The Liberation of Dachau Concentration Camp
by the United States Army

The Kindest Words:

Liberation of Dachau
Young survivors of Dachau greet American combat soldiers in 1945.

Upon being a certificate in 1975 declaring him an honorary citizen of Austin, Texas, where he had lectured on his world-famous logotherapy approach to psychiatry, author/psychiatrists and Dachau concentration camp Viktor Frankl had the following to say:

"And when they conferred this on me, I said to the Mayor, 'Mr. Mayor, it would be more appropriate if I appointed you an honorary logotherapist.' 'Because,' I said, 'unless soldiers coming from America, among them certainly some youngsters coming from Texas, had not risked their lives in order to get us out of the camp, there would not have been any Viktor Frankl from the 27th of April of 1945, even less any logotherapy or books or anything.'

Ordinary acts of kindness by U.S. soldiers helped restore humanity to concentration camp survivors.

by Lea Fuchs Chayen from Tel Aviv, Israel

          On April 14, 1945, on a sunny Saturday morning, a tank rolled up to the gates of our concentration camp in Salzwedel, Germany.

          A U.S. soldier jumped off the tank, opened the gates and announced, "You are free." To us, he and the others from the U.S. Army were angels from heaven.

          I was standing fairly near the gate and tried to say "thank you" in English, German or even Hungarian, but no sound would pass my lips.

          I ran back to my room in my hut, where several girls were lying on the floor, burning with fever, some even vomiting blood. I wanted to tell them that we were free, but no sound came out. It seems that the excitement of that morning was too much for my dilapidated condition.

          For the past 48 hours, we had heard gunfire and that morning, we could hear the noise of tanks. Then, the roaring of aircraft and all of a sudden, the sky was full of mushrooms floating to the earth. The hundreds of white parachutes against the blue sky was a miracle.

          When our liberators arrived, the Germans lifted their hands above their heads in capitulation. A few U.S. soldiers rounded them up. One SS officer started to run away and was shot dead.

          The Army organized food for us and told us we would be taken to decent quarters. After we left the infested camp, it was burnt down. A doctor came and took note of the patients who needed hospitalization. About three days later, trucks took us to a German air force training school. The buildings were pleasant and roomy and our liberators had expelled all the cadets, after having made them clean the place for us. We were told not to drag anything and should we want to rearrange our rooms, we should ask a U.S. soldier and he would give orders for it to be done. Each of us received a bar of soap, the first in a year. We had hot water for 24 hours a day and so we could shower three or four times a day, as if to wash away all the our mental hurt inflicted by the Germans. We had proper beds with sheets and received clean towels every day. After our first shower, we were asked not to put on our old rags, as they were full of lice. We were given clean clothes.

          On the airfield, we found white parachutes left by the paratroopers and dragged them back to our rooms. We made them into underwear and blouses. After not having had any underwear for a very long time, we now had pure silk.

          The U.S. Army had organized a special diet for us as we had to get used to eating again. We had the normal facilities of a dining room and we sat on chairs at tables, like human beings again. There were always several Army people present to make sure that all was well, and all this at a time when the United States was still fighting a war.

          The most astonishing thing I found, then and today, was how wonderfully kind they were to us. How remarkable it was that under the dirt, disease, rags and lice, these soldiers could see human beings, young girls. Their kindness and their thoughtfulness gave us back our belief in the human race.

          A doctor came around to each room to examine us, recommended treatment or said, with a smile, "You will be fine, miss, with good food inside you again."

          In the evenings, time and time again, there would be a knock on the door and soldiers would come in and do conjuring tricks or other silly things to get us to laugh or at least smile again. It took some time before we learned to smile again.

          Today, 52 years after my liberation, I stand in awe and thank you not only for liberating me, but for being so humane, efficient and kind.

          God bless you.


"Under the dirt, disease, and rags... they could see human beings."
"It took some time before we learned to smile again."