Channel Islanders imprisoned in Dachau Concentration Camp:
By Roderick Miller
At least two Channel Islanders were imprisoned in Dachau Concentration Camp (Konzentrationslager Dachau) in the town of Dachau, just northwest of Munich, in Bavaria, Germany. Dachau was the first Nazi concentration camp and was opened on 22 March 1933, less than two months after Hitler seized power. The camp was built on the grounds of an old munitions factory from the First World War and was designed to hold 5000 prisoners. The first victims of the Nazis in the camp were communist political prisoners, but the Nazis were soon imprisoning Jewish people as well. Later all classes of people persecuted by the Nazis would follow, including Sinti and Romani, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals and so-called ‘anti-socials’. For years, the camp was able to maintain a facade as a ‘re-education camp’, despite international reports of torture, murder and suicide coming from former camp prisoners.
After the so-called Reichskristallnacht pogrom of 9-10 November 1938, 11,000 German and Austrian Jewish men were deported to Dachau. By the start of the war in 1939, the SS had established their own for-profit enterprise in the camp. The amount of foreign prisoners increased dramatically, with Poles remaining the single largest national group in the camp until its liberation. From early 1941, prisoners who could no longer work were deported as part of the T4 euthanasia program to other locations and murdered by gas (there was an experimental gas chamber in Dachau, but it was never used for mass killings.). Other prisoners in Dachau were used in medical experiments and killed by lethal injections.
Newly arrived prisoners at Dachau were put through the camp standard procedure of showering, delousing, and handing out of camp uniforms, as Kingston Bailey experienced on 19 December 1944:
Then we were told to strip an enter the bathroom, which was a very large building where about one hundred men could bathe at one time by means of showers. I shall never forget the sight of the prisoners standing naked under the showers. Many poor devils had limbs only the size of a child’s, shrunken, wizened and black and blue from beating received from the Nazi thugs. Many had terrible scars across their backs, obviously from whipping. In the centre of the bathroom were two huge wooden tubs with about twenty men in each. The tubs contained some form of disinfectant… After we had bathed and had our hair removed, we were given a shirt, underpants, trousers and jacket, which were all wet from the steam in the bath-house. We were told to take a pair of wooden sandals from a pile which lay on the floor; these were various sizes, practically worn out, and more for the left foot than the right. Then we were told to get outside and line up in twos. It was a terrible night, blowing a gale and snowing very heavily by this time. I have never felt so cold as I did that night; it was impossible to stop my body from shaking and my teeth from rattling. —Kingston Bailey, from his 1958 memoir Dachau
After the allied landing on D-Day, the situation in Dachau grew worse, with overcrowding caused by the evacuation of other camps as the allied forces came ever closer to the German Reich. Food was running out, the prisoners’ bodies were overrun with vermin, and there were epidemics of typhus that killed over 15,000 before liberation. Reverend Albert Durand was in Dachau from December 1943 to June 1944, and again from September 1944 until liberation:
I was first in Block 15, Stube 2, so-called quarantine block. Then I was transferred to Block 24, Stube 4. This was only for Priests of every nationality, except Poles, who were in block 28. We were fortunate enough to have a chapel, but only for us and not for the lay folk. In my room, we were from all nations in Europe: French priests, Belgian, Dutch, Italian, Hungarian, Czech, Greek, Yugoslavian, etc. The regime was as bad as it has been said. Just enough food to hold oneself together, no hygiene, no medicine. If it hadn’t been for the generous help given me by German priests who were permitted to receive parcels, I don’t think I would be alive today. It was here, in Dachau, that I found out that I was in a special category: N. N.: ‘Nacht und Nebel’. On the 7 June 1944, I was transferred to a camp in France, where all the N.N.s were to be grouped… Back to Dachau, where I remained till the end. The situation was distinctly worse, as camps from the east were being brought here. Then we had an epidemic of typhus, which brought the end for hundreds every day. We were lucky to be still alive when the Americans freed us on the 29th of April 1945.—Albert Durand, 14 July 1965
Kingston Bailey was in Dachau until February 1945:
Every morning we saw on average about six bodies carried from our barracks and left lying in the snow until fuel could be obtained for the crematorium. They were left lying naked, with only a piece of cardboard tied to one of their toes, on which was written the dead man’s number. So ended the lives of thousands who were once decent, clean-living citizens… During my last month in Dachau in February 1945, conditions were gradually getting worse, food was scarce, and deaths from typhus increasing daily. Bodies were piling up in the compound outside the barracks… It was a ghastly site to see these bodies, many covered with excrement and mostly all showing signs of brutality. —Kingston Bailey, from his 1958 memoir Dachau
The SS evacuation of Dachau started at the end of April 1945, with 2000 Jewish prisoners placed on trains and nearly 7000 prisoners force marched in a southerly direction, away from the allied advances. The SS personnel abandoned the camp on 27-28 April. When the US Army reached the camp on 29 April, they discovered a train nearby that arrived the day before from Buchenwald Concentration Camp filled with thousands of corpses and around 32,000 still alive in the camp. Out of shock at what they found, a group of US soldiers, in clear violation of international law, executed several dozen SS guards in the camp. The criminal charges against the soldiers who allegedly did this were later dismissed by US General George S. Patton.
The first trials of the SS personnel from the camp came before an American military tribunal in November 1945 and continued in various trials through 1948. In the first trial, 28 accused were sentenced to death and executed at Landsberg Prison. Altogether, 462 death sentences were issued by the allies in cases related to crimes against humanity in Dachau, although not all of them were carried out. Most of those sentenced to prison terms who were still in prison in the 1950s had their sentences reduced and were released. It is estimated that 41,566 people lost their lives in Dachau, including 4000 Russian prisoners of war who were shot there and at least 2000 who died in the month after liberation from the conditions of their imprisonment.
Kingston Bailey was liberated in Laufen Internment Camp and Albert Durand witnessed the arrival of the US Army in Dachau. It is probable that they, like many survivors, suffered from a variety of chronic physical disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorders for the rest of their lives.
The official memorial for Dachau was founded in 1965 and is visited by upwards of 800,000 people a year.
Carr, Gilly; Sanders, Paul; Willmot Louise: Protest, Defiance and Resistance in the Channel Islands: German Occupation, 1940-1945, Bloomsbury Academic, London & New York, 2014.
Bailey, Kingston George: Dachau: All the Horrors of Nazi Oppression, C.I. Marine Ltd., Guernsey, 1979.
Benz, Wolfgang & Distel, Barbara (editors): Der Ort des Terrors. Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager, Volume 2: Frühe Lager, Dachau, Emslandlager. C. H. Beck, 2008, pp. 233-274 (in German).
International Tracing Service Arolsen, Catalogue of Camps and Prisons in Germany and German-occupied Territories, 1949-1951.
Megargee, Geoffrey P. (editor): Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945, Vol. 1 , Part A. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum , Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 2009, pp. 442-446.
The National Archives (TNA), Foreign Office (FO), War Office (WO)
TNA FO 950/1353 (Kingston Bailey)
TNA FO 950/1698 (Albert Durand)