Unless correspondents ask us not to, this Website will post selected letters that it receives and invite open debate.
writes from the USA on September 17, 1998
I READ with interest the material on your site regarding the killings of German prisoners on the liberation of the Dachau camp. After reading your book on the Nuremberg trials I started a long, arduous process which finally got me the Army file on the case. I got a major league run-around from the Army for quite a while and it was only after I got the assistance of Congressman Porter Goss of Florida that they pointed me to the sources I needed. Even so, I'm not sure the record is complete.
I read carefully the transcripts of the Inspector General's investigation. Incidentally, I came to respect the investigating officer, Lt. Col. Joseph Whitaker for doing his best with few resources and limited time. My own "legalistic" reading of the testimony (Whitakers' case seems based entirely on the testimony he was able to elicit, with very little ability for him to follow up or rebut - a lot of the testimony reeks of lying, even to a casual observer) leads me to support the comments of Richard Widmann on your site that the story that the unarmed Germans in the "coal yard" killings were machine-gunned in a sort of self-defense when they "surged forward" toward the gunners because they thought they were about to be shot, is not credible. It certainly was not credible to the IG, who recommended that the officers responsible, Lt. Walsh and Lt. Bushyhead, be charged with murder. Among other things, there was testimony (from Bushyhead, I think) that it was understood that the prisoners were to be "executed" when they were taken to the place in question - which, incidentally, might justify a small surge from the victims.
The "surge" story is based mostly on the obviously self-serving testimony of Lt. Walsh and as I said was not credited by the Inspector General, whose recommendation for a murder charge was later approved by the legal staff of the 7th Army Judge Advocate General.
In any case, the record is also clear on other unjustified killings at other places in the camp on that day. But there were powerful forces who wanted to cover up this atrocity, as we now know.
We are interested in any fresh evidence on this wartime incident. Clearly the whole episode needs to be exhaustively and fairly analysed and investigated. The US Signals Corps photographs provide an excellent starting point.