Leslie StonebrakerThe writer is headwriter for JSpace.
Sixty-eight years ago on April 4, the Ohrdruf concentration camp was liberated, the first camp to be liberated. It was a day of freedom and hope for thousands of prisoners who had been nearly lost to Nazi hands.
Ohdruf was a labor camp near Weimar, Germany, part of the Buchenwald network of camps. Created in 1944, the camp forced prisoners to factory produce railway construction in an attempt to build a communications center for the Nazis. Fortunately, the center would never come to fruition.
In April of 1945, nearly all of the camp’s 11,700 prisoners were put on a death march to Buchenwald, as a way to thwart advancing US troops.
On April 4, the US Army’s 4th Armored Division and 89th Infantry Division freed the camp, entering Ohrdruf to witness a horrific scene. Soldiers saw for the first time the emaciated prisoners left behind, as well as piles of decomposing corpses.
The truth behind Ohrdruf’s gates drew the attention of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who arrived on the scene days later to see for himself.
“The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter,” Eisenhower later said.
“The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said that he would get sick if he did so.”
“I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.’”
Patton himself would later call Ohrdruf “one of the most appalling sights that I have ever seen.”
Posted with permission from JSpace.