The Capture of SS Colonel Commandant Martin Gottfried Weiss,
The Last Commandant of Dachau Concentration Camp

By Henry C. Senger

During World War II, I was with the 292nd Field Artillery Observation Battalion. Our mission was to locate enemy artillery by the flash and sound emanating from their gun nozzles, and then direct our artillery and aircraft to their location. Toward the end of the war, in late April, 1945, the Germans were retreating so fast they had no time to set up their artillery, and thus we were held back in Augsburg, not far from Munich. On April 29th, a squad of our men was sent to Munich to help the M.P.s [military police] round up the many German soldiers who wanted to surrender. They were mostly young boys and older men who were drafted into the Wehrmacht as Hitler's last resort. We stationed ourselves in a small park adjacent to the main streets of Munich. We selected this site because it was an active location and had a stone building a few feet away that we thought we could use to hold our prisoners until the M.P.s could pick them up. As it would happen, two beautiful frauleins strolled past our encampment, and a cacophony of sounds like 'cigaretten,' 'chocolat,' and 'hosen' [nylon stockings] came from our war-weary group. They all disappeared into the stone building to "negotiate" with the young ladies. Since my moral background did not allow me to "negotiate," I was the sole person at our post. It was then that two walking skeletons, in gray striped garb, excitedly approached me. With both talking simultaneously in German, they tried to tell me something. I said "langsam bitte" (slow down) and tell me in simple terms, what your problem is. (Fortunately I had one year of German in college.) They proceeded to tell me that the two men in civilian clothes in a storefront across the street were the Commandant and Adjutant of their prison at Dachau. At that time, one of my buddies, Don Notary, was emerging from the stone building, and I asked him to cover me while I proceeded across the street to challenge these two men, armed with my carbine. At first they denied that they were from Dachau. It was then that my two skeletons erupted in a rage. Pointing to one of the officers, the ex-prisoner yelled, "you killed my best friend last week". The other skeleton pointed to the other officer saying, "you have a short memory, you beat me mercilessly just four days ago." After the outbursts, the two officers admitted that they were from the prison camp, but they would not surrender to me, since I was a mere corporal. They would only surrender to an "Offizier" (one was a SS Colonel, the other, I believe, an SS Major). I said I would be happy to accommodate them in finding an officer. I then ordered them to place their hands high on the wall, and their feet far back from the wall. I told my two ex-prisoners to frisk them to make sure they had no hidden weapons. At first they hesitated to follow my order, they had such a fear of touching their former torturers. After a more stern command, they followed my order. I then paraded the four of them to the middle of the street, waved down a weapons carrier and asked the driver to take us to an M.P. station. The main M.P. station was located in downtown Munich in a subway kiosk. We were greeted by a burly, red-headed sergeant from Brooklyn, my native neighborhood. When I explained who they were, he unceremoniously took them downstairs for questioning. I dismissed the weapons carrier, and waited upstairs with my two gray-striped pajama-clad buddies. After about ten minutes, the sergeant came up the stairs with the two SS officers in tow. He told me he could only keep military men, and these were dressed as civilians. I told him I would not release them, and asked him where I might take them. He suggested the Counter-Intelligence Corps, which was stationed in the City Hall of Munich. (the "Rathaus"). Since I had released the weapons carrier, I asked him--in Brooklynese--for a vehicle and another M.P. to take me there.I asked for another guard because I did not trust the adjutant (a nasty looking character), and was afraid he might try to jump me or grab one of my skeletons as a shield. The sergeant happily accommodated me. Upon arriving at the City Hall, I was challenged by the "Officer of the Day." When I told him who I had and that I wanted to turn them in, he replied that he could not take them in because they were military men, and they dealt only with civilians. In a rather raucous voice, I told him that I had been through this once before today, and demanded that I see the top officer in charge. They paraded the five of us to the second floor where I met the Colonel in charge and introduced the two SS officers and the two ex-prisoners to him. He took them into his office, with some guards, to interview the four men. I waited in the hall, because I would not surrender my weapon (a basic infantry dictum), and they would not allow an armed person in the Colonel's office. No problem! I just wanted to get rid of these guys and get back to my squad. After about twenty minutes, the Colonel came out of his office, shook my hands, and congratulated me, saying, "You've done a wonderful job, son, we've been looking all over for these two." I then asked him what would be done to care for my two starving skeletons. He assured me that they would be getting the best care possible because their depositions would be invaluable. He then said I could go back to my outfit. I then told him that I did not know where they were, because in my travels, I was fully concentrating on my captives, and could not observe the many turns my weapons carrier had taken. The Colonel solved the problem by assigning his jeep and driver to me for the afternoon to drive me around until I found my squad. After a while we found them. They were happy to see me because they had no idea where I had gone. Fortunately, the war ended a week later! My two SS officers were in prison. Because of their past history and the current information supplied by my walking, now talking, skeletons, my captives had the dubious distinction of being charged with war crimes, along with 38 others in the First Dachau Trial. Of the 1300 or so Dachau officers and guards who fled the prison camp in civilian clothes before the night of April 28th when they heard the oncoming U.S. tanks, very few were apprehended! Those who were caught might not have been tried and convicted, because their accusers were either dead or dispersed all over Europe upon being freed. Unfortunately for Weiss and his adjutant, two of their vociferous accusers, presenting a litany of crimes committed against them and other inmates, were available for the prosecutors. The proceedings against "Martin Gottfried Weiss and 39 others at Dachau" ended on Dec.13th, 1945 (Ref #1), less than one month after they started. All 40 were convicted of participating in the "common design." For the Dachau Trials, this meant that individuals were guilty of crimes committed by others in the concentration camp, on the grounds that they had been active in the camp when the crimes took place, thus participating in the "common design." Weiss was sentenced to death by hanging, along with 35 others. (Hanging is the most degrading method of death for a German.) Eight death sentences were later commuted to life imprisonment. The remaining 28, including Weiss and his adjutant, were executed on the 28th and 29th of May 1946 at Landsburg prison, within sight of a cell where Hitler had been imprisoned in 1925. The hangman had two busy days: seven men were hanged each morning, and seven each afternoon. To preclude the use of the graves in the prison cemetery for pilgrimages by old and new Nazis, the graves were only numbered. (Ref #1: Google's cache of: My personal activities, as portrayed above, were not reported anywhere until the 50th reunion of our 292nd Field Artillery Observation Battalion in Colorado Springs [in 1995]. At that time, the old vets were recalling some of their memorable experiences. It was then that I told them about the capture of the Commandant of Dachau. None of my buddies had known about this incident, except Don Notary, who was at our reunion and remembered covering me as I went across the street to challenge the two civilians. At that time, I did not talk about this incident because I considered it as just another day's work, and did not realize the importance of the capture. It was only after many years of casually reading about Dachau that I understood that, but for my action, these two SS officers, who were involved in thousands of murders and uncountable acts of torture and starvation against their prisoners, might have escaped to South America or elsewhere if a series of "miraculous" events had not truncated their escape plans.

I say "miraculous" because only by the hand of God could such a chain of events be forged. If only one of the links in the chain were broken, justice might never have been done. The chain of six miracles began with (1) my refusal to "negotiate" with the frauleins because of my moral convictions. Instead I was at my post and seen by the walking skeletons, who, (2) a few minutes before recognized the two men in civilian clothes as the Commandant of their prison, and his adjutant. Since they could speak only in German, (3) they were fortunate to find a G.I. who could understand them. (perhaps 1 in 100 or so American soldiers had this ability). (4) When I went over to challenge the civilians, they claimed "mistaken identity," and showed me their I.D.s with their faces and different names. I was considering releasing them. It was then that the thoroughly frightened and intimidated ex-prisoners released a barrage of specific personal charges against the two, and broke their defensive stance so that the two had to admit that they were truly from the prison. (5) Assured that I had to arrest the two criminals, it was a blessing that I was able to safely move two angry and combative-looking officers and two very nervous ex-prisoners, singlehandedly, to the M.P. station, armed only with a carbine. (6) My persistence in delivering these SS officers to the ultimate authority, after being rejected both by the M.P.s and the C.I.C. officer of the day, was the final miracle in the chain.

It was only after this chain of "miracles" was complete that these criminals were brought to justice, tried, convicted and hanged for participating in probably the greatest war crimes in history. By this event, closure was obtained by the families as well as the survivors of the millions who were processed through Dachau. They needed to know that God's justice had been done. As one of the prosecutors (Lt.Col. Bernage) said, "Not to try these beasts would be to miss the educational and therapeutic opportunity of our generation. They must be tried, not alone for their specific aims, but for the bestiality from which these crimes sprang." And now you know the rest of the story.

Footnote: We must add another "miracle" for that the fact this little piece of history has been documented. Last year I was diagnosed as having terminal kidney disease. My loving wife insisted that I take one of her kidneys. After a series of tests, it was determined that she was a"perfect" match both in blood type and genetics.

Through the loving gift from my wife and skillful hands of my surgeon, this high-risk operation was successfully performed. During my recovery period, I had time to do research on Dachau & Weiss and to compose the above previously unknown facts on the capture of these two major war criminals.

April 29, 2003
The 58th Anniversary of
The Liberation of Dachau

prepared for the web by H. Marcuse, 4/26/03, link to article added 6/12/03, formatting 12/31/05
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