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Summary Justice

“On a chilly, sunless Sunday morning, April 29 [1945], the 45th Infantry Division, bound for Munich and badly frayed after vicious gunfights in Ascheffenburg and Nuremberg, arrived in Dachau town. ‘There are flower beds and trees, small shops, bicycles on the ground, churches with steeples, a mirror-like river,’ an Army physician wrote. There was more, as I Company of the 157th Infantry discovered upon following a rail spur toward the prison compound. Thirty-nine train cars—gondolas, passenger carriages, and boxcars—sat on the siding. Either in the cars or scattered along the tracks lay 2,310 decomposing corpses, some naked, others in tattered blue-and-white camp livery; most were Poles who had starved to death after being forcibly evacuated from Buchenwald. While GIs wept at the sight, four Waffen-SS soldiers emerged from hiding with hands high. A lieutenant herded the men into a boxcar and then emptied his pistol into them. Another GI pumped rifle rounds into those still moaning. ‘You sons of bitches,’ the lieutenant shrieked. ‘You sons of bitches.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

Published inRick AtkinsonThe Second World War

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