichsmarks.9 A steel vault door
SOLDIERS ADMIRE MANET PAINTING IN MERKERS MINE
on the entrance to the tunnel said to contain the gold was locked. In the afternoon, after having tried unsuccessfully to open the door, the party left the mine without having seen the treasure.
The next day was Sunday. In the morning, while Colonel Bernstein, Deputy Chief, Financial Branch, G-5, SHAEF, read about the find in the New York Herald Tribune's Paris edition, 90th Infantry Division engineers blasted a hole in the vault wall to reveal on the other side a room 75 feet wide and 150 feet deep. The floor was covered with rows of numbered hags, over 7,000 in all, each containing gold bars or gold coins. Baled paper money was stacked along one wall; and at the hack-a mute reminder of nazism's victims-valises were piled filled with gold and silver tooth fillings, eyeglass frames, watch cases, wedding rings, pearls, and precious stones. The gold, between 55 and 81 pounds to the hag, amounted to nearly 250 tons. In paper money, all the European currencies were represented. The largest amounts were 98 million French francs and 2.7 billion Reichsmarks. The treasure almost made the 400 tons of art work, the pest pieces from the Berlin museums, stacked in the mine's other passages seem like a routine find.
On Sunday afternoon, Bernstein, after checking the newspaper story with Lt. Col. R. Tupper Barrett, Chief, Financial Branch, G-5, 12th Army Group, flew to SHAEF Forward at Rheims where he spent the night, it being too late by then to fly into Germany. At noon on Monday, he arrived at Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army Headquarters with instructions from Eisenhower to check the contents of the mine and arrange to have the treasure taken away. While he was there, orders arrived for him to locate a depository farther back in the SHAEF zone and supervise the moving. Bernstein and Barrett spent Tuesday looking for a site and finally settled on the Reichsbank building in Frankfurt. Wednesday, at Merkers, they planned the move and prepared for distinguished visitors by having Germans tune up the mine machinery. The next morning, Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, and Maj. Gen. Manton S. Eddy took the 1,600-foot ride down into the mine. When they stepped out at the foot of the shaft, the private on guard saluted and, in the underground stillness, was heard by all to mutter, "Jesus Christ !"
The move began at 0900 on Saturday morning, 14 April. In twenty hours, the gold and currency and a few cases of art work were loaded on thirty ten-ton trucks, each with a 10 percent overload. Down in the mine, jeeps with trailers hauled the treasure from the vault to the shaft, where the loaded trailers were put aboard the lifts and brought to the surface. At the vault entrance an officer registered each bag or item on a load slip, and at the truck ramps an officer and an enlisted man checked the load slips and verified that every item that left the vault was loaded on a truck. Finally, the officer recorded the truck number and the names and serial numbers of the driver, the assistant driver, and the guards assigned to the truck.
The convoy left Merkers on Sunday morning for the 85-mile trip to Frankfurt with an escort of five rifle platoons, two machine gun platoons, ten multiple-mount antiaircraft vehicles, and Piper cub and fighter air cover. All this protection, however, was not enough to prevent a rumor, which surfaced periodically for years after, that one truckload of gold (or art work) disappeared on the way to Frankfurt. On Sunday afternoon and throughout the night the trucks were unloaded in Frankfurt, each item being checked against the load lists as it came off a truck and again when it was moved into the Reichsbank vault. Two infantry companies cordoned off' the area during the unloading.10
The same procedures, except that a hundred German prisoners of war did the work, were followed in loading the art objects aboard a second truck convoy on Monday, and a similar security guard escorted the trucks to Frankfurt the next day. After the main treasure was removed, the mine was still a grab bag of valuables. Reconnaissance of the other entrances had turned up four hundred tons of German patent office records, Luftwaffe material and ammunition, German Army High
Command records, libraries and city archives (including 2 million books from Berlin and the Goethe collection from Weimar) , and the files of the Krupp, Henschel, and other companies. The patent records in particular were potentially as valuable as the gold; but Third Army needed its trucks, and Bernstein had to settle, on 21 April, for a small seven-truck convoy to move the cream of the patent records, samples of the Krupp and Henschel files, and several dozen high quality microscopes.
Leads found in the Reichsbank records at Merkers also helped uncover a dozen other treasure caches in places occupied by US forces that brought into the vault in Frankfurt hundreds more gold and silver bars, some platinum, rhodium, and palladium, a quarter of a million in US gold dollars (the Merkers mine set the record, however, containing 711 bags of US $20 gold pieces, $25,000 to the bag), a million Swiss (old francs, and a billion French francs.11
The front moved on; the troops read about the treasure in Stars and Stripes or Yank and probably only vaguely remembered they had been in~ or near Merkers. Another spot was more likely to stick in the memories of those who passed through it in early April 1945. On the 6th, the 4th Armored division took Ohrdruf, thirty miles east of Merkers, a small city hardly touched by the war. Atop a hill on the outskirts stood a row of empty stone SS barracks. On a nearly hill was a cluster of low, dirty, and weather-beaten wooden buildings. This was Ohrdruf-Nord, work camp for the Buchenwald concentration camp. When the troops entered, they found twenty-nine bodies on the ground in front of the administration building. A short distance away was a gallows and not far beyond it a shed in which fifty-two naked bodies were stacked in tiers of four, covered with what appeared to be powdered lime. They apparently had been awaiting transportation to pits in the forest where between two and three thousand others had been buried during the six months the camp had existed. Most had died of disease, but most also had marks on their faces and heads and bruises on their bodies. A third group, nine charred torsos, lay among ashes under a rough incinerator made of railroad ties and rails. 'Those in front of the administration building were the most recently dead-all shot in the lack of the neck.
Ohrdruf-Nord was not a proper concentration camp. It had no gas chamber or high-performance crematorium. The deaths there were caused by disease and neglect, helped along by overwork and brutality. The inmates had been employed at digging a tunnel, probably as a site for an underground factory. A thousand had been there a week before the Americans came. In the succeeding days the guards had marched those who could walk away to the east. At noon on the 6th two busses had come to take out the bedridden sick. By then American artillery fire could be heard coming close, and the commandant lost his nerve, sent the busses away empty, and shot the prisoners with his pistol. A dozen men had hidden in the camp buildings and survived to tell about the last days
at Ohrdruf-Nord and to identify the dead, among whom was an American pilot who had been imprisoned there after being shot down nearby and had contracted typhus.
Among the first persons that Lt. Col. James H. Van Wagenen, the 4th Armored's military government officer, took on a tour of the camp was Albert Schneider, Buergermeister of Ohrdruf. Schneider had been a party member since 1933, but he had also been an honest and conscientious mayor, and he had not skipped town ahead of the Americans as other Nazi officials were doing. He was shocked by what he saw. Admitting there had been rumors in the town, he claimed simply not to have believed Germans capable of such atrocities. On Van Wagenen's orders, he agreed to summon twenty-five prominent men and women who were to be taken to view the camp the next morning. In the morning, a soldier who had been sent to fetch him after he failed to appear at the stated time found him and his wife dead in their bedroom, their wrists slashed. G-2 investigators concluded the Schneiders' suicides were motivated by sincere shock and regret over what had happened in their town. One of the most frustrating psychological problems of the early occupation was going to be how to make the German people realize the horror of the concentration camps. In Ohrdruf, however, after the Schneider's' suicides and after others had been taken to see the camp, the citizens seemed to be convinced.12
The closing of the Ruhr pocket in the first week of April opened a 125-mile-wide hole in the center of the German front. General Field Marshall Walter Model's Army Group B, the 400,000 troops who should have been there, were locked in the pocket and hardly counted anymore in Bradley's decision to send his three armies' main forces racing eastward into the gap. By the week's end, Ninth and First Armies were heading across the Weser River toward Magdeburg and Leipzig. Third Army, already somewhat farther east, waited for the other two to come abreast before beginning its drive toward Chemnitz and Dresden.
V Corps jumped off from Kassel on 5 April. Like Aachen and Cologne before it, the heart of the city was bombed out. Among the ruins, the remaining 30,000 inhabitants of what had been a quarter million population rummaged for lost belongings, their own or other people's, or waited passively for what would come next. Four days later and twenty-five miles farther east, V Corps took Goettingen. Except for some bomb damage in the railroad yards and to the power plant, the war had not touched the city. The Buergermeister performed a formal and quite unnecessary surrender on the city hall steps. The only German troops in town were 10,000 hospitalized sick and wounded. An attempt to mobilize the local Volkssturm had collapsed several days before when the city commandant called such a move crazy, after learning that the men had only had ten days' training in the past six months. Swollen by refugees from Kassel and Berlin, the population was up to 70,000 from its normal 50,000 inhabitants. The University of Goettingen was open and holding some classes, until G-5, V Corps, ordered it closed in compliance with SHAEF's standing orders.
The only recorded exchange of fire in Goettingen was not between Americans
TROOPS ADVANCE: THROUGH SURRENDERED TOWN
and Germans but between a German general and the Gestapo. General der Infanterie Friedrich Hossbach, once Hitler's adjutant but recently dismissed under a cloud for having attempted to order a breakout from East Prussia, was under treatment in the university clinic for an ear infection. Illnesses that needed to be treated in out-of-the-way places were common among German generals in those days, but Hossbach had not been forgotten. An hour before the Americans arrived, an SS major, a uniformed policeman, and two men in civilian clothes rang the doorbell of his house. Warned by friends to expect the Gestapo, Hossbach ran out on an upstairs balcony and engaged his callers in a pistol duel until they -obviously pressed for time- ran to a car they had parked at the corner and drove off. The Americans were rather pleased to have turned up a general who had been against Hitler, not so pleased when they discovered he was "a Prussian of the old school" who despised the democracy Germany had under the Weimar Republic. Nevertheless they decided to let him keep his pistol for the time being in case his visitors returned.13
GERMANS DIG GRAVES for concentration camp victims at Nordhausen.
Nordhausen, on the edge of the Harz Mountains, is thirty-eight miles east and south of Goettingen. First Army's VII Corps, moving fast, took the town on 11 April. Again the Americans were astonished and shaken by what they uncovered: a concentration camp with 3,000 rotting, unburied bodies and 2,000 survivors all sick and nearly all in the last stages of starvation; a slave labor camp; two complete underground factories; and a treasure mine with unusual contents. The corps G-5 rounded up several hundred German civilians to bury the dead in the concentration camp and evicted several hundred others from their homes in the town to provide accommodations for the survivors. The 23,000 displaced persons and prisoners of war in the slave labor camp had been employed in the Mittelwerk, one of the underground factories. In the last months they had been dying at the rate of 150 a week; and 9,000 were sick, 1,000 with tuberculosis. The Nordwerk, the other factory, was an assembly plant for jet aircraft engines. The Mittelwerk had all the equipment
ENTRANCE TO NORDHAUSEN V-2 PLANT
needed to manufacture V-2 rockets, from the components to the completed projectile, and the Germans had left behind enough finished parts to make 250 rockets. The Berntrode Mine, outside Nordhausen, contained the remains of Frederick the Great, Frederick William I of Prussia, and Paul yon Hindenburg and his wife; the Prussian royal regalia, scepter, orb, crowns, helmet, broadsword, and seal; over two hundred regimental standards; the lest hooks from the Prussian royal library ; several dozen palace tapestries; and 271 paintings, all valuable, among them several by Lucas Cranach. The MFA&A officers could find only one defect in the mine as a storage place: although it was dry and had a constant temperature, it had been used since 1937 to house a munitions factory and still held 400,000 tons of ammunition, some of it in highly doubtful condition. 14
Between Goettingen and Nordhausen, First Army had crossed into the future Soviet zone, as Ninth Army also did at the
same time on its drive to Magdeburg. The military government carpet had been getting thinner since the beginning of the month because it had been stretched east and north at the same time that the pinpoint locations in the south were being uncovered. When they entered the Soviet zone, the armies ran completely out of trained detachments, and from the zone border west to the Rhine they could not achieve even the planned minimum of one I detachment for every two Landkreise. ECAD had begun training its officer overstrength, but the first hundred would not be available until the third week in April, and the last hundred not until late May. The armies resorted to provisional detachments and drew the personnel from their own tactical troops. Ninth Army set up the Ninth Army Military Government Unit, modeled on an ECAD regiment, with 3 companies, 49 detachments, and 900 officers and men. The detachments trained for two weeks. First Army put a thousand officers and men into fifty-two provisional detachments, two more than the total of its regular military government detachments, and assigned one trained ECAD officer to each provisional detachment. Third Army's three corps used antiaircraft, field artillery, and signal troops to put together a dozen detachments apiece, and the army G-5 ran fifty officers through "Charlottesville in three days" in Frankfurt. In all armies, the corps and division G-5 staffs took over detachment functions. The 80th Infantry Division G-5, for instance, in mid-April conducted military government in Erfurt, Weimar, Jena, and Gera.15
A 4th Armored Division tank column heading east past Weimar on 11 April encountered one of the strangest sights of the war. Two PWD observers, 1st Lt. Edward A. Tennenbaum and Egon W. Fleck, a civilian, described what they saw.
[We] turned a corner onto a main highway and saw thousands of ragged, hungry looking men marching in orderly formation, marching east. The men were armed and had leaders at their sides. Some platoons carried rifles. Some platoons had Panzerfausts on their shoulders. Some carried hand grenades. They laughed and waved wildly as they walked. Their captains saluted gravely for them. They were of many nationalities, a platoon of French followed by a platoon of Spaniards-platoons of Russians, Poles, Jews, Dutch. Some wore striped convict suits, some ragged U.N. uniforms, some shreds of civilian clothes. These were the inmates of Buchenwald walking to war as tanks roared by at twenty-five miles per hour.16
The tank officers ordered the marchers to turn back, and Fleck and Tennenbaum left the column to have a look at the camp. There they found another fantastic scene. Armed inmates stood guard at the main gate, a two-story, wooden structure bearing in large letters across the entrance the motto "Recht oder Unrecht, mein Vaterland" (Right or wrong, my Fatherland) . Inside, wildly cheering prisoners rushed to shake their hands. Others were busy throwing binoculars manufactured in the camp shops over the barbed wire fence to troops passing by outside. Armed guards in prison clothes patrolled the grounds, and a few words from them were enough to quiet the excited crowds. The Americans noticed at once that the guards looked healthier than the others and later learned why : they were mostly German communists who had sur-
SURVIVORS OF BUCHENWALD
vived by helping the SS manage the camp as they were now helping the Americans.
Opened in 1937, Buchenwald was a camp with a history reaching lack into the prewar Nazi era. Inside one building, Fleck and Tennenbaum saw a thousand sealed tin cans containing the unclaimed ashes of prisoners who had died in the 1930s. Such niceties had long ago stopped being observed. In the SS offices and quarters they saw lamp shades, bookends, and other bric-a-brac decorated with tanned, tattooed human skin, products of one of the hobbies of former commandant Karl Koch's wife. The Koch regime, which ended in 1943, had been the most bestial. Since then the camp had been run to get maximum work from the prisoners with minimum food and maintenance. At the end the death rate was about two hundred prisoners a day; but the 50,000 who died there in the eight years before 1945 were not enough to rank Buchenwald with Auschwitz or the other extermination camps.
In appearance Buchenwald was everything, and more, that the Americans had imagined a concentration camp to be. An immense barbed wire fence, screened on the outside by a dense pine forest, enclosed the rows of one-story hutments of the main
camp and the twenty-seven low, wooden barns encircled by barbed wire that were known as the little camp. The "little camp" was the quarantine station for new prisoners, permanent quarters for Jews, and the assembly area for transports to the death camps. Tennenbaum and Fleck noticed when they arrived that the gates to this section were closed and guarded. The "aristocrats" in the main camp did not allow the little camp to join their freedom celebration. To the right of the main gate, off the edge of the parade ground where the prisoners (as many as 90,000 in 1944) had stood for morning and evening roll call, was the crematorium, separately enclosed by a high board fence. The incinerator, a model of technical efficiency, could reduce a "charge," eighteen bodies, to ashes in about twenty minutes. The basement housed the furnace and the "strangling room," a novel installation even in the macabre world of concentration camps. At ground level, condemned prisoners were hurried through a door into a short, narrow corridor with a four-by-four-foot opening in the floor at the far end. Through the opening they fell thirteen feet to the concrete basement floor where, if the fall did not kill them as it often did not, SS men garroted them and hung the bodies on hooks along the wall until the incinerator crew was ready for them upstairs. The crematorium had been shut down for a time in March, when the coal supply ran out, but had been running again in April. The SS guards had not had time to clean up the evidence before they fled the camp on the 10th, and they left behind a truckload of naked corpses in the yard and unconsumed bones and skulls on the incinerator grates.
There were 21,000 prisoners in Buchenwald at the liberation, about half the number that had been there a week earlier. The SS had marched the others east, toward Leipzig. U.S. fighter planes were keeping the columns in view but could not fire without endangering prisoners.
The 12th Army Group had assigned responsibility for the concentration camps to the Displaced Persons Executive (DPX) , and on the day after liberation 1st Lt. Walter F. Emmons, commanding DP Detachment 10, took charge in Buchenwald. He had food and clothing brought in from German stocks in Weimar and Jena and set up an emergency hospital in the SS barracks, where inmate physicians gave seventy blood transfusions from the American blood bank the first day. On the fourth and fifth days, to reduce the death rate, which was far less than before but was still about twenty a day, the 66th Medical Battalion and a complete 500-bed evacuation hospital came in with enough medical supplies to treat the 5,000 cases needing immediate attention. By then 700 cases had been treated, and Germans had been put to work improving the sanitation.
A particular problem for Emmons and his detachment was the multitude of visitors that descended upon them and their charges. The tactical troops, as always, moved on quickly, but after them came newspaper reporters and visitors from other headquarters and from Allied governments and armies. Buchenwald had been an international camp, and among the thirty-one nationalities represented there were men prominent in various fields in their own countries. The prisoners' desire to be away from the place and the visitors' eagerness to do something for them resulted in numerous unauthorized departures; before long, reports were coming back of cases in which former inmates died before reaching home. Finally, 12th Army Group had to
prohibit visits to liberated concentration camps without approval of the army commanders.17
In the second week of April the dam broke. Until then, the Germans had herded as many displaced persons and prisoners of war as they could eastward, as they had done earlier in the Rhineland. Between the Weser and the Elbe they ran out of space. The Soviet advance to the Oder River had also raised a wave of refugees, prisoners of war, and displaced persons that had filled central Germany and was continuing westward. Ninth Army encountered columns of American and British prisoners who had been on the road since January, first marching west from camps in Poland and then recently headed east again. The other RAMPs (recovered Allied military personnel) were mostly mixed with the civilian DPs, both groups having been used as ordinary industrial and farm labor.18
Maj. Philip Shafer, head of the DPX, Third Army, had one officer and two enlisted men under him on 1 April. In the field he had twelve DP detachments (eighty-seven officers and men); thirteen French Mission Militaire Liaison Administrative (MMLA) welfare teams, each with one officer, a male driver, and two or three enlisted women; and a scattering of French, Belgian, Dutch, and Polish liaison and medical officers. Totaling 230 individuals, they were soon having to deal with 1,500 times their own number of DPs and RAMPS. A dozen UNRRA teams and eleven emergency DP detachments added during the month were barely enough to keep the ratio from going higher.19 The armies formed fifty-one DP detachments, received forty-three UNRRA teams and a like number of MMLA teams, and still had to divert tactical units ranging up to the size of a division (the whole 29th Infantry Division for instance) to DPX duties. By 16 April they had uncovered a million DPs, and they would pass their second million before the month was out. Ninth Army issued 200,000 rations a day; First Army, over a million a week. The food came mostly from captured stocks, but First Army also requisitioned 20,000 tons of imported military government relief supplies. Ninth Army used four seven-story buildings in a former German Army complex near Muenster as its supply center. The 12th Army Group reported 350 camps established with capacities between 3,000 and 30,000 persons.20
As had happened in the Rhineland, the DPs' first impulse was to get away from where they were; and once they did, they seemed beset with the desire to keep moving. The former prisoners of war, especially the French and Belgians, who remembered the lessons of 1940, kept off the roads. To reduce the flow of the others, the armies set up checkpoints and patrols on the main roads and had them turn over the DPs to the nearest village Buergermeister with orders to house and feed them from local resources. The rivers, from the Rhine eastward, helped somewhat to keep the DPs' wanderings compartmentalized.
Expecting that they could be started on their way home soon after a junction with the Soviet forces was made, the DPX wanted to hold the eastern Europeans as far east as possible. The French, Belgians, and Dutch were repatriated as fast as transportation could be found, as many as 5,000 a day from each of the armies (46,000 from Ninth Army in April and 74,000 from Third Army) . When, as the front advanced to the east, the armies were less and less able to spare their own trucks to haul the DPs back to the railroads, the DPX secured fifty French truck companies to keep the repatriates moving; and on 11 April, Third Army began a westbound DP airlift from Frankfurt.
The psychology and behavior of the DPs, if no longer a shock, were as much a puzzle and a problem as they had been in the Rhineland. The PWD observers again were the least alarmed. Padover and Gittler reported:
On the German highways and byways one sees a veritable Voelkerwanderung-thousands,
tens of thousands of men, in small groups and large, carrying bundles, carrying
suitcases strapped to their backs, carrying bulging handbags, are marching east
and marching west. Many wear shabby green uniforms-they are Red Army PWs.
Frenchmen and Belgians also still wear their old army uniforms, now almost in
tatters. Poles and Dutchmen and Serbs wear any kind of rags. Their German
masters had not kept them in clothes. They were surprisingly cheerful,
Now they all march . . . in the direction of home. Occasionally they help themselves to chickens or loaves of bread or a pair of pants, but they are orderly and obedient, even the French. There seems to be no vengeance in these people, no lust for destruction, no desire to make the Germans pay for what they have done to them, to their countries.
There is much talk about looting. German farmers say the Eastern workers are stealing their chickens. German workers say that the Russians are breaking into homes and helping themselves to necessities. German middle class people say that Russians are animals. The truth is that the Eastern workers are astonishingly well-behaved.21
On the other hand, in half the military government court cases tried in the Ninth Army area during April, the accused were DPs. Looting often declined dramatically in the vicinity of tightly controlled camps, but not all the DPs wanted to live in the camps. Some preferred to experience their new found freedom to the fullest. Others were not exactly the innocent victims of nazism that the Americans presumed them to be and did not want to risk being recognized. Many wandered cross-country or along back roads living on what they could beg or steal. Sometimes they formed armed gangs of thirty or forty men and turned to outright banditry. Such groups would not hesitate to skirmish with patrols sent to flush them out, and on at least one occasion AWOL U.S. soldiers were caught with them. The military government reports agree, however, that the DPs, including the most restless and unruly among them, were completely friendly to Americans and that the trouble they caused was vastly less than it might have been had they chosen to use the power inherent in their numbers to take organized vengeance on the Germans.
Among the DPs, the former prisoners of war were usually the easiest to handle. They knew the necessity for discipline and, after years in captivity, wanted to refurbish their self-esteem by contributing to the victory. In the camps and assembly centers, the French usually were quick to establish order among themselves. The Russians were less ready to organize independently,
and the camp detachments often had to call on the Soviet liaison officers, as Detachment H1G3 did in the following:
5 April 1945
Col. Niccolai Lischnevsky of the Russian Army visited the camp on an inspection tour and was advised by Maj. [George B.] Mehlman that the Russian leader was very conscientious and hard working but that he lacked the ability to obtain obedience or discipline from the Russian group. Maj. Mehlman requested the Russian colonel to appoint a new leader and vest in him the authority of his office. Col. Lischnevsky ordered that all the Russians be assembled in one group in order that he might speak to them. When they had been assembled, the colonel harangued them at length on the fact that they were being placed under the protection of the US military and that he was directly ordering them to obey all orders given them and that he was going to appoint new leaders and establish within the Russian group regular Russian Army discipline and that he was forming battalions, companies, and squads and that discipline and obedience must be rigidly enforced. Col. Lischnevsky ordered all the former Russian Army officers and NCOs to fall in, dismissing the rest. He personally interviewed and selected from the group of former Russian officers a new Russian leader and staff", battalion commanders, company commanders, company officers and NCOs.22
The detachments learned early that the Russians and other eastern Europeans were frequently quite willing to settle down to the good life in camps that offered welfare programs and luxuries, particularly liquor and radios. The trouble was that their expectations escalated rapidly, and their demands kept increasing. Since the luxuries had to come from the Germans, limits were soon reached. During the month, First Army provided each of its DP detachments with a security guard detail, which was by far the most effective, if not the most desirable, means of DP control.23
While the DP flood had come later than expected, that of the surrendering German troops came earlier. The plans had anticipated US prisoner of war holdings to reach about 900,000 by 30 June 1945. On 15 April 1.3 million prisoners were in US hands. Another 600,000 captures were expected in the next two weeks and at least that many more in May. Legally they were all entitled to the basic rations and quarters furnished to US troops of the same rank. In fact, however, SHAEF had never contemplated extending such treatment to so many German soldiers. Expecting the big wave of prisoners to come with the surrender or collapse, SHAEF proposed to take advantage of the EAC surrender provisions and create the category "disarmed German troops," which would make the bulk of the Wehrmacht a German responsibility pending disbandment. In April, however, the war was still on; American prisoners were still in German hands; and 30,000 Germans were already surrendering every day. By mid-April, SHAEF had allocated 50 US officers, 4,000 enlisted men, and 13 antiaircraft battalions to prisoner of war guard duty. Just west of the Rhine, 12th Army Group was seating up four huge enclosures which could hold 50,000 men each but which would not have shelters "or other comforts" until the prisoners themselves built them from local materials. 24
CAPTURED GERMANS IN AN IMPROVISED STOCKADE
On April 15, Lt. Col. F. Van Wyck Mason, SHAEF G-5 historian, and Capt. Jesse C. Beesley, civil affairs historian for the Communications Zone, set out from Luxembourg in a recon car to follow the route Third Army had taken into Germany. For Mason the "first point of interest" was Bad Kreuznach, twenty miles west of the Rhine crossing at Mainz. As he described it:
The military government detachment commander had his largest attacks not from
the local population, but from the demands of the high brass in our own army. His time was so taken up with finding
dachshund puppies for General Blank and locating people to cut the lawn for
Colonel So-and-so that he was hard put to administer the town.
I had a look at the jail which was well supplied with Nazis and suspects. Then went on to the PW cage on the edge of town. We arrived at sunset and saw a breathtaking panorama, 37,000 German, Hungarian, and other Axis prisoners roaming in a caged area of about half a square mile. They certainly were not coddled there. They slept on the bare ground with whatever covering they had brought with them. They got two "C" rations a day and that was all. There was a separate enclosure for officers where they were so tightly packed they had barely room to lie
down, and more trucks kept coming up every few minutes. Adjoining it was
another enclosure for about 500 German WACs and nonmedical personnel that were
surprisingly good looking on the whole. Fortunately for them the weather was
good and continued to be good for some time afterwards.
In command of the camp was a 1st Lt. of infantry with less than 300 men. The boys looked a bit serious as they crouched behind their machine guns, for there was only one strand of wire and no search lights for night time. Periodically some Germans did try to get loose, but they were always cut down before they got 50 yards distance.
From Frankfurt, the historians drove to Weimar on the Autobahn, and Mason found the trip a great pleasure "after bumping one's backside over the incredibly rutted and ruined roads of France." Between Frankfurt and Weimar they passed into the area in which Third Army had run out of trained military government detachments, and they "sensed that something was amiss the moment we hit Weimar":
The feeling of something being amiss was riot lessened by finding German
policemen in full uniform and carrying loaded carbines in front of the town
hall, where apparently military government of some kind was being set up.
Investigation revealed the reason. The acting Military Governor was a completely
untrained Lt. Col. of the field artillery who had been firing in the line 56
Lt. Col. Billingsley, the officer in question, seemed infinitely relieved to have trained military government officers suddenly appear, and he urgently requested that I break our trip and lend a hand in setting up military government in Weimar. This we did, among the first acts being to disarm the police and bring him up to date on directives concerning displaced persons. It appears that the whole area was under Lt. Col. Billingsley, and none of his officers had the least grounding in the responsibility and powers of military government.
Further to assist Lt. Col. Billingsley, Capt. Beesley and I undertook to visit various detachments of his post in the surrounding country. In this connection we visited Erfurt, Langensalza, Mulhaus, Apolda, and Jena. All of these cities, with the exception of Apolda, had suffered from 25 to 40 percent damage. It was interesting to observe the difference in the attitude of the inhabitants in those towns which had been smashed and those which had not. Those in the unhit towns were arrogant and hostile. Such was the condition of Apolda where we found an artillery 1st Lieutenant and 40 men holding down a city of 70,000 normal population and at least 15,000 transients. Lt. Hurtz was doing a fine job under the circumstances but lacked knowledge of his rights. When we told him he was "Caesar" in that town, he was pleased and immediately issued orders for the arrest of the Nazi mayor and equally Nazi police chief. He listened attentively to all we said and when he realized his powers, he was a much happier boy than lie had been a couple of hours earlier. Because of the attitude of the inhabitants, we arranged to station a particularly hardboiled battalion of infantry in that town.25
While Mason and Beesley were at Weimar, First Army's V Corps on 19 April took Leipzig, the fourth largest city in Germany. To control the city, swollen by DPs and refugees from its normal 700,000 population to over a million, the corps designated Col. Jim Dan Hill, Commanding Officer, 190th Field Artillery Group, as military commander of Leipzig and gave him three field artillery battalions, four security guard detachments, and Provisional Military Government Detachment A. Detachment A had sixteen officers and twenty-four enlisted men, but only two of the officers had even a small amount of previous military government experience. Hill and his troops entered Leipzig on the 19th while fighting was still going on in the Napoleon Platz around the Battle of the Nations Monument, which in its cav-
SCENE OF THE ATROCITY AT THEKLA
ernous stone base provided cover for a diehard German colonel and a company or so of soldiers. Some sections of the city were destroyed. Other sections were untouched, however, and in them the electric service continued without a break, water service could be restored in a few days, and the streetcar system required only minor repairs to wire and track. The Nazi Oberbuergermeister, his deputy, and their families had committed suicide. Hill divided the city into three military police zones and put a battalion in each zone; the Germans, however, were not as much a threat to order as the Allied liaison officers who, he complained, "tend to get emotional with the DPs and get them all stirred up." His main difficulty with the Germans was getting them adjusted to doing common labor. They had become accustomed to having foreign workers do the menial jobs.26
At Thekla, just outside Leipzig, V Corps uncovered a small concentration camp. On the afternoon of the day before, the guards had herded over three hundred inmates
into a wooden barracks building, doused it with gasoline, and set it on fire with thermite grenades. Those who ran from the building were shot. When the Americans entered, the fire was still burning, and seventy-five bodies were hanging on the concertina wire and electrically charged barbed wire surrounding the camp. Somehow about a hundred had managed to escape to freedom. In accordance with standing instructions from Eisenhower to make the Germans bury atrocity victims in the most prominent and suitable spot in the nearest town, military government ordered the newly appointed Leipzig Buergermeister to supply seventy-five caskets and two hundred German civilians to dig the graves. The site was the parkway along the main road into Leipzig's most beautiful cemetery, the Suedfriedhof . The city also had to provide a cross and a wreath for each grave, and all city officials and a hundred other prominent citizens were required to attend the funeral. Three U.S. chaplains, representing the three faiths, conducted the service. Several hundred DPs dropped flowers on the graves as, a reporter noted, "did a few of the nearly 900 Germans who attended voluntarily." 27
Mason and Beesley saw Leipzig the day after it was taken:
There were plenty of dead bodies and still burning houses in the suburbs. The troops carried their arms in very handy positions. Rivers of prisoners were driving out of Leipzig in supply trucks, going back empty to the railheads. Leipzig was terribly smashed in the center but some of the suburbs seem to be in pretty fair shape. The Buergermeister and the Oberbuergermeister committed suicide together with their families. We saw the latter group at the office-the father, the mother, and a very pretty 18-year old daughter.
The police problem in a city of this size was of a special interest to me, so we spent the bulk of our time with Colonel Green, Public Safety Officer on Colonel Hill's staff. He had, of course, disarmed [the police] and required them to wear uniform caps, trousers, and boots but with civilian coats. He said it was necessary because so many trigger-happy "doughfeet" were loose and had shot half a dozen of his men the day before thinking they were soldiers. The uniforms were distinctly similar. Such police as remained were stolidly obeying orders and arresting their previous bosses just as happily as they had political victims a few days earlier.
Colonel Hill invited us to join him in listening to the nomination of a new Buergermeister for Leipzig. It was a solemn bunch of Boche who appeared. One thing they were very anxious to know-would the Russians gain eventual possession of their city? 28
The two staff historians had, half seriously, hoped to end their trip in Berlin. Mason, a World War I veteran, regarded this occasion as his second attempt to get there, but he was disappointed again. Ninth Army was stopped on the Elbe, not much more than a day's march from Berlin, but Eisenhower had decided that the army would go no farther. When Mason and Beesley started hack from Leipzig, they also missed what could have been the next best finale for their trip, the American Soviet link-up on 25 April at Torgau on the Elbe River, thirty miles east of Leipzig. A night stop at Muenden, north of Kassel, however, produced a rare experience, a reasonably bona fide encounter with the Werwolf organization:
That evening, Squadron Leader Gordon Freisen [the local military government de-
tachment was British] . . . invited us to assist in the interrogation of a
pair of Hitler Jugend toughs caught with a notched pistol and a supply of
explosives near one of our bridges. Their attitude was typical, at first openly
defiant, then as hunger and fatigue began to work, more and more malleable. The
amusing thing about these youths and the Nazis we subsequently questioned was
their complete willingness to betray one another once they were convinced that a
friend had tattled, and it required very little persuasion to convince them that
they had been betrayed. To the disappointment of some of our men, it was quite
unnecessary to become physical in the interrogation.
As a result we organized a raiding party of four officers and six enlisted men. We picked up three Nazis in possession of illegal arms. All of them lied like troopers to start with, but invariably would lead us to where the weapons were hidden-generally under the eaves of an outbuilding. It was very picturesque because of the full moon and the light it threw from the helmets and weapons of the men . . . .
We topped off the evening with a raid on an inn in the suburbs which had been established as a sort of headquarters for the local "werewolves." One of the Hitler youths had admitted that there were four female military personnel at the inn, one of which was his sweety. He betrayed her quite cheerfully. The result was, we swooped down on the inn and ransacked the place thoroughly. Among other things, flushing a G.I. who was certainly qualified for the sixty-five dollar question.29
The next day Mason and Beesley crossed into Luxembourg "where people smiled and waved, and one could look at a pretty girl without having that sixty-five dollars in the back of one's mind."
Seventh Army's primary mission during the first three weeks in April was to cover the 12th Army Group's south flank. In doing so the army bore east and slightly north across northern Baden and Wuerttemberg and into Bavaria. The German defense on the Rhine had been weak, and at the end of March, Seventh Army held a bridgehead that tied in with Third Army's on the north and reached south across the Neckar River and embraced the cities of Mannheim and Heidelberg.
The pinpoint detachments were standing by. F1E2, under Lt. Col. Charles D. Winning, moved into badly damaged Mannheim on 28 March, and I2E2, Capt. Albert Haskell in command, took over in Heidelberg two days later. Having become accustomed in the Rhineland to seeing nothing but flattened cities, the Americans were surprised to find Heidelberg completely undamaged. The university was intact, and the shops and banks stayed open while the city changed hands. The Buergermeister and the city officials were at work, except for the police chief who had disappeared along with the men of his force. The war had not completely bypassed Heidelberg however. Its electric power came from Mannheim, and until the lines and plants were repaired there would not be any, nor would there be any water, because the pumps in the water system were electric. The people, 24,000 more than the 86,000 peacetime population, looked well fed, but the food situation was close to catastrophic. The whole municipal reserve was one trainload of potatoes, flour, and canned beef fat that had become stranded in the railroad yards after the bombing had cut all the rail lines.30
East of Heidelberg, the Germans seemed determined again to show they had some bite left in them. Heilbronn held out under bombing and artillery fire from 5 to 12
HEIDELBERG, MARCH 1945
April, and so many people were buried in the ruins "that Heilbronn had a noticeable stench all during the summer of 1945." 31 At Nuremberg, eighty-five miles farther east, the Germans put up a four-day fight, from 16 to 20 April, that brought down a final wave of destruction on the already badly bombed old city-a wave which unfortunately hit the medieval relics much harder than it did the banal structures in which the Nazis had staged their prewar party rallies.
Lt. Col. Delbert O. Fuller took Detachment E1B3, fifteen officers and ten enlisted men, into Nuremberg on the 21st. The population was a third its normal 450,000. A hunt for the city officials turned up the Oberbuergermeister and the Gauleiter of Franconia dead in the Gestapo headquarters. They had killed themselves. Only a few city employees responded to the order to report for work that was broadcasted by sound trucks. The police headquarters was demolished, and nearly all the police were prisoners of war. Germans and DPs looted food warehouses undeterred by the 225 streetcar conductors that the detach-
NUREMBERG, APRIL 1945
ment bad drafted as temporary police, and reports of rape and robbery by US troops piled up on the public safety officer's desk. An MFA&A survey showed that thirty-two of sixty-five listed artistic monuments had been totally demolished and another eighteen badly damaged; fragments of valuable, centuries-old stonework and sculpture mixed in with the rubble promised to make the clean-up job in the city unusually long and painstaking. 32
The fight for Nuremberg was a last flicker in a dying war. From the Rhine to the Elbe, Germany was subdued, and the staffs were polishing the ECLIPSE plans. (See above, p. 163.) Although it could not begin as an operation until either the Germans surrendered or Eisenhower declared them defeated, ECLIPSE was already in effect as a condition for the greater part of the SHAEF area in Germany.33 GOLDCUP (see above, p. 177) was ready, but that it could be put into effect was becoming increasingly doubtful. The most recent planning had added to GOLDCUP the SHAEF Special Echelon, 287 officers and
869 enlisted men, charged with making contact with the Soviet element of the Control Council and beginning to set up the central Allied authority for Germany; thus far, however, the Russians had not given any sign of being willing to establish direct contacts. The Special Echelon's destination was presumed to be Berlin, but as to how the force would get there, SHAEF could only say, "It is . . . probable that the forces of SHAEF will only enter Berlin on Soviet invitation, possibly as a result of negotiations at the governmental level." 34 The Ministerial Control Group, broken up into seventy control parties, had a more promising future. SHAEF had attached ministerial control parties to the T (Target ) Sub-Division, G-2, which was sending its own teams across Germany behind the armies to gather scientific and industrial intelligence. When the teams came upon documents or personnel of possible political value, they called forward the appropriate ministerial control party. Experience was bearing out, to a greater degree than had been expected, the assumption that the German government would be dispersed outside Berlin. Bits and pieces of governmental agencies were turning up in widely scattered locations, such as Army High Command records in the Merkers mine and the cryptographic section of the Foreign Ministry in a castle outside Leipzig. Most were valuable finds for various reasons but, nevertheless, were only fragments, not the substance of government.35
On 22 April, Seventh Army and Third Army turned south into the area of the redoubt. From the outset the operation had more the character of ECLIPSE than of OVERLORD. The Germans were finished and neither in the condition nor in the mood to make a last ditch stand anywhere, even in the mountain strongholds of Bavaria. Seventh Army's 10th Armored Division took twenty-eight towns in a single day on 23 April. By the 27th, both armies had crossed the Danube, and the cities of Ulm, Augsburg, and Regensburg were in their hands. Where pinpoint detachments were available they generally moved in on the same day as the combat troops. Ulm, for its size the most heavily bombed city in the south, was a ruin. Water-filled bomb craters covered blocks where factories and houses had once stood. The streets were rough paths through the rubble. But the 500-year-old Gothic cathedral still stood, towering above the flattened city around it. 36 At Augsburg, a German civilian, Franz Hesse, driving his own automobile, led the tanks of 3d Battalion, 15th Infantry, through the roadblocks and into the city to receive the garrison commander's surrender.37
Third Army's march took it across the border into Czechoslovakia, where, being on liberated territory, military government again became civil affairs but, as civil affairs, functioned more in the manner of military government because the Sudeten Germans outnumbered the Czechs by ten to one. On entering Czechoslovakia, Third Army encountered a new problem, German DPs. A quarter million Silesian Germans fleeing the Russians took refuge in the U.S.-occupied area before roadblocks were set up to stop them. They were in desperate straits, having no place to turn for assis-
MASS FUNERAL for concentration camp prisoners murdered by their guards in the last days of the war.
tance. Military government put some in camps and billeted others with the Sudeten Germans and gave them subsistence from captured German rations.38 At the Flossenburg concentration camp, ten miles from the Czech border, 186 typhus cases raised the threat of an epidemic, especially from the 16,000 prisoners that the SS guards were marching south, ahead of the front. 26th Division G-5 kept track of the exodus by the trail of bodies and hastily dug mass graves the prisoner columns left behind.39
The Germans were conquered and their property was "liberated." Looting had become something of an art. Soldiers stationed themselves outside military government offices and intercepted civilians bringing in weapons. Tactical units posted their own contraband lists in which they included items as various as automobiles and jewelry, and the military government de-
GERMANS AND DPS CARRYING LOOT
tachments acquired a new and, for the most part, unwelcome function as tactical commands and individual high-ranking officers requisitioned items of doubtful military usefulness through them. The retreating Wehrmacht troops had confiscated many bicycles and automobiles. The US troops took most of the rest.40 In the last week of April SHAEF stopped accepting Reichsmark currency for exchange into dollars because tremendous amounts dubiously acquired were known to be in the hands of the troops.41
Since the US troops, German civilians, and DPs all looted, there was some debate over whose behavior was the most reprehensible. In the DPS defense it was frequently said that they took only food, clothing, and items for their own comfort. The Americans could claim the sanction of military custom. But the Germans stole from each other. On the other hand, the
urge to loot was shortest lived among the Germans, and the military government detachments discovered that in their home communities the Germans lacked the anonymity and mobility of the troops and the DPs and could often be prevailed upon to return what they had taken. In Ansbach, the Landkreis food officer put out an order demanding the return of all looted stocks and got back more than he knew had been taken. In Bensheim, the German police chief recovered a hundred tons of Wehrmacht supplies by hinting that he was about to begin making arrests.42
Dachau, fifteen miles northwest of Munich, was the largest concentration camp captured by US forces. Its rolls listed 65,000 prisoners-32,000 in the main compound and the rest in satellite work camps. The Americans came on 29 April, a Sunday. Work had stopped in the camp on Wednesday, and an evacuation was being organized. One transport of 4,000 prisoners was able to get away, but the 42d and 45th Infantry Divisions covered the forty miles from the Danube faster than the Germans expected. At noon on Sunday the camp was quite, and the SS guards were at their posts in the towers when the cry "Americans!" went up. A prisoner rushed toward the gate, and a guard shot him. Outside, a single American soldier stood looking casually at the towers while the guards eyed him and others who were two or three hundred yards way. When the Americans opened fire, the guards in the gate tower came down, hands in the air. One held a pistol behind his back, and the first American shot him. In the next few minutes a jeep drove up; in it were a blond woman war correspondent and a chaplain. The chaplain asked the prisoners, now crowding to the gate, to join him in the Lord's Prayer.43
Dachau, dating back to 1933, was among the first concentration camps set up in Germany and the only one with an unbroken existence through the whole Nazi period. It had all the appurtenances : the motto over the gate (Arbeit macht Frei, Work Liberates) , the electrically charged barbed wire fence, the gas chamber, the crematorium, the starved prisoners, and the presence of death in the form of human bodies piled like logs. Bad as it was, the prisoners considered Dachau to be superior to hard labor camps like Ohrdruf and vastly superior to death camps like Mauthausen.44 Most Americans found such distinctions hard to comprehend but not those who also saw Mauthausen when it was uncovered a week later.45
Seventh Army G-5 had prepared for Dachau. On the morning after liberation two batteries of the 601st Field Artillery, three truckloads of food and medical supplies, and a public address sound truck arrived. Col. Kenneth E. Worthing, G-5, XV Corps, took command, and Detachment I13G3 assumed military government responsibility for the camp and the city of Dachau. The 3,500 bodies stacked in several places inside the compound were left until after a war crimes investigation team made its survey. On the third day, two 400-bed evacuation hospitals, the 116th and 127th, moved in. The prisoners' daily
rations, 600 calories each when the Americans arrived, was raised immediately to 1,200 and within two weeks to 2,400 calories.46
The small city of Dachau was, in a way, more of a discovery for the Americans than the camp itself. It had existed side by side with the camp for twelve years. The tracks on which trains brought in prisoners and carloads of corpses for the crematorium ran through the city along the Nibelungen Strasse, and the guards frequently marched prisoner work details through the streets. Asked whether they realized that in the last three months at least 13,000 people had lost their lives barely a stone's throw from them, the citizens of Dachau claimed shock and surprise and answered, "Was koennten wir tun?" (What could we do?) . Asked whether they had seen the prisoners come in on the railroad, they insisted that the trains all came at night and that the cars were sealed. The camp had brought prosperity to Dachau, and many had profited directly from it. Those who had not benefited were more willing to talk. They said that people knew what was going on and were disturbed by it but had been afraid to say anything for fear of economic retaliation and even more afraid to do anything because the shadow of the camp also hung over them. Seventh Army G-2 reached, for the time, a remarkably charitable conclusion:
No citizen of Dachau is without a deep sense that something was wrong,
terribly wrong, on the outskirts of their town. Those who really did not give a
damn were few.
Those who did show opposition should be honored. But it should be pointed out in justice to the others that they were people who could seclude themselves from the community without harming their sources of income.47
Troops of the 42d and 45th Divisions who liberated Dachau in the afternoon on 29 April were fighting in Munich the next morning and by nightfall had, along with XV Corps' other three divisions, captured the city that was the capital of Bavaria and the birthplace of nazism. Not an industrial center, its association with nazism had, nevertheless, made Munich a target for air attacks, and in the end 80 percent of the city was damaged or destroyed. The Munich military government detachment, F1F3, under Lt. Col. Eugene Keller, arrived in the morning on the 30th. As befitted a pinpoint detachment with a year's training for its assignment, the 52-man truck and jeep column drove straight to the Marienplatz and wheeled to a stop before the city hall. A few apprehensive Germans, selected from "white lists" of non-Nazis and anti-Nazis and notified to be present, were waiting at the entrance. Keller told one to act as temporary Buergermeister. Some detachment officers went out in their jeeps to inspect the water, gas, sewage, and electric plants. Others inspected the police and fire departments, interviewed the leading Catholic and Lutheran clergy, or questioned educators and welfare workers. The banks were closed and the newspaper offices and radio stations seized. Sound trucks broadcasted instructions and essential world news to the population. The smart and efficient performance of the detachment was marred by only one hitch. It was one that almost all the detachments were experiencing : the
MARIENPLATZ, MUNICH. On the left, the city hall.
tactical units habitually dumped their prisoners of war on the nearest military government office's doorstep. For the first week, the members of F1F3 shared their quarters in the city hall with a disconsolate and confused collection of prisoners.
As the cradle of nazism, Munich had been slated for especially rigorous military government, lout the city from the outset proved to be as tractable as any other in Germany. In fact, Munich could claim something that the Americans had not found anywhere else in Germany, an active anti-Nazi resistance. Two underground groups, the Freiheitsaktion Bayern and the Bayerische Hilfspolizei 0-7, had staged an uprising two days before the U.S. troops arrived. Although they had not been overwhelmingly successful against the Nazis even at that late date, they were more than willing to relieve the Americans of the burden of running the city. After accepting a number of their nominees for appointments, however, military government learned that anti-Nazis could in some ways be as troublesome to handle as Nazis.48
MUNICH'S MAIN RAILROAD STATION, MAY 1945
The redoubt, if it existed, was expected to lie in the mountains south of Munich, probably centered on Hitler's vacation retreat at~ Berchtesgaden. To a degree, this estimate was correct. In mid-March, Hitler had belatedly given orders to set up a fortress in the mountains, and Since then trainloads of goods and material had been funneled by the hundreds into southern Germany- -partly because they had nowhere else to go. At war's end there were over 8,000 locomotives south of the Main River, twice the number ordinarily operating there. Loaded boxcars blocking the ramps and stations had contributed to the railroad breakdown. The Munich division of the Reichsbahn had a 14,000-car jam that was not fully unsnarled as late as June 1945. 49 The buildup, such as it was, had centered at Berchtesgaden where Hitler had contemplated establishing his headquarters if he was driven out of Berlin. He had spent several months each year during the war in his retreat on the Obersalzberg and had a communications center nearby that was
as good as the one the Army maintained for him at Zossen outside Berlin. On the night of Hitler's birthday, 20 April, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering, assorted lesser Nazi big shots, and sections of the armed forces, army, and air force staffs had moved to Berchtesgaden expecting Hitler to follow in a few days, since the Russians had by then almost encircled Berlin. Thousands of laborers had worked day and night for a month building fortifications, and weapons, ammunition, and food had rolled in as fast as the railroad marshalling yards could handle them. It was all wasted effort however. Hitler decided to end his career in Berlin, and in twenty minutes, beginning at noon on 25 April, Allied bombers smashed the fortifications. After the bombing, the erstwhile defenders of the redoubt headed south looking for refuge in the Austrian Tyrol.
Goering, whom Hitler had at the end stripped of all his titles and offices including that of Reich Game Keeper, emerged from the mountains some days later to return briefly to the limelight as a figure in the most publicized fraternization incident of the war. He surrendered -by arrangement- on a country road to Brig. Gen. Robert Stack, Assistant Division Commander, 36th Infantry Division, who was photographed shaking hands with him. At the division headquarters, the press reported, the division commander, Maj. Gen. John E. Dahlquist, interviewed Goering in private, gave him time to bathe and to change his uniform, ate chicken with him at lunch, and provided him and his wife with a night's lodging in a castle.50
On the morning of 4 May, when US 3d Infantry Division troops crossed into Landkreis Berchtesgaden, the Landrat, Emil Jacob, was the most important official left. Even the local party leaders, the Kreisleiter and the Ortsgruppenleiter, had taken to the mountains. At two o'clock in the afternoon, Jacob drove in his car to meet the Americans and surrender the town. Detachment I3G3, under Capt. R. A. Bryand, arrived the next morning and suffered the only casualties known to have been incurred in Berchtesgaden, two men injured when a time bomb exploded in one of the Kreis headquarters offices. 51 Berchtesgaden would have been just a small town with some fine scenery had it not been for two reminders of the past: the Adlerhorst, Hitler's elaborate guest house on the Kehlstein, reached by an elevator run through a 400-foot copper-lined tunnel in the mountain; and the Berghof, Hitler's home on the Obersalzberg, now bombed, burned, and looted -an appropriate monument to the Third Reich.
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