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April 4, 1945: The Liberation of Ohrdruf

As a member of the Fold3 team, I’m always looking for ways to personalize a story to show how our military records are much more than just records. They represent lives, sacrifice, and service. When I started researching this month’s blog post, I had no idea the personal angle I would find would be my own. This is the story of how I learned that my grandfather helped liberate Ohrdruf concentration camp.

Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower, George Patton and Omar Bradley visit Ohrdruf

On April 4, 1945, Ohrdruf concentration camp became the first camp liberated by U.S. troops during WWII. Ohrdruf was a subcamp of Buchenwald and was located near the town of Gotha, Germany. As the 4th Armored Division and the 89th Infantry of the Third US Army approached the gates at Ohrdruf, the sights that greeted soldiers shocked them and defied description.

Don Timmer, an 18-year-old private in the 89th Infantry Division described his experience. “We drove in and between the gate and the barracks were 30 dead…the blood still wet from departing German guards.” Bodies were piled in a shed and others partially incinerated on pyres. Timmer had taken German in high school and acted as an interpreter as prisoners shared tales of unspeakable horror. General George S. Patton arrived at Ohrdruf and was so sickened by what he saw that he threw up. General Dwight D. Eisenhower flew from Belgium to witness the carnage firsthand. According to Timmer, “Even Ike looked pale, and he wasn’t a pale guy.”

The sights and smells of the camp left indelible marks on the soldiers who were there. I know, because my grandfather LaMar Norton was one of the liberators and his experiences were so difficult to share, that most of the family wasn’t aware of this remarkable fact. He was unable to talk about the war without his eyes brimming with tears. LaMar served in the Fourth Armoured Division, Third Army, Company C, during the Battle of the Bulge. He suffered from PTSD after the war and was known to duck and cover during a clap of thunder or when a balloon popped. We knew he’d seen atrocities, but he never shared the details, and everyone learned not to ask. He passed away in 1996 leaving us with unanswered questions.

Pfc. LaMar Norton

To honor his service, I’ve recently been curating content to create a Memorial for him on Fold3. I reached out to extended family asking for any photographs or stories that could be included. At the same time, I was simultaneously researching the liberation of Ohrdruf. One morning I woke to a message from a second cousin. She had an old, typed history of my grandfather’s service that his brother had compiled. I anxiously read it and my heart skipped a beat when I came to the paragraph where he described helping to liberate Ohrdruf. I suddenly realized that the story I had spent hours researching, was my really my story and my history.

According to LaMar, the Americans could smell Ohrdruf before they saw it. The approaching Army had prompted the Germans to flee, but not before shooting as many prisoners as possible. When the Americans arrived, the ground was still wet with blood. LaMar said there were 27 bodies out in the yard and a few more by the gate and at least one body was that of an American. “This American pilot had been carried outside on a stretcher and shot in the head,” he said. As US Soldiers tried to process what they were seeing, military officials told them to leave everything untouched. General Patton wanted the scene documented for possible future war crimes trials.

General Patton insisted that the mayor of the town of Ohrdruf and his wife tour the camp to see for themselves the atrocities committed by their countrymen. The next morning, they were both found hanging from an apparent suicide. A note left nearby said, “We didn’t know. But we knew.”

Though Ohrdruf was the first concentration camp liberated in April 1945, it wasn’t the last. Before the month was through, at least eight other concentration camps were liberated by Allied forces including Buchenwald, Dora-Mittelbau, Westerbork, Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen, Flossenburg, Ravensbruck, and Dachau. On May 7, 1945, Germany unconditionally surrendered to Allied forces clearing the way to bring an end to WWII. My grandfather was discharged in October and came home a changed man. Along with many others, he spent the rest of his life trying to make sense of what he’d seen and experienced at Ohrdruf.

If you would like to learn more about the liberation of concentration camps during WWII, search Fold3 today.


  1. My father in law, Army Col. Daniel Wilton Lenahan, was the first to arrive at Dachau as part of Patton’s forces moving rapidly across southern Germany. He shot an SS officer escaping the camp, and as booty took two antique German Lugers off his body. I still have them…

    • In 1996 I went to Dachau with my son’s soccer team. All the young men were in high school at the time. They showed a movie of the liberation and what it looked like when your father in law was there. Then, we were able to walk the grounds and see where they stayed piled up on wooden beds, if you could call them beds. They also had one of the crematoriums chambers still there with a beautiful bouquet of flowers in it. It’s my understanding that they didn’t use the crematoriums, but did use the gas chamber which was just a huge concrete room with gas spigots in the ceiling. The fence around Dachau separated farms from the camp. Some of the wives of the farmers would pass apples across to the prisoners.

    • Taking the Lugers…good for him! You will be criticized about this but ignore those who will do it! No one can imagine the shock and anger our soldiers, many still in their teens, felt during this horrible time in history! Whenever I see our flag, I recall how grateful I am that we have brave people who are willing to serve and protect our country!

    • What company was your father-in-law? My Dad also had a similar story. His Army company was nicknamed “Liborators” because they liberated Dachau.

    • My grand uncle, Lt Vincent Mann, was a liaison officer with the 9th Infantry Divison’s 39th RCT and was at Dachau a few days after it was liberated. He shared a few photos he took there with me but could never bring himself to say more than “The smell…terrible.” It affected him deeply.

    • My Grandfather was also one of the first to arrive at Dachau. He simply said in regards to soldiers shooting the SS or Nazis; “I could not control my men”. He was Aloysius Kevin Quinn. Let me know if your father-in-law remembers him at all!

    • My husband, two children and I visited Dachau years ago and each of us still have lasting memories. We all could feel the horrors that went on there , as well as the devastating loss of life , freedom, sense of being for all of those people who were imprisoned there , no matter the length of stay.
      Your father-in-law made the right decision when he took care of the SS Officer. It saved time and energy of the courts , plus the officer paid the price for being part of Hitler’s Solution.

    • Hi. Patton’s forces did not liberate Dachau. The 42nd & 45th Divs of General Deaver’s 7th Army did that Patton’s Third Army was we to the north at the time.

    • Hi there!
      FYI, Patton’s forced did not liberate Dachau, as his 3rd Army was well to the north at the time (29Apr45). The Dachau camp was liberated by small elements of the 42nd and 45th Infantry Divisions, which were part of Lt. Gen. Deavers’ 7th Army. All very well documented. I’m happy to help if you want to know more

  2. How eerie this post is . I’ve been trying to find out which concentration camp my father’s unit liberated. During ww2 and here it is on fold 3 , my father Thomas cloonan was in the fourth division , went through d day ,the battle of the bulge and marched into Germany liberating towns and then a camp in 1945 before the war ended . I have photos of him with his truck so I’m assuming he was in the armored division . There probably aren’t too many men left from that war ,he never really talked about what he saw or did but he was very shell shocked ,too , after I saw saving private Ryan I could definitely see why , I.

    • Are you related to any Cloonans who lived in Brooklyn in the 1950s? Three Cloonan brothers each had families in our apartment house. Two of them were Jack and Bill. Nice people. Not the theme of this topic (which is both fascinating and horrible in their inhumanity) but I don’t come across the name very often.

  3. On a lesser level, Germany was littered with labor camps as well. My Dad’s outfit was the first to stop in at least two of these. In these cases, the armor or infantry had just pushed through the area but had not stopped. My Dad’s outfit had to take on maintaining order etc until it too had to move on.

  4. Excellent Blog. Learning, even tidbits, is a true gift. Thanks for sharing.

  5. So tragic! My dad was in Patton’s Third Army, 90th Infantry Division, that liberated Flossenburg. He really never spoke of what he saw, just saying He didn’t want to talk about it. Such horrible memories foe all that were involved!

    • My grand father was also part of the 3rd Army that liberated Flossenburg. Would love any information you have as he never talked about it.

  6. I love History, both good and bad. Stories such as these should be required reading by younger generations to ensure that this will never ever happen again.
    Thank You, from a Fold3 member.

    • Amen to that! I don’t think some of the younger generations even believe it ever happened. I can’t begin to fathom all the suffering that went on through the war and after!!! Thank God that we did have willing young men who gave so much!! Forever grateful!!

    • Unfortunately, all too often the history our youngsters learn is through book reports et al. At least I know I was given a topic and told to present it. We all too often dismiss what we are not taught.
      Books are the best teacher

  7. What a great blog. I’m so
    proud of my father who was one of those solders who witnessed this atrocity. Part of history he wouldn’t talk about much before tears started. I’m so sorry now how I laughed when a clap of thunder resulted in him being on the floor. Great job writing about such a horrific event

    • Not to do strictly with this topic of concentration camp horrors, but with some similarities for the lasting impressions left on the troops that had been in the front line. I had been out bait digging with my friend Roy, whom had been in action in the Korean War. We were walking back alongside a ditch, when a low flying aircraft flew up the River Thames towards London. When the plane had flown away I realised that I was walking on my own. Roy was gone. He had in fact jumped into the ditch and was laying in it face down. I helped him out and he explained that his mind had gone back to the conflict and upon hearing the planes’ engines, his reaction was for self protection. This event occurred around 1986. I hadn’t thought about it at the time, but he clearly was suffering still from loud sudden noises 30 odd years after that war.

    • Very brave of you to share. It’s evident that your father passed his honourable & courageous spirit on to you.

  8. I have been fortunate to always weave history into my travels. A few years I took my Mom and Dad (WWII vet in Pacific) to Europe and we made Dachau. My poor Dad made the tour-the immaculate porcelain and stainless steel being in stark contrast to the crematorium and reconstructed barracks. When he exited the museum he completely broke down. He explained to me that he had seen some atrocities the Japanese had committed in Papua, New Guineau but nothing prepared him for Dachau. What Germany did (and Stalin in his own Russia) was the darkest chapter on the most massive scale in history. Let us pray it never happens again.

    • But it is happening right now. In North Korea. Many camps there that people go and are never seen again. North Koreans are locked up in their own country and have no idea what freedom is.

    • Gary,
      Your post caught my attention when you mentioned that your Dad was Papua, New Guinea. My Dad was also stationed there with the 21st Troop Carrier Squadron from June 1943 until June 1945.
      I haven’t run across anyone in my research who had someone there and just wanted to say hello.

  9. My father was a captain in French army, taken prisoner at beginning of WWII, early 1939 when Germany took France captive. He was sent to an Offlag camp in Soest, near Dortmund. As they were officers of an enemy country, they were not harmed by germans, but nevertheless had to abide by very strict conditions of living. The camp was freed by the Russians I 1944, my father was taken to Russia and experienced very harsh conditions, even harsher than in Germany, he suffered from bitter cold, and very little food. He returned to France in July 1945 in bad health. He did not speak about his war experience, only to have a big 25th celebration of freedom with his former captive friends; my mother served them RUTABAGA [swede/neep/turnip] which they had been eating all these years while prisoners.

    • My father was a WWII vet who served in the ETO and was slightly wounded. When growing up, I thought SPAM was great…and of course that is what he had gotten in rations in the field. We very seldom had it in the house!!

    • Having grown up in Germany during those terrible times and having flashback to this day. I really appreciate reading other peoples thought and rememberings. One thing does puzzle me that your relative was liberated by the Russian Army in 1944 near Dortmund. The Russian Army did not enter Germany until early 1945. Was your relative maybe moved to a different camp closer to Poland?

  10. My godfather was in the reconnaissance and was captured at the Battle of the bulge. He was a medic and went on to save 6 soldiers during the fighting before finally being captured by the Germans. He ended up in the camps after being taken to style on 12b. He was a wonderful man and was awarded the silver Star for his actions as a buck private medic. He was my godfather and I loved him dearly. He passed in 1996 after suffering from PTSD most of the rest of his life after the war. War is beyond Hell for those who serve.

    • Unfortunately, all too often the history our youngsters learn is through book reports et al. At least I know I was given a topic and told to present it. We all too often dismiss what we are not taught.
      Books are the best teacher

  11. I went to see the Dachau concentration camp in 1961. I was in the museum there, reading about the Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, etc, that were killed, I found the numbers were staggering. I looked up from my reading, and standing next to me were German officers. I was so scared, I wanted to scream but was speechless. Then I regained my senses and was alright.
    There were crosses outside the museum said “Here lie 10,000 Jews”, row after row of them. It hard to understand how a country and its military could be so criminal, that knew no limits.

    • That’s wonderful that German officers were experiencing the museum at Dachau in 1961. In the 50s and 60s, Germany (West and East, in different ways) were rebuilding their country almost from scratch. Rebuilding and re-educating the military might have been the most important part. Of all the institutions in that new county, the military needed the lessons of “nie wieder” more than anyone.

    • I was in Dachau museum as well in about 1980 time frame and went as a group with our U. S. Army Chaplin and was horrified at the large walled photos and stories told there. We also meant a survivor playing the organ at the chapel.
      The wooden plank beds were awful and stacked crowded together. Even empty the disease must have been horrible with everyone treated as cattle.

    • I visited Dachau many many years ago and have never forgotten the things I saw. I took my daughter there and I could hardly get her to leave. We both cried and have never forgotten what we saw and the feelings we had observing at Dachau. I hope to God we never see this again and more important we do something about it right away.

    • It becomes a crowd mentality. Think about how over 500 followers of the Jones Camp drank the kool-aide. OR those mob reactions of burning and destroying buildings/cars..beating up a bystander, during a protest gathering or winning a sporting event.

    • While I have bowed head reverence for the magnificient American soldiers who fought in WW2, why would there be crosses over the graves of thousands of Jews ? Church inspired anti-semetism played no small part in the genesis. of the holocaust. I say this with heart felt gratitude to the righteous Christains who risked their lives to save Jews then and support Israel today.

    • Thank you for saying those things about the Christians. There were so many who sacrificed everything to save the people being beaten, tortured, murdered, separated from their families, and sent to concentration camps. My heart is filled with sadness when I think of those poor Jews, but then my heart fill with love and gratitude for the people who helped them plus our heroic soldiers who liberated them.

  12. As i understand it, Dachau was the prototype model and “training center” for what the future concentration camp system would become during the WW2.

    This is where it all began….

  13. It was not just the camps. I talked to a salesman once who had been a division composed mostly of Texans, and he was a New York Jew. Fortunately, he was a platoon sergeant from time served in the NY National Guard. He had problems with his men until one day they came across a barn into which the an SS unit had forced or 60 local people, locked the doors, and set it on fire. He mentioned one man who died trying to crawl under the barn door. He said he took pictures, and I think I may have seen it. At any rate, he said two things happened.
    1., He never had trouble with his men afterward.
    2. They did not take any prisoners for a month, and took no SS prisoners for the rest of the war.

  14. I visited Dachau in the mid 70’s. It was a very quiet place. When we got off the public bus, & headed towards the camp, you could still smell the death all around. I’m actually writing this while my eyes are tearing up. There was a museum there with pictures of the things/atrocities the nazi doctors did to those housed there. I don’t even like to think about this as it probably the worst thing man did to man. I’ve continually read fictional books about that time just to not forget how bad people can be. To hear government people try to say it didn’t happen makes my temper fire up. Some of our officials duly elected by us are also nay sayers that this never happened.

    The 4 of us traveling together were very quiet for quite set.

  15. I had a client, since passed away, who told me
    a little of his experience in entering Dachau.
    He was a little more graphic than this quote
    of his.

    USAA Magazine
    E (Easy) Company,
    506th Regiment, 101st Airborne,

    Retired Army Gen, S. H. Matheson, a
    USA member for more than 55 years,
    was one of those asked to provide
    Ambrose with his recollections about the
    activities of Easy Company and the 101st
    Airborne. Matheson, once served as a
    lieutenant in Easy Company.

    Quote from the Article:

    Matheson was among those who saw
    firsthand the horror inflicted upon the
    prisoners of one of the Dachau work
    camps that had just been liberated.

    “When we got to the Dachau work camp
    we saw hundreds of dead people who
    had been stacked up like cords of wood.
    And the people who were still alive were
    in terrible shape – starving and emaci-
    ated …. We got hold of the.local burgomaster
    [mayor] and proceeded to round
    up everyone we could find to help bury
    the bodies.”

  16. My name is Benjamin Paul DESFONDS call me at 910-712-1874 my father was Joseph r desfonds he was born 1924 I am trying to learn as much about him as possible I was very young when he passed

    • Benjamin, It would be helpful if you could tell us more about your Dad’s service. You can request a copy of his DD214 (Military Separation Document) from the following website:
      The DD214 will contain information regarding his service awards that may tell you more about where he served. Best of Luck to you.

    • I echo Linda’s reply. At the site she listed you can mot only get the DD214, but your father’s complete military record. My husband’s father also never talked about his experiences in France during the war, but we learned more from his records.

  17. Any research on the liberation of the Landsberg Labor Camp in Austria? My father’s Army unit was part of that liberation.

  18. My father Thomas Lester Shamp, 101st Airborne, from Ohio was captured at Bastogne o/a 6 Jan 1945. I want to find out if there is a place I can
    write about getting any records from this time and up to around
    May 1945 when his camp was liberated. He escaped twice from around two camps and also had his boots taken from him for that and ended up with some frost bite. However an American doctor in the camp treated him and he lot no toes.
    It is too bad we learn of this too late.

  19. Hi there. Great article, although very sad subject matter. I am hoping someone can point me in the right direction…My French grandfather was in the 46th Regiment Infantry for France, and was taken as a prisoner of war by Germany on 5/24/1940 and released on 5/15/1945. How would I go about finding where he was held? What was the difference between work camps and concentration camps? Any info would be greatly appreciated. Amy

  20. “Treblinka” by Jean-Francois Steiner. English translation published in 1967 by Simon and Schuster. It is out of print but may be in libraries and used book stores.
    “…the site for a model death camp-the first of its kind…”

    • I visited Treblinka some years ago. I don’t think anyone was put to death there but it was far from a “summer camp.” They would put on plays there for the Red Cross examiners to view but life there was arduous there as well. They “inmates” would die there or on the way to another “death camp.”

  21. I taught school (in the US) with a German gentleman who was 4 years old when the camp at Dachau was liberated. His family was hired to clean up the camp after everyone was gone. His only memory was a mountain of shoes and he described it vividly: old, new, children’s, men’s, women’s and all colors. Some were very fancy and some worn out. He said his parents knew there was a camp, but they were completely in the dark about what went on there. That’s difficult to believe and maybe they were just trying to shield a child from the horror of the place. He was very sad when talking about this.

  22. A person I truly would like to have met.

    My wife, Francine, is Jewish. Here family came from a small town in Poland named Dubrowa. The entire family, except one, died at Treblinka.

    Her second cousin, Sonia Grabinsky Letkowitz, was one of Treblinka prisoners who rebelled and broke out of Treblinka toward the end of the war. She is mentioned in an article entitled “Two Survivors Recall the Holocaust.” She survived to the end of the war by hiding in the woods while being hunted by the Germans and their Polish cohorts.

    In 1980 Sonia was brought to the United States to serve as a witness against a former Ukrainian guard at Treblinka known as “Ivan the Terrible,” who was on trial in Cleveland.

    Francine’s family knew that Sonia had escaped from Treblinka and was one of the only two survivors from Dabrowa. Her Grandmother Rachel’s sister, Esther, searched for Sonia after the war, found her and sent her money regularly.

    When Francine’s sister was researching and compiling data on the Grabinsky relatives, a friend gave her the name of a woman in Israel who could most likely find Sonia. She found out that Sonia had passed away just six months earlier. Sonia’s daughter was the only person who could fill in some blanks.

    As a Christian, I began to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy, when I realized that Francine, my daughters (and now their families) and I would all have been exterminated at Treblinka if we had been alive then.

    People who would do these terrible things exist in every society ─ they lurk just below the surface. Thomas Jefferson was so terribly correct, “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

  23. My stepfather, Lawrence McGrath was in the Third Army and I believe from what little he would talk about that he was there too. He only said you could smell the death before you even got there and it was too horrible to talk about. He became my father when I was 6 years old and I was born in 1942. He was 44 years old when he enlisted so he wasn’t a young man. He passed away in 1975. I was always very proud of him. He was a wonderful man. I have a picture of his whole company taken before they were shipped overseas. It’s a long picture and I need to have it restored.

  24. After my dad died (he was a pilot in WWII), my mom went to her 50th high school reunion and there became reacquainted with a friend she had known from school and church. They eventually married. His name was Harry Musser. He was one of the liberators of Ohrdruf. Harry was an Engineering officer and one of the first on site. To make a long story short, when Harry attended a unit reunion in Washington (held there so they could see the WWII memorial) he, at the same time, gave to the Holocaust Museum pictures he had taken at Ohrdruf, and was interviewed and recorded at that time (several hours).
    I never realized it was the first camp liberated. Col. Musser and my mom traveled to Europe several times, and they were able to find some of the families that had housed and fed Harry and his men during this period.

  25. Found this article research so interesting!! It gives me cause to wonder if any of my Jewish relatives suffered here. A lot of my family were in The UK, Canada, States, and Eastern Countries in Europe. The one main name is Graham but know there are different surnames in Eastern Europe. However don’t know those names.

  26. While stationed with the US Army in Nelligen outside Stuttgart in the late 1970s, I toured Dachau and saw the film along with the rest of the compound, It is amazing to me how brutal and cruel man can be towards other men. When my parents came to Germany for a visit, I returned to Dachau with them and my children. I refused to let my youngest son see the movie because I did not want it to give him nightmares.

    • I too visited Dachau. It was 1995. Same as everyone else I was shocked at all they showed to the world of what had happened there. I asked an attendant of the Musem and the place in general how the German people could open this up to the world, and admit all the terrible things that were done. She told me that they felt they had too so that they would be reminded, and never let it happen again! I thought that was a very great thing for them to do. One might have expected it all to have been covered up instead. I was proud of the German people for that admitting of facts. It must have been very hard for every day German to be looked on as a possible Natsi as well.

  27. MSgt. Robert Powell, of Texas, helped to liberate some of the Landsberg subcamps in April 1945. When he read in the Chicago Tribune the 1990s that the Holocaust was a myth, he contacted his former US Army buddies who had been there with him, and they formed an group which then went around the US making talks to public schools and organizations, setting the record straight. They published a booklet which they distributed.

    • What is the name of the book, please?

    • I’m not sure if this is the book referred to earlier, but a book my father had was called
      REPORT AFTER ACTION: THE STORY OF THE 103RD INFANTRY DIVISION by Ralph Mueller and Jerry Turk and the artist was Bill Barker. Copyright is 1945 Photos in the book were by Glenn Marshall, Bert Sanders and the 163rd Photo Company. Maps were by Irving Nugar. Ralph Mueller was a T-4 and Jerry Turk was a PFC. According to them it was written with minimum interference from the Brass. The book traces the 103rd Division from its formation to its service through France, Germany, Austria and Italy. The 103rd Division was called the Cactus Division and its route during the war was called the Cactus Route: 500 Fighting Miles.

  28. When I was in junior high in California during the 60’s we were being taught about WWII. Part of those lessons was seeing footage of the camps and the atrocities and survivors. When I’ve asked my children who were in high during early 90’s and my grandchildren (in high school from 2010 to now) they were never shown any of this footage. Yes the films are shocking but maybe we need to stop sheltering our youth and show them what man can do to others. Perhaps this is why the current generation doesn’t believe the holocaust occurred.

    • As a US History teacher in the 1980s for the Dept of Defense, my students all watched film footage of the freeing of the concentration camps. It left an indelible imprint on them of the horrors of war. Sadly, many high schools have greatly reduced or eliminated social studies from their curriculums. Our young people know very little now of our country’s history or the monumental sacrifices made to keep us free. I fear we will sorely regret it.

    • My children were taken on multiple school field trips to the Los Angeles Holocost Museum in the 1990’s. If your schools cannot afford to do this, take a family trip. PBS does informative documentaries. It is our duty to tell the story. Diana in Ventura County, California

    • Debbie, I thoroughly agree with you. This generation and past generations have been way too sheltered from the truth of WWII. Those of us that had relatives during that time know of the atrocities. It is starting again with ISIS (some of them unknown) allowed to be admitted to this country. They blatantly state that they will take over our country, little by little, and they are doing it by appointing mayors, congressmen/women, building many mosques, etc. They think nothing of beating up women just because, and we do nothing. My friend’s elderly mother was beaten in Italy because she wouldn’t let them in her house. We better wake up.

  29. My father was a POW In Moosburg camp in Germany for 20 months until the camp was liberated. Unfortunately, he was killed on active duty years later. I was still young, so I never got to hear any of his stories. Does anyone know of any source of information for this camp? Any other Moosburg survivor descendants ?

    • Glenda, I put together a book for an older gentleman friend, since passed away, but there is information and drawings of Nuernberg and Moosburg in it. Can I email them to you? I don’t see how to post pics on here.

  30. My mother was in the ATS in England and when the people from the Concentration camps started arriving in England she was there to help. She told us they looked like living skeletons. She would tear up everytime she spoke about it.
    Two years ago my husband and I visited the first concentration camp in Poland. It was so sad. It is a museum with lots of pics of the inmates. It was hard to go through to say the least. The final straw for me and many others was the gas chamber. I was in tears and found it hard to complete the tour. Later when we were in Berlin we visited the Holocaust museum. I got about half way through reading the stories of the families and had to just leave. The horrors those poor people were subjected to is unbelievable. I’m tearing up writing this remembering what I saw, you can not “unsee” it.

  31. In 1940 and 1941, those with money, connections or blessed with luck were able to get out. Artists, writers, political opponents to the Nazis s all were being chased by the gestapo. when France signed an armistice, they agreed to Article 19, requiring them to turn over anyone then Nazis wanted. At that point, it became a scramble for refugees who made to Vichy to get out.

    Throughout this period 1938-1941, the USA tightened restrictions and worked hard to keep refugees out; NG0s worked to bring them in.

    • That’s true. I had a great Uncle who escaped to Cuba. My Dad said he would sneak into the US to visit him and his family in Florida, but Dad was told the uncle could never stay for very long because the immigration people were looking for him. At least it beat being back in Germany.

  32. It was the 4AD-37TB-CCO that went to Ohrdruf. My Dad’s best friend, (Sgt) Harry Feinberg talked about being one to free the Jews at Ohrdruf. I realized the impact it had on Harry, who was also Jewish, when I asked him if he had any memorabilia to donate to the new 37thTB classroom at Fort Bliss in 2016. Harry explained that he gave everything to his sons except the one thing that he saved. He then explained that when he got to Ohrdruf , and saw what the Germans did to the Jews, he shot a German commander right in his head. He then got out of the tank and took the commander’s helmet and kept it. Harry took all of his revenge out at that one moment on behalf of all his fellow Jews massacred at Ohrdruf.

  33. You may be interested in the account of the first members of the 4th Armored Division to enter Ohrdruf. In “Battle Rattle A Last Memoir of World War II,” Stinson Publishing, San Francisco 2015 Roger Boas describes how, on April 4, 1945, he and his commanding officer, Bob Parker, of the 94th Armored Field Artillery Battalion of Patton’s Third Army, inspected a residential structure with a moat. It seemed odd, and from the windows of the German industrialist’s living room they saw into the camp. See pages xii-xiv, 189-92,

  34. Everyone talks about the atrocities in Germany and other countries which agreed were horrible but, no one ever approaches the atrocities that happened in our own country. The Indians were here first. Europeans moved in and nearly slaughtered all of them. The survivors were marched state by state to foriegn territory. Many slaughtered in mass along the way to their so called new home. Land so different from what they were familiar with. Hard rocky dirt and gravel that couldn’t be farmed. No building materials to build to homes they were accustomed to. Displaced families, orphaned children. Severe depression set in and alcohol and drug abuse became a way to escape the memory of what happened to many families.

    I’m thankful for our military now, but ashamed of what we did to our aboriginal people and the other people that were ripped away from their own people and countries to become slave labor in someone else’s country, our country.

    Many days of research end in tear filled eyes because of all the hatred we show one another. It’s shameful.

    • North American Indians did suffer greatly, first at the hands of other Indian tribes, then by the Spanish, followed by the French and British, colonials, the US, and Mexico. But it occurred episodically, uncoordinated, and often unplanned. The USA never had a plan to exterminate every single Indian. It was hoped the races could coexist, but this rarely happened. The continual encroachment on natives by an ever increasing tide of immigrants looking for land meant conflict was inevitable. Some tribes fought back, some assimilated, but all suffered. In American history the worst people who called for genocide never gained much traction because such an idea was and remains anathema to nearly all Americans. If you don’t believe this, consider the despicable actions of the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 in the Colorado territory. The leader of that attack, John Chivington, saw his political ambitions destroyed when the nation rejected him after the facts were made public by an officer who refused to follow his orders. No such thing ever happened in Nazi Germany or the USSR, where systematic annihilation of all undesirable elements was matter of routine without any recourse.

  35. Terrible experience for the soldiers but let us remember that the higher powers knew long before 1945 of the existence of the camps and what was happening in them.

  36. I agree that our country has done its share of murder and mutilation. If you don’t know about the Trail of Tears, just google it. Native Americans were forced to walk from southern states out to Oklahoma. Many died before reaching “their promised land.” Think of it. How many wore out their moccasins. How many had bleeding, infected feet?

  37. Thank you so much for sharing your grandfather’s experience. My father was with the same outfit your grandfather was in. The 89th was referred to as ‘The Wolverines.’ My dad had fought under Patton at the Battle of the Bulge. He was with the unit at the liberation of Ordruf. What amazes me is, the information available says that Patton refused to go inside the barracks for fear he would get sick. My father said that Patton went into one of the barracks, turned right around, went behind the barrack, and puked.
    You are the first person to confirm my dad’s story. Thank you.

  38. And isn’t it shocking that today, in Lithuania, the government is actively working to cover up the participation of the Lithuanian population in the slaughter of their neighbors and fellow citizens? Even making discussion of it subject to punishment, and glorifying certain Lithuanians who led the massacres as war time “heroes”.

    • I worked in Lithuania for a short time about 20 years ago. They have a SS museum there which is located in a former SS prison where one can see the methods the SS used to torture and interrogate prisoners. It is shocking to realize first hand the lengths they would go to in order to get the information they wanted from their prisoners. Many of the prisoners died because of the violent, inhumane methods they used. One that I remember most vividly was that a prisoner would be forced to stand on a small circular pedestal surrounded by a pool of water in an unheated room. If the prisoner refused to give the desired information he was left to stand there until he fainted from exhaustion and fell into the water and drowned. Before WW II there were 105 Jewish synagogues in Vilnius, the capital city. Between the Germans and the Soviet communists there was only one remaining when Lithuania finally gained its freedom from the Soviet Union. One of the things the communists did was to remove grave markers from Jewish cemeteries and use them to make the steps for a labor union hall.

    • I read a book once about what happened in Lithuania during and after WW2. That country (and its neighbors) went through hell, a no-win situation that must have left almost nobody with a clear conscience afterwards. I forget the exact history now… I think it was the Russians first, then the Germans, then the Russians again… what do they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend? So whichever murderous giant was enslaving your country at the moment, you cooperated with the other one. Then when they got control, you switched sides. Meanwhile the guy next door has a family and more to lose, so he is doing the opposite. So now you and him are trying to kill each other, where you used to be trusting friends. It was nightmare that finally dragged on for decades.

  39. My father was with this group who liberated Ohrdruf. He carried photos that he took in his wallet his entire life. I did not become aware of this till I was much older. I tried to get him to record his story but he would not do that. He did tell me that they made the neighboring townsfolk go through the camp to see what took place. I still have the pictures.

  40. My uncle Ralph Rippel, served as a driver for General Leclerc and was awarded the Cru de la Guerre for his service. He would never talk about experiences with those camps. he did say there was a minor labor camp in france

  41. Painful and saddening for me to read. I was born in Berlin during the war. I have few recollections, I still transcend to childhood when hearing, smelling and seeing things. (Flashbacks) My dad was a photographer of war for the Germans…I have photos of Dresden (his birth place) bodies piled burning. He breathed in the burning air and died of cancer in 1949.
    I learned about concentration camps after coming to America. A High school teacher asked me “what did your parents do about the concentration camps?” I responded, what’s a concentration camp? After that, kids would goose step and salute with “hitler was your father”
    As a Christen, mom said we must forgive, and not allow the words to be internalized, we are in control of that…they are only words. I don’t allow words to hurt me.
    I had to endure war again when my husband went to Vietnam and came home with a Purple Heart and Bronze Star, and all the pain he endured, was greatly enhanced by the Home Coming hecklers.
    After 50 yrs. I went back to Germany, but never could bring myself to go to the camps…I hate what had happened and it never should of happened.
    Sadly, perverse cruelty can happen anywhere in the world…and don’t think that it can’t happen here. A country divided by hate is weak, and that can be the beginning.

    • Quite right, DP. My mother’s best friend was a German war bride of an American GI stationed there for occupation duty. Her father had been an SS Major (Sturmbannführer). She never talked about it to us kids, partly out of shame and partly because my Dad was Jewish. My parents knew and didn’t care. She wasn’t responsible for what her father believed. I only found out because I was at their house one Saturday afternoon watching an old WWII movie with her son. Some Nazi was chasing the good guys in the dark, trying to shoot them. My Mom entered the room and turned off the TV. When I complained, as ten year olds tend to do, she took me outside and explained the reason. I never did get to see how that movie turned out.

  42. My sister-in-law was born in Germany and a teenager prior to, and at the time of WWII. She was a member of the “Brown Shirts”, the pre-military group. When she found out what was going on, after the war really started, she wanted out of the Brown Shirts. Because of that, her and her family were put in a concentration camp. The Germans didn’t kill them, but they paid the price of not enough food, number stamped on their arm, etc. until the end of the war. Only my sister-in-law and her mother made it out. She will not talk about it either.

  43. Growing up on Long Island, in the 50s and early 60s, I had many Jewish friends in school. Almost all of them had relatives who had either perished, or survived the being in the camps. My best friend, Richard, had both parents in the camps. His mother in Dachau and his father, first in Theresienstadt Ghetto and later in Auschwitz. His father never talked about his experiences. His mother, did. Even as a child I listened to her stories of life in Dachau as a young girl. Later, she told me of her liberation from the camp by the Americans. Richards mom spoke English very well and the Americans used her to help talk to the prisoners and to the remaining guards. Finally, they took her back to Frankfurt, which was her home. She was riding with a young American Lieutenant who was escorting her. When she saw the destruction of Frankfurt, she began to weep. The Lieutenant told her how sorry he was her city had been destroyed. She told him, No!, I am weeping for joy that it has been destroyed. He said he understood then. She was then sent to an internment camp for refugees and there met her future husband. They settled in New York in 1950. Richards father, years later, wrote a book of poetry from his time in Theresienstadt. It was his time to tell his story. They are both still with us and in their mid 90s. They outlived all of their tormentors. That is divine justice. Richard was the only person I ever knew that had no family what so ever besides his mom, dad and sister. The rest of his family perished in the camps. I know his fathers story now and it is an incredible journey that is worthy of a book. His courage was unbelievable under the circumstances. My father was a pilot during WWII, but right after the war was assigned to helping interrogate the German prisoners. My grandmother had been a WWI German war bride. My grandfather had been in the Cavalry during WWI and married my grandmother, in Germany, in 1920. My father spoke fluent German. He also helped interrogate some of the SS guards that were being held. He once told me it took all he had to not shoot them on the spot. He carried all of this with him till his early death at 57 years old. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet and talk with people who were actually in the camps and my father and his friends who contributed to the destruction and liberation of this evil empire.

  44. Actually it was my Grandfather’s (Col. A.F. Scheele’s) Medical Team as he was a doctor and other US Divisions that arrived there first at the same time and not Patton that had the mayor of the town and the local town’s people parade through the camp see the atrocities that they had ignored. He did talk about it alot in great detail and I recorded his speaking about what had happened. He was also present at most of the major European battles of WWII starting at Pearl Harbor to include the Battle of the Bulge, the crossing at the Elb River and the Normandy invasion on Utah beach.

    • Your grandfather was a brave and honorable man. For him to record these atrocities for posterities sake is a God send. My father was a pilot during the war and after the war ended he was assigned to help interrogate POWs. My grandmother was a WWI war bride from Germany and my father, uncles and aunts all spoke German fluently. Every time he had to help interrogate an SS man, he wanted to shoot the SOB on the spot. He said, to a man, they were unrepentant. Disgusting.

  45. My father was a medic in the 89th div. and was among the first to arrive at Ohrdruf. He told me about how thin the prisoners were. He told me how one of the guards tried to pass himself off as a prisoner, but the prisoners told on him. Some soldiers gave the prisoners guns and let them kill him.

    • Best thing they could have done for those prisoners! Too many got away after the war and we did help some of them. That is even worse. My father was a pilot during the war and after the war ended he was given another job of helping interrogating POW’s. My grandmother was German (WWI war bride) and my father spoke fluent German. He said, many times, that he wished he could have shot the SS men he helped interrogate. They had no remorse at all for what they did. Our fathers and aunts and uncles saved the world for us. I hope we do not let them down.

  46. I lived I Switzerland as a child. In 1964 or 65, we went to Dachau which still contained piles of hair, teeth, lampshades, bones, and other human remains. The interpreters were Catholic priests who were former inmates, and had the tattoos to prove it against the camp registry. getting to the camp was difficult because the townspeople would not give us directions…. I remember when my father would ask in German, they would just turn away, or tell us to go in the opposite way. Dachau at that exact moment was an enigma because it was the home of quarantined refugees fleeing Eastern Europe’s communism…. and they were in rags, with shaved heads.

    I learned EVERYTHING about freedom that day. What it means to have it; what it means to lose it.

    • Patton assembled his army to invade Germany across the Rhine near Switzerland, expecting a lot of resistance. When he got to the Rhine, and found that his troops built a pontoon bridge across it into Germany, he walked across it to Germany. When he reached the middle of the bridge and had entered Germany, he stopped, unzipped, and urinated into Germany. He told IKe what he had done, and then said “Send gasoline!” for his tanks and trucks. When he got it, they spend across Germany, unexpectedly finding little German opposition.

  47. The avoidance of discussing WWII by its veterans is a common theme of the Greatest Generation. My father was on a submarine in the Pacific, the Mapiro, # 376, and only once mentioned the stench of the Japanese dead a few days after the liberation of Saipan. While avoiding discussion of the War with their children was common, as a retired history teacher, I discovered they would talk to their grandchildren, but the grandchildren had to first ask them to talk about it. Has anyone else had that experience?

    • My father never really talked to me, or my sisters about the war. The only way we would hear anything was when his friends would come to our house and go to the basement and drink and talk. Once the alcohol loosened their lips we heard stories that ten year old children should not hear. My father did not live long enough to have the pleasure of talking to his grandchildren. I have my own stories now from Vietnam and do the same thing as my father. Usually only talk to fellow veterans, or my wife. It is just the way it is.

  48. My late cousin (through marriage) was one of the prisoners liberated by the US Army. Her parents were murdered by the Nazis and she was captured at the age of 16. She spent the next year as a slave laborer in several of the worst camps (the Germans kept moving them as the Soviets closed in). She survived only because she had been trained to assemble electronic components for the V1 rockets. She damaged as many of these parts as she thought she could get away with (the guards were a bit thick and selected for their brawn, not their brains). She later immigrated to the States and married my cousin. They raised a family and lived happily ever after.

  49. It’s too bad that most of our current, young & spoiled, “politically correct socialists” will never learn of the atrocities committed on our youth of WWII. Todays “youth” should all be exposed to how much the youth of WWII, & other wars, sacrificed for our great country USA.
    Like your freedom, thank a veteran.

  50. Parallel to Charlie’s note (08.4.19) that I now have in common:
    Around Easter 1962. As a small French child, I was 6 years old, accompanied by my mother’s hand and my father’s hand. I remember Camp Dachau 1962. We passed a gutted tower, and on the left there were long huts of the camp still populated. Linens were drying on threads. A child’s bicycle. Objects here and there in front of the huts, but no one outside. The visit was done in silence. No group. No interpreter comments. I don’t think my father would have been able to handle it. Here piles of hair; piles of baggage; crematorium almost clean near a brick wall. I know I asked my parents when we left the camp, “If it’s over?!”
    They then took me to the Deutsches Museum in Munich, which is what may have motivated my interest in science. I became an engineer, but also German translator-interpreter.