Why should we remember the Holocaust,
an event in World History that took place over 60 years ago before and during World War II is an important question. The
answer lies in reflecting on what the Holocaust has to teach us not only in this generation but in future generations to
come. It is a sad fact but we must recognise that the crimes committed against humanity during the Holocaust have been repeated
elsewhere in the world since such as Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur; the repetition of these human tragedies reminds us that
we must be vigilant and continue to learn and remember the lessons of the Holocaust.
Starting in December 1939, the Nazis introduced new
methods of mass murder by using gas. First experimental vans, equipped with gas cylinders and a sealed trunk compartment,
were used to kill mental care clients of sanatoria in Pomerania, East Prussia, and occupied Poland since 1939, as part of
an operation termed Aktion T4. In the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, larger vans holding up to 100 people were used
in a similar way since November 1941, yet the gas did not come from a cylinder but directly from the engine's exhaust.
These vans were introduced to the Chelmno concentration camp in December 1941, and another 15 of them were used by the death
squads in the occupied Soviet Union. These gas vans were developed and run under supervision of the Reichssicherheitshauptamt(Reich
Main Security Bureau), and were used to kill about 500,000 people, primarily Jews, but also Romani and others. The vans
were carefully monitored and month later a report stated that 'ninety seven thousand have been processed using three vans,
without any defects showing up in the machines.
The next major event that led towards the widescale
destruction of the Jews was the Meeting in July of 1938 where representatives of 32 countries met in the French town of Evian
to discuss the refugee problems created by the Nazis - but since no conclusive action was taken, Hitler took that as defacto
notice that no one would act against him while he worked to purge the Jews from his territories.
World War II with the invasion of Poland in September of 1939 and in 1940 established Jewish ghettos in Poland where they
could be isolated from the rest of society and kept an eye on. Conditions in the ghettos were deplorable - not enough food,
water, space, sanitation facilities, etc., and many died from the horrid conditions. In June 1941, Germany attacked
the Soviet Union and began the implementation of the Final Solution - the beginnings of the systemized destruction of the
undesirables. At first they were just gathered up, shot and thrown into mass open graves. It is estimated that over 1 million
people died in this manner. But it wasn't efficient enough so more and more death camps sprang up. From this point, the
Germans worked on more and more efficient ways to liquidate the undesirables by bringing them to death camps to systematically
kill them and recycle any valuables for the war effort. And in this instance, a valuable was a healthy person - so the Germans
would work the prisoners until they had no more energy to produce and then kill them. In effect, that had millions of slaves
being forced to work to death to help the Germans in their war efforts.
This atrocity continued to the end of the
war - with liberation not happening until July 1944 and later. In July 1944, the Soviet Union liberatated Maidanek concentration
camp and then in January 1945 - Auschwitz concentration camp and so on until Nazi Germany was totally defeated and all peoples
were freed. All told, there were only about 200,000 Jewish survivors by the end of the liberation and the death counts from
the holocaust were estimated to be around 6 million Jews and millions of other people who did not fit the Aryan mold.
Two thousand Soviet POWs were used to build the original camp, under the orders of SS and Police Leader for Lublin
Odilo Globocnik and the camp's first commandant, Karl Otto Koch (husband of the infamous Ilse Koch), who was transferred
there from Buchenwald because of his wife's indiscretions in September 1941. Koch's tenure at Majdanek was short (he
left in July 1942, before the camp's extermination facilities were operational, probably because of continued criminal
activity while at Majdanek, for which he was executed by the SS in April 1945), and he was replaced by Max Kögel, whose
tenure (until October 1942 and then transferred to Flossenburg) was even shorter. Kögel's replacement, Hermann Florstedt,
was transferred there from Sachsenhausen, but, like his predecessor Koch, ran afoul of the SS, and Majdanek was run by interim
commandants Markus Melzer and Martin Weiss until May 1944, when the camp's final commandant, Arthur Liebehenschel, who
had been Rudolf Höss's replacement at Auschwitz, oversaw Majdanek until its liquidation.
With the beginning of Aktion Reinhard in 1942, Majdanek
was transformed into KZ Lublin and its mission extended to include exterminations. Ironically, though Lublin lay in the territory
of the eneralgouvernment, no camp had been established in the area previously, and most of the Jews from the nearby Lublin
Ghetto were deported to the death camp at Belzec, since Majdanek was still a POW camp in early 1942. Jews began arriving at
the camp in March 1942, however. Some 25,000 Jews were among the first deportees to Majdanek -- 10,000 deported from Slovakia
and 14,000 from the Reichsprotektorat of Bohemia and Moravia via the "old age camp" at Terezin. The Jewish deportees
to Majdanek would eventually consist of citizens of the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Greece, and the remaining Jews in Lublin
and the Bialystok district. A key incident in the history of Majdanek is the daring escape attempt by around 200 Soviet POWs
on July 14, 1942. About half of the escapees were never captured and went back to their units to fight as partisans until
the end of the war. This event parallels similar acts of resistance in the death camps: there were successful prisoner breaks
from both Treblinka and Sobibor, and the Sonderkommando uprising at Auschwitz successfully destroyed a Krema building.
Union. (It is the
only one of the death camps in which some American soldiers were also held as POWs.) It was given the name Kriegsgefangenenlager
der Waffen SS in Lublin (Waffen-SS POW Camp in Lublin). The local Polish population dubbed the camp Majdanek, basing the name
on Majdan Tatarski, the suburb of Lublin in which the camp was situated. (Unlike other death camps in Poland, Majdanek was
in plain view of the Lublin citizens, probably because it was originally founded as a POW camp and not a death camp.)
Gas chambers were used in the Third Reich as part of
the "public euthanasia program" aimed at eliminating physically and intellectually disabled people and political
undesirables in the 1930s and 1940s. At that time, the preferred gas was carbon monoxide, often provided by the exhaust gas
of cars, trucks or army tanks Gas chamber at the Stutthof concentration camp.
During the Holocaust, gas chambers
were designed to accept large groups as part of the Nazi policy of genocide against the Jews. Nazis also targeted the Romani
people, homosexuals, physically and mentally disabled, and intellectuals. In early 1940, the use of hydrogen cyanide produced
as Zyklon B was tested on 250 Roma children from Brno at the Buchenwald concentration camp. According to Nizkor Project, on
September 3, 1941, 600 Soviet POWs were gassed with Zyklon B at Auschwitz camp I; this was the first experiment with the gas
at Auschwitz.One of the destroyed crematoria at Auschwitz concentration camp
According to a website running by
Jürgen Langowski, an anti-Nazi German activist, Carbon monoxide was also used in large purpose-built gas chambers. The
gas was in exhaust gas from internal combustion engines.
Gas chambers in vans, concentration camps, and extermination
camps were used to kill several million people between 1941 and 1945. Some stationary gas chambers could kill 2,000 people
at once. The use of gas chambers during the Holocaust was attested to by several sources including the Vrba-Wetzler
report and testimony from Rudolf Höss, Commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, and other German soldiers.
In 1938 he received a promotion to SS-Hauptsturmführer
(a paramilitary rank equivalent to captain) and was made adjutant to Hermann Baranowski in the Sachsenhausen camp. He joined
the Waffen-SS in 1939.
On May 1, 1940, Höss was appointed commandant of a prison
camp in western Poland, a territory that had been annexed outright by Germany and incorporated into the province of Upper
Silesia. The camp was built around an old Austro-Hungarian, later Polish army barracks near the town of Oświęcim,
its German name Auschwitz. Höss would command the camp for three and a half years, during which time he expanded the
original facility into a sprawling complex, the place now known as the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.
its peak size, Auschwitz was actually three separate facilities (Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II/Birkenau, and Auschwitz III/Monowitz),
and was constructed on 8,100 ha (20,000 acres) which had been cleared of all inhabitants. Its earliest inmates were Polish
prisoners, including peasants, intellectuals and Soviet prisoners-of-war. Auschwitz I was the administrative center for the
complex; Birkenau was the extermination camp, where most of the killing took place.
In June 1941, according to
Höss' later trial testimony, he was summoned to Berlin for a meeting with Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler "to
receive personal orders." Himmler told Höss that Hitler had given the order for the physical extermination of Europe's
Jews. Himmler had selected Auschwitz for this purpose, he said, "on account of its easy access by rail and also because
the extensive site offered space for measures ensuring isolation." Himmler told Höss that he would be receiving
all operational orders from Adolf Eichmann. Himmler described the project as a "secret Reich matter", meaning that
"no one was allowed to speak about these matters with any person and that everyone promised upon his life to keep the
utmost secrecy." Höss said he kept that secret until the end of 1942, when he told one person about the camp's
purpose: his wife.
After visiting Treblinka extermination camp to study its methods of human extermination, Höss
tested and perfected the techniques of mass killing which would make Auschwitz the most efficiently murderous instrument of
the Final Solution and the most potent symbol of the Holocaust. According to Höss, during standard camp operations,
two to three trains carrying 2,000 prisoners each would arrive daily for periods of four to six weeks. The prisoners were
unloaded in the Birkenau camp; those fit for labor were marched to barracks in either Birkenau or to one of the Auschwitz
camps; those unsuitable for work were driven into the gas chambers. At first, small gassing bunkers were located "deep
in the woods", to avoid detection. Later, four large gas chambers and crematoria were constructed in Birkenau to make
the killing more efficient and to handle the increasing rate of exterminations.
Höss improved on the methods
at Treblinka by building his gas chambers ten times larger, so that they could kill 2,000 people at once rather than 200.
Execution of Rudolf Hoess
On June 6, 1944 (known as D-Day), the western
Allies launched the single largest amphibious invasion force in world history, landing almost 150,000 soldiers under the command
of U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower on the beaches of Normandy, France. By the end of the month, more than 850,000 American,
British, and Canadian troops had come ashore to embark upon what Eisenhower called the “Great Crusade,” the “destruction
of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves
in a free world.” On June 22, 1944, Soviet forces opened a major offensive that crushed the German forces defending
the center of the eastern front in western Belorussia, sweeping the line of the front into central Poland by early August.
As Allied and Soviet troops moved across Europe in a series of offensives against Nazi Germany, they encountered concentration
camps, mass graves, and numerous other sites of Nazi crimes. Soviet forces were the first to overrun a major Nazi concentration
camp, Lublin/Majdanek, near Lublin, Poland, in July 1944. On January 27, 1945, Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz concentration
camp complex, where they discovered some 7,000 prisoners, including young children, who had not been evacuated by the SS.
American soldiers, too, witnessed evidence of the Holocaust and Nazi atrocities as they marched into the interior of Germany,
liberating the major concentration camps such as Buchenwald, Dachau, and Mauthausen as well as hundreds of subcamps, including
Ohrdruf (a subcamp of Buchenwald). Though the liberation of Nazi camps was not a primary objective of the Allied military
campaign, U.S, British, Canadian, and Soviet troops freed prisoners from their SS guards, provided them with food and badly
needed medical support, and collected evidence for war crimes trials.
On May 8, 1945, less than one year after D-Day,
Nazi Germany's unconditional surrender became official, and the world could celebrate the liberation of Europe from Nazi
In 2004, with the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the nation honored veterans of World War II with a memorial
on the national mall. 2005 marked the 60th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II. Explore
the links on this page to learn about the liberators' experiences as Allied troops moved across Europe during the war.
Annelies Marie "Anne" Frank (About this sound
pronunciation (help·info); 12 June 1929 in Frankfurt am Main – early March 1945 in Bergen Belsen) is one
of the most renowned and most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Acknowledged for the quality of her writing, her
diary has become one of the world's most widely read books, and has been the basis for several plays and films.
Born in the city of Frankfurt am Main in Weimar Germany, she lived most of her life in or near Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.
By nationality, she was officially considered a German until 1941, when she lost her nationality owing to the anti-Semitic
policies of Nazi Germany. She gained international fame posthumously following the publication of her diary which documents
her experiences hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.
Anne and her family moved
from Germany to Amsterdam in 1933, the same year as the Nazis gained power in Germany. By the beginning of 1940 they were
trapped in Amsterdam due to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. As persecutions of the Jewish population increased in
July 1942, the family went into hiding in the hidden rooms of her father Otto Frank's office building. After two years,
the group was betrayed and transported to concentration camps. Seven months after her arrest, Anne Frank died of typhus in
the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, within days of the death of her sister, Margot Frank.
Fortunately, when it comes to teaching
the Holocaust, there are a number of significant resources that enable effective teachers to motivate students to feel. For
one, both the British and American armies took video upon liberating the camps. It's really hard not to feel something
when you see piles and piles of bodies. The PBS network has actually developed a British video into an incredible documentary.
In addition to these published videos, students can also access raw video of life in the Warsaw Ghetto. They can see children
playing in the ghetto in one clip and adults walking past dead bodies as other adults move the bodies off the street into
a van, in another clip. But, when teaching the Holocaust, the objective isn't simply to show students videos.
Instead, it's to prompt
students to ask and grapple with the ultimate question: How can one people be so evil towards another people? Along the way,
students could also consider why people would deny that such a tragedy ever occurred. Effective teachers recognize that students
must learn in their particular modalities. At the beginning of the Twenty First Century, one dominant modality incorporates
Twenty First Century Technology. Consider challenging students to use modern technology, such as blogs, podcasts and mapping
tools as they learn about the Holocaust. Consider challenging students to use these technologies as they develop the necessary
knowledge to grapple with the most significant questions about the Holocaust.
Another task was to dispose of the 20,000 diseased bodies,
in order to contain the spread of typhus. The British forces made the surrendered German and Hungarian SS camp guards carry
the corpses into mass graves that had been dug by British bulldozer teams. As punishment for their crimes, the camp guards
were prevented from using protective gloves, and consequently some of them contracted typhus and died.
of burial soon proved too slow, and subsequently the bulldozers simply shovelled the corpses into the graves. This apparent
lack of the respect for the dead led to criticism, but it was a necessary expedient. In addition, Isaac Levy, a Senior British
Army Jewish Chaplain, held a burial service as each mass grave was filled in.
Holocaust is that period in human history that marks
the persecution and extermination of European Jews by Nazi Germany. Although the prejudice against the Jews has been prevalent
for a long time in Europe, persecution and expulsion of the Jews in Germany began when Hitler emerged into power in 1933.
The term Holocaust finds its roots in the Greek word holokauston which means sacrifice by fire. This period was rightly termed
this way because of the Nazi’s planned slaughter of the Jewish people. Apart from Jews they also aimed at eradicating
populations consisting of gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah witnesses and the disabled people. All those who raised their voices
against these cruel Nazi’s racism acts was sent to forced labor or murdered.
The Jews were disenfranchised
and terrorized in anti-Jewish riots were abandoned off their properties, were forced to live in the ghettos and eventually
sent into concentration camps. Post World War II, Hitler gave rise to death camps to secretly implement the prosecution of
Jews a process what he called ‘The Final Solution of the Jewish Question”. Estimates of 11 million people were
killed during the holocaust amongst which 6 million were Jews. The Nazis killed about two-thirds of all Jews living in Europe.
About 1.1 million children were massacred in the name of elimination of the Jews and other minorities. All of this initiated
on April 1st 1933, when the first anti-Semitism came into action where the Germans announced a boycott of all Jewish-run businesses.
Then the Germans formed measures like The Nuremberg Laws which was issued on September 15th 1935. Under this law the
Nazis started excluding Jews from social and public life. The law made sure that the Jews living in Germany were stripped
off their citizenship and marriages and extramarital sex between Jews and Germans were strictly prohibited. Moreover, there
were additional laws issued that were anti-Jewish in nature eventually over a period of time. These laws would prohibit Jews
from visiting places like parks and they were fired from the civil service jobs. Jews were made to register their property
and Jewish doctors were not allowed to practice medicine on any other citizen of the country except on their fellow Jews.
Never forget...Holocaust memorial day!
By the end of 1941, Himmler was becoming increasingly
impatient with the progress of the Final Solution. His main opponent was Göring, who had succeeded in exempting Jewish
industrial workers from the orders to deport all Jews to the General Government and who had allied himself with the Army commanders
who were opposing the extermination of the Jews out of a mixture of economic calculation, distaste for the SS and humanitarian
sentiment. Although Göring's power had declined since the defeat of his Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain, he still
had privileged access to Hitler.
The Nazis methodically tracked the progress of the Holocaust in thousands of reports
and documents. Pictured is the Höfle Telegram sent to Adolf Eichmann in January, 1943, that reported that 1,274,166 Jews
had been killed in the four Aktion Reinhard camps during 1942.
Heydrich therefore convened the Wannsee Conference
on January 20, 1942 at a villa, Am Großen Wannsee No. 56-58, in the suburbs of Berlin to finalize a plan for the extermination
of the Jews. The plan became known (after Heydrich) as Aktion Reinhard (Operation Reinhard). Present were Heydrich, Eichmann,
Heinrich Müller (head of the Gestapo), and representatives of the Ministry for the Occupied Eastern Territories, the
Ministry for the Interior, the Four Year Plan Office, the Ministry of Justice, the General Government in Poland (where over
two million Jews still lived), the Foreign Office, the Race and Resettlement Office, and the Nazi Party, and the office responsible
for distributing Jewish property. Also present was SS-Sturmbannführer Rudolf Lange, the SD commander in Riga, who, with
Friedrich Jeckeln had recently carried out the liquidation of 24,000 Latvian Jews from the Riga ghetto in the Rumbula massacre.
Michael Berenbaum writes that the 15 men seated at the table were considered the best and the brightest; more than
half of them held doctorates from German universities. A plan was presented for killing all the Jews in Europe, including
330,000 Jews in England and 4,000 in Ireland. although the minutes taken by Eichmann refer to this only through euphemisms,
such as " … emigration has now been replaced by evacuation to the East. This operation should be regarded only
as a provisional option, though in view of the coming final solution of the Jewish question it is already supplying practical
experience of vital importance."
The world thought that after world war I, there would
be lasting peace after countries learned about the brutalities of war, the casualties and the families that mourned the loss
of their loved ones. Yet, little did people of time know that peace would not even last a decade and that world war ii would
start. Many people from around the world felt that germany should be punished for the events that transpired during world
war I and because of imminent fear that this european country would get back on its feet and declare war on the world once
again starting with it neighbors, the rest of the international community sought to permanently weaken germany. The germans
were plagued with hardships, inflation was so bad that workers threw bags of money out the windows of the factories they worked
at so that their wives could run to the market and buy what they can before everything became too expensive. The hardships
that were inflicted on germany cause its inhabitants to be bitter, and adolf hitler saw this as opportunity to rise to power.
This was the first sign of trouble and the first answer to why did the holocaust happen. The rise of adolf hitler hitler needed
a scapegoat to blame for all the difficulties that the germans had to undergo and it wasn't very hard to influence people
who were bitter and angry. It started with speeches that he gave at a local pub and his patrons grew in numbers. Hitler was
a charismatic leader and he was able to sway people's opinions that the cause of the hardship was the jews. To answer
the question of why did the holocaust happen we have to understand what the germans thought and felt at that time.
Adolf Hitler surrounded himself with a small clique
of fanatical, ruthless henchmen - a violent group of outsiders who rose to power in the Third Reich and established political
and economic institutions of legitimized terror.
These masterminds of death were found to be quite psychologically
normal. They were men of fine standing, husbands who morning and night kissed their wives, fathers who tucked their children
into bed. But murders, brutalities, cruelties, tortures, atrocities, and other inhuman acts were an everyday occurrence ...
Adolf Hitler's SS men wore black uniforms with a skeleton's head on their hats, the motto Unsere Ehre heisst
Treue on their belts and their symbol was the double S-rune. They had sworn eternal faith to Hitler and they were his most
ruthless henchmen, men often seen as the very personifications of evil.
After the defeat of the Nazi Empire, the
apprehended henchmen and collaborators were brought to trial in Nuremberg. Voluminous evidence was presented to prove the
plotting of aggressive warfare, the extermination of civilian populations, especially the Jews, the widespread use of slave
labor, the looting of occupied countries, and the maltreatment and murder of prisoners of war. The trial lasted 11 months.
Of the 21 defendants in custody, a total of 11 were sentenced to death, three were acquitted and the rest received prison
Ten Nazi leaders were hanged in November 1946 - Hermann Goering, the one-time Number Two man in the Nazi
hierarchy, cheated the gallows of Allied justice by committing suicide in his prison cell shortly before the ten other condemned
Nazis were hanged. He swallowed cyanide he had concealed in a copper cartridge shell, while lying on a cot in his cell.
Near the end of the war, when Germany's military
force was collapsing, the Allied armies closed in on the Nazi concentration camps. The Soviets approached from the east, and
the British, French, and Americans from the west. The Germans began frantically to move the prisoners out of the camps near
the front and take them to be used as forced laborers in camps inside Germany. Prisoners were first taken by train and then
by foot on "death marches," as they became known. Prisoners were forced to march long distances in bitter
cold, with little or no food, water, or rest. Those who could not keep up were shot.
The largest death marches took place in the winter of 1944-1945, when the Soviet army began its liberation of Poland.
Nine days before the Soviets arrived at Auschwitz, the Germans marched 60,000 prisoners out of the camp toward Wodzislaw,
a town thirty-five miles away, where they were put on freight trains to other camps. About one in four died on the way.
Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps throughout
the territories it controlled. The first Nazi concentration camps were greatly expanded in Germany after the Reichstag fire
in 1933, and were intended to hold political prisoners and opponents of the regime. They grew rapidly through the 1930s as
political opponents and many other groups of people were incarcerated without trial or judicial process. The term was borrowed
from the British concentration camps of the Second Anglo-Boer War. Holocaust scholars draw a distinction between concentration
camps (described in this article) and extermination camps, which were camps established for the sole purpose of carrying out
the extermination of the Jews of Europe—the Final Solution, Poles – the Lebensraum, Gypsies and other nations.
Extermination camps included Belzec, Majdanek, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Auschwitz-Birkenau.
The six largest groups
containing prisoners in the camps, both numbering in the millions, were Jews and the Soviet prisoners of war (POWs).
Large numbers of Roma (or Gypsies), Poles, left of center political prisoners, homosexuals, people with disabilities, Jehovah's
Witnesses, Catholic clergy, Eastern European intellectuals, and others—including common criminals. In addition, a small
number of Western Allied POWs were sent to concentration camps for various reasons. Western Allied POWs who were Jews, or
whom the Nazis believed to be Jewish, were usually sent to ordinary POW camps; however, a small number were sent to concentration
camps under antisemitic policies.
Sometimes the concentration camps were used to hold important prisoners,
such as the generals involved in the attempted assassination of Hitler; U-boat Captain-turned-Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller;
and Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who was interned at Flossenbürg on February 7, 1945, until he was hanged on April 9, shortly
before the war’s end.
In most camps, prisoners were forced to wear identifying overalls with colored badges
according to their categorization: red triangles for Communists and other political prisoners, green triangles for common
criminals, pink for homosexual men, purple for Jehovah's Witnesses, black for Gypsies and asocials, and yellow for Jews.
Established in March 1933, the Dachau concentration
camp was the first regular concentration camp established by the National Socialist (Nazi) government. Heinrich Himmler, in
his capacity as police president of Munich, officially described the camp as "the first concentration camp for political
prisoners." It was located on the grounds of an abandoned munitions factory near the northeastern part of the town of
Dachau, about 10 miles northwest of Munich in southern Germany.
During the first year, the camp held about 4,800
prisoners. Initially the internees consisted primarily of German Communists, Social Democrats, trade unionists, and other
political opponents of the Nazi regime. Over time, other groups were also interned at Dachau, such as Jehovah's Witnesses,
Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, as well as "asocials" and repeat criminal offenders. During the early years relatively
few Jews were interned in Dachau and then usually because they belonged to one of the above groups or had completed prison
sentences after being convicted for violating the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.
In early 1937, the SS, using prisoner
labor, initiated construction of a large complex of buildings on the grounds of the original camp. Prisoners were forced to
do this work, starting with the destruction of the old munitions factory, under terrible conditions. The construction was
officially completed in mid-August 1938 and the camp remained essentially unchanged until 1945. Dachau thus remained in operation
for the entire period of the Third Reich.
The number of Jewish prisoners at Dachau rose with the increased persecution
of Jews and on November 10-11, 1938, in the aftermath of Kristallnacht, more than 10,000 Jewish men were interned there. (Most
of men in this group were released after incarceration of a few weeks to a few months, many after proving they had made arrangements
to emigrate from Germany.)
When the British and Canadians advanced on Bergen-Belsen
in 1945, the German army negotiated a truce and exclusion zone around the camp to prevent the spread of typhus. Under the
agreement, Hungarian and regular German troops guarding the camp returned to German lines when Allied troops liberated the
camp on April 15, 1945. Although many SS guards had fled the camp, a small number remained, wearing white armbands as a sign
of surrender. The retreating Germans sabotaged the water supply to the barracks, making it difficult for the Allied troops
to treat the ill prisoners.
When British and Canadian troops finally entered they found thousands of bodies unburied
and approximately 55,000 inmates, most acutely sick and starving. Over the next days the surviving prisoners were deloused
and moved to a nearby German Panzer army camp, which became the Bergen-Belsen DP camp. The remaining SS personnel were then
forced by armed Allied troops to bury the bodies in pits.
Bergen-Belsen concentration camp was then burned to the
ground by flamethrowers mounted on Bren carriers because of the typhus epidemic and louse infestation. The name Belsen after
this time refer to events at the Bergen-Belsen DP camp.
In spite of massive efforts to help the survivors, about
another 9,000 died in April, and by the end of June 1945 another 4,000 had died (after liberation a total of 13,994 people
died). On the 13th day after liberation, the Luftwaffe bombed one of the hospitals in the DP camp, injuring and killing several
patient and Red Cross workers. The total number of deaths at Bergen-Belsen from 1943 to June 1945 was about 50,000.
The British troops and medical staff tried these diets to feed the prisoners, in this order:
* Bully beef from Army rations. Most of the prisoners' digestive systems were in too weak a state from long-term starvation
to handle such food.
* Skimmed milk. The result was a bit better, but still far from acceptable.
* Bengal Famine Mixture. This is a rice-and-sugar-based mixture which had achieved good results after
the Bengal famine of 1943, but it proved less suitable to Europeans than to Bengalis because of the differences in the food
to which they were accustomed. Adding the common ingredient paprika to the mixture made it more palatable to these Europeans
and recovery started.
April 11, 1945 - North of Ohrdruf, near the town of
Nordhausen, the American Timberwolf Division came upon 3,000 corpses and more than seven hundred barely surviving inmates.
Both living and dead lay in two double-decker barracks, piled three to a bunk. The rooms reeked of death and excrement. Victims
of starvation and tuberculosis, the prisoners had also suffered from American bombing of the V-2 factories just one week before.
Fred Bohm, an Austrian-born American soldier who helped liberate Nordhausen described that his fellow American G.I.'s
"had no particular feeling for fighting the Germans. They also thought that any stories they had read in the paper, or
that I had told them out of first- hand experience, were either not true or at least exaggerated. And it did not sink in,
what this was all about, until we got into Nordhausen." The disbelief of Americans in general, and American soldiers
specifically, exemplifies the "double vision" of the human psyche, when one man is forced to face the evidence of
torture inflicted on another, only to realize his own helplessness, consequently he represses all emotion, all senses, he
becomes numb. American Combat Team 9 of the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, Sixth Armored Division, captured the town of Hottelstedt.
50 Russian prisoners emerged from the woods and said they were from Buchenwald just to the southeast. Buchenwald had 30,000
prisoners in a pyramid of power, with German Communists at the top and living in the main barracks, and Jews and Gypsies at
the bottom, living on the outskirts, in Little Camp, as assortment of barns. Buchenwald barrack prisoners were reasonably
healthy-looking and ready to assist in administering food. Little Camp was a nightmare with 1,000 to 1,200 prisoners in a
space meant for 450. In Germany in Defeat, Percy Knauth described Little Camp's prisoners as, "emaciated beyond all
imagination or description. Their legs and arms were sticks with huge bulging joints, and their loins were fouled by their
own excrement. Their eyes were sunk so deep that they looked blind. If they moved at all, it was with a crawling slowness
that made them look like huge, lethargic spiders. Many just lay in their bunks as if dead." The smell of Little Camp,
the smell emanating from discarded, decaying flesh, burning bodies, and an open concrete ditch that serviced as the latrine,
was indescribable. Even after liberation, twenty prisoners in each Little Camp block died a day. They were gnomes, sticklike
figures with sunken eyes who would hobble forward to cry and yell at the sight of their liberators.