Units of the US Army including the 45th Division(The Thunderbirds) arrived at the Dachau Concentration Camp on April 29th, 1945. The camp is located about 28 kilometers from Munich. These battle hardened units had little idea when they walked through the gates that they were entering a full-fledged concentration camp complete with gas chambers, crematoriums and factories where inmates were worked to death in horrible circumstances. The resulting actions were chaotic and swift retribution was meted out to those camp guards and administrators who were still there. The US authorities did their very best to stabilize the situation bringing in food and medical supplies along with personnel to attend to the immediate needs of the approximately 31,000 inmates who were still alive on the day of liberation.
There were several sub camps and factory buildings where various products such as Allach porcelain and SS swords and daggers were made but this article will focus on the uniform factory located at the main camp. When the GIs had an opportunity to explore the buildings, they found huge amounts of SS cloth items such as M-43 field caps in black(for panzer) and green for other enlisted troops. They also encountered another style of headgear that looked quite strange. These were SS Fezes in green( for regular use) and red(for dress) which were to be issued to the 13th SS Handschar Mountain Division which was made up mostly of Bosnian Muslims. Additionally there were massive inventories of cloth eagles, collar tabs, cufftitles and sleeve patches. One veteran told me about filling up four of these strange looking caps(fezes) to the brim with cufftitles of all sorts along with sleeve eagles and collar tabs. One collector told me about the pile of over 500 SS cufftitles all from one unit that he had to borrow money to buy.
The son of a veteran told me about his dad who was one of the first doctors to arrive at Dachau and how that affected him. He did everything he could for the inmates. He took many photos which he made into a slide presentation which he showed after the war. He also brought home over 5,000 pieces of insignia and he proceed to give away the majority of those before I met his son in 2006. You can read all about that and much more in my upcoming books entitled THE STORIES BEHIND THE TREASURES OF WORLD WAR II “The Making of a Collectorholic”. Volume I will be available in May 2016.
GIs who visited this location in the weeks following its liberation helped themselves to piles of this stuff. I have purchased many groupings over the years but I am certain that more of it is still in attics, bureau drawers and now probably in the hands of descendents of these members of “The Greatest Generation”. For your collecting considerations, here are some typical pieces of what is referred to as Dachau SS insignia offered for sale at the Ruptured Duck. Feel free to search for more Dachau items by using the website's search feature. The search feature is the magnifying glass icon found in the top-right corner. If you have any questions about a specific item, contact us at our office phone number: (978) 928-4495.