April 28, 2003

Protesters Should Visit Dachau
by Donald G. Mashburn

Iraq isn’t the first place U.S. troops have been sent into battle, on behalf of oppressed people, to remove a mad dictator. Another April of 58 years ago brought troops face to face with the horrors of Dachau, with gut-wrenching examples of the cruelty wrought by evil forces headed by another madman.

On April 29, 1945, Oklahoma’s famed 45th Infantry Division liberated the infamous Dachau concentration camp.

Even before we knew for sure that our military forces would roll up the Iraqi army in a brilliant running battle from Kuwait to Baghdad, the so-called “war protesters” were at work, mostly to harangue against President George Bush and America.

The Loony Lefties claimed that war wasn’t justified to remove the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein. Their slogans, such as “No Blood for Oil,” or “No to Bush’s War,” were too thin to disguise their real anti-Bush, anti-American motives.

In searching for a historical equivalent, I was drawn to Adolph Hitler and Germany’s Nazi party of World War II. And my thoughts turned to a place called Dachau.

Before the war, Dachau was a small, peaceful suburb of Munich. I have been there numerous times, photographing, writing, meditating, looking for answers to the many “Whys” of World War II.

To the self-obsessed, arrogant war protesters, I say, “Go to Dachau!” Learn the lessons of Dachau before judging so harshly a president and a nation that want to avoid war, but are willing to uphold freedom against an evil dictator.

Dachau is a symbol of such a time. Founded in 1933, its “mission” was to “reeducate” those who opposed Hitler. Starting in 1938, it housed thousands of Jews. Dachau became a center for cruel medical experiments, and many prisoners died after being used as guinea pigs in experiments involving high altitude, freezing and thawing, and the physical effects of drinking seawater.

The crude clapboard barracks reportedly were designed to house 250 prisoners each. During Dachau’s darkest periods, up to 1,600 were crammed into each building. You have to see the “cribs,” with “floors” just inches apart, vertically, to understand the cruelty the prisoners endured.

By early 1945, Dachau was overwhelmed by ever increasing crowded trainloads of disease-ridden prisoners from other camps. Unable to cope with the influx, Dachau soon began its slide into uncontrolled death and decay, with the horror of skeletons more dead than alive walking among mounds of corpses.

By late April 1945, Dachau could not cope with the uncontrolled flow of dead and dying from other camps, although crematoria worked without letup, and mass burial sites were opened for increased burials.

Early, on the morning of April 29, 1945, troops of the 45th Division’s 157th Infantry Regiment attacked Munich. They expected resistance at suburban Dachau, but not even this hardened outlook prepared them for what they found. The troops found at the rail siding, according to official reports, “About forty open freight cars filled with more than 2,000 corpses. Some turned their heads, white-faced and sick.”

The 45th Division entered the camp first, afterward sharing guard duty with the 42nd Division. Some villagers were forced to view boxcars and heaps of corpses, so they would know what they had lived with. Many of them said they did not know about it. Others asked helplessly, “What could we do?”

Today’s anti-Bush extremists – call them what they are – are not so innocent. They just seem to have a congenital dislike for the Four C’s: Country, Christians, Conservatives, Courage. That President Bush represents all four drives them crazy.

So, the message to Loony Lefties: Go to Dachau! Study how it came to be, its displays, its “reason” for existing. Go there; stand alone in one of the barracks; in the rooms of hair shorn from mostly innocent victims, to mark them, to punish them. “Step into” the grainy but vivid photographs and try to imagine that instant of terror the victims felt.

Surely, you’ll agree, the war against Hitler was a noble cause. Dachau is proof of that. The war against Saddam Hussein was also right and noble. The millions of Iraqis freed from the repressive and bloody control of Saddam’s regime are the proof.