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First Steps after Liberation

On April 29, 1945, the U.S. Army received marching orders to liberate the Dachau concentration camp. On their arrival at the camp, 32,000 survivors—many of whom were seriously ill—awaited them. The “first meeting of the International Inmates’ Committee in the liberated Dachau camp” took place the very next day. The committee had already existed before the liberation as a secret resistance group.

The minutes of the first meeting of April 30, 1945 document the unquestioning manner in which the former inmates immediately took their fates into their own hands and began setting up structures for coping with the new situation. This was no easy task, considering the disastrous conditions that prevailed in a camp plagued by Nazi terror, hunger and typhus. The overriding concerns were safety, provisions and hygiene. The former inmates also organized a ceremony to commemorate the “Day of Liberation, Friendship and Brotherhood” on May 1, 1945. The key message was “Never again fascism! Never again war!”

The International Tracing Service (ITS) holds in its archives far more than just the minutes of this meeting, but also all documents of the International Dachau Inmates’ Committee of relevance to scholarship and research.