Death transports

Local SS men wanted to rid their camps of sick and infirm prisoners. Many were murdered straight away. Many more were sent to die in other camps. Trains full of sick and dying inmates headed towards camps like Auschwitz and Majdanek. Death trains also went elsewhere. In autumn 1942, the SS briefly made Dachau a collection point for “physically weak prisoners who are not fit for use”. Few lived for long: they either died of illness and starvation, or they were murdered. The worst transport arrived on 19 November 1942 from Stutthof, as the Czech prisoner Karel Kašák recorded in his secret diary.

037 – Prisoner diary entry on dying inmates in Dachau, 1942

In the early hours of 19 November [1942] a transport of the infirm, the like of which Dachau prisoners had never seen before, arrived in the camp. Around 350 people in cattle trucks were brought not to Dachau station, as was usual, but by rail to the SS camp. All the trucks were nailed shut with long nails and as a result all the 350 unfortunates had spent eight full days on the journey from the camp at Stutthof near Danzig [Gdansk] to Dachau without food, air or sanitation. Their condition told their story and was a terrible testimony in the heart of Europe to the “new order” that German culture and this fine National Socialism had produced. Living corpses is an inadequate description to convey a clear idea of this to anyone who has not experienced anything similar. Of the 350 people in the trucks fifty-seven were carried out dead […]. When all the living and dead were in the camp, lying in the baths and in front of the baths, even the most pitiless [SS] block leaders, who had experienced and internalized the toughest and cruellest things Dachau could put them through, turned away in disgust.

Source: S. Zamečnik, “Die Aufzeichnungen von Karel Kašak”, Dachauer Hefte 11 (1995), pp. 167–251

Translation: Lesley Sharpe and Jeremy Noakes