Henry (Heinz) Landman and the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Dachau
(Eine deutsche Übersetzung findet sich im nächsten Blogeintrag.)
Veronika Stumpf wrote the biography of Henry Landman for the book of remembrance some years ago. Many thanks to Rick Landman who wrote the following text about his fathers remembrance on the liberation of Dachau.
The man who ran into her store was still wearing his S.S. uniform and was more afraid of the newly liberated concentration camp prisoners than he was of the U.S. Army. My father went down a spiral staircase pointing his rifle as he slowly descended, and there hovering in the corner, was probably a former Captain in charge of the S.S. officers at Dachau Concentration Camp. When the Nazi officer saw my father, he stood up and saluted him with an American salute and he said that he wanted to surrender to an American, and be away from the mob of former inmates. The whole thing was so bizarre to my father who could still remember being in Dachau as an inmate. Even if this man was not the same Captain as in 1938, the thought of my father being the savior of an S.S. officer was quite ironic. In retrospect, my father wondered if the Captain was actually the son of the screaming woman, and she tricked him into saving her son.
My father didn’t explain who he was and why he spoke German and just let them wonder if all of the U.S. soldiers were as conversant as he. The Captain walked upstairs with his hands over his head, and then my father and the other soldier who was watching the jeep put the Captain on the hood of the jeep and told him to hold on to the metal bar that was attached to the front bumper. This bar was the latest invention of the Americans to try to keep them from being decapitated. The Germans would tie a thin wire around a tree on one side of the street and then cross the street and tie it to another tree, hoping that the American soldiers in the convertible jeeps would ride by and have their heads sliced off.
My father didn’t have to worry this day about any decapitation. In addition to the outreaching metal stick, he had a Nazi officer in the front who would feel any wire before they would. As my father drove down the main street of Dachau with this prominent Nazi on the hood, he remembered that six years earlier he was released from Dachau and was told that he better get out of Germany, because the next time he ended up in that camp, he wouldn’t be getting out alive. Now six years later, he was an American soldier saving the life of a man in charge of all that killing.