Tag Archives: Kaisheim

Torbjoern’s Story – Kaisheim and Dachau

Kaisheim was by far the best of the concentration camps the men were sent to. The food was better and the weather had improved. The prisoners were served pea soup and half-decent bread  on arrival. “We almost had enough to eat for once” Torbjoern said. This prison was their home for the next eleven months. A group of Belgians  shared a large room with the Norwegians. They were even allowed to exercise, and the Belgians joined them. A choir was formed – much to everyone’s joy. Torbjoern was once again in the sewing room, making uniforms. Two of their Belgian friends were shot whilst in Kaisheim. They had access to machinery and made duplicate keys, leading to the main gate. They were caught and shot immediately. Torbjoern said they were both well-educated university professors and very likeable.  Several people died in Kaisheim due to mistreatment in other camps.

The men became aware that the war was not going well for the Germans. There were constant bombing raids and rumours about advancing allied troops. That last Christmas in a prison was not quite as bad previous ones. The feeling was that there would soon be  change, and freedom may be on its way. But the worst was still to come.

Dachau concentration camp, near Munich was their final destination. On the 9th of April 1945 they were sent south by train. There were many stops along the way because of bombed rail lines and general chaos. The German guards left the train when the bombs began to fall and hid in the forest. But eventually they arrived in Dachau, and the sights they were greeted with were ‘almost to horrendous to talk about’. They saw wagons full of what looked like sticks of wood from a distance, but turned out to be human bodies. Wagon after wagon full of emaciated dead men and women. Exhausted prisoner were given the gruesome task of unloading the bodies from the train. Many died whilst doing this job. There were several mass-graves in Dachau.

American troops discovered train loads of dead men when they freed the camp.

An area about a kilometre outside their camp, called Hermansplatz, was the place of execution. Doomed prisoners were marched to this site daily. A few managed to escape, but not  many. Torbjoern talked about the daily massacre of hundreds of men. There were 400 prisoners in each barrack, measuring 10×9 metres. When the Norwegians arrived in Dachau there were 30.000 prisoners in the camp and more arrived every day. It looked like the Germans were determined to exterminate as many people as possible. They began with the outermost barracks and worked their way systematically – killing 400 a day. It sends chills down my spine when I heard Torbjoern say that their barrack was one day away from being the next target. But that’s when the Americans arrived. The day was 29th of April 1945.

Here are the American troops at the main gate.

 ” If you stood on the uppermost bunk and looked through the air-vents you could just about see Munich in the distance”, said Torbjoern. At 6 am on the 29th of April they saw the Americans enter the camp, and jubilant prisoners met them at the barbed wire fences.

The Germans raised the white flag in surrender, and the joy the emaciated men felt cannot be described. Some of the guards in the watchtower continued to fire their guns. “That‘s the last thing they should have done” said Torbjoern. They were soon captured, and when the officer in charge said: “What shall we do with them?” – the answer was unanimous “Shoot them all” – which they did then and there. 

Here we can see the firing squad in action.

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The nightmare begins for real.

Sunday the 10th of May 1942 was another terrible day – never to be forgotten. At 4 am the Ulven prisoners were handed back their civilian clothes, and told to get dressed because they were off on a long trip. They were taken, by lorries, to Midtun Station, which uncannily was located about 500 metres from our house. The train gradually filled up with prisoners from various camps near Bergen, and there the poor men sat for hours, still not knowing where they would be sent. One of our neighbours came running to tell my mother she was sure she had seen my father, looking very distressed, staring out the window. Mother and I ran as fast as we could, looking for him, but I don’t believe she saw him. I can’t remember much about this episode. Maybe I was too upset to comprehend what was going on?

Unbeknown to the men their destination was Germany and three years of pure hell. The train journey over the mountainous part of Norway, between Bergen and Oslo, is one of the most scenic in the world, and it is now a much sought-after holiday for many foreign visitors to Norway. Some of the men had enjoyed skiing and walking holidays in the area and knew it well, but this particular trip was one they could do without. Kristian Stein and some of the leaders of the Stein-organisation were also onboard, but were kept in a separate compartment.

The train arrived in Oslo, after a long and distressing day. Their worst fears were realised when they were brought to the docks and lined up in groups to board The Oldenburg. The ship belonged to the Hamburg/America line and was a passenger/cargo ship. (The Oldenburg was hit by British planes in 1945 and sunk.)  The conditions onboard were awful- the last cargo had been a horse-transport, and the ship had not been cleaned properly. During the two-day journey they were allowed to come on deck in small groups and discovered that they were in the middle of a 9-10 ship convoy which moved in all directions in order to avoid the many mines.   On May 12th at 7 pm The Oldenburg finally dropped anchor and the men told to disembark but they had no idea where in Germany they had arrived.