What was it like in the Concentration Camp at Dachau?: An Attempt to Come Closer to Truth
17th edition, Trustees for the Monument of Atonement in the Concentration Camp at Dachau, 1981
“The block-leaders would parade a captured officer before the assembled men, dressed only in his cap and sword belt. They made him run in front of the other prisoners, while the SS men laughed and beat his thighs. Or prisoners were given this order: ‘’In double-quick time, take up your position facing each other. Attention. Punch one another in the face!’ Nobody does it. ‘Do it at once!’ No one moves. Instead of paying tribute to the prisoners’ comradeship, the wild ruffians pushed two comrades against each other so that their heads struck and they began to bleed. Then the hangman’s assistants go through the rows and beat the prisoners in the face with their fists. ‘If you had beaten one another, you would have been better off,’ says one now in an insolent tone. Then comes another command, ‘Again, take your position in two rows facing each other. Spit on each other in the face!’ Nobody obeys. Pistols are cocked. ’For the last time I order you to spit at each other . . .’ Now some spat, but scarcely perceptibly. Then the SS swine came forward and hurled thick flat cakes of spittle into the faces of the prisoners. The prisoners have to lick each other clean now.”
Examples of human perversity at Dachau: a guard would throw a prisoner’s cap into the “neutral zone” (a barrier-free zone in front of the wall) and order him to fetch it. Then the guard would shoot the prisoner for disobedience if he refuses the order and shoot him for trespass if he obeys it. Guards forced prisoners to make the very wire-bound whips with which they are beaten. They treated prisoners like scum so that they couldn’t keep a rag of their dignity, but also hold them up to lofty standards of courtesy toward guards, forbidding them ever to remark with irony about the SS insignias, etc. Then, if prisoners showed displeasure or impatience about the way they were being treated, guards would punish them by hanging them from their arms, stretched out behind them, which dislocates the shoulders almost at once and is excruciating.
Over 1000 clergy died in Dachau. 2700 were handled there, of which 2500 were Catholic Priests. Usually clergy were there because they opposed their own church’s connivance with the Nazis. Many were turned into draft horses to haul the ‘Moor Express,’ which were heavy four wheeled wagons. Prisoners were harnessed to the wagons and forced to move it at a run. An under-capo carrying a stick drove them on. “With bent backs and lowered heads these human beasts of burden pushed, drew, and shoved the Moor Express, eight to ten hours daily, day in, day out, from the camp to the station, from the station to the workshop, from the workshop to the shop, . . . It was no longer men who drew the wagons, but machines. Seldom was a prisoner seen to wipe the sweat from his brow, only few used their handkerchiefs. . . . All seemed to be full of affliction. In a rage they pressed their teeth together. Their limbs shivered from fatigue and hunger. The flow of speech flagged. For many the moral power of resistance was at an end. Slowly but surely these highly gifted men who were used as beasts of burden were sinking into the darkest melancholy.” They wore boots, but because the boots were misfit and wet through, prisoners soon lost nearly all the skin on their feet.