11. American troops killed dozens of unarmed and surrendering German soldiers at Dachau concentration camp
Dachau concentration camp, the first Nazi concentration camp in Germany and responsible for the deaths of approximately 32,000 people between 1933 and 1945, was liberated on April 29, 1945, by American soldiers belonging to 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Felix L. Sparks. During their approach the soldiers discovered 39 boxcars filled with more than 2,000 decaying corpses, finding more inside the camp complex including rooms stacked full of hundreds of naked bodies; according to contemporary accounts, the reaction to these discoveries ranged from vomiting, inconsolable crying, and immense rage among the Americans.
Lt. Col Sparks detailed the subsequent actions of his troops during the liberation of Dachau, confirming that German POWs were fired upon by a 19-year-old soldier nicknamed “Birdeye” manning a machine-gun in the belief they were attempting to escape and with Sparks himself relieving the man from his position. Lt. Col Sparks claimed that as a result of this shooting, committed in his account by only a single individual, 12 German soldiers were killed. It is widely believed Spark’s account does not detail the entirety of the unlawful massacre by Allied troops at Dachau on April 29, with Abram Sachar asserting that “some of the Nazis were rounded up and summarily executed along with the guard dogs” and Jürgen Zarusky estimating a total of closer to 50 POWs were murdered by several American soldiers; U.S. Army photographers have provided significant corroboration of these events, preventing absolute denial as occurred in other discussed war crimes.
However, despite the seeming justice of this unlawful action Commandant SS-Hauptsturmführer Martin Weiss, accompanied by the camp’s guards and SS garrisons, had fled before the advancing Allied forces, departing with 7,000 inmates on a forced march few would survive just days prior. Replaced by members of the Hungarian Waffen-SS, whose instructed purpose was to surrender the camp to the Allies without armed resistance, the men murdered by the Allies on April 29, 1945, were not, in fact, those personally responsible for the crimes they were killed in retribution for.