HISTORY OF THE LIBERATION OF DACHAU
On April 29, 1945… 68 years ago, toward the end of World War II the Allies captured and liberated Dachau. My father, Staff Sergeant John Petro was one of the liberators. It was one of the few stories from The War that my father told me in full.
Dachau was the first “concentration camp,” originally established in March 1933 near Munich, Germany. At first Dachau held only political prisoners, but over time, more and more groups were imprisoned there. Unlike Auschwitz, it was not a “death camp” but instead was a prison camp for slave labor. Nevertheless, tens of thousands died at Dachau from starvation, maltreatment, and disease. After the liberation, General Eisenhower reported, “Our forces liberated and mopped up the infamous concentration camp at Dachau. Approximately 32,000 prisoners were liberated; 300 SS camp guards were quickly neutralized.” Indeed, the month after it was liberated over 4,000 prisoners dies of disease.
Dachau was the prototype, the first of its kind, and the SS had a training camp next door. They first trained at Dachau and then went to work at one of the 3,000 Nazi camps across Europe.
My father’s story was featured on HBO‘s website when they originally promoted their miniseries “Band of Brothers” for Episode 9 “Why We Fight” on the liberation of the concentration camp.
You can read the full story at http://www.billpetro.com/johnpetro
When I visited Dachau a decade ago I mentioned to those who work at the museum that my father had been among the liberators. Everyone of them asked me the same question: “Do you have pictures?”
I pointed them to the website above and the pictures my father brought back. There have been almost 60,000 visitors to the website. I used to get phone calls from old soldiers who served with him, who took leave with him in Paris, fought next to him at the Battle of the Bulge, or were with him in Austria at the end of the War. But not any more. WWII veterans are dying at a rate of 750 a day.
Bill Petro, son of John Petro