I have the privilage of working with a man who was their at Dachau when it was liberated from the Homocidal Nazi Army. His name is Virgil Westdale. He came to me one day and told me, "Zev, if anyone ever tells you that the holocaust didn't happen, don't believe them. I was there."
I did some research on the subject of when the Dachau Concentration Camp was liberated and being that during the month of April is when the camps were liberated by the Americans, British, and even the Russians, I felt compelled to print Virgil's story of what happend that day as it occured through his eyes.
Dachau was liberated by American troops on April 29, 1945. The scenario that they encountered was Dantesque beyond description. Corpses were piled up helter-skelter in the morgue of the new crematorium and in front of the old crematorium.
Given the evidence that confronted them, it was not surprising that soldiers, observers, journalists and Congressional investigators should have assumed that the bodies found in the mortuary, on the floor of the gas chamber, and next to the old crematorium had been victims of the gas chamber. A report in a U.S. Army newspaper of the time reported:
The Dachau crematorium is a long low brick structure with a tall smokestack from which smoke poured day and night. The gas chamber is 20 feet square and has 18 nozzles across the ceiling that look like shower outlets.
Grand Rapids, Michigan. A Japanese American veteran (87), who helped free Jewish prisoners at the Dachau death camp near Munich, Germany in 1945.
Virgil Westdale, a memeber of the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, was deployed to Germany on March 9, 1945 and would travel 1,100 miles across Germany to the Austrian border serving the 7th Army infantry elements that needed the 552nd support. In this advance into Germany the 522nd arrived on April 29, 1945 at Dachau Jewish extermination camp, northwest of Munich, for an unforgettable experience. This death camp, plus other sub camps in Dachau had over 32,000 starved and emaciated political prisoners including 10,000 slated to be literally worked to death and cremated.
Westdale was advancing with the 522nd artillerymen who shot the locks off the gates of Dachau. He said the German guards had fled hours earlier when they learned of the arriving 7th Army. The Jewish inmates were confused when they saw the Japanese Americans thinking they now would be killed by the Japanese who had come to assist the Germans. The Japanese Americans soon were able to prove they were indeed Americans. Westdale recalled that "we were ordered not to feed the inmates as the food and drink would make them sick, however, we violated those orders while the officers looked the other way. We gave the Jewish inmates assurance and shared our blankets, medical supplies, food rations, and clothing as it was cold and there was still snow on the ground."
A bond of friendship has since developed between the Japanese Americans and former Jewish inmates who have since visited Hawaii for reunions. Westdale said "I cannot imagine human beings committing such acts of genocide against fellow men. While I regret I was not accepted as an aviator, I am pleased to have been a member of the American forces to help the Jewish people end their misery. During the past 60 years, never a day has passed without remembering the days of late April 1945 at Dachau feeling sad for the perished and glad for the survivors".
When Mr. Louis Abramson, the National Commander of the Jewish War Veterans of the USA, a Veterans Service Organization of the Department of Veterans Affairs, was informed about Mr. Westdale and the 522nd assistance to the Dachau inmates, he said "Virgil Westdale embodies the spirit and fortitude of "The Greatest Generation" as he and his unit helped to liberate the innocents who had been caught up in the horror of the Holocaust and incarcerated at Dachau. The acts of humanity of the 522nd toward those who had been prisoners of the greatest evil of our time represent the ultimate capacity for good and decency. As Mr. Westdale never forgets those whom he helped to liberate, the world will never forget the victory against evil achieved by Mr. Westdale and the men of the 522nd."
I am both priviliged and honored to know Virgil Westdale and would like to thank him for what he did during World War II.