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Oral history interview with Benno Gantner

Oral History | Accession Number: 2010.140 | RG Number: RG-50.030.0573

Benno Gantner, born on May 8, 1921 in Percha, Germany, describes learning about the death march from Dachau the day before it occurred; preparing to photograph the prisoners; hearing the sound of wooden shoes approaching from the direction of Starnberg (a neighboring city); witnessing the prisoners march by his family’s house on April 27, 1945; how the prisoners begged for water and the responses from the SS guards and his family; bringing water to the prisoners instead of taking photos; seeing a guard strike a prisoner; the terrible conditions of the prisoners; how prisoners were shot if they could no longer walk; feeling ashamed to be German upon witnessing the march; taking photos from his balcony the next day and being threatened by a guard; the people in town who watched the march; being approached six months later by a survivor of the march who wanted copies of the photos; learning from a customer two years later that some of his photos were being displayed at Dachau and that the survivor had provided them; offering his photos to the press in Munich twenty-five years later, but being turned down; creating a painting of the first day of the march for Dachau; seeing between three and five thousand people pass his house during the march; the SS guards and prisoners; never seeing anyone shot near his home; his opinions on the SS and on National Socialism in general; seeing a roommate’s photos from his time as a Wehrmacht soldier in Russia during the war; learning how, as a soldier on the front, this roommate had been involved in the shooting of thousands of Jews into the Dnieper River; his reasons for photographing the death march and the entire town at the beginning of the war; his father’s work as a barber and friendship with General Schleicher; his family’s opinions and the general opinions on the Nazi rise to power; Jews in Percha and Starnberg before the war; the Nazi presence in nearby Feldafing; his knowledge of events such as the book burnings and Kristallnacht; prewar life; his involvement in the German Youth (Deutsches Jungvolk) and Hitler Youth (Hitlerjugend); the start of the war and his experiences during the war years; what he and others knew about Dachau; hearing about events in Poland and Russia during the war; his childhood and family; his political awareness as a child; no longer feeling ashamed to be German; and the arrival of American forces in Percha.
The interview ends with Mr. Gantner showing and describing his photos of the death march.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Benno Gantner
Marieke Schroeder
interview:  2010 June 23
3 videocassettes (MiniDV).
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 20:09:35
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