Evacuation and liberation

While the US American troops approached ever closer to the region surrounding Landsberg in 1945, the Chief of the Reich Security Headquarters, Ernst Kaltenbrunner, ordered the murder of some 10,000 remaining prisoners by bombing the individual camps of the Landsberg/Kaufering concentration subcamp complex.

When the camp was evacuated in April 1945 by the SS guards, the concentration camp prisoners were sent on death marches. Source: Stadtarchiv Landsberg am Lech

According to his own statement, Bertus Gerdes, the District Administrator of Upper Bavaria, prevented the execution of this command. During a later interrogation, he claimed to have successfully delayed “Aktion Wolke A1” by justifying it for reasons of forward deployment.

Contemporary witness Max Volpert about his time in the KZ subcamp complex Landsberg/Kaufering. Source: KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau

Ernst Kaltenbrunner ordered the evacuation of the concentration subcamps in the direction of Dachau concentration camp, where Jewish prisoners were to be poisoned. On 23 April and 24 April 1945, the SS began to force several thousand prisoners to engage in death marches on foot and without sufficient food towards Dachau concentration camp. Hundreds of concentration camp prisoners who were unable to march were also sent by train towards the main camp. Many prisoners did not survive the day-long death marches: They died of starvation and exhaustion or were murdered by the SS.

The camp commander said to us on the roll call square, ”You will be taken to the Swiss border and exchanged for German prisoners of war.” It is 24 April 1945. The Americans are not far away. That we at least know or suspect. We do not believe what the murderer says. But why should we leave the camp, where will they take us?

– Abba Naor about the last days

In this photograph, taken secretly by Johann Mutter, concentration camp prisoners can be seen on one of the death marches on Neue Bergstraße towards Dachau concentration camp. Source: Stadtarchiv Landsberg am Lech

When the US American troops reached the Landsberg region on 27 April 1945, they encountered only a few hundred ill or escaped concentration camp prisoners. On 29 April, survivors of the death marches were liberated at Dachau concentration camp or on other marches towards the south.

A wonderful day was dawning when we left the camp. A new SS troop accompanied us. At the start they continued to try to keep us in check, yet neither cursing nor kicking could force the starving prisoners into rank and file. We soon became a disorderly group stumbling slowly towards Munich, and the SS gave up trying to get us into position.

– Solly Ganor about death march