On the 2nd of May a unit from the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, US Army, encountered Jewish inmates who were put on a death march from Dachau and were approaching Waakirchen. The US soldiers were almost entirely of second-generation American soldiers of Japanese ancestry (Nisei)
During these marches, also called the “death marches”, at least one thousand prisoners died. They died of disease, undernourishment, and exhaustion. If a prisoner collapsed or, fully exhausted, simply could not continue, they were beaten or shot to death by SS guards. The route of the marches passed through numerous villages and small towns. Scores of residents witnessed the brutal marches.
By the second of May 1945, only some of the 6,000 prisoners sent on the death march were still alive; thosewhose heatlth failed them or were unable to continue had been shot as they fell. On that day, as the eastwards-marching prisoners had passed through Bad Tölz and were nearing Waakirchen, nearly sixty kilometers (37 miles) south of Dachau, several hundred of the dead and dying were lying on open ground, nearly all covered in freshly fallen snow.
They were spotted by advance scouts of the U.S. Army’s 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, the only segregated Japanese American-manned military unit in Germany at the time. Only days earlier, they had liberated the Kaufering IV Hurlach satellite slave labor camp of the Dachau main camp’s “system”.
Finishing up with the words of one of the survivors.
Willemijn Petroff-van Gurp
Due to my resistance activities, I was imprisoned in Scheveningen, Vught, Ravensbrück and Dachau. We were liberated by the Americans.
I owe my life to my friends, who dragged me along with them when I passed out and kept me warm when I was in bad shape in the camp.
Because of the war, it became clear to me what freedom of expression, the danger of dictatorship and declaring human beings to be inferior mean. This is why I contributed to a report of my experiences of the war, because I think it is important that the youth also realize this.
My oldest son Robert had prepared himself to go to the commemoration in Dachau in my name. Unfortunately I can not go there myself anymore due to my health, as I am now 101 years old.
Willemijn Petroff-van Gurp wrote this message 2 years ago