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July 03, 2003

Unseen History: Ohrdruf 2

From an article in Yank Magazine on German atrocities, May 18, 1945

Ohrdruf, Germany -- The tankmen Combat Command A, 4th Armored Division, had taken this town two days before. Prisoners in Concentration Camp North (Stalag III) -- those who were too weak or too sick to travel -- had been killed the day before the doughs rolled in. The cold had preserved their bodies and deadened the stench so that you could walk around them and inspect them at fairly close range.

There were 31 bodies piled in one place and more than that tumbled together on top of each other in a nearby shack -- 65 in all. Some of the bodies were clothed in rags and some were completely naked. One body was that of an American soldier, and the few survivors pointed him out. Blood had caked the ground around the bodies into pancakes of red mud.

All the peoples of Europe were represented here among the survivors and the dead evidence of German efficiency. The Americans who went through the camp looked quietly at the dead and spoke softly to the living.

Col. Hayden Sears of Boston, Mass., CO of Combat Command A, said little as he looked around on the second day. The third day he assembled the leading citizens of Ohrdruf and took them to visit the camp of death.

The leading citizens were very much ashamed of what their fellow Germans had. done. "This is the work of only 1 percent of the German Army," said one of them. "You should not blame the rest."

Col. Sears spoke to them through an interpreter.

"Tell them they have been brought here to see with their own eyes what is reprehensible by any human standard," he said. "Tell them we hold the whole German nation responsible because of its support and toleration of the Nazi Government.

"Tell them so long as this kind of thing goes on, we must consider the German people our enemy.
--- Sgt. Saul Levitt


Click on picture for a larger version.

S & G 61325
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Survivors tell American Soldiers and war correspondents the story of the massacre of their fellow inmates, who lie in a scattered heap on the ground before them. Approximately 30 prisoners were shot and left lying as the Fourth Armored Division approached the camp.

British-Combine-Acme Photo F 15481 from Sport and General.

WAR POOL PHOTO, NOT FOR USE IN BRITISH ISLES, FRANCE, OR WESTERN HEMISPHERE
SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO LIST B
CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR

Notes: The number 11317 appears in blue ink on the back of the letter beside red pencil initials that appear exactly as they do in the copy of the back of the photo below. My guess is that the American soldier in the center of the photo is Colonel Hayden Sears, based on the similarity of appearance with a known picture of Colonel Sears at Ohrdruf (Second picture down) Several of the survivors in that photo also appear in the one above.


Click on picture for a larger version.

BIPPA EA61493
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: A corner of the prison camp, showing a guard tower in the foreground. Trees were planted in neat even rows outside the (barbed) wire fences.
U.S. Signal Corps Photo (ETO-HQ-)45-30888
(SERVICE)D BY LONDON OWI TO LIST B
(CERTIF)IED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR

Notes: I have two copies of this photo, both somewhat damaged, presumably from being under a filing cabinet drawer for 30 years. They are the only photos I've ever seen of the outside of the camp. The "THIS PHOTO SHOWS" information above is pulled from both of them, numbered 11095 and 11096, respectively. Anything that appears in parentheses is my best guess as to what belongs there. I'm still not sure of the initials beside each number, the first letter could be any one of a number of cursive letters. I've added a scan of the back of 11096 so readers can judge for themselves.


Click on picture for a larger version.

For those of you happening upon these pictures for the first time, an explanation of how they came to appear on this site, as well as more information on the Ohrdruf work camp can be found in the first post in this series.

The third post in this series can be seen here.

Posted by Bigwig at July 3, 2003 12:49 AM | TrackBack
Postscript:
First time visitor to House Hraka? Wondering if everything we produce could possibly be as brilliant/stupid/evil/pedantic/insipid/inspired as the post you just read? Check out the Hraka Essentials, the (mostly) reader-selected guide to Hraka's best posts, and decide for yourself.
Comments

The paper, typing, etc. are very similar to that used in the unit history that I scanned in for my site. This is the cover: http://simmins.org/Fifth/cover.jpg . It's the same color though heavier stock, and the pages within are lighter stock but still that unique brown. Same place, same time. In case someone ever questions authenticity.

Posted by: Chuck at July 3, 2003 09:13 AM

Oh, dear god. The photos and the article pointed out something I had never noticed before:

They planted *trees*! They LANDSCAPED.

I'm not sure I can describe why, but something about that just has me sitting here shaking.

Posted by: Greg at July 3, 2003 09:29 AM

Thank you for doing something that is difficult for all of us. We need to be reminded. I'm crying.

Posted by: SGT LOL at July 3, 2003 09:32 AM

Except for the older uniforms we could be looking at Iraq. No wonder the Germans did not want to be reminded.

What bothers me so very much is the obstinance of the French and Belgians. I've had two Belgians tell me , "You Americans don't know what a favor Hitler did for Europe".

Posted by: Msgt al at July 3, 2003 08:50 PM

As if everyone didn't know already, but Europe does have a history in fufilling the saying "the only thing Evil needs is for good men to stand by and do nothing"...... Europe (especially the French) has a history of doing nothing.
that is why it is imperative that America continue it's tradition of conquering dictators and liberating peoples of all backgrounds... while force isn't neccesarily the best option, it DOES happen to be the most effective

Posted by: the Devildog at July 3, 2003 10:50 PM

I assume when we talk about "Europe", we don't mean the Brits.

Msgt: WTF? Belgians? Belgian deaths from Hitler, proportionally to the total populations, were exceeded only by those of Poles and Jews. I seen that attitude from some French I know, but Belgians?

Posted by: Milodar at July 4, 2003 11:02 AM

Yes, as an eight year old here in New Zealand in the early 1960s (aged 50 now) we had black & white documentaries, one being British, The Great War, and others. I saw most of the film capturing the events of WW2 and the liberation of the death/concentration camps. The camera does not lie and there was no propaganda. Just images & solemn classical music.

I won't forget, nor did viewing them as a girl do me any harm. Kids nowadays are often wrapped in cotton wool & are no longer shown real history. Souls are strong, they are not harmed by real images. It stays in the memory always as a thing never to be repeated again......

Unfortunately man does not learn quickly. Still had Pol Pot, Idi Amin etc......

Regards,
Margaret.

Posted by: Margaret Hyland at January 26, 2004 10:26 PM

...it looks to me like the red initials on the backs of the photos are 'Ser.' as in 'serial number' or 'series' perhaps....it seems to make sense since they are printed right in front of the stamped number.....

just thought i'd mention that in case you're still wondering about them....

Posted by: brietta at February 8, 2004 05:10 PM
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