Established by the Nazis in March 1933, the Dachau concentration camp was located about 10 miles northwest of Munich in southern Germany. The camp's early prisoners included German Communists, Social Democrats, trade unionists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, and repeat criminal offenders. The number of Jewish prisoners at Dachau rose in the aftermath of Kristallnacht (November 10-11, 1938) when more than 10,000 Jewish men were interned there. The number of prisoners incarcerated in Dachau between 1933 and 1945 exceeded 188,000. The number of prisoners who died in the camp and subcamps between January 1940 and May 1945 was at least 28,000, to which must be added those who perished there between 1933 and the end of 1939. It is unlikely that the total number of victims who died in Dachau will ever be known. The Dachau camp was a training center for SS concentration camp guards, and the camp's organization and routine became the model for all Nazi concentration camps.
At Dachau, German physicians performed medical experiments on prisoners, including high-altitude experiments using a decompression chamber, malaria and tuberculosis experiments, hypothermia experiments, and experiments testing new medications. Hundreds of prisoners died or were permanently disabled as a result of these experiments. Dachau prisoners were also used as forced laborers in the operation of the camp, in construction projects, and in small handicraft industries. Dachau had more than 30 large subcamps in which over 30,000 prisoners worked on armaments for the German military. Thousands of prisoners were worked to death. In 1945, large numbers of prisoners from evacuated camps in the East arrived continuously at Dachau and typhus epidemics became a serious problem. On April 29, 1945, American forces liberated Dachau. As they neared the camp, they found more than 30 railroad cars filled with bodies.