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A pile of naked bodies stacked in a shed in the Ohrdruf concentration camp.

Photograph | Photograph Number: 64158

A pile of naked bodies stacked in a shed in the Ohrdruf concentration camp.

The original caption reads "Bodies of victims of Nazi brutality are piled in a shed at a prison camp. Too ill to be moved, they were murdered when the U.S. Third Army advance made German retreat necessary."

The original Signal Corps caption reads, "SS MURDER CAMP UNCOVERED. The swift advance of the Third U.S. Army's famous Fourth Armored Division uncovered the horror of a Nazi SS murder camp at Ohrdruf, entered April 4, 1945, after the fall of Gotha, eight miles to the north. American soldiers who seized the camp found the courtyard littered with the bodies of Czechoslovakian, Russian, Belgian and French slave laboreres, slain because they were too weak to be evacuated. In a shed, they found a stack of 44 naked and lime-covered bodies.

According to survivors, 3,000 to 4,000 prisoners had been killed by SS troops, 70 being slain just before the Americans reached the camp. The 80 survivors had escaped death or removal by hiding in the woods. They reported that an average of 150 died daily, mainly from shooting or clubbing. The Nazi system was to feed prisoners a crust of bread a day, work them on tunneling until they were too weak to continue, then exterminate them and replace them with another 150 prisoners daily.

Led by Colonel Hayden Sears of the Fourth Armored Division, prominent German citizens of the town of Ohrdruf saw with their own eyes the horrors of SS brutality during a conducted tour of the Ohrdruf charnelhouse April 8, 1945. As they stood over the slain prisoners, Colonel Sears said: "This is why Americans cannot be your friends..." The enforced tour of the Germans ended with a visit to a wood where 10 bodies lay on a grill, made of railways lines, ready for cremation. Colonel Sears asked a uniformed German medical officer: "Does this meet with your conception of the German master race?" The officer faltered and at last answered: I cannot believe that Germans did this." "

Walter E. Cummings
1945 April 06
Ohrdruf, [Thuringia] Germany
Photo Credit
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Ilona Shechter
Record last modified: 2012-11-09 00:00:00
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