Approaching Dachau

In his book, John describes some of the horrors he witnessed during the liberation of Dachau.  However, as they approached they had no idea what they were about to encounter:

…We mounted our vehicles and pushed towards the city of Munich.  Enroute, we passed town after town, all showing the white flags of surrender.  We had a sense that the war might be coming to a close.  

One evening we approached our positions on a hilltop overlooking a town in the distance, dominated by an industrial complex, with a large chimney within a cluster of red brick buildings and rows of wooden one-story barrack-type structures.

We were cold and tired from being on the move all day chasing the enemy.  Their retreat was marked by periods of punishing ambushes, which delayed but did not stop our momentum.  As we stabilized our position, we did not dig in, for we were not concerned about an attack, air strike or artillery fire at this time. Nearby was a pyramid-shaped domed structure, which turned out to be a large brick-curing oven building.  This was a real find since the interior was still warm and comfortable.  Many of us stayed in the building throughout the night, in relative comfort.

In the morning we moved out into the valley and the town itself, with no opposition.  We noticed that the town was named Dachau, which didn’t mean anything to us at that time.  

Upon reaching the area that we’d identified as an industrial complex the night before, we noticed a high metal mesh fence enclosing the compound.  We heard sporadic gunfire as we infiltrated the area.  The entrance to the complex was a large gate that was open, with a large sign on top with an eagle and swastika.  The sign read in German ‘Arbeit Macht Frei,’ loosely translated meaning ‘labor makes free’…

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