Tag Archives: WWII

Dachau Stands as a Silent Reminder

Dachau: A Silent Reminder of Nazi Brutality

By Joseph Hanneman
Journal Times

DACHAU, Germany — Forty-six years after it was liberated from Adolf Hitler’s brutal regime, an unsettling quiet hangs over the massive grounds of Germany’s first Nazi concentration camp.

A cool wind rustles through the dead leaves of last season. It whispers what seems to be an audible tale of the cruelty and atrocities committed here between 1933 and 1945.

Village near Munich

The picturesque village of Dachau, a 1,200-year-old community in southern Bavaria, is located only a few miles northeast of Munich. The area has a rich culture of its own, but the world will always associate Dachau with death.

Dachau records show 31,957 registered deaths between 1933 and 1945, but many historians believe the number is much higher. The tally does not include the scores who arrived dead in train cars from other camps.

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Dachau’s ovens are a stark reminder of the tens of thousands of victims who were cremated at the concentration camp. (Photo by Joe Hanneman)

When American soldiers liberated the camp on April 29, 1945, there were bodies all over the camp. A mass grave was established near the camp, where about 4,000 people were buried shortly after liberation.

The concentration camp site, on the northern outskirts of Dachau, has been maintained by the Committee International de Dachau as a permanent memorial and reminder of what happened here.

Directly inside the original electrified barbed wire fence is a museum that opened in 1960. The rest of the site opened as a memorial in 1965.

The museum holds haunting pictures of the torture, starvation and death that were everyday occurrences here. A stunning film was confiscated from German soldiers when the Allies liberated the camp.

In the center of the museum is a heart-rending picture of an emaciated prisoner laying flat on his stomach, arms outstretched, The look on his face seems like a silent cry for help.

Gruesome Pictures

Other pictures show stacks of corpses waiting for incineration at Dachau’s two crematorium buildings, piles of valuables pilfered from prisoners, and two men — hung upside down — being beaten by smiling Nazi SS guards.

There are also depictions of the cruel experiments carried out by the SS, which stands for Schutzstaffel — Hitler’s elite police. Some prisoners were put in special suits to determine how they reacted to depressurization.

An original torture rack stands in the center of one room of the museum.

In a display case hang examples of the identification badges prisoners were forced to wear. Jews wore stars of David. Non-German prisoners wore colored chevrons: green meant professional criminal, black meant “asocial,” violet was for “Bible inquirers,” and pink was for homosexuals.

Outside, the cement foundations of the 34 barracks stretch for hundreds of yards. The barracks were decrepit and rotting when the camp was liberated. They were torn down, but two were rebuilt as part of the memorial.

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The statue of the unknown victim stands right outside the crematorium. (Photo by Joe Hanneman)

Each building was designed for 80 prisoners, yet at the height of the war, some held more than 400.

In the courtyards between the barracks, prisoners once stood for roll call. Sometimes, they stood motionless for hours in rain or snow, the so-called “standing torture” that claimed many lives.

Even the dead had to show up for roll call, dragged by compatriots who were forced to make sure the deceased were counted each day.

Ironic motto

The original front gate still open-, adorned in iron by the camp motto – Arbeit Macht Frei – a cruelly ironic phrase that roughly means, “Work shall make you free.”

Just outside the perimeter fence are the two crematorium buildings that were once so busy that rotting bodies stacked up in a gruesome backlog.

The oven doors stand open. On the hinge of one door hangs a single, drying rose. A wreath hangs on an oven in the adjacent room.

Prisoners who died here were often shot to death. Others died of disease or torture. No one was gassed to death at Dachau, although a shower room for gassing had been installed. Prisoners marked for gassing were sent to Linz, Austria.

Several chapels were erected on the site in the 1960s, as if in an attempt to heal the destruction wrought at the camp. The Carmelite order of nuns built a convent here.

A huge granite memorial near the entrance sums up the reason the camp has been maintained for so long:

“May the example of those who were exterminated here between 1933-1945 because they resisted Nazism help to unite the living for the defense of peace and freedom, and in respect for their fellow men.” ♦

– This article originally appeared in the April 28, 1991 issue of the Racine Journal Times. View the original news page.

Audio Memories: Great Depression and World War II in Cudahy

Growing up in an Irish family of 11 children during the Great Depression and World War II left Mary K. (Mulqueen) Hanneman with vivid memories. The seventh child born to Earl James Mulqueen Sr. (1895-1965) and Margaret Madonna (Dailey) Mulqueen (1895-1982), she has tender memories of her parents and life in Cudahy, a southern suburb of Milwaukee.

In April 2009, she sat down for an oral history interview with granddaughter Ruby Hanneman, 9, and son Joe Hanneman. The discussion covered subjects like how the big family made ends meet during the Great Depression, how having four siblings serving in World War II changed family life at home, and the lasting impressions left by her late parents. The presentation lasts 23 minutes 6 seconds.

The photo above shows Margaret Mulqueen and husband Earl across the table for Sunday dinner in the late 1950s. The photo embedded in the SoundCloud player shows Mary with sisters Ruth (Mulqueen) McShane and Joan (Mulqueen) Haske outside the Mulqueen home on East Cudahy Avenue.

15,000 Attend 1918 Field Mass at Camp Dix

More than 15,000 Catholic soldiers, along with friends and relatives, took part in a May 1918 field Mass at Camp Dix at which they heard the president of Fordham University declare the Allies would win World War I because “God wills it.”

I don’t recall exactly where I obtained my photo of this incredible event. Nor do I know how the photo was captured. The panoramic view made for a photo print that is easily 3 feet wide. It stretches from the Knights of Columbus hospitality hall all the way to the end of the crowd.

1918 Field Mass at Camp Dix
More than 15,000 Catholic soldiers and their families took part in a field Mass at Camp Dix.

Held on the parade grounds of Camp Dix, N.J., the Mass was read by Father Patrick J. Hayes, who would later become a cardinal and archbishop of New York. Mass included a patriotic sermon by Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Mulry S.J. of Fordham University. “Dr. Mulry assailed the slacker who uses religion as a cloak for his cowardice,” wrote The New York Times. “He declared it was not only the country that is calling the men of the fighting nations, but God also.”

“We must not enjoy a dishonorable peace,” Mulry said. “Go forth, Christian men, to aid the boys who are in the trenches. They are holding them for you. Victory will come. God wills it.”

Bishop (later Cardinal) Patrick J. Hayes said Mass at the Camp Dix parade grounds in May 1918.
Bishop (later Cardinal) Patrick J. Hayes said Mass at the Camp Dix parade grounds in May 1918.

Mulry had long supported the Allied war against Germany. At a Knights of Columbus field Mass in May 1915, Mulry said 20 million Catholic men were prepared to back President Woodrow Wilson should the United States join the war. His sermon stressed the idea of a patriotic Catholic, something that was often under attack by Protestants.

“The Catholic of today puts into the state not the wavering intellectual culture of Athens, not the physical splendor of Rome, nor the deadly energies fostered by materialistic evolution,” Mulry said. “Not the ungodly tendencies  of modern mechanical idealists, but the undying strength featured by the brotherhood of man and the fatherhood of God.”

“If the crisis were to come today, the Knights of Columbus would be the first to rally to the flag,” The New York Times wrote, quoting Mulry. While he gets his religion from Rome, Mulry told the gathering, “the Catholic soldier will lay down his life for his country and as he clasps the cross in his hands, his heart blood will ebb for faith, for country and for God.”

Soldiers take advantage of free newspapers, candies and other personal items at a WWI Knights of Columbus hut. (Library of Congress)
Soldiers take advantage of free newspapers, candies and other personal items at a WWI Knights of Columbus hut. (Library of Congress)

The Knights of Columbus put its young men up to fight, but that was only part of the expansive, unprecedented war work carried out by the K of C locally and abroad between 1917 and 1921. The Order pledged an initial $1 million to establish a war relief fund. The money helped establish a vast network of more than 300 war relief centers in the U.S. and across combat zones in Europe. These Knights of Columbus “huts” offered a place to unwind, but also supplied soldiers with scarce creature comforts like chocolates, cigarettes, candies and hot chocolate. (The large K of C hut at Camp Dix is visible at left in the panoramic photo.) Soldiers from many countries and religious denominations came to know the K of C emblem as a welcome sight. Each K of C war center hung a prominent sign for all to see: “Everyone Welcome. Everything Free.” The nickname “Casey” became synonymous with the Knights of Columbus staff at the relief centers. A typical soldier’s response upon meeting a K of C worker was, “Hello, Casey. Have you got any chocolates and doughnuts?”

Father Mulry attempted twice to retire from his job at Fordham so he might go to France and enter war work. On the third attempt in 1919, he did retire from his post at Fordham. He was so anxious to go overseas that he offered to pay $5,000 a year toward the salary of his successor. He died in Philadelphia in August 1921 at age 47 after a long illness.Two of his brothers were also priests. His other brother, Thomas M. Mulry, was a bank president, philanthropist and 1912 winner of the Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame.

Sadly, Father Mulry’s patriotism isn’t always remembered fondly. Fordham University’s archivist in 2014 described Mulry as “sort of a warmonger” whose speeches did not sound like those of a Catholic priest. The patriotic fervor in his talks, she contended, “was all for image.” This modern attitude fails to appreciate the deeply held patriotic views of many priests during World War I. Men like Father Raymond Mahoney, former pastor of St. Rose Catholic Church in Racine, Wisconsin. Father Mahoney was known for  his patriotic sermons, including a memorable talk on liberty and the American flag. That will be the subject of a forthcoming article.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

World War II Hero at the Juneau County Fair

Army Pvt. Rudolph Mika Jr. (at left) of Mauston, Wisconsin, talks to livestock buyer John Randall at the Juneau County Fair at Mauston in the summer of 1942. Mika went into the Army glider corps and took part in the invasion of North Africa during World War II. He was taken prisoner by German troops in Holland in September 1944 and repatriated in June 1945.

Army Pvt. Rudolph Mika (at left) of Mauston, Wis., talks to livestock buyer John Randall at the Juneau County Fair at Mauston in the summer of 1942.
Army Pvt. Rudolph Mika (at left) of Mauston, Wis., talks to livestock buyer John Randall at the Juneau County Fair at Mauston in the summer of 1942.

The 1940 U.S. Census showed Mika working at the Mauston pickle factory and living at home with his parents, Rudolph Mika Sr. and Anna Mika. The elder Mika was a carrier for the local ice dealer. The Mikas lived on Winsor Street, just a few houses away from the Carl F. Hanneman family and the home of Dr. J. Samuel Hess Jr. Hanneman was on the Juneau County Fair Board for many years. He snapped the photo of Mika and Randall.

Rudy Mika enlisted in the U.S. Army in March 1942 at Madison. His occupation was listed as a carpenter. After the war, he returned to Mauston. He died on January 6, 2001 at Mauston, age 89. Randall died in January 1971 at age 74.

©2014 The Hanneman Archive