Dachau Liberation (2021) - full transcript

Interviews with those who were there and their family members. A Unique insight into the Nazi's first Concentration Camp.

Here, we
find out that this is hell,

not a camp.

We were at the gates of hell.

To them, we were not human beings.

To them, we were just like an animal.

My father was taken to one
of the subcamps of Dachau

and my mother and little brother

were taken from there to ,

to Auschwitz, to Auschwitz.

Of course, they were killed the same day.

I received a number 106016.

And from then on, I was no
longer Andrzej Branecki.

I became that number.

They brought me to Dachau from Zaporizhia

in October, 1943.

216 of us were being transported,

all captives of the Zaporozhian SD prison.

My friend and I decided to leave Holland

and get to Great Britain to join the army.

The only way of getting to the other side

of the English Channel
was to use an old kayak.

The German Army stopped us.

With our hands behind our heads,

we were transported from

After that, we were taken to Dachau.

It turned out that the cars

are filled primarily with the deceased.

I wasn't chosen for
the malaria experiments

because I contracted typhus.

When I contracted typhoid fever,

it was already April of 1945.

At the end of January 1943,

Hitler sent me to the
language corps to Auschwitz.

The weather soon changed for the worse.

We began to send an SOS signal.

Three German boats swam up to us.

Instead of going to Great Britain,

we ended up in the
concentration camp Dachau.

It was said that Dachau
is a place without God.

I can't believe I survived.

God bless you that I can
tell you all about it.

Detained in Annecy

and subsequently transported
to the camp in Dachau.

Germany, February 28th, 1933.

A special ordinance for the
protection of the nation

and state was put into effect.

In cases of disloyalty
among German citizens

towards the Third Reich and the Fuhrer,

it allowed specific
restrictions to be introduced,

that of personal freedom,

right of speech, and
the right to organize.

Meanwhile, confiscations,
searches, arrests,

and jail sentences without a trial

for people suspected of being enemies

of the German nation
and state were allowed.

Great times are only beginning.

Germany has been awakened.

We have gained power over the country.

Now, we need to win
over the German people.

I know my comrades,

we have been through difficult times

when you have demanded
changes that never came.

So we must appeal again and
again to continue the struggle.

You cannot act alone.

You must listen.

You must succumb.

You have to surrender

to the overwhelming need for obedience.

The first German concentration camp

was built in a small Bavarian town

a mere 20 kilometers from Munich.

Dachau was established by Heinrich Himmler

March 21st, 1933,

an entire six years before
the start of World War II.

In the times before the war,

the prisoners consisted
mainly of the German people,

enemies of the regime, along
with the clergy, and Jews.

The layout of the camp was simple.

The larger areas
surrounded by a brick wall

was reserved for the prisoners.

They were kept in 18 long barracks

with about 200 individuals in each.

As the war began,

Dachau became a prototype

for a rapidly growing number of Nazi camps

throughout Europe.

Mauthausen Gusen, Sachsenhausen,

and Auschwitz were also
based on its construction.

It wasn't just the concept of such a camp

that became widespread.

The building, arrangement, the floor plan,

even the manner in which
the prisoners were treated

were the same.

Before the start of the war,

Dachau was a training area
for future camp commandants.

During the war,

the number of people in the
extremely overpopulated camp

reached as many as 16,000.

Hitler's aggressive politics soon expanded

beyond the borders of the Reich,

beginning in 1936 with the
German Army occupying Rhineland

and followed by the annexation of Austria.

Hitler's next targets,

Czechoslovakia and Klaipeda County,

are captured in March, 1939.

His attack on Poland
on September 1st, 1939,

marks the beginning of World War II.

I received my ordination of
priesthood June 3rd, 1939.

And I was appointed as vicar in Klebowiec,

three kilometers away from the
former Polish German border.

When the war began,

I remember the rector
asking Governor

What the people should do.

The governor said that those who are young

and able to join the army should escape.

1939, my life was turned upside down

when the Nazis occupied our city of Loich.

Two soldiers burst in.

They arrested me and took
me to Germany as a hostage.

They they forced me to
sign a document stating

that if something happens
to a German in Klebowiec

or the surrounding area,

I am to be shot.

Europe waits.

Warsaw surrenders September 28th.

A large bus with barred windows

left the former Wittelsbach
Square in Munich.

Feeling melancholic,

my mind drifted to the memory
of saying goodbye to my wife.

I could still see her teary-eyed face.

For as soon as the bus
passed ,

it turned off the road that
led to the city Dachau.

You entered through a wide gate,

holding up a sign that read.

The Germans used terror and persecution

to create strict order in
the occupied territories.

The remaining morale was to
be crushed by the radical

and ruthless politics of the master race.

You will be my witnesses,

Archbishop Kazimierz Majdanski.

The arrest take place in stages

according to a code known
only to the almighty Gestapo.

There are 43 of us,

clergy professors as well
as seminary educators,

curialists, parish priests, and reverends.

A plan to destroy the
Polish clergy is underway.

The concept applied to
powerful social classes,

namely the clergy,

and those who as priests

had a large influence on the society.

One day in 1940, they
brought out 40 people,

everyone I knew to a gallows.

At that gallows, I saw the butcher,

the plumber, the , the author,

the doctor, the lawyer,
all of them known to me.

But one of the things
that I'll never forget

because we had to stand there watching

as hangings were going on

and what they were doing

every time they put the
noose around the neck.

They asked, "Is the noose too tight?"

And then they would
hang each individually.

But the bad part about it is

I had to watch my own teacher being hung

while all of us have been
standing around for hours

watching this as the
Germans were filming it,

taking pictures, and
laughing the entire time.

At night,

we were transported to a train

and put into cattle cars.

Where are we going?

No one knows.

And then the older priests said

they now know where we are headed.

We are headed towards Dachau.

When they marched in,

they gave us 10 minutes
to leave the main city

and pushed us into a place

which was an old part of the city.

Filthy, dirty.

230,000 people were pushed

into a place of four square kilometers.

If that wasn't enough,

children under the age of 10

were not allowed to be in the city.

They told us all the children under 10

will be sent to a colony.

But they didn't really do.

With those children,

they sent him to a gas
chamber in.

I was lucky because my
father had the foresight.

Those camps were not
extermination camps,

but every second, people died,

because it was impossible to stay alive.

And ever since,

I've been calling my father the angel

because he saved me from calamity.

He saved me from troubles.

The example that I gave,

he changed my age, that
I was born in 1927.

Because having a birthday in 1927,

I could go ahead and
have a passport to work.

I worked as a cloth
cutter for four and a half

or something like that years,

from 1940 until 1944.

I spent
24 hours in Terezin,

six weeks in Birkenau and.

Within five weeks,

I had already lost eight
members of my family.

Only one of my brothers survived the war.

The rest died in the gas chambers.

The true journey was long,

but we still didn't know
where we were going.

We arrived at a place called Auschwitz.

We still didn't know what it was

because all we saw was a selection ramp.

I was selected to go with
my mother, and my brother,

and the younger cousins,
and all the women.

My father had the foresight
to have a copy of my documents

which was one, the work permit,

and the other one was the
registration with the Gestapo

to prove that I was born
in 1927, that I was strong,

I worked for German
authorities all this time.

I had no idea where I was.

For the next few days,

the only things I thought about

were that I was locked
up and I didn't know why.

I was arrested for being part

of a communist guerilla division

of an anti-fascist group.

On January 6th, 1944,

Soviet soldiers cross the
former borders of Poland.

We were sent out of Warsaw

when the Soviet Army was
approaching the Vistula.

We walked 120 kilometers in wooden shoes.

We went by foot from
Warsaw to.

We were very thirsty.

Our whole group descended
under a bridge by the Vistula.

And when we began drinking the water,

the Nazis began shooting at us.

The water was like blood.

It was red from the blood.

We waited for the train,

and August 6th, 1944,

we arrived here to Dachau.

June 6th, the allies land in Normandy.

A growing number of prisoners

evacuated from camps
situated near the war zone

are being transferred to Dachau.

Around 1,000 left
Frankfurt for Buchenwald.

Only 350 made it.

The rest were shot on the way.

Those who had no more strength to walk

laid down in a ditch.

And the first of the SS men

who walked after every
three rows would shoot them.

It turned out that the cars are filled

primarily with the deceased.

Very few remained alive.

When they opened the doors,

they gave us a choice,

camp or crematorium.

The Warsaw Uprising
breaks out on August 1st,

Forcing the Germans to
begin deporting residents

of suburban towns near Warsaw.

Here, we find out that this is hell,

not a camp.

We were at the gates of hell.

It was said that Dachau
is a place without God,

that the cruelty there was so terrifying,

the savagery so horrendous,

that it was impossible to believe

that man could act this way

and be so brutal towards another human.

They took us 10 at a time,

made us undress.

Only suspenders and
handkerchiefs were allowed.

After the shower, we received
new numbers, each his own.

I got 11424.

I walked naked with
only a number in my hand

to the next lavatory.

Clothes were already
prepared and set on a bench.

It was a short fustian
shirt with blue stripes

and a few holes here and there.

I felt that everything

but my mind and heart had underwent

some kind of bizarre transformation.

I arrived at Dachau on April 26th of 1945

and I was already sick with typhus.

A prisoner has no rights
other than the right to die.

For him, liberation and freedom

means passing through the
chimney of the crematorium.

The law is equality before
death of starvation,

exhaustion, or of other causes.

Who you were and how you had lived

has to be immediately forgotten.

Here, you are just a number.

The instinct of self-preservation
should show the prisoner

ways to instantly adapt
to the circumstances

and surroundings with no
objection or criticism.

It is best not to think.

Here, those who cannot
handle the mental stress

are generally the ones to die.

Most people who are survivors,

they call themselves prisoners.

I don't use that word because
we were slave laborers.

The Germans needed us

because most of the
Germans were on the front.

Wincenty Frelichowski

was in my chamber.

He was known for being
very religious and calm.

In the evenings as we laid down to sleep,

he would lead us in evening prayer.

He even had the Holy Sacrament

with which he would bless us all.

Then when typhus broke out,

people were dying in the barrack.

For the sick, what to do?

He said, "I'll go."

And he went and preached

and prepared the sick for death.

He contracted the disease there and died.

Daily life in concentration camp.

Get up five o'clock in the morning.


They were torturing you for a couple hours

and then we had to go to work.

12 hours work a day without food.

Only when we came back in the evening,

appellplatz again, torturing again,

and then got some soup
and a slice of bread,

some margarine.

The day in
the life of a prisoner.

Wake up at 5:00 a.m.,

shower, then make the bed.

After receiving nothing but black coffee,

you march to the roll call square,

where standing in rows,

the inmates are meticulously counted.

We had to be counted on the appellplatz

to count how many people died

and how many people are alive.

a thorough inspection,

the kapo would sound a whistle,

And every prisoner would head out

to their designated work area.

And when the German
officer was satisfied

that the numbers were the
same as the day before

between the deadlines and the live ones,

we started to march.

And we came to a place

In ,

they were building a
special underground factory.

We were
placed in block four.

We were young, 14, 15, 13 years old.

They designated us to work
in the sewing workshop

where we were taught how
to patch camp clothing.

There was a kapo in the sewing workshop.

He was a Russian.

One time, the chief's jumper went missing

and the kapo pointed to me.

As punishment,

the chief move me to barrack number nine

where those six typhus were located.

Among the bedridden were
Polish and Czech priests,

Russians, and people of
different nationalities.

The worst unit was the one
that collected the dead.

You would have to ride
from barrack to barrack

in a very large vehicle
and gather the bodies.

I served in this unit for 14 days.

You didn't get any food.

You didn't get any water.

And it didn't work fast enough,

they would beat you.

There were
many cruel punishments.

During the most painful one,

prisoners were taken to the bath area

where they were hung on
special hooks by their hands.

You could hear drops of
sweat falling on the floor.

I stole a piece of bread
from the German officer

that I saw or maybe he
was just a plain soldier

that he laid it down on the table.

And I was punished for that.

Gresiuk in his book recalls,

"I once had a dreadful
encounter next to that chest."

Inside it,

I found a large amount of paper

thickly covered in cheese curd.

I snatched some of it, turned around,

and walked straight into an SS man.

At first, he beat me calmly and steadily.

However, he gradually became
more eager with his blows.

He became vicious.

He grabbed a peg thicker
than a leg of a table

and beat me with it.

When I saw him with foam in his mouth

hitting me with the peg,

I thought he had gone mad and
now he was going to kill me.

Not for a moment did I think
it would end in any other way.

There were SS men

who would commit to
killing 10 people a day,

and they did.

In order to increase the
efficiency of the German soldier,

Headquarters of the Third Reich

commissioned a series of
pseudo-medical experiments.

Returning to our block,

we were met with the horrible surprise.

While being inspected by the oberkapo

of the camp hospital, Zimmermann,

who often worked as a local surgeon,

he ordered the numbers of the
chosen prisoners to be noted.

As we're standing there,

he selects 10 to 15 young
people from our unit

and takes them to the camp hospital

where they become guinea pigs.

An eerie stillness hung over the room.

Within me, a dead silence.

Healthy prisoners were
injected with phlegmon and oil.

They began to draw numbers.

Once they finished, the
chosen ones were taken away.

Where did they go?

First, on an operating
table, it was quick.

An SS man painfully
punctured the right thigh,

a powerful injection.

The Luftwaffe commissions experiments

that are potentially useful
for the German Air Force.

A large amount of prisoners
die in brutal ways.

Doctors gather information
about pressure chamber tests

and how long humans are capable
of survival in cold water.

Healthy patients were frozen
in pools with cold water.

They were testing how humans
react to cold temperatures.

Approximately 6,000 prisoners
took part in the experiments,

of which as many as 2,000
people did not survive.

Harsh conditions and massive
overcrowding in the camp

by the end of the war caused
the outbreak of typhoid fever.

Starting with a high fever,

severe headaches, and rapid breathing,

after about five days,

the illness causes
substantial weight loss,

usually leading to death.

At the end almost
before liberation time,

I contracted typhoid fever.

You call it typhus.

Again, my father, the angel,

managed to save me because
there was no medicine.

After his working day,

he would come at night to
the special sick barrack

and bring me a cup of hot water.

And that's what saved me was the hot water

on a daily basis for almost two weeks.

Spring of 1945,

the American Army is closing in on Munich.

Under Himmler's orders,

no prisoner can fall into
the hands of the enemy alive.

Before our release,

I was part of a group in Dachau

whose goal was to contact
the American Army.

We begged them to come

and free the camp as quickly as they could

because we did not know what lay ahead,

life or extermination.

The sounds of guns and
machine guns filled the camp.

Countless SS men
reinforced the watchtowers.

I escaped from the unit with my friend

near the city of Wolfratshausen.

The unit continued
forward towards the Alps

where it would reach its

My friend told me that when
we reached the mountains,

they would kill us.

We knew the war was ending
and we needed to survive,

so we ran.

Morning came

and blocks still capable of walking

gathered on the main square.

People were saying the
camp was being evacuated

to the Tyrol mountains,

a journey to be made on foot.

The square was covered
in piles of garbage,

clothes, fires, and junk.

Documents from

And prisoner files were
being hastily burned.

Allies' spy planes were
circling above the camp,

destroying the local
lines of communication,

attacking columns of
troops and motor vehicles.

Each prisoner had two rolled
up blankets and a package.

No food for the journey was distributed.

After a few hours,

we were ordered to head
back to our blocks.

Saturday morning, once more,

we gathered in the main square

and told that there would
be no further evacuation.

Owing to the ongoing battles,

the slowly retreating German Army

cannot execute a proper
evacuation of the camp

Headquarters makes an
equally dreadful decision

to follow through with Himmler's order

and at all costs prevent prisoners

from falling into the hands of the allies.

April 29th,

it turned out that we were all
supposed to be exterminated.

Traveling commands would constantly return

to say the camp is surrounded,

that behind its walls,

there is only chaos and panic.

Everyone is fleeing,

even external sectors working in companies

and establishments located near the camp.

Thousands of prisoners starved, dirty,

and exhausted had become mere shadows.

Suddenly at 5:30 p.m. in the
closest area of the camp,

a shootout erupted.

I was with the 20th Armored Division.

We came into the camp on April 29th, 1945.

When the American soldiers

entered through the gate,

they had no idea they were
crossing over into another world,

a world where the human
life was insignificant.

Our tank smashed the barbed wire

and the infantry from the
42nd and 45th Divisions

rode in on top of our tanks.

We didn't see it

until we actually got to
the barbed wire fence.

It was very quiet.

Nothing was happening.

Many of our men became distraught.

Some cried while others raged.

It was incredible.

We had no idea what was here.

The whole thing was a surprise.

When we got to the camp,

the first thing we saw was
a string of 39 railway cars

all filled with human bodies.

All dead.

I think there were
about 2,000 dead bodies.

It stunned us.

The men were looking pretty mad.

They were hardened combat veterans.

They didn't say much,

but there was a lot of cursing,

quite a bit of silence,

and some men started crying.

Suddenly, I see SS men from
the tower near barrack 28

firing shots at American soldiers.

A moment later,

they cease fire and hang up a white flag.

They are surrendering.

concentration camp,

Professor Popovitch.


I earned my BA at the
University of Cambridge,

a Doctorate of Philosophy
at the University of London,

and the Professor of English
in the University of Belgrade.

I was put into prison by
the German authorities

as soon as they arrived to Belgrade.

The reason for my arrest was
that I was an anglophile.

I was actually before the war

General Secretary of
the Society of Friends

of Great Britain and
America in Yugoslavia.

And the co-editor of an
anglophile periodical


All of a sudden,

a few American soldiers
burst through the camp gate

and entered the square.

A crowd of prisoners emerged
from various hideouts

and ran towards them with
screams of joy and excitement.

They cheered as they carried their saviors

around the square.

They were just wonderful.

They gave us a big hug and everything.

They couldn't believe we were here

and that their terrible
time had come to an end.

tormented starving prisoners

mad with bliss falling
into each other's arms,

kissing, crying.

The slavery is over.

Long live the victorious American
Army that brought freedom.

We saw and talked to many prisoners.

We were told not to feed them too much.

They would get sick.

We were able to walk
down to the crematorium.

The wording was freeze
the prisoners in place

so that they would not get out.

Many of them had typhus and
they needed medical attention.

They needed food, they needed care,

and they didn't need
to spread out all over

the camp and the town.

When the
Americans entered the camp,

they were terrified by what they saw.

They said they had never before witnessed

the type of savagery that
took place in Dachau.

They said that Dachau
and death are synonymous.

We were allowed to walk around

and say hello to people,

give them some food.

And then our officers came

and said we had to get
out of the camp and go on.

And we captured Munich at that point.

Many years ago now when I
was in the forces to Belsen

and I can remember seeing the
chairs covered in human skin,

and the large vats of fat

which would have been boiled for fuel,

and large mounds which said
here lie toten 500,000 people.

I survived
this only because of God,

because I kept praying
to return to Warsaw.

I can't believe I survived.

God bless you that I can
tell you all about it.

Finding themselves in
this dreadful situation

and having to live in
awful camp conditions,

many prisoners lost faith in God,

while others felt his presence

and strengthened their belief.

When it started, I was 13.

And when the war ended, I was 17,

so you can imagine four years as a kid

in several concentration
camps without parents,

without food, hard labor.

And I'm still alive.

Today, I'm 82.

It's a miracle.

After the war, I asked the same question

and I still ask the same question today

of the German people.

How is it possible that
an educated country,

an educated people with
great history behind them,

how could they allow this to happen?

What happened
in Dachau was inhumane.

People were hanged, used
in medical experiments.

They were cruelly tormented.

How was it possible to tell

that you didn't know anything about it,

that you never saw us when
you say us on a daily basis?

There is no answer other
than they were forced,

but they didn't care.

I think it's more that
they really didn't care

because we were not Germans.

We were just slaves and numbers.

people from nearby cities

were forced to enter the camp

to see the true face of Adolf Hitler.

Soldiers were ordered to document

everything they found in the camp

so nobody would ever question the terror

and savagery that took place
in German concentration camps.