"On the last Sunday of April 1945, the first Allied soldier, an American scout of Polish descent, came through the gate of the main Dachau camp. The few Nazis in the tower watched apprehensively. They were no longer there as guards; they had been ordered to stay on merely to complete the formalities of surrender. The upper ranks had already fled, to blend in among the German civilian population. The young American's first impression, later detailed in an interview, was one of `glaring chaos,' thousands of ragged skeletons, in the yard, in the trees, waving little rags, climbing over one another, hysterical, completely out of control*. The scout went back for support and returned with a small detatchment. The flags of many Allied nations had suddenly appeared. Apparently the prisoners had been secretly piecing them together over the months, from tatters and patches and strips of cloth. One prisoner, a Polish priest, exuberantly kissed an officer, learning later to his glee that she was Marguerite Higgins, of the New York `Herald Tribune,' the first American war correspondent to report on Dachau. A military chaplain came forward and asked that all who could do so join him in a prayer of thanksgiving. ...
"Soon the advance scouts were joined by other Allied soldiers and one of the German guards came forward to surrender with what he believed would be the usual military protocol. He emerged in full regalia, wearing all his decorations. He had only recently been billeted to Dachau from the Russian front. He saluted and barked `Heil Hitler.' An American officer looked down and around at mounds of rotting corpses, at thousands of prisoners shrouded in their own filth. He hesitated only a moment, then spat in the Nazi's face, snapping `Schweinehund,' before ordering him taken away. Moments later a shot rang out and the American officer was informed that there was no further need for protocol.
"Some of the Nazis were rounded up and summarily executed along with the guard dogs. Two of the most notorious prison guards had been stripped naked before the Americans arrived to prevent them from slipping away unnoticed. They, too, were cut down. General Eisenhower sent a laconic communique from headquarters: `Our forces liberated and mopped up the infamous concentration camp at Dachau. Approximately 32,000 prisoners were liberated; 300 SS camp guards were quickly neutralized.'
"During the next few days as the burials went forward, the sick and the dying were transferred to hospital facilities, makeshift as they had to be, and food was carefully distributed. `Prescribed' might be the better word, for the starving had to adjust their food intake with medical discipline. Only then did the American command turn to review the files that the Germans, with characteristic meticulousness, had maintained.
"The full record of the pseudo-medical experimentations came to light. Prisoners had been used as laboratory animals, without the humane restrictions placed on vivisection. Hannah Arendt suggested that `the camp was itself a vast laboratory in which the Nazis proved that there is no limit to human depravity.' For it was remembered that these experiments were not planned or conducted by identifiable psychopaths. They were performed or supervised by professional scientists, trained in what had been once considered peerless universities and medical schools. Reverend Franklin Littell called them `technically competent barbarians.' Indeed the procedures had the full approval and cooperation of Berlin's Institute of Hygiene." (Sachar, 8-10)
Sources: The Nizkor Project:, from Sachar, Abram L. The Redemption of the Unwanted. New York: St. Martin's/Marek, 1983.