The old Dachau prisoner Don Bamberg noted that there is always, falsely, mention
of 32,000 deaths in Dachau. He is of the opinion that this is something that needs
to be corrected.
Official numbers of deaths are known for almost all concentration camps. Every prisoner
received a number upon his arrival in the camp. He retained this number as long as
he was in the camp, also when he was moved to one of the Subcamps
Only on two occasions did he lose that number. When he died, or when he was put on
a transport to another camp. His number was then released to be given to another
The terrain around the crematorium was strictly segregated from the rest of the camp.
No prisoner could even come close to it. At least, not as long as he was alive. He
was only allowed there to be executed.
The personnel of the crematorium consisted of volunteers. These prisoners had an
excellent life, although it had to be difficult work at times. They were not exposed
to the cold and the rain. They received good food. Even cigarettes and schnapps were
available at times.
There were consequences attached to their job. They lived totally isolated from their
fellow prisoners and they knew that they would wind up in the ovens themselves in
the end. The camp leadership could not allow witnesses to stay behind. But the personnel
chose this life and the consequences were laconically accepted.
Why all this secret stuff? Every camp prisoner knew very well that everyone who died
wound up in the crematorium. They were always told that the way through the “pipe”
was the only way out of the camp. But apparently there were other mysterious incidents
at play, to which the Nazis did not need witnesses.
After the war there were investigations into the incredible number of people who
disappeared without a trace, by the Red Cross and military investigative units. Out
of those investigations it became clear that the Nazis did a lot of fudging with
One of the investigations was performed by the Pole Teodor Musiol, who also wrote
a book about Dachau during the years 1933-1945. Musiol, who was an ex-prisoner himself,
was named director if the Institut Slaski in Opole, Poland.
This entity figured the number of deaths in Dachau to be 148,000, a number that is
vastly different from the official death count of 32,000.
No commander wanted to see a lot of deaths reported during his administration. Especially
during the last years of the war he came to realize more and more that - when the
war was over - he would be held personally responsible in front of the allies.
The solution of the problem was as simple as it was lugubrious. The commander would
prepare transports, the so-called Himmelfarht Kommando's (Ascension Details). These
transports consisted of prisoners who were close to death. They were not allowed
to leave until they were booked out by the camp administration, in a deutschgründliche
(German thorough) way: “Put on transport” they called it in the books. These sad
cases no longer existed on their books.
In addition, those who did not survive the transport were not registered anywhere.
The survivors received new camp numbers, while those who died simply disappeared.
They were the many nameless whose fate would remain unknown in many cases.
From 1942 on, this practice was universally in use and that helps explain the fact
that the crematoria in the concentration camps worked day and night, with chimneys
that were often glowing red.
Another important group are the mostly Russian prisoners of war, who were executed
on a large scale. They did not receive a number and were murdered almost as soon
as they arrived at the camp. Because they were not accounted for on the books, we
can only guess at their number. It is certain that this pertains to many thousands,
however officially these people never arrived at Dachau!
Like in most camps, there was a kind of liquidation system in Dachau. Even in August
1994 - of course at night - there was a transport of Jews from Warsaw, who landed
straight in the crematorium ovens. There were two ovens by then, because the capacity
of the old oven was not sufficient.
Resistance fighters, Jews and gypsies were murdered this way as well. It is also
well known that Dachau prisoners who were too weak to work were sent to the Hartheim
castle (by Linz) where they were gassed. Of course they were put “on transport” administratively,
therefore no deaths for the statistics.
In addition, in the beginning, prisoners were killed in trucks that were specially
equipped for that purpose. German ingenuity would later find much more efficient
And then there are the thousands who were never counted. They were the ones who did
experience the liberation of the camp, but who died within a short period of time,
as a consequence of the mistreatment and hardships they had to endure. But of course
those do not count at all in the statistics.
Can anybody blame me if I send the number of 32,000 deaths during the twelve year
existence of Dachau, to the land of the fairy tales?