The twin brothers had no idea what they would see when they walked into the Dachau concentration camp in April 1945. They were American soldiers and were used to seeing violent deaths, but they didn’t know what had been happening at places such as Dachau.
“We didn’t understand at that time,” Hilbert Margol told students at The Weber School in Sandy Springs one recent morning. “We didn’t know anything about those camps.”
Hilbert and Howard Margol met with students to describe what they saw when they liberated the Dachau camp. They were among the first troops to reach the camp. In April, Hilbert Margol traveled to Poland to take part “The March of the Living,” a commemoration for the millions who died in the camps. The march included young people, and survivors and liberators of the camps, he said.
After they walked into the camp, one of the first things they saw were railroad boxcars, said Hilbert Margol, who lives in Dunwoody. “Bodies were stacked in the railroad cars like cord wood,” he said. “My brother Howard took a picture of what we saw in one of those boxcars. That picture hangs in the Holocaust Museum [in Washington, D.C.].”
They saw a few emaciated survivors, he said. Most of the German soldiers already had abandoned the camp, he said, and moved on to join in the defense of Munich, the nearest city. Only a couple of guards remained in the camp’s towers. “A few shots rang out and that was the end of those guards,” said Howard Margol, who lives in Buckhead.
Then they moved on. “The goal was to liberate Europe,” Hilbert Margol said.
Weber students were impressed by the soldier’s accounts. “We’ve heard from a lot of survivors, but I’ve never heard from a [camp] liberator before,” senior Sarah Queen said. “It’s interesting to hear from someone going to the camps and that they really didn’t know what was going on.”