Dachau concentration camp (German: Konzentrationslager (KZ) Dachau, IPA: [ˈdaxaʊ]) was the first of the Nazi concentration camps opened in Germany, intended to hold political prisoners. It is located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near the medieval town of Dachau, about 16 km (9.9 mi) northwest of Munich in the state of Bavaria, in southern Germany. Opened in 1933 by Heinrich Himmler, its purpose was enlarged to include forced labor, and eventually, the imprisonment of Jews, ordinary German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries which Germany occupied or invaded. It was finally liberated in 1945.
Prisoners lived in constant fear of brutal treatment and terror detention including standing cells, floggings, the so-called tree or pole hanging, and standing at attention for extremely long periods. There were 32,000 documented deaths at the camp, and thousands that are undocumented.
In the postwar years it served to hold SS soldiers awaiting trial, after 1948, it held ethnic Germans who had been expelled from eastern Europe and were awaiting resettlement, and also was used for a time as a United States military base during the occupation. It was finally closed for use in 1960.
There are several religious memorials within the Memorial Site, and there is no charge to visit.
After the takeover of Bavaria on 9 March 1933, Heinrich Himmler, then Chief of Police in Munich, began to speak with the administration of an unused gunpowder and munitions factory. He toured the site to see if it could be used for quartering protective-custody prisoners. The Concentration Camp at Dachau was opened 22 March 1933, with the arrival of about 200 prisoners from Stadelheim Prison in Munich and the Landsberg fortress (where Hitler had written Mein Kampf during his imprisonment). Himmler announced in the Münchner Neuesten Nachrichten newspaper that the camp could hold up to 5,000 people, and described it as “the first concentration camp for political prisoners” to be used to restore calm to Germany. It became the first regular concentration camp established by the coalition government of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nazi Party) and the German National People’s Party (dissolved on 6 July 1933).
Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and emigrants were sent to KZ Dachau after the 1935 passage of the Nuremberg Laws which institutionalized racial discrimination. In early 1937, the SS, using prisoner labor, initiated construction of a large complex capable of holding 6,000 prisoners. The construction was officially completed in mid-August 1938. More political opponents, and over 11,000 German and Austrian Jews were sent to the camp after the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938. Sinti and Roma in the hundreds were sent to the camp in 1939, and over 13,000 prisoners were sent to the camp from Poland in 1940.
The prisoners of Dachau concentration camp originally were to serve as forced labor for a munition factory, and to expand the camp. It was used as a training center for SS guards and was a model for other concentration camps The camp was about 990 feet wide and 1,980 feet long (300 × 600 m) in rectangular shape. The prisoner’s entrance was secured by an iron gate with the motto “Arbeit macht frei” (“Work will make you free”). This reflected Nazi propaganda which trivialized concentration camps as labor and re-education camps, when in fact forced labor was used as a method of torture.
As of 1938, the procedure for new arrivals occurred at the Schubraum, where prisoners were to hand over their clothing and possessions “There we were stripped of all our clothes. Everything had to be handed over: money, rings, watches. One was now stark naked.”
The camp included an administration building that contained offices for the Gestapo trial commissioner, SS authorities, the camp leader and his deputies; administration offices that consisted of large storage rooms for the personal belongings of prisoners; the bunker; roll-call square where guards would also inflict punishment on prisoners, especially those who tried to escape; the canteen, where prisoners served SS men with cigarettes and food; the museum containing plaster images of prisoners who suffered from bodily defects; the camp office; the library; the barracks; and the infirmary, which was staffed by prisoners who had previously held occupations such as physicians or army surgeons.
After 1942, the number of prisoners regularly held at the camp continued to exceed 12,000. Dachau originally held Communists, leading Socialists and other “enemies of the state” in 1933, but over time the Nazis began to send German Jews to the camp. In the early years of imprisonment, Jews were offered permission to emigrate overseas if they “voluntarily” gave their property to enhance Hitler’s public treasury. Once Austria was annexed and Czechoslovakia was defeated, the citizens of both countries became the next prisoners at Dachau. In 1940, Dachau became filled with Polish prisoners, who constituted the majority of the prisoner population until Dachau was officially liberated.
Prisoners were divided into categories. At first, they were classified by the nature of the crime for which they were accused, but eventually were classified by the specific authority-type under whose command a person was sent to camp. Political prisoners who had been arrested by the Gestapo wore a red badge, “professional” criminals sent by the Criminal Courts wore a green badge, Cri-Po prisoners arrested by the criminal police wore a brown badge, “work-shy and asocial” people sent by the welfare authorities or the Gestapo wore a black badge, Jehovah’s Witnesses arrested by the Gestapo wore a violet badge, homosexuals sent by the criminal courts wore a pink badge, emigrants arrested by the Gestapo wore a blue badge, “race polluters” arrested by the criminal court or Gestapo wore badges with a black outline, second-termers arrested by the Gestapo wore a bar matching the color of their badge, “idiots” wore a white armband with the label Blöd (idiot), and Jews, whose incarceration in the Dachau concentration camp dramatically increased after Kristallnacht, wore a yellow badge, combined with another colour.
The prisoner enclosure at the camp was heavily guarded to ensure that no prisoners escaped. A ten-foot-wide (3 m) no-man’s land was the first marker of confinement for prisoners; an area which, upon entry would elicit lethal gunfire from guard towers. Guards are known to have tossed inmates’ caps into the this area, resulting in the death of the prisoners when they attempted to retrieve the caps. Despondent prisoners committed suicide by entering the zone. A four-foot-deep and eight-foot-broad (1.2 × 2.4 m) ditch, or moat, connected with the river Amper, lay on the west side between the “neutral-zone” and the electrically charged, and barbed wire fence which surrounded the entire prisoner enclosure.
Dachau served as a prototype and model for the other Nazi concentration camps that followed. Almost every community in Germany had members taken away to these camps. Newspapers continually reported “the removal of the enemies of the Reich to concentration camps.” As early as 1935, a jingle went around: “Dear God, make me dumb, that I may not to Dachau come” (“Lieber Gott, mach mich dumm, damit ich nicht nach Dachau kumm”).
The camp’s layout and building plans were developed by Kommandant Theodor Eicke and were applied to all later camps. He had a separate secure camp near the command center, which consisted of living quarters, administration, and army camps. Eicke became the chief inspector for all concentration camps, responsible for organizing others according to his model.
The camp was in use from 1933 to 1960, the first twelve years as an internment center of the Third Reich. From 1933 to 1938, the prisoners were mainly German nationals detained for political reasons. Dachau’s proximity to Munich, where Hitler and the Nazi Party first came to power, was the chief reason for the choice of using a facility in that town as a prison for political dissenters. Subsequently, the camp was used for prisoners of all sorts, from every nation occupied by the forces of the Third Reich.
In the postwar years, the camp continued in use. From 1945 through 1948, the camp was used by the Allies as a prison for SS officers awaiting trial. After 1948, when hundreds of thousands of ethnic Germans were expelled from eastern Europe, it held Germans from Czechoslovakia until they could be resettled. It also served as a military base for the United States, which maintained forces in the country. It was closed in 1960. At the insistence of survivors, various memorials have been constructed and installed here.
Demographic statistics vary but they are in the same general range. History will likely never know how many people were interned or died there, due to periods of disruption. One source gives a general estimate of over 200,000 prisoners from more than 30 countries for the Third Reich’s years, of whom two-thirds were political prisoners, including many Catholic priests, and nearly one-third were Jews. 25,613 prisoners are believed to have died in the camp and almost another 10,000 in its subcamps, primarily from disease, malnutrition and suicide. In early 1945, a typhus epidemic in the camp, caused by poor sanitation and overcrowding, followed by an evacuation, in which large numbers of the prisoners died. Toward the end of the war, death marches to and from the camp caused the deaths of numerous unrecorded prisoners. After liberation, prisoners weakened beyond recovery by the starvation conditions continued to die.
Over the 12 years of use as a concentration camp, the Dachau administration recorded the intake of 206,206 prisoners and deaths of 31,951. Crematoria were constructed to dispose of the deceased. Visitors may now walk through the buildings and view the ovens used to cremate bodies, which hid the evidence of many deaths. It is claimed that in 1942, more than 3,166 prisoners in weakened condition were transported to Hartheim Castle near Linz, and were executed by poison gas because they were unfit.
Together with the much larger Auschwitz concentration camp, Dachau has come to symbolize the Nazi concentration camps. Konzentrationslager (KZ) Dachau lives in public memory as the second camp to be liberated by British or American Allied forces. It was one of the first places that firsthand journalist accounts and newsreels revealed to the rest of the world.
Dachau was opened in March 1933. The press statement given at the opening stated:
On Wednesday the first concentration camp is to be opened in Dachau with an accommodation for 5000 people. ‘All Communists and—where necessary—Reichsbanner and Social Democratic functionaries who endanger state security are to be concentrated here, as in the long run it is not possible to keep individual functionaries in the state prisons without overburdening these prisons, and on the other hand these people cannot be released because attempts have shown that they persist in their efforts to agitate and organize as soon as they are released.
Between the years 1933 and 1945, more than 3.5 million Germans were imprisoned in such concentration camps or prison for political reasons, Approximately 77,000 Germans were killed for one or another form of resistance by Special Courts, courts-martial, and the civil justice system. Many of these Germans had served in government, the military, or in civil positions, which were considered to enable them to engage in subversion and conspiracy against the Nazis.
The camp was divided into two sections: the camp area and the crematorium. The camp area consisted of 32 barracks, including one for clergy imprisoned for opposing the Nazi regime and one reserved for medical experiments. The courtyard between the prison and the central kitchen was used for the summary execution of prisoners. The camp was surrounded by an electrified barbed-wire gate, a ditch, and a wall with seven guard towers.
In early 1937, the SS, using prisoner labor, initiated construction of a large complex of buildings on the grounds of the original camp. The construction was officially completed in mid-August 1938 and the camp remained essentially unchanged and in operation until 1945. A crematorium that was next to, but not directly accessible from within the camp, was erected in 1942. KZ Dachau was therefore the longest running concentration camp of the Third Reich. The Dachau complex included other SS facilities beside the concentration camp—a leader school of the economic and civil service, the medical school of the SS, etc. The camp at that time was called a “protective custody camp,” and occupied less than half of the area of the entire complex.
The camp was originally designed for holding German and Austrian political prisoners and Jews, but in 1935 it began to be used also for ordinary criminals. Inside the camp there was a sharp division between the two groups of prisoners; those who were there for political reasons and therefore wore a red tag, and the criminals, who wore a green tag. The political prisoners who were there because they disagreed with Nazi Party policies, or with Hitler, naturally didn’t consider themselves criminals.
Dachau was used as the chief camp for Christian (mainly Catholic) clergy who were imprisoned for not conforming with the Nazi Party line.
During the war, other nationals were transferred to it, including French, in 1940 Poles, in 1941 people from the Balkans, Czechs, Yugoslavs, and in 1942, Russians.
The average number of Germans in the camp during the war was 3000. Just before the liberation many German prisoners were evacuated, but 2000 of these Germans died during the evacuation transport. Evacuated prisoners included such prominent political and religious figures as Martin Niemöller, Kurt von Schuschnigg, Édouard Daladier, Léon Blum, Franz Halder and Hjalmar Schacht.
In August 1944 a women’s camp opened inside Dachau. In the last months of the war, the conditions at Dachau deteriorated. As Allied forces advanced toward Germany, the Germans began to move prisoners from concentration camps near the front to more centrally located camps. They hoped to prevent the liberation of large numbers of prisoners. Transports from the evacuated camps arrived continuously at Dachau. After days of travel with little or no food or water, the prisoners arrived weak and exhausted, often near death. Typhus epidemics became a serious problem as a result of overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions, insufficient provisions, and the weakened state of the prisoners.
Owing to repeated transports from the front, the camp was constantly overcrowded and the hygiene conditions were beneath human dignity. Starting from the end of 1944 up to the day of liberation, 15,000 people died, about half of all the prisoners held at KZ Dachau. Five hundred Soviet POWs were executed by firing squad. The first shipment of women came from Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Though at the time of liberation the death rate had peaked at 200 per day, after the liberation by U.S. forces the rate eventually fell to between 50 and 80 deaths per day. In addition to the direct abuse of the SS and the harsh conditions, people died from typhus epidemics and starvation. The number of inmates had peaked in 1944 with transports from evacuated camps in the east (such as Auschwitz), and the resulting overcrowding led to an increase in the death rate.
In effort to counter the strength and influence of spiritual resistance, Nazi security services monitored clergy very closely. Priests were frequently denounced, arrested and sent to concentration camps, often simply on the basis of being “suspected of activities hostile to the State” or that there was reason to “suppose that his dealings might harm society”. Despite SS hostility to religious observance, the Vatican and German bishops successfully lobbied the regime to concentrate clergy at one camp and obtained permission to build a chapel, for the priests to live communally and for time to be allotted to them for the religious and intellectual activity. Priests Barracks at Dachau were established in Blocks 26, 28 – and 30, though only temporarily. 26 became the international block and 28 was reserved for Poles – the most numerous group.
Of a total of 2,720 clergy recorded as imprisoned at Dachau, the overwhelming majority, some 2,579 (or 94.88%) were Catholic. Among the other denominations, there were 109 Protestants, 22 Greek Orthodox, 8 Old Catholics and Mariavites and 2 Muslims. In his Dachau: The Official History 1933-1945, Paul Berben noted that R. Schnabel’s 1966 investigation, Die Frommen in der Hölle (“The Pious Ones in Hell”) found an alternative total of 2,771 and included the fate all the clergy listed, with 692 noted as deceased and 336 sent out on “invalid trainloads” and therefore presumed dead. Over 400 German priests were sent to Dachau. Total numbers incarcerated are nonetheless difficult to assert, for some clergy were not recognised as such by the camp authorities, and some – particularly Poles – did not wish to be identified as such, fearing they would be mistreated.
The Nazis introduced a racial hierarchy – keeping Poles in harsh conditions, while favouring German priests. 697 Poles arrived in December 1941, and a further 500 of mainly elderly clergy were brought in October the following year. Inadequately clothed for the bitter cold, of this group only 82 survived. A large number of Polish priests were chosen for Nazi medical experiments. In November 1942, 20 were given phlegmons. 120 were used by Dr Schilling for malaria experiments between July 1942 and May 1944. Several Poles met their deaths with the “invalid trains” sent out from the camp, others were liquidated in the camp and given bogus death certificates. Some died of cruel punishment for misdemeanors – beaten to death or run to exhaustion.
Among the staff, mostly SS males, 19 female guards served at Dachau, most of them until liberation. Sixteen have been identified as Fanny Baur, Leopoldine Bittermann, Ernestine Brenner, Anna Buck, Rosa Dolaschko, Maria Eder, Rosa Grassmann, Betty Hanneschaleger, Ruth Elfriede Hildner, Josefa Keller, Berta Kimplinger, Lieselotte Klaudat, Theresia Kopp, Rosalie Leimboeck, and Thea Miesl. Women guards also were assigned to the Augsburg Michelwerke, Burgau, Kaufering, Mühldorf, and Munich Agfa Camera Werke subcamps. In mid-April 1945, many female subcamps at Kaufering, Augsburg and Munich were closed, and the SS stationed the women at Dachau. It is reported that female SS guards gave prisoners guns before liberation to save them from postwar prosecution. Wilhelm Ruppert was charged with killing several prisoners.
Several Norwegians worked as guards at the Dachau camp.
Satellite camps and sub-camps
Satellite camps under the authority of Dachau were established in the summer and fall of 1944 near armaments factories throughout southern Germany to increase war production. Dachau alone had more than 30 large subcamps in which over 30,000 prisoners worked almost exclusively on armaments.
Overall, the Dachau concentration camp system included 123 sub-camps and Kommandos which were set up in 1943 when factories were built near the main camp to make use of forced labor of the Dachau prisoners. The sub-camps were liberated by various divisions of the American army that unexpectedly came across them on their way to capture Munich. American soldiers in the 63rd Infantry Division liberated seven of the eleven Kaufering sub-camps on 29 and 30 April 1945. The 63rd Infantry Division was recognized as a liberating unit by the U.S. Army’s Center of Military History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2000.
Out of the 123 sub-camps, eleven of them were called Kaufering, distinguished by a number at the end of each. All Kaufering sub-camps were set up to specifically build three underground factories (Allied bombing raids made it necessary for them to be underground) for a project called Ringeltaube (wood pigeon), which planned to be the location in which the German jet fighter plane, Messerschmitt Me 262, was to be built. In the last days of war, in April 1945, the Kaufering camps were evacuated and around 15,000 prisoners were sent up to the main Dachau camp. Approximately 14,500 prisoners in the eleven Kaufering camps died of hunger, cold weather, overwork, and typhus.
As the opposition began to advance on Nazi Germany, the SS began to evacuate the first concentration camps in summer 1944. Thousands of prisoners were murdered before the evacuation due to being ill or unable to walk. At the end of 1944, the overcrowding of camps began to take its toll on the prisoners. The hygienic conditions and the supplies of food rations became disastrous. In November a typhus fever epidemic broke out that took thousands of lives.
In the second phase of the evacuation, in April 1945, Himmler gave direct evacuation routes for remaining camps. Prisoners that were from the northern part of Germany were to be directed to the Baltic and North Sea coasts to be drowned. The prisoners from the southern part were to be gathered in the Alps, which was the location in which the SS wanted to resist the Allies (p. 196). On 28 April 1945, an armed revolt took place in the town of Dachau. Both former and escaped concentration camp prisoners, and a renegade Volkssturm (civilian militia) company took part. At about 8:30 AM the rebels occupied the Town Hall. The advanced forces of the SS gruesomely suppressed the revolt within a few hours.
Being fully aware that Germany was about to be defeated in World War II, the SS invested its time in removing evidence of the crimes they committed in the concentration camps. The SS began destroying incriminating evidence in April 1945 and planned on murdering the prisoners using codenames “Wolke A I” (Cloud A I) and “Wolkenbrand” (Cloud fire). However, these plans never ended up being carried out. In mid-April, plans to evacuate the camp started by sending prisoners toward Tyrol. On April 26, over 10,000 prisoners were forced to leave the Dachau concentration camp on foot, in trains, or in trucks. The largest group of some 7,000 prisoners was driven southward on a foot-march lasting several days. More than 1,000 prisoners did not survive this march. The evacuation transports cost many thousands of prisoners their lives. On 26 April 1945 prisoner Karl Riemer fled the Dachau concentration camp to get help from American troops and on April 28 Victor Maurer, a representative of the International Red Cross, negotiated an agreement to surrender the camp to U.S. troops. That night a secretly formed International Prisoners Committee took over the control of the camp. On 29 April 1945 Brigadier General Henning Linden led a group of reporters including Marguerite Higgins and a detachment of the 42nd (Rainbow) Infantry Division as the soldiers received the surrender of the camp commander, generating international headlines by freeing more than 30,000 Jews and political prisoners.
During the liberation of the sub-camps surrounding Dachau (which happened on the same day as the main camp’s surrender on 29 April) the advance scouts of the US Army’s 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, a Nisei-manned segregated Japanese-American Allied military unit, liberated the 3,000 prisoners of the “Kaufering IV Hurlach” slave labor camp. Perisco describes an Office of Strategic Services (OSS) team (code name LUXE) leading Army Intelligence to a “Camp IV” on 29 April. “they found the camp afire and a stack of some four hundred bodies burning… American soldiers then went into Landsberg and rounded up all the male civilians they could find and marched them out to the camp. The former commandant was forced to lie amidst a pile of corpses. The male population of Landsberg was then ordered to walk by, and ordered to spit on the commandant as they passed. The commandant was then turned over to a group of liberated camp survivors.”
Killing of Camp Guards
American troops killed some of the camp guards after they had surrendered. The number is disputed as some were killed in combat, some while attempting to surrender, and others after their surrender was accepted. In 1989 Brigadier General Felix L. Sparks, the Colonel in command of a battalion that captured the camp in 1945, stated:
The total number of German guards killed at Dachau during that day most certainly does not exceed fifty, with thirty probably being a more accurate figure. The regimental records of the 157th Infantry Regiment (United States) for that date indicate that over a thousand German prisoners were brought to the regimental collecting point. Since my task force was leading the regimental attack, almost all the prisoners were taken by the task force, including several hundred from Dachau.
An Inspector General report resulting from a US Army investigation conducted between May 3 and May 8, 1945 and titled, “American Army Investigation of Alleged Mistreatment of German Guards at Dachau,” found that 21 plus “a number” of presumed SS men were killed with others being wounded after their surrender had been accepted.
As a result of the American Army investigation court-martial, charges were drawn up against Sparks and several other men under his command but, as General George S. Patton (the then recently appointed military governor of Bavaria) chose to dismiss the charges, the witnesses to the killings were never cross-examined in court and no one was found guilty. Many guards were also killed by the liberated prisoners, which made the issue more complex. Lee Miller visited the camp just after liberation, and photographed several guards who died at the prisoners’ hands.
American troops also forced local citizens to the camp to see for themselves the conditions there and to help clean the facilities. Many local residents were shocked about the experience and claimed no knowledge of the activities at the camp.
May 6 (23 April on the Orthodox calendar) was the day of Pascha, Orthodox Easter. In a cell block used by Catholic priests to say daily Mass, several Greek, Serbian and Russian priests and one Serbian deacon, wearing makeshift vestments made from towels of the SS guard, gathered with several hundred Greek, Serbian and Russian prisoners to celebrate the Paschal Vigil. A prisoner named Rahr described the scene:
[blockquote author=”A prisoner named Rahr “]In the entire history of the Orthodox Church there has probably never been an Easter service like the one at Dachau in 1945. Greek and Serbian priests together with a Serbian deacon adorned the make-shift ‘vestments’ over their blue and gray-striped prisoners’ uniforms. Then they began to chant, changing from Greek to Slavic, and then back again to Greek. The Easter Canon, the Easter Sticheras—everything was recited from memory. The Gospel—In the beginning was the Word—also from memory. And finally, the Homily of Saint John—also from memory. A young Greek monk from the Holy Mountain stood up in front of us and recited it with such infectious enthusiasm that we shall never forget him as long as we live. Saint John Chrysostomos himself seemed to speak through him to us and to the rest of the world as well![/blockquote]
There is a Russian Orthodox chapel at the camp today, and it is well known for its icon of Christ leading the prisoners out of the camp gates.
Deportation of persons of Eastern origin
In Operation Keelhaul, persons born in the area under the dominion of the Soviet Union were to be given over to the Soviet empire for imprisonment or death. The existence of this program had been vehemently denied in Allied propaganda before the end of the war.
As part of the liquidation of Dachau, persons of Eastern origin who had been brought to Germany under the Ostarbeiter program were forcibly deported to the Soviet Union. Despite being handcuffed and beaten by American soldiers, many still managed to resist- whether hanging themselves, smashing window panes and cutting their throats on the shards of glass, or throwing themselves into the flames of their burning barracks. At Dachau, there were 275 cases of suicide or attempted suicide. The deportees begged American soldiers to shoot them.
After liberation, the camp was used by the US Army as an internment camp. It was also the site of the Dachau Trials for German war criminals, a site chosen for its symbolism. In 1948 the Bavarian government established housing for refugees on the site, and this remained for many years.
The Kaserne quarters and other buildings used by the guards and trainee guards were converted and served as the Eastman Barracks, an American military post, for many years. It had its own elementary school: Dachau American Elementary School, a part of the Department of Defense dependent school system.
After the closure of the Eastman Barracks, these areas are now occupied by the Bavarian Bereitschaftspolizei (rapid response police unit).
KZ-Gedenkstätte Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site
Between 1945 and 1948 when the camp was handed over to the Bavarian authorities, many accused war criminals and members of the SS were imprisoned at the camp.
Owing to the severe refugee crisis mainly caused by the expulsions of ethnic Germans, the camp was from late 1948 used to house 2000 Germans from Czechoslovakia (mainly from the Sudetenland). This settlement was called Dachau-East, and remained until the mid-1960s. During this time, former prisoners banded together to erect a memorial on the site of the camp, finding it unbelievable that there were still people (refugees) living in the former camp.
The display, which was reworked in 2003, takes the visitor through the path of new arrivals to the camp. Special presentations of some of the notable prisoners are also provided. Two of the barracks have been rebuilt and one shows a cross-section of the entire history of the camp, since the original barracks had to be torn down due to their poor condition when the memorial was built. The other 32 barracks are indicated by concrete foundations.
The memorial includes four chapels for the various religions represented among the prisoners.
List of Personnel
- SS-Standartenführer Hilmar Wäckerle (22 March 1933 – 26 June 1933)
- SS-Gruppenführer Theodor Eicke (26 June 1933 – 4 July 1934)
- SS-Oberführer Alexander Reiner (de) (4 July 1934 – 22 October 1934)
- SS-Brigadeführer Berthold Maack (22 October 1934 – 12 January 1935)
- SS-Oberführer Heinrich Deubel (12 January 1935 – 31 March 1936)
- SS-Oberführer Hans Loritz (31 March 1936 – 7 January 1939)
- SS-Hauptsturmführer Alex Piorkowski (de) (7 January 1939 – 2 January 1942)
- SS-Obersturmbannführer Martin Weiß (3 January 1942 – 30 September 1943)
- SS-Hauptsturmführer Eduard Weiter (30 September 1943 – 26 April 1945)
- SS-Obersturmbannführer Martin Weiß (26 April 1945 – 28 April 1945)
- SS-Untersturmführer Johannes Otto (28 April 1945)
- SS-Untersturmführer Heinrich Wicker (28 April 1945 – 29 April 1945)
- Adolf Eichmann (29 January 1934 – October 1934) (Eichmann claimed that his unit had nothing to do with the concentration camp)
- Rudolf Höss (1934–1938)
- Max Kögel (1937–1938)
- Gerhard Freiherr von Almey, a SS-Obergruppenführer, half-brother of Ludolf von Alvensleben. Executed in 1955, in Moscou.
- Johannes Heesters (visited the camp and entertained the SS-officers, was also given/giving tours)
SS and Civilian Doctors
- SS-Untersturmführer – Dr. Hans Eisele – (13 March 1912 – 1967) – Escaped to Egypt
- SS-Obersturmführer – Dr. Fritz Hintermayer – (28 Oct 1911 – 29 May 1946) – Executed by the Allies
- Dr. Ernst Holzlöhner – (Committed Suicide)
- SS-Hauptsturmführer – Dr. Fridolin Karl Puhr – (30 April 1913 – ?) – Sentenced to death, later commuted to 10-years imprisonment
- SS-Untersturmführer Dr. Sigmund Rascher – (12 February 1909 – 26 April 1945) – Executed by the SS
- Dr. Claus Schilling – (25 July 1871-28.5.1946) – Executed by the Allies
- SS Sturmbannführer – Dr. Horst Schumann – (11 May 1906 – 5 May 1983) – Escaped to Ghana, later extradited to West Germany
- SS Obersturmführer – Dr. Helmuth Vetter – (21 March 1910 – 2 February 1949) – Executed by the Allies
- SS Sturmbannführer – Dr. Wilhelm Witteler – (20 April 1909-?) – Sentenced to death, later commuted to 20-years imprisonment
- SS Sturmbannführer – Dr. Waldemar Wolter – (19 May 1908 – 28 May 1947) – Executed by the Allies
List of Notable Prisoners
Dachau had a special “priest block.” Of the 2720 priests (among them 2579 Catholic) held in Dachau, 1034 did not survive the camp. The majority were Polish (1780), of whom 868 died in Dachau.
- Patriarch Gavrilo V of the Serbian Orthodox Church, imprisoned in Dachau from September to December 1944
- A number of the Polish 108 Martyrs of World War II
- Father Jean Bernard (1907–1994), Roman Catholic priest from Luxembourg who was imprisoned from May 1941 to August 1942. He wrote the book Pfarrerblock 25487 about his experiences in Dachau
- Blessed Titus Brandsma, Dutch Carmelite priest and professor of philosophy, died 26 July 1942
- Norbert Čapek (1870–1942) founder of the Unitarian Church in the Czech Republic
- Blessed Stefan Wincenty Frelichowski, Polish Roman Catholic priest, died 23 February 1945
- August Froehlich, German Roman Catholic priest, he protected the rights of the German Catholics and the maltreatment of Polish forced labourers
- Hilary Paweł Januszewski
- Ignacy Jeż Catholic Bishop
- Joseph Kentenich, founder of the Schoenstatt Movement, spent three and a half years in Dachau
- Bishop Jan Maria Michał Kowalski, the first Minister Generalis (Minister General) of the order of the Mariavites. He perished on 18 May 1942, in a gas chamber in Schloss Hartheim.
- Adam Kozlowiecki, Polish Cardinal
- Max Lackmann, Lutheran pastor and founder of League for Evangelical-Catholic Reunion.
- Blessed Karl Leisner, in Dachau since 14 December 1941, freed 4 May 1945, but died on 12 August from tuberculosis contracted in the camp
- Josef Lenzel, German Roman Catholic priest, he helped the Polish forced labourers
- Bernhard Lichtenberg – German Roman Catholic priest, was sent to Dachau but died on his way there in 1943
- Martin Niemöller, imprisoned in 1941, freed 4 May 1945
- Nikolai Velimirović, bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church and an influential theological writer, venerated as saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church.
- Lawrence Wnuk
- Nanne Zwiep, Pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church in Enschede, spoke out from the pulpit against Nazis and their treatment of Dutch Citizens and anti-Semitism, arrested 20 April 1942, died in Dachau of exhaustion and malnutrition 24 November 1942
More than two dozen members of the Religious Society of Friends (known as Quakers) were interned at Dachau. They may or may not have been considered clergy by the Nazis, as all Quakers perform services which in other Protestant denominations are considered the province of clergy. Over a dozen of them were murdered there.
- Alfred Andersch, held 6 months in 1933
- Hans Beimler, imprisoned but escaped. Died in the Spanish Civil War.
- Emil Carlebach (Jewish), in Dachau since 1937, sent to Buchenwald concentration camp in 1938
- Alfred Haag, In Dachau from 1935 to 1939, when moved to Mauthausen
- Adolf Maislinger
- Oskar Müller, in Dachau from 1939, freed 1945
- Walter Vielhauer
- Nikolaos Zachariadis (Greek), from November 1941 to May 1945
- Hinko Bauer, notable Croatian architect
- Bruno Bettelheim, imprisoned in 1938, freed in 1939; left Germany
- Jakob Ehrlich, Member of Vienna’s City Council (Rat der Stadt Wien), died in Dachau 17 May 1938
- Viktor Frankl, neurologist and psychiatrist from Vienna, Austria
- Henry P. Glass, Austrian Architect and Industrial Designer, transferred to Buchenwald in September 1938.
- Zvi Griliches – Notable American economist
- Yanek (Jack) Gruener, a Polish boy whose story is told in Prisoner B-3087
- Ludwig Kahn, German World War I Veteran and Entrepreneur from 29 Karls Street, Weilheim, Bavaria imprisoned 10 November 1938, freed 19 December 1938
- Hans Litten, anti-Nazi lawyer, died in 1938 by apparent suicide
- George Maduro, Dutch law student and cavalry officer posthumously awarded the medal of Knight 4th-class of the Military Order of William.
- Aaron Miller, rabbi, chazzan, mohel
- Henry Morgentaler, also survived the Łódź Ghetto, later emigrated to Canada and became central to the abortion-rights movement there
- Alfred Müller, known Croatian entrepreneur from Zagreb
- Benzion Miller, born at the camp, son of Aaron Miller
- Sol Rosenberg, participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising; sent to Dachau; liberated from the camp in 1945; relocated to the United States
- Moshe Sanbar, Governor of the Bank of Israel
- Vladek Spiegelman, a survivor whose story was portrayed in the book Maus by son Art Spiegelman
- Léon Blum – briefly, having been evacuated from Buchenwald concentration camp
- Jan Buzek, murdered in November 1940
- Theodor Duesterberg, briefly imprisoned in 1934
- Leopold Figl, arrested 1938, released 8 May 1943
- Andrej Gosar, Slovenian politician and political theorist, arrested in 1944
- Karl Haushofer
- Miklós Horthy, Jr.
- Alois Hundhammer, arrested 21 June 1933, freed 6 July 1933
- Miklós Kállay
- Franz Olah, arrested in 1938 and transported on the first train to bring Austrian prisoners to Dachau.
- Hjalmar Schacht, arrested 1944, released April 1945
- Richard Schmitz
- Kurt Schumacher, in Dachau since July 1935, sent to Flossenbürg concentration camp in 1939, returned to Dachau in 1940, released due to extreme illness 16 March 1943
- Kurt Schuschnigg, the last fascist chancellor of Austria before the Austrian Nazi Party was installed by Hitler, shortly before the Anschluss
- Stefan Starzyński, the Mayor of Warsaw, probably murdered in Dachau in 1943
- Petr Zenkl, Czech national socialist politician
- Yolande Beekman, Special Operations Executive Agent, murdered 13 September 1944
- Georges Charpak, who in 1992 received the Nobel Prize in Physics
- Madeleine Damerment, Special Operations Executive Agent, murdered 13 September 1944
- Charles Delestraint, French General and leader of French resistance; executed by Gestapo in 1945
- Georg Elser, who tried to assassinate Hitler in 1939, murdered 9 April 1945
- Arthur Haulot
- Noor Inayat Khan, the George’s Cross awardee of Indian origin who served as a clandestine radio operator for the Special Operations Executive in Paris, murdered 13 September 1944 when she and her SOE colleagues were shot in the back of the head and cremated
- Kurt Nehrling, murdered in 1943
- Eliane Plewman, Special Operations Executive Agent, murdered 13 September 1944
- Enzo Sereni, Jewish, son of King Victor Emmanuele’s personal physician. Kibbutz Netzer Sereni in Israel is named after him. Parachuted into Nazi-occupied Italy, captured by the Germans and executed in November 1944
- Jean (“Johnny”) Voste, the one documented black prisoner, was a Belgian resistance fighter from the Congo; he was arrested in 1942 for alleged sabotage, and was one of the survivors of Dachau
- Antonia, Crown Princess of Bavaria
- Albrecht, Duke of Bavaria
- Princess Irmingard of Bavaria
- Franz, Duke of Bavaria
- Grand Duchess Kira Kirillovna of Russia
- Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia
- Prince Max, Duke in Bavaria
- Philipp, Landgrave of Hesse
- Franz Wittelsbach, Prinz von Bayern
- Maximilian, Duke of Hohenberg
- Prince Ernst von Hohenberg
- Princess Sophie of Hohenberg
Among many others, 183 professors and lower university staff from Kraków universities, arrested on 6 November 1939 during Sonderaktion Krakau.
- Fran Albreht, Slovenian poet
- Robert Antelme, French writer
- Raoul Auernheimer, writer, in Dachau 4 months
- Tadeusz Borowski, writer, survived, but committed suicide in 1951
- Adolf Fierla, Polish poet
- Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist and writer
- Fritz Gerlich, a German journalist
- Stanisław Grzesiuk, Polish writer, poet and singer, in Dachau from 4 April 1940, later transferred to Mauthausen-Gusen complex
- Heinrich Eduard Jacob, German writer, in Dachau 6 months in 1938, transferred to Buchenwald
- Stefan Kieniewicz, Polish historian
- Juš Kozak, Slovenian playwright
- Friedrich Bernhard Marby, German occult writer
- Gustaw Morcinek, Polish writer
- Boris Pahor, Slovenian writer
- Karol Piegza, Polish writer, teacher and folklorist
- Gustaw Przeczek, Polish writer and teacher
- Friedrich Reck-Malleczewen, German writer
- Franz Roh, German art critic and art historian, for a few months in 1933
- Jura Soyfer, writer, in Dachau 6 months in 1938, transferred to Buchenwald
- Adam Wawrosz, Polish poet and writer
- Stanislaw Wygodzki, Polish writer
- Stevo Žigon (number: 61185), Serbian actor, theatre director, and writer, in Dachau from December 1943 to May 1945
- Konstantinos Bakopoulos, Greek general
- Bogislaw von Bonin, Wehrmacht officer, opponent
- Panagiotis Dedes, Greek general
- Franz Halder, former Chief of German Army General Staff
- Georgios Kosmas, Greek general
- Alexander Papagos, commander-in-chief of the Greek Army in 1940–41, future Prime Minister of Greece
- Ernest Peterlin, Slovenian military officer
- Ioannis Pitsikas, Greek general
- Titus Brandsma, Dutch priest, philosopher and former rector of Nimwegen University
- Jan Ertmański, Polish boxer who competed in the 1924 Summer Olympics
- Alexander von Falkenhausen, German general who resisted Hitler
- Brother Theodore, comedian
- Bruno Franz Kaulbach, Austrian lawyer
- Zoran Mušič, Slovenian painter
- Tullio Tamburini, Italian police chief
- Fritz Thyssen, businessman and early supporter of Hitler, later an opponent
- Morris Weinrib, father of Rush singer, bassist, keyboardist Geddy Lee