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Oral history interview with Benno Gantner

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

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.

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.

Benno Gantner
Marieke Schroeder
2010 June 23  (interview)
3 videocassettes (MiniDV).
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Record last modified: 2018-01-22 11:19:58
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