A German witness describes prisoners from Dachau
Christa M. was born in Saarbrucken, Germany in 1930. Her father had served in World War I and was an ardent German patriot. Although he was not fond of Hitler, he made a great deal of money as an industrialist, profiting from the war industry and slave laborers. He would have liked to have served in the military, but because he was too old, he became a strategy advisor. He was a strict disciplinarian and Christa M. was often punished for asking the "wrong questions." He protected his family from the war by having them move to remote areas. While living outside of Munich, in April 1945, Christa was sent by her mother to obtain some cheese. On a country road, crowded with fleeing soldiers and civilians, Christa M. encountered prisoners from nearby Dachau.
"Still now, it's just so hard for me because there are no words, there really are no words for it, there are no words, I can't find words. Well, there were people leaning against that wall, sort of hunched, quite a few, and there were some few standing in the middle of the street in little clumps. And they all had the blue and white striped uniforms, or maybe it was black and white, but they were striped uniforms, and we had seen uniforms like that in the paper and so on. But, I thought--I knew they were prisoners, but I didn't know what prisoners. But then, my God, they were skeletons, I mean skeletons. I'll never forget the eyes. The eyes were three times the size because there were no more faces. I was just... and skeleton hands. And I see all these people and the ones that were against the wall, they couldn't even walk. They could not walk."
...So I immediately went toward them... It was just a reaction... these people must get food and all I had was the cheese. So I started opening my rucksack and the minute I reached in and got the first piece, these people came literally crawling, if you can imagine crawling, as much as they could, on hands and knees, towards you. Just looked at you. To this day I see those eyes. I see those faces.
...So I gave the cheese out. ...An SS guy...he's got the big German shepherd and he screamed at me. ...If you give those bastards one more piece of whatever you got there, he said, I'm going to make you join them. ...And I started running."
Christa M. climbed a nearby hill and looked back. She could "see columns marching, five by five, SS on both sides, front and back...pushing and shoving." If anyone fell out, they were shot or dogs were set upon them. Meeting a classmate on her way home, she explained, crying, what she had just seen. Calling her a stupid ass, the classmate told her they were emptying Dachau. When she returned home without the cheese, she was punished. She cried for a long time and resolved to leave at the first opportunity.
"I wasn't ever going to talk about it. But you can't let it go by. ...I hope it will never happen again. But it could have been stopped too. Nobody did."
Christa M. Holocaust Testimony (HVT-880). Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, Yale University Library.
The length of the complete testimony is 1 hour, 18 minutes. A catalog record is available for this testimony in Orbis, the Yale University Library online public access catalog.Please see the Catalog and research guide section of this site for more information.