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July 08, 2003

Unseen History: Schwabmunchen
Most Of The Hovels Burned Down

On Monday I spent an hour with one of the research librarians at UNC, who, try as he might, came up with diddly when it came to information about Schwarzenfeld and Schwabmunchen.

Schwarzenfeld you already know about. It turns out that Information about Schwabmunchen was hard to come by because it is no longer known by that name. History knows it as Kaufering IV, or Hurlach, a sub camp of Dachau.

Pulitzer prize winner Louis Lochner wrote about the camp's liberation.

Nearly 4,000 Jews from various parts of Europe were killed at Concentration Camp No. 4 which is located only a few miles from the jail cell where Adolf Hitler wrote his "Mein Kampf."

Only yesterday the few that could still walk were dragged only by the fleeing Nazi overlords.

Today I saw scores of charred bodies, hundred of naked virtual skeletons, lying the ground with unforgettable grimaces of extreme pain. I also saw and smelled the filthy hovels where they were herded until the fleeing SS guards set fire to them, burning several hundred Jews alive.

Some 250 Germans, including ministers, priests, farmers, businessmen and common laborers from the surrounding country, were brought to the camp today on the orders of Colonel Edward F. Seiller, of Louisville, KY, head of the 12th Armored Division's military government section.

DIGGING MASS GRAVES
German civilians were digging mass graves.

Standing amidst the burnt, tortured, wound-gashed corpses, Seiller asked the Germans to remove their hats in tribute to men who "like yourselves could see, feel, hear, smell and taste like other humans but who were coldly and inhumanely murdered."

Seiller said, "You may say that you weren't personally responsible for all this, but remember you stood for the government which perpetrated atrocities like these."

Colonel Seiller seized a heavy set, stocky, bullet-headed man whose shaven head was smeared with iodine and stood him amidst the gruesome corpses and said, "I now produce for you the man who was commandant of this vile camp. Here's the man who was chiefly responsible for the tortures you see here with your own eyes which were inflicted on the unfortunates lying here."

The grave diggers angrily cried, "Throw the wretch down here, we'll finish and bury him." From among the 250 German visitors came shouts of "swine, beast, criminal." Some spat.

MOST OF THE HOVELS BURNED DOWN
Colonel Seiller next conducted the Germans over the concentration camp compound. Most of the hovels had been burned down by the retreating Gestapo but enough remained to give a graphic picture of the filthy, stench-reeking conditions under which the inmates lived.

It was evident from an examination of the bodies that those who managed to crawl out of the burning hovels and escape being burned alive had been killed on emerging. Many of the corpses were in a crawling posture with wounds both from guns and blunt weapons.

Beyond the compound along the edge of the forest about a quarter of a mile from the last watch tower, scores of bodies lay like stacked lumber. Beyond them were half-finished trenches, evidently the Nazis themselves had intended to remove these telltale corpses before the Americans arrived. "The German civilians were ordered to carry these bodies to the mass graves."

The following appears on the back of each Schwabmunchen photo.

GERMANS BURN 4,000 ALIVE IN SCHWABMUNCHEN HORROR CAMP
More than 4,000 slave laborers were burnt alive in their living quarters or were shot as they attempted to escape from the flames in Schwabmunchen, southwest of Munich, another Nazi horror camp uncovered by troops of the Seventh U.S. Army. The camp was discovered as the 12th Armored Division forged its way toward the Austrian border. As spearheads threatened the camp, the German guards found they could not get the prisoners away before the arrival of the advancing Americans. Rather than allow the internees to be liberated, the guards set fire to the crude huts in which the prisoners slept, burning them to death or shooting any who tried to escape. The laborers were all Jews of various nationalities. These photos were taken April 28th, 1945, shortly after the camp was discovered.

All photos were taken by the Associated Press and include this notice, stamped in purple ink on the back of each.

COPYRIGHT
"ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO"
SUPPLIED BY
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Ltd
85, FLEET STREET,
LONDON, E.C.4.
PHONE-CENTRAL 1515 (11 lines)


Click on picture for a larger version.

AP 64698
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Sprawling grotesquely in the prison enclosure are the bodies of Jewish slave laborers, burned alive by their German guards.
Associated Press Photo 278020
WAR POOL PHOTO, NOT FOR USE IN BRITISH ISLES, FRANCE, OR WESTERN HEMISPHERE
SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO LIST B-1
CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR

Notes: Blue ink #14150. The bodies are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to number them. I count 40 on the top of the and foreground of the picture, there may be an equal number lying beneath them. According to a member of the 12th Armored, the original barracks floor was about three feet below the surface, so likely there are more bodies in the pile. An original barracks floor. A picture of the inside of a Schwabmunchen barracks can be seen here. Fire would have swept through it at a terrific pace.

The item in the upper right may be a German flag entangled in the fence.

---------------------------------

The man who Colonel Seiller forced to stand amid the bodies of his victims was the commandant of the camp, SS officer Eichelsdoerfer.


From the Arnold Bauer Barach Collection, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

Eichelsdoerfer was tried at Nuremberg, but I have yet to find out his fate. Given the deaths of those he stood among, I don't imagine it was as horrible as he deserved.

The eighth post in the series can be seen here.

Posted by Bigwig at July 8, 2003 12:57 AM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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