San Ramon Valley USD by liaoqinmei


									Louis Haefliger-Account of Liberating Mauthasen

During the following days I talked with Ziereis about the exact situation prevailing in the
camp: lack of bread, clothing, shoes and a dreadful shortage of linens. The camp at
Mauthausen was overcrowded, and the camps of Gusen I and II filled beyond human limits.
There were as many as five sick men to a narrow camp bed. There were sixty thousand human
beings - men, women and children. Ziereis no longer knew where to turn...He speeded up the
work of annihilation as much as he could. The Krematorium chimney smoked day and night.
The sanitary conditions were at the lowest imaginable level. They were dying of hunger.
Ziereis made believe that he was touched by this himself. He put on a self-pitying air, this man
with whom I had to take my meals, this monster who once had a truck full of cadavers driven
in front of his wife's window, to boast about his work.


At the stroke of noon, May 5, 1945, all the SS had been disarmed, as well as the Volksstrum
militia and the reinforcements of Vienna firemen. Chaos prevailed in the camp. The prisoners
invaded the kitchens and pillaged the Kommandantur. The men rigged themselves out in
several pairs of pants and fought over the tins of food. There was an unimaginable turbulence.
Suddenly freed, these prisoners behaved like a horde of savages. It took some time to get the
camp to calm down a bit. I thought about my own belongings in my room. Everything had
disappeared: trunk, clothing, linens.
Orv Iverson-Seeing Buchenwald Camp for the First Time

Now spring was here, but it was not a place to enjoy the joys associated with spring. In fact much
of Germany was in ruins. Germans were scrounging in our GI garbage cans for some leftover
morsel of food. Trucks were hauling German soldiers to the rear. I can remember one truck
packed with German soldiers standing elbow to elbow. The driver was lost and asked for
directions to the rear.

I believe it was the last of April when we arrived in Weimar and set up the radio station near the
Buchenwald Concentration Camp. At first opportunity we paid a visit to the camp. I guess by
now I should have been hardened to death and suffering. Well, what we saw and smelled at this
concentration camp was more than what anyone could have imagined. More than anything, this
convinced me how important our mission had been, I had heard about concentration camps, but
I believed much of the information was embellished propaganda.

As we entered the gate at the camp we found out from one of the German speaking GIs that the
saying above the gate said, "Those who enter these gates, pass out as smoke". The odor was over
whelming. It sort of smelled like the outhouse on our farm, but much worse. Starved corpses
were stacked like cordwood in front of the furnace buildings, where the bodies were cremated
and the heat was used to heat the 55 barracks. The bone ashes were piled outside the furnace
room and was used for fertilizer. Some of the living prisoners were barely able to walk, some
were in the hospital, stacked like loaves of bread in wooden shelves, no mattresses, and lying in
their own excretion. In the latrine there was a six foot trench where some of prisoners were
lying, apparently so weak they couldn't keep from falling into the trench. While talking to an
English speaking prisoner, I noticed a commotion behind us. I asked about it and he told me one
of the SS guards had committed suicide. When I looked at the SS guard I noticed his throat had
been cut from ear to ear and there was no knife nearby. Downstairs under the furnace room
there was a set-up for torture methods. The prisoners were hung by their thumbs and beaten.
The deep scratches showed on the walls where they were attached by their thumbs. Also there
was a "hospital" where "experiments" were done on the prisoners. In sort of a showcase was
displayed a lamp with a lampshade made from the skin off the breast of a prisoner. After a few
days citizens from the nearby areas were brought in to be forced to view the campsite. Many
shed tears, some were overcome emotionally, and some stared in cold silence.
Sargeant Ragine Farris-Liberating Nordhausen

"For days and weeks, even months afterwards, the word Nordhausen brought us a mixed
response of emotions. We were battle-tired and combat-wise medics, and we thought there was
nothing left in the books we didn't know. Yet in a short period of two days I and many others of
the Division saw and lived a story we shall never forget.

The strongly Nazified town of Nordhausen fell before air-armor and night attack on 11 April. Our
S-2, Captain Johnson, brought the news that we were needed to evacuate patients from a
concentration camp in one of the large factory areas of the city. Lying among the multitudes of
dead were reported to be a few living 'beings', and with quick medical attention some might be
saved. Colonel Taggart called into action, early 12 April, the litter bearers and medical
technicians as well as any other men available from duties with our own wounded. In a caravan
of trucks we rushed into a job which proved unbelievable to an American; a job distasteful and
sobering; one created by the fanatical inhuman Nazi machine. We found out the full meaning of
the words 'Concentration Camp.'

Bombs had ground flesh and bones into the cement floor. Rows upon rows of skin-covered
skeletons met our eyes. Men lay as they starved, discolored, and lying in indescribable human
filth. Their striped coats and prison numbers hung to their frames as a last token of those who
enslaved and killed them. In this large motor shop there were no living beings; only the distorted
dead. We went to the stairs and under the casing were neatly piled about seventy-five bodies, a
sight I could never erase from memories. Dying on the second floor were, upon later count,
about twenty-five men or half-men. Some of these, lying in double-decked wooden bedsteads,
were grotesquely still, yet hanging tenaciously to life's breath. They were still alive.

We saw, at a quick survey, this was to be as big a medical job as we had been called upon to do.
Speed would save lives, so we fell into a day of evacuation, hospitalization, and feeding,
unparalleled to any day of combat. It became evident almost immediately that our few medics
could not evacuate hundreds of patients, set up improvised hospital wards, and feed many
mouths without help. So under the leadership of Colonel Jones and Chaplain Steinbeck, who
spoke German, we rounded up German civilians on the streets of this Nazi city as we saw them.
The order was, "You will work." In this manner, about one hundred German litter bearers were
gathered up and rushed to the scene.

I was accosted by a less emaciated prisoner who asked if anyone spoke French. When I
answered, he brightened and related that a group of Frenchmen had established a small colony
in the large cellar of another building, and would I please bring aid to them. This was my signal
to get into gear, and off across bomb-cratered grounds we picked our way to this particular
building. There were many bodies strewn about. One girl in particular I noticed; I would say she
was about seventeen years old. She lay there where she had fallen, gangrened and naked. In my
own thoughts I choked up - couldn't quite understand how and why war could do these things.
But my job crowded out any serious impressions at the moment. Only later I thought of what I
had seen. Now we approached the cellar stairs leading to the French group. I heard 'monsieur'
very softly, and at my feet, lying as if dead, was a cadaverous man; he raised up and said, in
beautiful Parisian French, that if he were stronger he would honor me by the traditional kiss on
either cheek. I learned that he was a captain from France's famous Saint Cyr Military Academy
and had received particularly sadistic attention from the SS Troopers. He looked to be seventy-
five but was only forty-five. His last step had taken him to the edge of the stairs. He had gone as
far as possible to escape the fury of war when the Americans fought into Nordhausen. He lay
dust-covered, where he had nearly been crushed by falling walls - yet he displayed remarkable
discipline and composure. With care, he was lifted upon a litter and taken to our waiting
ambulances. I often wonder if he made it back to life, and if he had ever been able to tell his

We went downstairs into a filth indescribable, accompanied by a horrible dead-rot stench. There
in beds of crude wood I saw men too weak to move dead comrades from their side. One
hunched-down French boy was huddled up against a dead comrade, as if to keep warm, having
no concept that the friend had been dead two or three days and unable to move his own limbs.
There were others, in dark cellar rooms, lying in disease and filth, being eaten away by diarrhea
and malnutrition. It was like stepping into the Dark Ages to walk into one of these cellar-cells
and seek out the living; like walking into a world apart and returning to bring these shadow-men
into the environment of a clean American ambulance. In one bomb crater lay about twenty
bodies. We pulled three or four feebly struggling living ones from the bottom of the pile; they
had been struggling for five or six days to get out but the weight of the other bodies piled on
them had been too much for their starved, emaciated frames. We saw those on a bank who had
been cut down by machine guns in trying to escape the fury of the guards. I saw one man feebly
stagger to attention and salute us as tears slowly trickled down his cheeks. Too weak to walk, this
man was genuinely moved to pay tribute to those who were helping him - showing him the first
kind act in years. A few men were able to walk on their swollen, bulging feet; they had no shoes
and they were unbelievably dirty. There were lash marks on many of their scantily covered backs
- definite proof of beatings and floggings by their inhuman guards. One Parisian business told
me he had been kicked and beaten repeatedly. He was comparatively healthy, as he had been in
camp only three months. He told me that many of the 3,000 dead in the camp had been worked,
beaten and forced at top speed until they could work on longer, after which they were starved off
or killed outright."
Lt. Col. Felix Sparks on the Liberation of Dachau

At 0730 on the morning of April 29th, the task force had resumed the attack with companies L
and K and the tank battalion as the assault force. The attack zone assigned to company L was
through the city of Dachau, but did not include the concentration camp, a short distance outside
of the city. Company I was designated as the reserve unit, with the mission of mopping up any
resistance bypassed by the assault forces. Shortly after the attack began, I received a radio
message from the Regimental Commander ordering me to proceed immediately to take the
Dachau concentration camp. The order also stated: "Upon capture, post an airtight guard and
allow no one to enter or leave."

 As the main gate to the camp was closed and locked, we scaled the brick wall surrounding the
camp. As I climbed over the wall following the advancing soldiers, I heard rifle fire to my right
front. The lead elements of the company had reached the confinement area and were disposing
of the SS troops manning the guard towers, along with a number of vicious guard dogs. By the
time I neared the confinement area, the brief battle was almost over.

 After I entered the camp over the wall, I was not able to see the confinement area, and had no
idea where it was. My vision was obscured by the many buildings and barracks which were
outside the confinement area. The confinement area itself occupied only a small portion of the
total camp area. As I went further into the camp, I saw some men from company I collecting
German prisoners. Next to the camp hospital, there was a L-shaped masonry wall, about eight
feet high, which had been used as a coal bin. The ground was covered with coal dust, and a
narrow gage railroad track, laid on top of the ground, lead into the area. The prisoners were
being collected in the semi-enclosed area.

 As I watched about fifty German troops were brought in from various directions. A machine
gun squad from company I was guarding the prisoners. After watching for a few minutes, I
started for the confinement area. After I had walked away for a short distance, I hear the
machine gun guarding the prisoners open fire. I immediately ran back to the gun and kicked the
gunner off the gun with my boot. I then grabbed him by the collar and said: "what the hell are
you doing?" He was a young private about 19 years old and was crying hysterically. His reply to
me was: "Colonel, they were trying to get away." I doubt that they were, but in any event he
killed about twelve of the prisoners and wounded several more. I placed a non-com on the gun,
and headed toward the confinement area.

 It was the forgoing incident which has given rise to wild claims in various publications that
most or all of the German prisoners captured at Dachau were executed. Nothing could be further
from the truth. The total number of German guards killed at Dachau during that day most
certainly not exceed fifty, with thirty probably being a more accurate figure. The regimental
records for that date indicate that over a thousand German prisoners were brought to the
regimental collecting point. Since my task force was leading the regimental attack, almost all the
prisoners were taken by the task force, including several hundred from Dachau.

 During the early period of our entry into the camp, a number of company I men all battle
hardened veterans, became extremely distraught. Some cried, while others raged. Some thirty
minutes passed before I could restore order and discipline. During that time, the over thirty
thousand camp prisoners still alive began to grasp the significance of the events taking place.
They streamed from their crowded barracks by the hundreds and were soon pressing at the
confining barbed wire fence. They began to shout in unison, which soon became a chilling roar.
At the same time several bodies were being tossed about and torn apart by hundreds of hands. I
was told later that those being killed at the time were "informers." After about ten minutes of
screaming and shouting, the prisoners quieted down. At that point, a man came forward at the
gate and identified himself as an American soldier. We immediately let him out. He turned out
to be Major Rene Guiraud of our OSS. He informed me that he had been captured earlier while
on an intelligence mission and sentenced to death, but the sentence was never carried out.

 Within about an hour of our entry, events were under control. Guard posts were set up, and
communications were established with the inmates. We informed them that we could not release
them immediately but that food and medical assistance would arrive soon. The dead, numbering
about nine thousand, were later buried with the forced assistance of the good citizens of the city
of Dachau.

 On the morning of April 30, our first battalion resumed the attack towards Munich.

  At this point, I should point out that Seventh Army Headquarters took over the actual camp
administration on the day following the liberation. The camp occupation by combat troops after
that time was solely for security purposes. On the morning of April 30, several trucks arrived
from Seventh Army carrying food and medical supplies. The following day, the 116th and 127th
Evacuation Hospitals arrived and took over the care and feeding of the prisoners.
Chuck Ferree-Liberation of Dachau

     Pronounce it as though you were clearing something nasty from your throat...DACHAU.
     My first inkling that this pleasant Bavarian village would become a word to chill the
     blood, came from the terrible odor as my passenger and I disembarked from our little
     two-seater Stinson L-5.

     We were at least a mile away maybe more, but we could still smell something very
     disagreeable. The SHAEF officer climbed into a Command car with another General, and
     off they went. I hopped into a jeep with a S/Sgt. who wore the shoulder patch of the 45th.
     Infantry Division...the Thunderbird Division, which had been in constant combat for
     almost three years.

     We followed the command car. It was cold in the jeep, even though the sun shone
     brightly, and I wore my fleece-lined flight jacket. It had snowed the night before. The date
     was April 29th. 1945. The Sgt. began telling me what to expect when we reached our
     destination, which was Dachau, a Nazi concentration camp liberated only that morning. I
     asked about the bad odor, he said, "just wait, it gets a lot worse."

     Dachau had its typical Bavarian attractive homes and neat gardens. This gave me no hint
     of what lay beyond the landscaped entrance to the death camp.

     The first place the Sgt. drove me to was the awful proof of the rumors---boxcars and
     bodies.The stories we had heard gave no indication of the grotesque forms of the victims
     and their emaciated condition. These miserable creatures had kept an unusual
     rendezvous with death. The train loaded with prisoners had been shipped away as the
     American Liberators approached. The camp at their destination refused to accept them.
     Without food or water they had been shuttled around from camp to camp and ended up
     back at Dachau. Most had died on the return trip. The few who had managed to climb
     from the box cars were shot down by the SS. The bony frames stuck out like skeletons, no
     meat on those bones. Many of the cars were open gondolas. The dusting of snow gave the
     cadavers a ghostly aspect.

     We passed along a row of imposing homes of camp directors and entered a gate decorated
     with a large German Imperial eagle. The barracks inside bore lighting-decorated SS
     insignia. We passed a large kennel, it's occupants lay victims of the wrath of the recently
     liberated prisoners. Large and once beautiful German Shepherds, throats slashed, heads
     crushed. We then saw a building appropriately marked "Braus Bad," to lure victims into
     the gas chamber. Warnings were painted on the building and the door; the international
     signal for danger...a skull with crossed bones.

     Leaving the gas chamber we found further proof of the Nazi claim to everlasting infamy---
     human bodies heaped hodge-podge filling two rooms and sprawling out the doors. It was
     here that the cold weather worked to the advantage of the witnesses. The stench of the
     bodies and the accompanying filth would have been unbearable under other conditions.
     The order permeated right through my heavy leather jacket.

     Between these crowded morgues was the creamatorium where four yawning doors stood
     open and eagerly consumed more victims. Outside there was much evidence of bones and
     ash where the furnaces had been emptied many times of their gruesome contents. Beyond
this scene was a stall which had been used as an execution chamber where many had met
death by the firing squad.

This death farm was separated from the main stockades by a high wire fence and a moat.
Swarming along the fence were hundreds of the more fortunate prisoners who were now
liberated and expressing their gratitude.

Beneath the murky waters of the moat were the features of several SS guards and on the
opposite bank was a fitting monument to the depth of the Nazi culture. Frozen on the
ground were the bodies of several SS troopers who had been slain by their liberated
captives before they could surrender to the Americans. At the bottom of each of the many
high watch towers, more bodies lay. SS guards who had tried to put up a fight and were
killed by the Infantrymen of the 45th. Division. After seeing many more horrors of
Dachau it was small wonder that the only superman who still held his head up high was
the larger-than-life-sized statue of the SS trooper on the wall.

After 3-4 days touring Dachau, the SHAEF officer and the others in our group flew back
to Frankfurt. My passenger commented to me as we settled into our seats: "Jesus Christ, I
wonder how many more of these fucking places we're going to find."
Henry Herder Jr. Liberation of Buchewald

Slowly, as we formed up, a ragged group of human beings started to creep out of and from between the
buildings in front of us. As we watched these men, the number and the different types of buildings came
to my attention. From them came these human beings, timidly, slowly, deliberately showing their hands,
all in a sort of uniform, or bits and pieces of a uniform, made from horribly coarse cloth with stripes
running vertically. The stripes alternating a dull gray with a dark blue. Some of those human beings wore
pants made of the material, some had shirt/jackets, and some had hats. Some only had one piece of the
uniform, others had two, many had all three parts. They came out of the buildings and just stood there,
making me feel foolish with all of that firepower hanging on me. I certainly wouldn't be needing it with
these folks.

The jeeps, our company commander's and a few others, rolled forward very slowly toward these people,
and, as they parted, drove slowly through them, to the brick building next to that tall chimney, and our
officers disappeared inside. Our platoon sergeant had us form up some and relax, then signaled that horde
of human beings to stand fast; he just held both hands up, palms out, and motioned them backwards
slowly. Everything was very quiet. The tanks were all in slow idle.

Hesitatingly we inched closer to that strange group as they also started inching closer to us. Some of them
spoke English, and asked, "Are you American?" We said we were, and the reaction of the whole mass
was immediate: simultaneously on their faces were relaxation, ease, joy, and they all began chattering to
us in a babble of tongues that we couldn't answer--but we could, and did, point the muzzles of our
weapons at the ground, making it obvious these weapons were not "at the ready".

It was then that the smell of the place started to get to me. Our noses, rebelling against the surroundings
they were constantly subjected to were not functioning anywhere near normally. But now there was a new
odor, thick and hanging, and it assaulted the senses.

There was still space between us and the group in front of us, the people on both sides now relaxed, one
side considerably more jubilant than the other, but all of the tensions were gone. We were inching closer
together when our platoon sergeant was called back to one of the tanks and got on the radio. He wasn't
there but a few minutes, came back, formed up our platoon, and took us back away, toward the place
where we had entered the camp, back toward the fences through which we had ripped holes. At each hole
in the fence he left two of us. The sergeant left us there with instructions that we were to let no one
through that hole from either direction. He left Bill and me in the middle of the hole in the fence, and told
us to hold that hole. Bill and I were vigorous young things with an immense curiosity, and it was difficult
standing still in the middle of a hole through a set of three fences. We hadn't the vaguest idea what we had
run into. Not yet.

Soon Sergeant Blowers came by and told us that all of the people inside of the camp had been told to stay
inside of the fence, that we were down by the holes to make sure they stayed inside. Bill and I were told to
go into the tower, go to the top floor, to stay there, and to keep people from coming out through the hole.
We still had no idea what this place was.

Containing the prisoners was not expected to be any trouble because they understood the need, and they
were being provided for in every way that we could think of: the field hospital had just arrived, a big mess
unit was on the way, loads of PX rations were coming. Sergeant Blowers told us that some of the
prisoners spoke English. Then he got even quieter, looked at the ground for as moment, raised his eyes,
and looking over our heads, began very softly, so softly we could barely hear him. He told us that this is
what was called a "concentration camp", that we were about to see things we were in no way prepared for.
He told us to look, to look as long as our stomachs lasted, and then to get out of there for a walk in the
woods. I had never known Sergeant Blowers to be like this. The man had seen everything I could imagine
could be seen, and this place was having this effect on him. I didn't understand. I didn't know what a
concentration camp was, or could be, but I was about to learn.

Bill, Tim, and I started off through the trees, down the hill to the front gate which was only a couple of
hundred yards away. The gate was a rectangular hole through the solid face of the building over which
was office space and a hallway. High up above the opening for the gate was a heavy wooden beam with
words carved into it in German script, Arbeit Macht Frei. In a clumsy way I attempted to translate the
inscription to Bill and Tim as, "Work will make you free". The three of us headed through the gate,
through the twenty or thirty feet to the other side of the building. We were slightly apprehensive of what
we might see. Our antennae were up. We had been teased by bits of information, and we wanted to know
more. The lane we were walking on bent to the right as we cleared the building. We had barely made the
turn, and there it was. In front of us a good bit, but plainly visible.

The bodies of human beings were stacked like cord wood. All of them dead. All of them stripped. The
inspection I made of the pile was not very close, but the corpses seemed to be all male. The bottom layer
of the bodies had a north/south orientation, the next layer went east/west, and they continued alternating.
The stack was about five feet high, maybe a little more; I could see over the top. They extended down the
hill, only a slight hill, for fifty to seventy-five feet. Human bodies neatly stacked, naked, ready for
disposal. The arms and legs were neatly arranged, but an occasional limb dangled oddly. The bodies we
could see were all face up. There was an aisle, then another stack, and another aisle, and more stacks. The
Lord only knows how many there were.
Anatoly Shapiro-Allied Soldier liberating Auschwitz

Anatoly Shapiro, 92, has never forgotten what he saw at Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945. That was the day Shapiro, who
says he is the first Russian officer to enter the infamous concentration camp, led his battalion to liberate it.

In an interview Saturday in his apartment in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, where he sits alongside his wife,
Vita, his tall, thin form is upright and his eyes are clear as he describes, through a translator, the things he says he
still sees in nightmares 60 years later.

"We saw German soldiers, and when we opened the gate, we saw one barrack, then the next, on and on for a
hundred barracks," he recalled.

"When I saw the people, it was skin and bones. They had no shoes, and it was freezing. They couldn't even turn their
heads, they stood like dead people."

"I told them, 'The Russian army liberates you!' They couldn't understand. Some few who could touched our arms
and said, 'Is it true? Is it real?'"

As a commanding officer, his task was to direct his men. Half his battalion -- originally 900 men -- had died in
battle. But nothing they had endured had prepared them for what they found inside Auschwitz.

His men pleaded with him to let them leave.

"The general told me, 'Have the soldiers go from barrack to barrack. Let them see what happened to the people,'" he

He ordered them to accompany him, and they went from barrack to barrack. He remembers, "In German, it said,
'damas,' -- women. When I opened the barrack, I saw blood, dead people, and in between them, women still alive
and naked.

"It stank; you couldn't stay a second. No one took the dead to a grave. It was unbelievable. The soldiers from my
battalion asked me, 'Let us go. We can't stay. This is unbelievable.'

"We went to the barracks for men; it was the same as the barracks for the women.

"People in the barracks were naked, or [had] just thin clothes, no shoes, in the freezing cold; it was January. Only a
few people could talk; they didn't have energy. But a few people were able to talk, so slowly. [They told us] once a
day they got a little water, no bread, no anything. If someone died, they took the clothes, to get a little warmth,
anywhere. They died from hunger and cold.

"I was shocked, devastated."

Shapiro remembers two barracks for children.

"Outside it said, 'kinder.' Inside one, there were only two children alive; all the others had been killed in gas
chambers, or were in the 'hospital' where the Nazis performed medical experiments on them. When we went in, the
children were screaming, 'We are not Jews!'"

It turned out that they really were Jewish children and were afraid they were about to be taken to the gas chambers.

He remembers the Russian Red Cross trying to feed the people. "Immediately they started cooking chicken soup,
vegetable soup, but the people couldn't eat because their stomachs were like" -- instead of using words, he shows his
clenched fist.

After the Red Cross had removed survivors, Shapiro continues, he directed his soldiers to begin cleaning the
barracks to prevent disease from spreading.
Because of the repression of Judaism in the former Soviet Union, Shapiro says he did not know how many Jews the
Nazis had killed until he learned that the figure was six million when he and his family immigrated to the United
States in 1992.

Shapiro has been asked to speak after the president of Poland at the Jan. 27 ceremony in Krakow commemorating
the liberation. As it turns out, he cannot be at the ceremony, but he feels it is crucial to speak about what he saw so
that future generations will remember. He is particularly gratified to be able to talk about what he saw because he
was not able to do so in the former Soviet Union.

"If I had spoken of what I saw, I would have been sent to jail," he said. "Today, I never forget what happened in
Auschwitz and in the war to our six million, and to all [those who died at the hands of the Nazis]."

Auschwitz was one of the first camps that the Allies reached, so the anniversary of its liberation prompts reflection
by the liberators of other camps as well.

The date was April 4, 1945 and I was on a patrol as a member of the I & R platoon attached to the
Headquarters company of 354th Infantry Regiment, of the 89th Infantry Division, 3rd Army U.S.A.

As I recall it was a beautiful spring morning marred by the fact that we were under mortar attack. I
remember very well my surprise when I observed Brigadier General Robertson strolling upright down the
road. He was an elderly avunular gentleman who thought nonchalance under fire characterized the general
officer's role model.

I was impressed but remained prone in the drainage ditch until the atttack ceased. Shortly thereafter, an
acquaintance let it be known that a camp had been liberated further up the hill.

Fifty years have passed since this day but I recall my first impression of the camp called Ohrdruf which I
found later was associated administratively with the camp called Buchenwald. Ohrdruf was named after
the town of the same name, apparently locally famous for its history of being the place where Johann
Sebastian Bach composed some of his works.

From the outside, the camp was unremarkable. It was surrounded by a high barbed wire fence and had a
wooden sign which read, "Arbeit Macht Frei." The swinging gate was open, and a young soldier, probably
an SS guard, lay dead diagonally across the entrance. The camp was located in the forest and was
surrounded by a thick grove of pine and other conifers. The inside of the camp was composed of a large
100 yards square central area which was surrounded by one story barracks painted green which appeared
to house 60-100 inmates.

As we stepped into the compound one was greeted by an overpowering odor of quick-lime, dirty clothing,
feces, and urine. Laying in the center of the square were 60-70 dead prisoners clad in striped clothing and
in disarray. They had reportedly been machine gunned the day before because they were too weak to
march to another camp. The idea was for the SS and the prisoners to avoid the approaching U.S. Army
and the Russians.

Adjacent to the "parade ground" was a small shed which was open on one side. Inside, were bodies
stacked in alternate directions as one would stack cord wood, and each layer was covered with a
sprinkling of quick-lime. I did not see him, but someone told me that there had been a body of a dead
American aviator in the shed. This place reportedly had been used for punishment, and the inmates were
beaten on their back and heads with a shovel. My understanding is that all died following this abuse.

I visited some of the surrounding barracks and found live inmates who had hidden during the massacre.
They were astounded and appeared to be struggling to understand what was happening. Some were in
their 5 tier bunks and some were wandering about.

This was the first camp to be "liberated" by the Allied armies in Germany. Orhdruf was visited by
Generals Eisenhower, Patton and Bradley and there are photographs of them observing the bodies of the
machine gunned inmates. According to Eisenhower, Patton had refused to visit the punishment shed as he
feared he would become ill. He did vomit at a later time.
Further into the camp was evidence of an attempt to exhume and burn large numbers of bodies. There
was a gallows, although I really cannot remember whether I saw it or not. I don't remember leaving the
camp. I recall being numb after seeing the camp. I had just turned 20 years old and I had read the
biographical "Out of the Night." It was a pale and inadequate picture of a German concentration camp by
a refugee German author.

I recall becoming very upset when we got back to our quarters, but the whole experience was far beyond
my understanding. I wrote a letter to my parents describing the experience which was read at a local
gathering of business men. It was widely disbelieved.

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