I think Mr. Mills is trying to establish the "innocence" as it were, of the SS men killed at Dachau on April 29th. Refusing to recognize the capriciousness of war and dogged in his determination to apply a more stringent level of moral accountability against American GI’s, he attempts to inverse the significance of Dachau from liberation to massacre, from just to unjust, from Allied victory to American war crime, by arguing that the SS men had nothing to do with the institutionalized cruelty of the inmates compound.Does the relative culpability of the SS men shot during the liberation of Dachau really have any bearing upon the culpability of the US troops who shot them? To my mind it does not. The issue of the justification for the shooting - if indeed any such can be found - surely lies elsewhere.
Exactly. I’m glad to see that someone else had read the GI accounts about their emotional reactions to the camp which was nothing but a charnel house.Clearly the American troops involved were in a state of high passion. The 45th Infantry Division of which they were a part had been in active combat for well over a year and had suffered an extremely high rate of casualties. They had just discovered a train load of emaciated corpses, which had clearly shocked even those combat-hardened veterans to the bottom of their souls.
Some time ago I came across a recording on the internet (which I can no longer find!) of Lt. William Walsh, describing his action and reaction to the sight of the train. (Walsh was accused of shooting 4 surrendering German medics after showing them the contents of the train.) There can be no question but that Walsh was , decades later, still horrified and furious at what he had seen, and had no apologies for his reaction.
My point here is twofold. First, given the mental state of the US troops and the situation at hand, it is clearly unreasonable to expect them to have initiated a calm and studied judicial review of the individual responsibility of the SS guards for the conditions they found at Dachau.
Marcuse quotes Pvt. John Degro on p. 51 of his book:"…We came across a German hospital. How comfy those patients were, lying between clean white sheets with no regard for what was going on a few yards away." I think Degro’s quote does an excellent job of illustrating why the US troops became, literally, mad enough to kill. 2,000 corpses- and a few souls still struggling to stay alive - lying in heaps on 39 railroad cars, and literally a 5 minute walk away an SS hospital – staffed with SS doctors, medics, nurses and troops. The SS medical detatchments at the infirmary – did they check for survivors on the train cars? No. Did they attempt to clean out the cars – if not for moral considerations, than for practical, hygenic ones? No. They did nothing. Weren’t even bothered by the smell, which caused the advancing GI’s to retch and vomit.In their state of excitement, revulsion and hatred the US troops can, I think, be excused from assuming, without further inquiry, that the SS guards that they found were the ones responsible for the horrible conditions at the camp and in the train.
Ah – but a good defense lawyer would argue extenuating circumstances – such as the horror of Dachau. I would also like to add thatBut second, although the mental state of the US troops guilty of the shootings may mitigate the severity of their crime (if indeed there was one) it certainly does not excuse it.
- the 45th division had been in combat for 30+ continious days.
- That shootings were not premeditated
- - that a US commanding officer (Sparks) stopped one massacre in progress, saving the lives of perhaps 2 score of SS men
- that the US 7th Army begain an investigation into the incidents literally within a day of it happening.
In this instance the GI’s would be under US military jurisdiction and subject to the Rules of Land Warfare (Geneva conventions, etc.)Generally speaking, under US law and, I believe, in both "common law"and "civil law" jurisdictions a clear distinction is drawn between murder carried out in the heat of passion (2nd degree) and murder carried out with premeditation and "malice aforethought" (1st degree). Unless killed in the actual act of committing a crime himself, the culpability of the victim for his past acts generally has no bearing on the culpability of his murderer.
We’ll it’s hard to get to the truth when its covered in a deep layer of BS – such as Ernst Zundel’s phrases like …murdered 560 innocent men in cold blood, deliberatly [sic] cruelly, with malice and forethought" and "wholesale butchery of these innocent Germans" to describe the incident.So to my mind the real issue is whether or not the existence of other circumstances absolved the US troops actually involved in the shootings. As to Lt. Walsh, it seems to me clear that he was guilty of 2nd degree murder, ie, carried out in the heat of passion. As to the others, it is not so clear. The young machine gunner in the coal yard claimed that he thought the SS lined up against the wall in the coal yard had started running in an attempt to escape. There is testimony to the same effect regarding the SS who surrendered at the watch tower. In either case, if true the killings would have been justified. The report of the initial investigation apparently thought otherwise, but as General Patton quashed the investigation, a courts martial was never held and I guess we will never know the truth of the matter.
Well – the 7th Army conducted the investigation, and recommended that several GI’s be subject to a court martial. Both the 7th Army commander (Haislip) and 3rd Army commander (Patton) decided against pressing any charges, and the case was closed. However, many of the GI’s who liberated Dachau not only expressed remorse for the spontaneous killing of the SS troops, but remained horrified for the rest of their lives about what they had seen there. It seems like those memories were a form of punishment in and of themselves.But I do think the basic issue is the culpability of the US troops rather than the culpabitity of the SS guards.