A final memorial day tribute. To those who fought against the Nazis in Europe, a reminder in pictures of why the sacrifices were made and why we must always remember.
My friend Grove Rathbun lent me these photographs for me to scan and share with you. They are very disturbing and are not suitable for anyone to view; but it happened, so we must so we remember why we fought, and why we still must fight for the defenseless and forgotten.
Grove's summary follows:
On April 29, 1945 the American Army liberated Dachau one of Nazi Germany's most notorious concentration camps. As an army doctor, Capt. Sanford Rathbun was a member a special medical unit that had been trained to treat poison gas victims in the event that the Germans used it as a last ditch defense. This special unit traveled very close to the front lines and as a result he entered Dachau within 24 hours after a surprise attack by the American Army captured it. After working to provide food and medical attention to the prisoners he took these photographs because he didn't think anyone would believe the conditions found here. One of the first tasks the doctors performed was to give typhus shots to the prisoners. They were then fed black bread and soup (for one month) before they were able to eat richer "American" food. The single sitting prisoner was 6' 2" and weighted 60 pounds. He died later. Dachau used Polish displaced persons (DP's) to do most of the physical work in the camp. They are dressed in prison clothes, but are obvious better fed that the prisoners. Two of the DP's pose with the cyanide gas valves used to fill the gas chambers with cyanide gas. There were 35 piles of bodies counting many in railroad cars awaiting cremation in the "furnaces/ovens." Doctor Rathbun was born in Belle Fourche, SD in 1911, and after the war practiced medicine in Beatrice, NE until his death in 1992.
Grove sent these pictures to the Rapid City Journal for their "snapshot" series of historical photos; but the two pictures that are not very disturbing (especially if you don't recognize what is in the picture) were the two they published. Here is Grove's response, published on Sunday 5/24 in the Journal Letters section:
Point missed in photo selections
On April 27, I left 14 pictures with the Rapid City Journal features department that my uncle, a physician and U.S.Army Captain, had taken at Dachau, a Nazi prison camp, just a few hours after it had been liberated.
April 29th was the 64th anniversary of that liberation, and I thought it would be appropriate for people to remember what can happen when too much power is concentrated in the hands of a “few” and when the “many” look the other way.
The Journal printed two of the pictures along with a brief write-up. The two pictures chosen were rather innocuous pictures of well fed Polish displaced workers. Eight of the other pictures showed the ravages of the starvation and treatment the prisoners had endured along with stacks of naked corpses waiting to be put in the ovens.
Not one picture of a prisoner was used. The impression given is that Dachau was similar to a CCC camp, not the tragic death camp that it was.
The explanation I got for the selection of the two trivial pictures was that the others were too horrible to print. That was the point. Horrible or not, it happened. No one should ever forget it. The Germans living in the town of Dachau claimed they didn’t know what was happening in the camp.Maybe their newspaper didn’t want to offend their sensibilities.
Thank you, Grove, for sharing these with us.
Dear readers, PLEASE do not copy these pictures without permission. Thank you.
RCJ May 10 caption:
Polish displaced workers unload black bread and soup, which was fed to the prisoners.
RCJ May 10 caption:
Two of the displaced workers pose with cyanide gas valves used to fill the gas chambers with cyanide gas.