Slim Chances in Saal and Dachau

This is an episode in “the quest for Jan van Boeckel: From Holland to Bavaria”.

Facts remain the backbone of my story. This is a study of facts which l needed to do to be able to understand any further research on this last phase in Jan van Boeckel’s life – and his death. Not the most inspiring of reading material, I wrote it because it might be useful for anyone else doing research on this place and time, and these events.

Click here if it is too academic and you want to get back to the story on Jan van Boeckel.

This is a short calculation on the chances of surviving the evacuation of the Flossenbürg subcamp Ringberg-Me at Saal an der Donau to Dachau. Click the links if you want more background on the Saal subcamp and the situation in Dachau after the war.

IMG_7200In the sixties two of my uncles, uncle Stan and uncle Jaap, did some very intense research in which they compared the Saal prisoner lists with the Dachau prisoner lists. They did this in an attempt to find out where Jan van Boeckel might have been laid to rest.

The Dachau registration lists reflect the utter chaos prevalent in the camp in the second half of 1945. Many concentration camps, including their subcamps, were being evacuated by train and by foot because the Allies were closing in. The survivors of these death-trains and death-marches were pouring into Dachau in April, leaving a trail of bodies behind them. Dachau was overcrowded and the Americans were nearly on the doorstep. Due to the ensuing chaos registration in Dachau at the time was not always accurate and sometimes a wrong, or no arrival date is given. At a certain point newcomers were not even registered.

I have studied uncle Stan’s and uncle Jaap’s research so as to understand what their assumptions were at the time, and what has changed in our knowledge base in the meantime. They concluded that 70 men had survived the evacuation from the camp at Saal an der Donau to Dachau. Secondly they concluded that the Dachau prisoner numbers of these men were within the range 159609-160059. Because they worked with assumptions that have since become faulty, these conclusions are not correct anymore. Below I will name the  premise they worked with and what information has become available since the sixties. I will then offer a new conclusion.

  1. Sixties: They worked with the premise that  trains from Saal had arrived on the 9th and the 15th of April because this was noted on the Dachau registration lists as such.
    Present: According to many testimonies and researchers the date of arrival for the Saal evacuees must have been the 24th of April 1945.
  2. Sixties: They crosschecked the lists of the men transported from Flossenbürg to Saal on the 5th, 15th and 24th of February 1945 with the registration lists in Dachau.
    Present: They did not know at the time that 200 men had already been transported to the camp at Saal an der Donau on the 30th of November 1944. On the 5th of February 1945 320 men joined them (including Arthur Simon). On the 15th of February another 200 men followed (including Jan van Boeckel and Maurice Christelbach) and on the 24th of February 1945 six more prisoners were transfered to Saal. That makes a total of 726[1]. On the 28th of February the monthly reports record the presence of 671 men in the camp[2]. This means that 55 had already died, in all likelihood from the November 1944 group.That means that around 150 of this first group were still alive at the end of February, of which probably at least a third must have died by April, which leaves about 100. Many of these must have died in transport to Dachau, leaving not more than around 20 who could have arrived in Dachau. Therefore I roughly estimate that my uncles missed give or take 20 survivors from this first group in their lists.
  3. Sixties: They did not take into account that, in addition to the evacuation by train, there was a group of 150 men who went by foot to Dachau.
    Present: This second group also arrived on the 24th and were registered as such. Of these 150 men, about half survived according to the prisoner Jakob Hajblum[3].
  4. Sixties: They concluded that the Saal prisoners were registered within the range 159609-160059.
    Present: I found a witness report of an Italian prisoner who had travelled by train,whose number was 159598.

IMG_7212

Conclusion:

Taking all this into account it would seem that 70 of the Saal prisoners who walked to Dachau survived. It also means that 70 of the Saal prisoners who travelled by train survived. Twenty more survivors should be added to those who travelled by train as the chances are that many of the men from the November 1944  group (see premise 2) were in a bad state due to having been exposed to the bad treatment in Saal for longer, and went by train instead of walking. This would mean that about 160 (70 + 70 + 20) of the 726 prisoners of subcamp Saal survived. This is confirmed by Benz (2007), who mentions 154 survivors, based on a statement made in 1969.

So we can safely conclude that, of the 350 people who were sent by train, a maximum of 90 survived. This makes the odds of surviving the evacuation by train around 25%. In contrast the survival rate at the camp in Saal was on average 66%, although it was deteriorating quickly over time.

The numbers of the Saal prisoners who arrived in Dachau by train range from at least 159598 to 160059. I am not sure if those who walked to Dachau received a number. This range of numbers presumably includes prisoners who died on the train, prisoners who died just after arrival and the train survivors themselves.

In all probability Jan van Boeckel recieved one of these numbers when he was already dead.


Footnotes:

[1] See Saaler Heimatsblätter, page 53
[2] See Stand am 28-2-45/31-3-45 Saal (1945)
[3] Witness account Eisenmann (2001) appendix


Sources:

  • Benz, W. Distel,B and Königseder, A. (2007). Flossenbürg: Das Konzentrationslager Flossenbürg und seine Außenlager . C. H. Beck, München.
  • Boeckel, van, C. and Groot, J. (1967). Studies of registration lists Dachau and Saal.
  • Boeckel, van, C. (1967) Correspondence with Dutch Red Cross.
  • Dutch Red Cross (1967). Correspondence with C. Van Boeckel.
  • Eisenman, B. (2001). Das KZ-Aussenlager Saal a.d. Donau. Regensburg.
  • Saaler Heimatblätter Heft 1 (2011).Geschichten und Geschichte. Rings um den Ringberg. Arbeitskreis Heimatgeschichte Saal an der Donau.
  • Stand am 28-2-45/31-3-45 Saal (1945). Documents International Tracing Service, Bad Arolson.

 

 This is an episode in “the quest for Jan van Boeckel: From Holland to Bavaria”.

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