At The Doorstep Of Hell

Norman Haner’s tour through Europe with the 42nd Rainbow Infantry Division included a stop at Dachau, the infamous Nazi death camp.

Haner wrote of the stop, “As you know, I am in the 42nd Division and was here, but I did not want to see it. We stayed in Dachau for a couple of days. I seen enough without going there.”

Another member of the division, James W. Creasman, wrote, in part, “Dachau is no longer a name of terror for hunted men. 32,000 of them have been freed by the 42nd Rainbow Division. The crimes done behind the walls of this worst of Nazi concentration camps now live only to haunt the memories of the Rainbowmen who tore open it’s gates and first saw its misery, and to accuse the SS keepers of one of the worst crimes in all history.

“When infantrymen of the 42nd division fought their way into Dachau against fanatical SS troops, who met deserved violent deaths along the moats, behind the high fences and in the railroads littered with the bodies of fifty carloads their starved victims, these hardened soldiers expected to see horrible sights.

“But no human imagination fed with the most fantastic of the tales that have leaked out from the earliest and most notorious of all Nazi concentration camps, could have been prepared for what they did see there.

“The keen descriptive powers of a score of ace correspondents who entered the camp while the battle of liberation was still in progress, and through whose eyes the whole world looked upon that scene, could not do justice to this story. Seasoned as they were by long acquaintenceship with stark reality, these trained observers gazed at freight cars full of piled cadavers, no more than bones covered with skin and they could not believe what they saw with their own eyes.

“Riflemen accustomed to witnessing death had no stomach for rooms stacked almost ceiling-high with tangled human bodies adjoining the cremation furnaces, looking like some maniacs woodpile.

“And when an officer pressed through mobs of the forgotten men of all nations inside the electric barbed wire enclosure and entered a room where lay the dying survivors of the horror train, he wept unashamedly as limp ghosts under filthy blankets lying in human excreta, tried to salute him with broomstick arms, falling back in deathly stupor from which most would never rouse.”

Creasman went on in 14 more paragraphs, describing in sickening detail some of the horrors and desecration, then concluded, “These tortured dead can only be avenged when our world is aroused so much by what the 42nd uncovered at Dachau, and by what others have found at all the other Dachaus scattered through out Germany, that never again will any party, any government any people be allowed to mar the face of the earth with such inhumanity.”