MURNAU camp Films

Film 5

Trademark of the film : Voigtlander
Handwritten numbers on the film : 5/31
Photos taken on the day of the liberation of the camp : april 29th, 1945

The photographer is on the 1st or 2nd floor of a building, behind a window which looks onto the main road just in front of the camp.

Historic film on which we can see German soldiers waiting for the Americans arrival, in front of the main gate, outside the camp. A white flag is ready for surrender (photo #18). The photographer makes 4 shots of the soldiers who take their insignas or decorations off, trying to throw them through the wire netting of the camp (photos #14, 15, 16, 17).

On the photos #19, 20, 21 on the extreme right side of the picture, we can see American armored vehicles as they are arriving (from Munich). The photo #22 is moved, probably because of detonations. The photographer must have been surprised and shook his camera. A Wermacht column was coming from the left (Murnau). The first car was stopped by gunshots. The officer and his driver are lying on the road, dropped dead. They might be Hauptsturmführer (Captain) Max Teichmann and Erwin Wittmann. The same fate happened to the second car with, probably, Generalmajor Ernst Otto Fick and his driver, both of them fallen dead. A question remains after seeing those photos. Officers and soldiers keepers of the camp were waiting for the American troops. Captain Pohl, commander of the camp, decided to surrender. Why was this German column going to face the allied forces only with cars ahead and without any white flag whereas the Americans had tanks and armored vehicles ready to fire ? According to a rumor, a letter signed by Himmler would have been found in the Otto Fick's briefcase : in this letter, order was given to kill the 5000 POW of the camp.

Jacek Wrzyszczynski, a prisoner's son, writes :

My father told me that the German POW camp commander was preparing to surrender the camp to the Americans who were expected at any moment. The German commander and the ranking Polish officer were standing at the front gate with the German holding the white flag. The SS car pulled up and one of the occupants shot the commander in the jaw with his pistol. At that moment the first American armored vehicle showed up and fired on the SS men killing them. My father always believed that the Germans from the SS camp came with the intentions of elimination all the POWs.

If this is true and if the Americans had been late for one or two hours, thousands of prisoners' life would have taken a turn for the worse. But to date nobody has been able to bring forward this letter of Himmler. It is said that 40 vehicles formed the German column to achieve this dark plan. Most of them turned back after the first gunshots and succeeded in escaping.

Another witness from Michael Ollier, august 16th, 2001 about the topic.

My Father-in-Law, Aloysius (Albert) Schwark, was in Murnau following the retreat to Warsaw in 1939. He survived and moved to Canada shortly after the war. He met his wife here, settled down and had three children. I married his daughter and now he has 4 grand children. He was born on June 19, 1913. He is in declining health but, typically, in good spirits. He tells me every day is a bonus - a gift from God.
He rarely talks about Murnau but one day he described the liberation and was so moved he had to get up and leave the room.
He told us that the prisoners could hear the Americans in the town of Murnau driving through with their vehicles. The Camp Officers told the prisoners that they were going to surrender to the Americans as soon as someone drove up from the town.
All the German personnel and the prisoners arrayed in ranks at the main gate. The Germans were lined up outside with their officers. Two unmarked cars pulled up in front of the gate and some men got out to speak with the Camp's commander. Apparently, the men identified themselves as Gestapo and ordered the Commandant to march the prisoners away from the camp and the Americans in Murnau. There was an argument but the camp commander refused to give the order.
The Gestapo began shooting at the Germans lined up. In the process, several prisoners were hit as well. At that moment, U.S. armoured cars appeared and opened fire on the Gestapo vehicles. My Father-in-Law told me one round practically split one of the cars in two. The Gestapo were killed. The camp was liberated but in tragic circumstances.

There is no evidence of such events on the photos. Yet the photo #18, film 6 is difficult to understand. The Americans are not yet there (the Germans are not hands up, contrary to that of the #24, film 6 taken a moment later) and it seems that the German soldiers have broken the ranks in a disordered way, as if something unusual had happened.

On photos #36, 37, 38 the German soldiers of the column (about 50 men) who had not succeeded in escaping were taken prisoners by the Americans and pushed inside the camp.




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