- German civilians from Gardelegen gather in the town square where they receive instructions for the burial of the victims of the Gardelegen barn atrocity.
- Josef E. Von Stroheim
1945 April 18
- Gardelegen, [Prussian Saxony; Saxony-Anhalt] Germany
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Arnold Bauer Barach
- Event History
- A barn on the outskirts of the town of Gardelegen was the site of the massacre of over one thousand concentration camp prisoners evacuated from a sub-camp of Dora-Mittelbau in the face of the Allied advance. On April 4, 1945 between two and three thousand prisoners of the Rottleberode labor camp were boarded onto a freight train. After changing directions several times the train arrived in Mieste, 12 kilometers from Gardelegen. The prisoners were taken off the train and led on a forced march in the direction of Gardelegen, during which many were shot by their SS overseers. Twelve hundred of the prisoners made it to the hospital complex between Mieste and Gardelegen. During their short stay on the grounds of the hospital, the SS selected three hundred German political prisoners among them to act as guards over the rest of the group. For their services they were promised their freedom. The following day the death march continued, and more were shot along the way as they fell out of line. On the evening of Friday, April 13, the column of marchers reached a barn on a small hill outside of Gardelegen. The prisoners were herded into the empty building measuring approximately a hundred by fifty feet, and ordered to sit down. The floor of the barn was covered with straw that the guards soaked with gasoline. At the last moment the German prisoner guards were also forced into the barn. A 16-year-old SS corporal then ignited the straw, and the barn doors were quickly closed and barricaded. Prisoners who tried to escape were shot by the SS. It is estimated that 1,016 prisoners were killed; only two managed to escape from the barn and remain alive. The next morning local slave laborers were rounded up to dig large trenches around the barn in which to bury the remains, and conceal the evidence. Their work was interrupted by the arrival of the Ozark troops of the American 102nd Infantry Division. The Division commander ordered that the civilian population be forced to view the site and to disinter and rebury the victims in a new cemetery. After digging the graves and burying the bodies, they erected a cross or a Star of David over each grave and enclosed the site with a white fence. Though the SS troops who participated in the massacre managed to disappear, several local officials who were implicated in the atrocity committed suicide soon after its disclosure.
[Source: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. "The Year of 1945 Liberation," Washington, D.C., 1945, pp. 69-70.]