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Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado


Advanced Placement Modern European History

- Advanced Placement European History -
Lecture Notes: Liberating Dachau


Liberating Dachau

Unanswered Questions
Much had already been learned about what had gone on at concentrations camps after Buchenwald some 220 miles north of Dachau - had been discovered by the U.S. 6th Armored Division on April 11. The unanswered questions were: how many, if any, of the camp's inmates would still be alive, and which unit would liberate the camp? It was the latter question that would fuel the flames of an interdivisional dispute between veterans of the 45th and 42nd Infantry divisions that continues to this day.

Sole Gate to Dacau Concentration Camp, 1933-1945
The Jourhaus Gate. The only entrance into Dachau from 1933 - 1945.


Lt. Col. Felix Sparks
When Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, commanding the 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, received orders diverting him form the frive on Munich to the liberation if KL Dachau, he was not happy. He felt the change of orders would slow his battalion down. "I didn't consider the concentration camp a military objective," he said. The message to Sparks read, " Dachau may be very important, both military and politically. Be especially careful of operation in the sector." At 0922 hours on the 29th, Sparks received another message: "Upon capture of Dachau by any battalion, post air-tight guard and allow no one to enter or leave."

Guard tower
Guard tower at Dachau

Sparks was also told that once the camp was secured, nothing was to be disturbed. The evidence of atrocities was to be left for an international prisoners committee to investigate. Most of the Men of the 157th knew little or nothing about concentrations camps and had no idea what these orders meant or what lay ahead. The time was approximately 1215. Inside the main gate, the Germans had been waiting ready to surrender.


Discovery of the Railroad Boxcars
The men of I company moved out, unprepared for what they were about to encounter. Between the town and the camp, the Thunderbirds saw a string of 39 boxcars and open gondola cars standing on the track. If ever the American soldiers need confirmation as to why he was at war, why he was required to put his life on the line day after day, it was contained in those 39 railroad cars. As the GI's cautiously approached the boxcars, the sickening stench of death grew ever stronger.

In each railroad car were piles of rotting human corpses - a total of 2,310 men, women, and children - either totally naked or partially clad in blue and white-striped concentration camp uniforms. Most of them had starved to death while being evacuated from Buchenwald 22 days earlier in an effort to keep them from falling into the hands of the approaching Allies. A few with enough strength to attempt escape had been shot down by the SS guards or brutally beaten with rifle butts.

Dachau, Unknown
Grave of Thousands Unknown at the Dachau Memorial

Private First Class John Lee was one of the first men on the scene. "Most of the GI's just stood there in silence and disbelief," he later remembered. "We had seen men in battle blown apart, burnt to death, and die many different ways, but we were never prepared this. Several of the dead lay there with their eyes open. It seemed they were looking at us and saying, 'what took you so long?' To a man, I Company was seething with anger at what they had discovered on the railroad tracks. "Tears were in everyone's eyes from the sight and smell," Lee recalled. "Suddenly, GI's started swearing and crying with such rage and remarked, 'Let's kill everyone of those bastards. Don't take any SS alive!' Never had seen men so frightened mad willing to throw caution to the wind."

Liberating Dachau
| World War II - Dachau Concentration Camp Complex |
| Unanswered Questions: Discovery of the Railroad Boxcars |
| I Company Recollections and Quotes |
| Liberating Dachau: The 42nd Division at the Jourhaus |
Dachau, Germany
| Dachau: WWII Concentration Camp Memorial | 2 | 3 |

Famous 20th-Century / World War II Quotes
| Quotes from Europe and Asia - 1900s | Winston Churchill |
| US 20th-Century and World War II Quotes |

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- AP Modern European History in Depth -

Lecture Notes and Further Reading
| Methods and Rules for a Prince: How Should a Prince Rule? |
| Borg vs Hick: Theories on Jesus and Christianity |
| Kant's Epistemological Model and Religious Pluralism |

Related Information
| Poems and Prose From the 8th - 15th Centuries | 1 | 2 |
| Marseillaise, the National Anthem of France:
A Modern-day Controversy
| Sacré Phew! |
| French Culture: Historical Champagne and Wine Trivia |

Famous Modern European History Quotes
| Index of Quotes by Speaker / Historical Period |
| Famous Quotes from the Dark and Middle Ages |
| Relevant Quotes from the Reformation and Renaissance |
| Quotes from England: 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries |
| Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution Quotes | Voltaire |
| Quotes from the French Revolution and Napoleon Era |
| Modern European History Quotes from the 1800s |
| American Quotes from the Early 1900s and World War I |

AP Class Activities
| Play the Role of Philip II |
| Visual Interpretations - French Revolution Art |
| "Ism" Maps of Europe and Asia |
| Industrial Revolution: England's Advantage |
| Marx and Tocqueville | America's Entry Into World War I |
Trials - Simulations
| Trial of Martin Luther | Trial of Adolf Hitler |

Helpful Information for Students
| AP Essay Writing Skills |
| Student-Developed Class Presentation Topics |

Debate Information
| Guide: Individual Debate Position | Debate Self Evaluation |
Debates
| Existence of God | Catherine the Great or Frederick the Great |
| Locke - Hobbes | Voltaire or Rousseau |

Additonal Course Info / AP Class Policy
| AP European History Syllabus: Quarter 1 | Quarter 2 | Quarter 3 |
| Writing Assignments, Exams, Critical Book Reviews, More |
| AP Booklist and Fees |

 

   
 

Highlands Ranch High School 9375 South Cresthill Lane Highlands Ranch, Colorado 80126 303-471-7000

Mr. Sedivy's History Classes
| Colorado History | American Government | Advanced Placement Modern European History | Rise of Nation State England | World History |
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