Allied troops liberated prisoners of concentration camps. Although these soldiers had witnessed all the horrors of war, the condition of the prisoners in the camps was even more shocking. It was beyond any war scene the soldiers had experienced. There were rows upon rows of bodies stacked up like cordwood. Upon encountering the Ohrdruf concentration camp, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, then Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, was overwhelmed with emotion. Liberators struggled to make sense of the scenes they witnessed.
Allied troops, physicians, and relief workers tried to provide nourishment and medicine for the prisoners, but many were too weak and could not be saved.
There were about a dozen bodies in the dirty boxcar, men and women alike. They had gone without food for so long that their dead wrists were broomsticks tipped with claws....
Someone broke the silence with a curse and then with a roar the men started for the camp on the double...the men were plain fighting mad. They went down that road without any regard for cover or concealment. No one was afraid, not after those boxcars.
--British officer Peter Coombs, in a letter to his wife
I saw Eisenhower go to the opposite end of the road and vomit. From a distance I saw Patton bend over, holding his head with one hand and his abdomen with the other. And I soon became ill. I suggested to General Eisenhower that cables be sent immediately to President Roosevelt, Churchill, DeGaulle, urging people to come and see for themselves. The general nodded.
--Lewis H. Weinstein, Lieutenant Colonel and chief of the liaison section of General Eisenhower's staff, April 1945
I have never felt able to describe my emotional reaction when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency...I visited every nook and cranny of the camp because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at first hand about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda.
--General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Allied Forces, Europe, Letter to Chief of Staff George Marshall, April 12, 1945
As we entered the camp, the living skeletons still able to walk crowded around us and, though we wanted to drive farther into the place, the milling, pressing crowd would not let us. It is not an exaggeration to say that almost every inmate was insane with hunger. Just the sight of an American brought cheers, groans and shrieks. People crowded around to touch an American, to touch the jeep, to kiss our arms--perhaps just to make sure that it was true. The people who couldn't walk crawled out toward our jeep. Those who couldn't even crawl propped themselves up on an elbow, and somehow, through all their pain and suffering, revealed through their eyes the gratitude, the joy they felt at the arrival of Americans.
--Captain J.D. Pletcher, 71st Division Headquarters
Visit the Resource section to view photographs of Allied troops advancing into German territory and the liberation of the camps.
Visit the Resource section to view photographs of the camps immediately after liberation and inspection tours by General Eisenhower.
This site offers Chuck Ferree's account of the liberation of Dachau concentration camp.
This personal and in-depth account of the liberation of Buchenwald by Harry J. Herder, Jr. offers great detail in its descriptions.
Staff Sgt. Albert J. Kosiek describes the liberation of Mauthausen and Gusen camps.
Colonel Edmund M. of the United States Army, describes Mauthausen shortly after its liberation. (Photo, video, audio, and text)
This is a brief description of Abram Sachar's experience in the liberation of Dachau.
Retired Brigadier General Felix Sparks recalls the liberation of Dachau in a speech made at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
General Sparks offers his perspective on the liberation of Dachau.
First hand observations of Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps are shared. This site also has information about displaced persons camps.
Interactive quiz on liberators.
Lesson plans, discussion questions, term paper topics, reproducible handouts, and other resources for teaching about liberators are available here.
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A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
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College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997-2013.