75th anniversary of the first transport of prisoners from Dachau to the Hartheim Castle euthanasia killing center

Historical photo c. 1941-42, showing Hartheim castle with the incinerators in operation
Historical photo c. 1941-42, showing Hartheim castle with the incinerators in operation

January 15 marks the 75th anniversary of the first transport of Dachau prisoners to the Hartheim Castle euthanasia killing center. The first 98 of a total of 2,595 victims were taken to the gas chambers of this former mental asylum on January 15, 1942. It was the start of the biggest murder operation at Dachau Concentration Camp.

The initiative for the operation with the code name of “Sonderbehandlung (“special treatment”) 14 f 13” came from Heinrich Himmler. The first major segregation of old, sick, and weak prisoners by the medical commission took place on September 3, 1941. Jewish prisoners were often set apart as a group. Subsequently 100 to 120 persons were chosen once or twice a week, who then had to wait in the prisoners’ bath before being taken in two trucks to Hartheim Castle, where they were murdered with poison gas on the same day. Their relatives received a fabricated notification of death from the Special Registry Office of Dachau Concentration Camp, frequently stating heart failure or circulatory collapse as the cause of death. When the clothing of those who had been carted off was brought back to the camp shortly afterward, the other prisoners began to be suspicious. In addition, letters to the relatives confirmed the death notifications.

Starting in May 1942 the “invalids” among those ill in the “sickbay”, the “invalids’ blocks”, and the priests’ blocks were sorted out. These “selections” were now conducted by SS camp physicians. As economic interest in exploiting the prisoners’ labor increased, the “Sonderbehandlung 14 f 13” was curtailed in the course of 1942 and finally stopped in 1943. But a total of at least 20,000 people had already fallen victim to the operation.

Video Messages on Liberation Day

Gedenken am Internationalen Mahnmahl in der KZ-Gedenkstaette Dachau

As part of the 70th anniversary of liberation day, survivors tell of the suffering they had to endure while imprisoned, how they experienced the events surrounding liberation, and give some details of their life afterward in a video message.



entrance to the camp "Arbeit macht frei"
Historical picture of the entrance to the prisoners' camp

On March 22, 1933, a few weeks after Adolf Hitler had been appointed Reich Chancellor, a concentration camp for political prisoners was set up in Dachau. This camp served as a model for all later concentration camps and as a "school of violence" for the SS men under whose command it stood. In the twelve years of its existence over 200.000 persons from all over Europe were imprisoned here and in the numerous subsidary camps. 41.500 were murdered. On April 29 1945, American troops liberated the survivors.

Picture of the historical entrance today

The Memorial Site on the grounds of the former concentration camp was established in 1965 on the initiative of and in accordance with the plans of the surviving prisoners who had joined together to form the Comité International de Dachau. The Bavarian state government provided financial support. Between 1996 and 2003 a new exhibition on the history of the Dachau concentration camp was created, following the leitmotif of the "Path of the Prisoners".