The Ohrdruf Photos

UPDATE March 30, 2004:

Thomas HollingsworthI've been contacted by a veteran who was part of the discovery of these camps. His name is Thomas Hollingsworth. That's him at the left. Here is a series of comments that he has e-mailed me about what he saw.
I was there. 282 FABN . I was told that the prisoners were marched out of camp to work and back. The people in town had to know. These pictures are still vivid in my mind even though I had 9 months of combat and seen much, it sickened me also. I can even still smell the stench. I was told that the Germans tried desperately to hide the identities of many of the prisoners. That is why they were burned on the tracks and thrown into the swamp to rot.

I under stand that there is a museum at Ohrdruf. We were there for about 3 months in Suhl before the Russian's took over. From there we went to Le Havre as SP'S and help process troop's home plus guarding the docks.

The 282 was probably the best trained unit in the army. Our cadre was New York national guard and I think we broke every record held in our field tests by a wide margin. The whole time in Camp Rucker was like Advanced Basic. We cross trained in all the different jobs until we were proficient in all. Our greatest gripe was they took all the best food home and left us scraps. Like chicken backs and necks and etc.

The 35 at the main gate had their pants down to the ankles and had one bullet through  the side of the neck. Someone covered them up for the picture. The 32 that were at the side of the ovens were beaten to death. The speculation at the time was the estimated 2000 that were in the swamp and the ones on the tracks being burned were probably allies. The idea was to destroy their identity.

What follows is the story of a unique group of photos, lost for nearly three decades. They and the story that their Net poster has developed illustrate the undeniable horrors of the Nazi era. They are extremely graphic and not for children. His prose is coloured blue.

Holocaust deniers like David Irving have always had a hard time with my family. The idea that the Holocaust didn't happen, or that the its extent was exaggerated was always considered lunacy. We had proof, you see.

Not that we're Jewish, or lost anyone in the camps. The closest we ever got to a connection of that sort (before my middle brother married above himself) was the lady who lived beside us when I was a child, and whose lawn I mowed for pocket money during my teenage years.

I never knew her as anything other than Dr. Blumenfeld. She was a professor at the college, a sad women who lived alone with only a Dachshund for company. As best as I remember she came to America from Germany in the thirties, and most if not all of the family she left behind perished.

For the most part I never thought of her. As a child I remember being scared of her. As a teenager I initially resented her, for she was very precise in her instructions when it came to mowing her lawn, then uncomfortable and nervous around her, as if she were a hideous cripple who had gotten into a too-small elevator with me.

The reasons my attitude changed were found in the back of a large metal Army Surplus filing cabinet, one of a number bought by Louisburg College in the late 1970's, presumably because they were cheap. It's one of the oldest junior colleges in America, but it's always suffered from financial troubles. It was given to my father, who stuck it in a corner of his office and ignored it for months.

In the bottom of the filing cabinet, stuck beneath the drawer were 20 black and white photos from World War II, mostly of piles of bodies. Some had this message stamped in red on the back;

ORIGINAL PRINT Must be returned to Office of War Information Picture Division Library 224 West 57th Street New York, N.Y.

Others had this ominous message;

WAR POOL PHOTO, NOT FOR USE IN BRITISH ISLES, FRANCE, OR WESTERN HEMISPHERE

All had descriptions glued to the back, usually a general overview of the circumstances in which the picture was taken, followed by a specific description of the picture contents. My father happened upon them the day he finally decided to use the heavy metal beast the administration had crammed into his office.

As best as we tell they have never been published anywhere. I remembered them when I first started this site, but could never get past the feeling that exhibiting them here was something akin to inviting people to come down to the local 7-11 for a Guernica showing.

The environment still doesn't feel right, but I decided a week or so ago while looking for a particular Will Rogers speech that withholding information from the Internet was as close to a electronic sin as one can get. Also, the photo and descriptions are aging rapidly, despite the acid free folders they've been stored in over the last 25 years, and I thought it best to put the photos and descriptions into a more accessible digital form before turning the lot over to a organization better equipped to care for them.

I never apologized to Dr. Blumenfeld for my attitudes towards her before she died. I don't know that I could have found the words to express the awkwardness I felt around her without giving offense at that age. I can only hope that she didn't notice. I think Dad may have shown these to her at one point. I don't care to think how painful that must have been for both of them.

Perhaps I can redress some small part of that wrong I did as a child to the good Doctor by posting the pictures. Given the present day situation in the Middle East, and the rising tides of an all too familiar anti-Semitism in parts of the progressive movement, perhaps they might also serve as a caution, of a fresh reminder of what happened the last time the West abandoned the children of Israel.

Thanks for the words about Dr. Blumenfeld. I believe she would have appreciated the apology--though I'm not sure. She was always difficult to read, and you should feel no guilt in regards to your fear of her or discomfort in her presence. She inspired those feelings in all who met her. A couple of corrections: The filing cabinet was in your father's office from the beginning of his tenure at the college in 1967. It must have been purchased right after the war, and not necessarily by the college. The former office resident might have done so. Your dad used the cabinet from the beginning and found the photos only when the drawers were removed so that the cabinet could be moved to his new office some time in the late 70's or early 80's. The file folder was under the bottom drawer, left there by the military since the waning days of the war in Europe. Dad still has the cabinet. Bigwig's Mom

The blogger's nom de plume is Bigwig and his blog is Silflay Hraka

SS MURDER CAMP UNCOVERED

The swift advance of the Third U.S. Army's famous Fourth Armored 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 laborers, 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 150 died daily, mainly from shooting or clubbing. The Nazi system was too 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 charnel house 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 railway 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."

BIPPA EA 61491 THIS PHOTO SHOWS: These prisoners were too ill from lack of food and unsanitary conditions to move when the Fourth Armored Division approached the Ohrdruf camp, so the Germans shot them and left them. U.S. Signal Corps Photo ETO-HQ-45-30885 SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO LIST B CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR The number "11097' has been stamped in blue ink on the back of the photo. Beside the number is a set of initials in red pencil. Lcr, or Fcr, perhaps.

bodies

S & G 61330 THIS PHOTO SHOWS: A closeup of the bodies of prisoners massacred and piled together. Their bodies bear the marks of Nazi brutality. British Combine - Acme Photo F 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 The number "11304' has been stamped in blue ink on the back of the photo. Beside the number is a set of initials in red pencil. Lcr, or Fcr, perhaps.

Massacre

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.

the camp

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.

report

Note: The paper and typing on this item appear similar to that I found as I scanned the unit history for my father's military unit. It fits for time and place on that basis alone.

Don Timmer helped liberate Ohrdruf.

Like most veterans, silver-haired Mansfield resident Don Timmer enjoys telling war stories.

Stories about how, as a "goof-off" of 18, he was drafted in 1945 and became a private in the 89th Infantry Division of the Third Army under General George Patton. How he was among the first troops to land directly in (occupied) France; how his company went through France "like a hot knife through butter."

But what the army private didn't talk about, except to his family, was the two days he spent in the German town of Ohrdruf and vicinity.

Recently, however, something happened to make Timmer, a Protestant, break his silence. As he describes it, last spring, at a Board of Education meeting in Loudonville, Ohio, a high-school teacher was reviewing her itinerary for the senior class trip to Washington, D.C. Proposed stops included the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, the Smithsonian and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

One of the school-board members "flew into a rage," as Timmer was later told, stating that the Holocaust was grossly exaggerated and that the students shouldn't be forced to go to the museum and listen to "a fabrication."

"When I heard what the guy said, it made me go back to my memory" of those April days in 1945, says Timmer, anger rising in his voice. His company, stationed in Gotha, Germany, at the time, was getting ready to penetrate deeper into the country when the call came to move south, instead, to Ohrdruf. There were conflicting reports about a concentration camp there, and the soldiers were to "investigate."

Timmer remembers it was one of the first nice days of spring as they drove the 10 miles to Ohrdruf. German fighter planes strafed them along the way, but no one was hurt. As they entered the town of Ohrdruf, home to some 20,000 people, "No one came out to greet us." Less than two miles past town they understood the reason.

"We came up to a 15-foot-high barbed wire fence and could see unmanned wooden shacks (barracks) behind it," recalls Timmer. "We drove in and between the gate and the barracks were 30 dead ... the blood still wet from the departing German guards" who had shot the prisoners before fleeing in trucks.

Seeing the American soldiers, the surviving prisoners who could still walk (about half of the 500 who were there) "cautiously" came out of the barracks.

Timmer, the son of Dutch-born parents, had taken German in high school, and suddenly he was thrust into the role of company interpreter. He would be the first to hear and tell others the tales of unspeakable horror that were already evident in the sights and smells surrounding them.

To hide the evidence of what transpired at Ohrdruf, the guards, he learned, had been trying to dispose of about 2000 bodies, mainly slave laborers. Half had been exhumed from a mass grave, and half had been stacked in several buildings awaiting incineration.

Since Ohrdruf was the first concentration camp to be liberated, "we were ordered to leave the bodies where they lay," recalls Timmer. "The division commanders would be notified of what had been found and would probably want to see for themselves."

Meanwhile, the GIs shared their rations with the living and looked around, stunned, at the scene before them. At noon, Timmer continues, the division commanders arrived, and Patton himself came at 3:30. Within half an hour, fearless "Old Blood and Guts," as Patton was known to his men, was so sickened by what he saw that he "threw up."

General Eisenhower flew in from Belgium early the next morning to witness the carnage firsthand. "Even Ike looked pale, and he wasn't a pale guy," says Timmer. The supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe had brought his own interpreter, so Timmer was temporarily relieved of his duties. "Ike stayed until dark," Timmer recalls, talking at length to one of the articulate prisoners.

When Eisenhower left, Patton brought the mayor of Ohrdruf and his wife to the camp to see for themselves what they undoubtedly already knew. (When they were off duty, the guards would come into town to "brag, womanize and drink," notes Timmer, "so how couldn't townspeople know?") Then Patton ordered the mayor, his wife and all the other able-bodied townsfolk to come back the next day and dig individual graves for the dead prisoners.

The citizens did as they were told, completing 80% of the burials and promising to come back the following day to finish the job. That night, the mayor and his wife hanged themselves.

Timmer was called upon to translate their suicide note. It said, simply, "We didn't know! - but we knew."

In the first concentration camp to be liberated by the Western Allies, Don Timmer was the first soldier to hear the tales of horror. 58 years later, one of his countrymen tells the first American Holocaust witness to his face that what he saw and heard first hand was nothing but lies.

I wouldn't be surprised if the speaker added something along the lines of "Besides, it's no worse that what we did to the Sioux."

The new flavor of Holocaust denial is not to deny that it happened, but to deny it significance, to reduce 6 million dead Jews to a mere blip on the bloody radar of human history. "Bad things have happened to people all through history" goes the logic. "Besides, everyone does it." It's an argument that demands the perfection of human character before allowing action against evil while simultaneously denying that such perfection can possibly exist.

It's a neat rhetorical trick, an excuse for inaction in the face of evil. Given the numerous discoveries of mass graves and documented atrocities visited upon the people of Iraq by the recently deposed Ba'athist regime, the timing of its emergence is suspicious, and saddening.

The argument's aim is clear, though not all who ascribe to its logic recognize what that goal is. It seeks to make all of the human tragedy and suffering equally important, which sounds noble enough. But, if all deaths are equally important, then they are also equally unimportant, which leads to

"Bad things have happened to people all through history,"

So there's no rush to when it comes to freeing Iraqis from their dictator, to defend Liberians from theirs, and suicide bombers and those who hunt them are morally equivalent.

and "Besides, everyone does it."

Not the Germans. Not anymore. I wonder why that is?

------------------------

If you're in Ohio and would like Don Timmer to talk to a class or organization about not only his experiences with the Holocaust, but those of his sister, who nursed survivors of the Ebensee concentration camp in Austria, you can contact him via e-mail: imogenetimmer AT hotmail.com

I'll be posting only one concentration picture a day over the long weekend, mostly other angles of scenes already depicted at Ohrdruf. On Monday I'll post the first photos from the mass graves at Schwarzenfeld.


barracks

As the back of the photo shows, the specific description for this scene is long gone, though it appears to be the inside of one of the barracks the laborers at the Ohrdruf camp slept in. "BIST" or "RIST" is stenciled on the columns as are the letters "SP" on the rafters above. "ZYC" is written in chalk on the brick column in the foreground. The gaps between the walls and roof have been stuffed with straw in an attempt to stop drafts, straw probably taken from the thin pallets the prisoners slept on. Above each pallet is an eyebolt with a metal ring through it. I hesitate to guess at the purpose they were used for, but they could easily serve to hold up the wrists of a bound prisoner if a rope was run through it.

I'm fairly sure that the soldier is once again Colonel Sears, talking to a survivor of the camp, who also appears in the only previously known picture of Colonel Sears at Ohrdruf (Second picture down, third man to the left of the Colonel). I have no idea who the survivor is, but I like to think it's Henry Meyer.

back of numb 5


Unseen History: Ohrdruf 5

Note: This post will be at the top of the site for most of the day, then revert to its original publishing time at midnight. New content will appear below. An up-to-date list of all the Unseen History posts can be seen here, and will eventually be mirrored here.

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.

Andrew Rosner was evacuated by the Germans from Ohrdruf the day before it was liberated.

At the age of 23 I was barely alive as we began the death march eastward. All around me I heard the sound of thunder - really the sound of heavy artillery and machinery. I looked for any opportunity to drop out of the march. But, any man who fell behind or to the side was shot instantly by the Nazis. So, I marched on in my delirium and as night fell I threw myself off into the side of the road and into a clump of trees. I lay there -- waiting -- and waiting -- and suddenly nothing! No more Nazis shouting orders. No more marching feet. No more people. Alone. All alone and alive -- although barely.

I moved farther into the woods when I realized I was not really left behind. I slept for awhile as the darkness of night shielded me from the eyes of men. But, as the light of dawn broke, I heard shooting all around me. I played dead as men ran over me, stumbling over me as they went. I lay there as bullets passed by me and Nazis fell all around me. Then all was quiet. The battle was over. I waited for hours before I dared to move. I got up and saw dead German soldiers laying everywhere. I made my way back toward the road and started walking in the direction of a small village, which I could see in the distance. As I approached the village two Germans appeared. One raised his gun toward me and asked what I was doing there. I told him I was lost from the evacuation march. He told me that I must have escaped and I knew he was about to shoot me when the other German told him to let me be. It would not serve them well to harm me now. They allowed me to walk away and as I did, I said a final prayer knowing that a bullet in the back would now find me for sure. It never did!

In the small village I was told to go farther down the road to the town of Ohrdruf from where I had come three days before. There, I would find the Americans. And so I did.

As I entered the outskirts of the town of Ohrdruf two American soldiers met me and escorted me into town. I was immediately surrounded by Americans and as their officers questioned where I had been and what had happened to me, GIs were showering me with food and chocolate and other treats that I had not known for almost five years.

You were all so kind and so compassionate. But, my years in the camps, my weakened state of health, the forced death march, and my escape to freedom was more than a human body could bear any longer and I collapsed into the arms of you, my rescuing angels.

I awoke in a hospital. As soon as I opened my eyes the nurse ran to get the waiting American officers and their press corps. I was taken back to the Concentration Camp Ohrdruf by jeep in a convoy headed by Generals Eisenhower and Bradley themselves. Several survivors and myself gave General Eisenhower and his men a personal tour of the horrors, which you had discovered at Ohrdruf. I never forgot how General Eisenhower kept rubbing his hands together as we spoke of the horrors inflicted upon us and the piles of our dead comrades. He insisted on seeing it all, hearing it all, learning it all. He knew!! General Eisenhower knew. He wanted to have it recorded and filmed for the future. He said that sometime in the future there may come a time when people will say it never happened that way -- it's an exaggeration, it's propaganda, it was just the end results of war. Well, the time is now, only 50 years later. There are those who would tell you WWII of the 89th Division that what you saw at Ohrdruf and at other camps never happened the way you said it did. The atrocities never happened. The tortures. The hangings. The starvation. The brutality. It never happened and YOU NEVER SAW IT!! They would take your fight for goodness and freedom and call it futile, worthless. Your sacrifices would have no meaning if all that you fought for were nothing more than a tale of someone's imaginings! But, we were there. I, the victim. You, the liberators. I, the survivor. You, the witnesses. And together we must, in our golden years on this earth, again do battle with the forces of man's worst evil so that what I and you lived through 50 years ago, what we say, will not be tossed aside as insignificant in the annals of man's history. It must be made so important that no one can ever say it didn't happen that way and therefore they could be allowed to repeat it.

What you, my liberators, did in 1945 represented all that was good and kind in the world. Had it not been for your goodness and kindness and compassion I would have died. I would have died. A world would have died."

For the men below, the world did die.

Ohrdruf

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Soldiers of the Fourth Armored Division survey the scene of death and desolation on the ground of the prison camp. Associated Press Photo 277134.
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
#15406
The word "Duplicate" stamped in red ink, is very faintly visible under the "Original Print. Must Be returned to Office of War Information" notice

Notes: Just behind the officer on the right is a body lying on a stretcher. I don't know if the presence of the stretcher means that the G.I.s had started to move the bodies before it was decided to make the German civilians bury them, or if the man on the stretcher was still alive when the camp was liberated. If so, then he had been lying beside the bodies of his co-prisoners, slowly dying, since the day before, when the SS guards machine gunned the group before fleeing.

One of the bodies, the second from the bottom, left, appears to be wearing a blindfold, though none of the other victims do. Why? Did the rest of the prisoners make a break for it when they realized what the blindfold meant, or was he led out by them, perhaps so injured or weak that he could not abide the light of day?

Many of the bodies are half clothed. Were they looted after being executed?

The "THIS PHOTO SHOWS" information also appears in the picture below. Note the upside-down number stamped in blue ink at the bottom, 15406.


Ohrdruf 8 back

The blue ink numbers are sequential. The two outside shots of the Ohrdruf camp are numbered 11095 and 11096. The top photo in the first Unseen History post is numbered 11097.

I've got nine photos of the Ohrdruf camp. I've found maybe 100 others on the net, which is stretching the number quite a bit. Most of the other sites dealing with Ohrdruf tend to pull from the same pool of photos. That leaves over 4200 pictures of the Ohrdruf camp unpublished on the Net, and I sincerely doubt that even 500 of those have been published in non-electronic media or can be seen in the Holocaust museums.

As the photo above shows, there were at least two photographers at Ohrdruf. In fact, there were at least five and probably many more. I have prints from the U.S. Signal Corps, British-Combine-Acme, and the Associated Press, and know of two other photographers who were at the camp , Eric Scwab, who took pictures for the Oversees News Agency, and Merrill Blanchard, a member of the 261st Medical Detachment. Ohrdruf was liberated on April 4th. Eisenhower toured the camp 8 days later. Thousands of photographs could easily have been taken in that time.

So where are they? Assume that half of the 4200 pictures in the Ohrdruf series are duplicates, as two of the ones in my possession are. That still leaves a couple thousand Ohrdruf photographs unaccounted for.

Many are probably in filing cabinets and boxes, or somewhere in the National Archives, if they still exist. Certainly running across them by accident is a not an experience unique to my family, as Tom noted in the comments on the first post in this series

I suspect there are many more photos still buried in files elsewhere. Several years ago I was asked to retrieve some photos from the Army archives of the 45th Division, and while digging through the folders found several images taken at the time of the liberation of Dachau... one of them showed the initial reactions on the former camp guards faces in response to the tables being turned, while former inmates (in striped uniforms) pointed out various German officers to American soldiers. Situation looked very tense, as if the American GI's might even open fire.

As far as unseen history goes, the 20 odd photos my father found in the bottom of that filing cabinet are only a drop in the ocean.

Update: I've looked at the other photos, and there are several numbered in the fourteen thousands that deal with camps other than Ohrdruf. The numbering system may then be a reflection of when the film was printed, rather than the location it was shot at. (ED. note: Based upon my experiences as a photographer, the numbering does not allow for identification at the level necessary, i.e. photographer and date, or roll. I believe the numbering may reflect an exhibit system of some kind, perhaps exhibits in a trial or in a display.)


Seven days after American soldiers first stumbled on to the massacre at Ohrdruf, they liberated twenty thousand concentration camp internees at Buchenwald. Five days after that the British freed forty thousand prisoners from Bergen-Belsen.

Those two events overshadowed some of the other atrocities uncovered by Allied soldiers in the days afterwards. In one, over a thousand men were burned to death in Gardelegen, Germany on April 13th, two day before troops from the 102nd Infantry moved into that town.

A similar incident took place in Schwarzenfeld, Germany on April 21st, again just before that town was captured by American soldiers. In any other war, at any other time, the discovery of hundreds of executed prisoners, including prisoners-of-war in a freshly dug mass grave would have been front page news. In the Germany of 1945, it was just more of the same. What notice there was of the Gardelegen and Schwarzenfeld atrocities quickly evaporated.

For the victims of Gardelegen, there is at least some remembrance. It's a different matter entirely when it comes to those murdered at Schwarzenfeld There's nothing on the Net about the Schwarzenfeld graves, and the Holocaust survivor memoirs I've found mentioning the town only do so in passing.

The Ohrdruf pictures posted earlier may have been unseen for sixty years, but they at least depicted scenes that were known from other photographs, scenes that anyone with interest and a browser could have found.

No such pictures exist on the Net of the Schwarzenfeld killings, or of the camp at Schwabmunchen, the subject of the next post in this series. The mere mention of either is almost as scarce.

Which is the whole point of these posts. In the years to come, information not on the Net might was well not exist. There may be more information about the deaths at Schwarzenfeld available offline, though I haven't found it in any of the libraries at UNC, and if it was important to anyone, it would have been posted long ago.

A few hundred dead in one small German town is just a drop in the ocean of millions that died in World War II, but their deaths deserve what memory we can give them nonetheless.


------------------------------

As they form something of a rough narrative, I'm posting all five of the Schwarzenfeld photos.

"Original Print
Must be returned to
Office of War Information
Picture Division Library
224 West 57th Street
New York, N.Y."

is stamped on red ink on the backs of each photograph. Some of the original information on the backs of the photos has been lost to the years. Any text appearing in parentheses is my best guess as to what should appear there.

All have the following as the general explanation of the photographic context:

THIRD U.S. ARMY DISCOVERS NAZI ATROCITY
When U.S. troops of the 26th Infantry Division, Third U.S. Army, captured Schwarzenfeld, Germany April 22, 1945, another story of Nazi murder and atrocity was revealed. The Americans discovered that many hundreds of helpless persons, including Allied prisoners-of-war and Polish Jewish slave laborers, had been shot in cold blood by Nazi SS troops, and their bodies thrown into a mass grave. The executions took place one day before the American forces captured the town. After making official record of the circumstances, U.S. Military Government officers ordered local German civilians to exhume the bodies and provide coffins and a civilized burial for the victims. Schwarzenfeld is 47 miles east of Nuremburg and 28 miles west of the Czechoslovakian border.

1

BIPPA EA 84389

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: This is one of the victims of the Nazi SS troopers after being exhumed for proper burial.
U.S. Signal Corps Photo ETO-HQ-45-34034
SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO LIST B
CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR

Notes: The number 14133 is stamped in the back of the photo in blue ink.

To my eyes, this looks like the body of a boy, maybe 11 or 12 years old, though the malnutrition endemic in the slave labor population would have kept him small for his age were he older. His right knee appears scraped raw, as if he had stumbled many times on the march to his death.

4

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Four German civilians carry a casket containing the body of one of the atrocity victims past rows of other victims awaiting burial.
U.S. Signal Corps Photo ETO-HQ-45-34024
SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO LIST B
CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR

Notes: The number 14141 is stamped in the back of the photo in blue ink.
5

BIPPA EA 64391

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: German civilians dig graves for the victims under supervision of U.S. Military Government officers. Stacked at the right are some of the newly made coffins.
U.S. Signal Corps Photo ETO-HQ-45-34029
SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO LIST B
CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR

Notes: The number 14144 is stamped in the back of the photo in blue ink.

I'm not sure how many graves could fit into this area. If there were several hundreds killed, as the description of events above states, then this may have been just one of the areas where the bodies were re-interred.

3

BIPPA EA 64388

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Approximately 500 German civilians and a group of Third Army soldiers attend burial services for the victims. The German pastor conducting the services said local residents (were) unaware of the atrocity.
(U.S. Signal Corps Photo) ETO-HQ-45-34035
SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO (LIST B)
(CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR)

Notes: The number 14147 is stamped in the back of the photo in blue ink.

Notice how, in this picture and the ones above, how well fed the Germans appear in comparison to the dead?

2

BIPPA EA 64393

THIS PHOTO SHOWS: These three Polish Jews escaped the fate of many of their comrades. They hid in a cellar of a nearby home during an American ai(r) attack on the area and remained there unt(il the) arrival of Third Army Troops.
U.S. (Signal Corps Photo) ETO-HQ-45-34027
SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO (LIST B)
CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY (SHAEF CENSOR)

Notes: The number 14143 is stamped in the back of the photo in blue ink.

I have no idea what the names of these men are. I wish I did.


On Monday I spent an hour with one of the research librarians at UNC, who, try as he might, came up with diddly when it came to information about Schwarzenfeld and Schwabmunchen.

Schwarzenfeld you already know about. It turns out that Information about Schwabmunchen was hard to come by because it is no longer known by that name. History knows it as Kaufering IV, or Hurlach, a sub camp of Dachau.

Pulitzer prize winner Louis Lochner wrote about the camp's liberation.

Nearly 4,000 Jews from various parts of Europe were killed at Concentration Camp No. 4 which is located only a few miles from the jail cell where Adolf Hitler wrote his "Mein Kampf."

Only yesterday the few that could still walk were dragged only by the fleeing Nazi overlords.

Today I saw scores of charred bodies, hundred of naked virtual skeletons, lying the ground with unforgettable grimaces of extreme pain. I also saw and smelled the filthy hovels where they were herded until the fleeing SS guards set fire to them, burning several hundred Jews alive.

Some 250 Germans, including ministers, priests, farmers, businessmen and common laborers from the surrounding country, were brought to the camp today on the orders of Colonel Edward F. Seiller, of Louisville, KY, head of the 12th Armored Division's military government section.

DIGGING MASS GRAVES
German civilians were digging mass graves.

Standing amidst the burnt, tortured, wound-gashed corpses, Seiller asked the Germans to remove their hats in tribute to men who "like yourselves could see, feel, hear, smell and taste like other humans but who were coldly and inhumanely murdered."

Seiller said, "You may say that you weren't personally responsible for all this, but remember you stood for the government which perpetrated atrocities like these."

Colonel Seiller seized a heavy set, stocky, bullet-headed man whose shaven head was smeared with iodine and stood him amidst the gruesome corpses and said, "I now produce for you the man who was commandant of this vile camp. Here's the man who was chiefly responsible for the tortures you see here with your own eyes which were inflicted on the unfortunates lying here."

The grave diggers angrily cried, "Throw the wretch down here, we'll finish and bury him." From among the 250 German visitors came shouts of "swine, beast, criminal." Some spat.

MOST OF THE HOVELS BURNED DOWN
Colonel Seiller next conducted the Germans over the concentration camp compound. Most of the hovels had been burned down by the retreating Gestapo but enough remained to give a graphic picture of the filthy, stench-reeking conditions under which the inmates lived.

It was evident from an examination of the bodies that those who managed to crawl out of the burning hovels and escape being burned alive had been killed on emerging. Many of the corpses were in a crawling posture with wounds both from guns and blunt weapons.

Beyond the compound along the edge of the forest about a quarter of a mile from the last watch tower, scores of bodies lay like stacked lumber. Beyond them were half-finished trenches, evidently the Nazis themselves had intended to remove these telltale corpses before the Americans arrived. "The German civilians were ordered to carry these bodies to the mass graves."

The following appears on the back of each Schwabmunchen photo.

GERMANS BURN 4,000 ALIVE IN SCHWABMUNCHEN HORROR CAMP
More than 4,000 slave laborers were burnt alive in their living quarters or were shot as they attempted to escape from the flames in Schwabmunchen, southwest of Munich, another Nazi horror camp uncovered by troops of the Seventh U.S. Army. The camp was discovered as the 12th Armored Division forged its way toward the Austrian border. As spearheads threatened the camp, the German guards found they could not get the prisoners away before the arrival of the advancing Americans. Rather than allow the internees to be liberated, the guards set fire to the crude huts in which the prisoners slept, burning them to death or shooting any who tried to escape. The laborers were all Jews of various nationalities. These photos were taken April 28th, 1945, shortly after the camp was discovered.

All photos were taken by the Associated Press and include this notice, stamped in purple ink on the back of each.

COPYRIGHT
"ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO"
SUPPLIED BY
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Ltd
85, FLEET STREET,
LONDON, E.C.4.
PHONE-CENTRAL 1515 (11 lines)

Schwabmunchen4
Click on picture for a larger version.

AP 64698
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Sprawling grotesquely in the prison enclosure are the bodies of Jewish slave laborers, burned alive by their German guards.
Associated Press Photo 278020
WAR POOL PHOTO, NOT FOR USE IN BRITISH ISLES, FRANCE, OR WESTERN HEMISPHERE
SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO LIST B-1
CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR

Notes: Blue ink #14150. The bodies are so intertwined that it is practically impossible to number them. I count 40 on the top of the and foreground of the picture, there may be an equal number lying beneath them. According to a member of the 12th Armored, the original barracks floor was about three feet below the surface, so likely there are more bodies in the pile. An original barracks floor. A picture of the inside of a Schwabmunchen barracks can be seen here. Fire would have swept through it at a terrific pace.

The item in the upper right may be a German flag entangled in the fence.

---------------------------------

The man who Colonel Seiller forced to stand amid the bodies of his victims was the commandant of the camp, SS officer Eichelsdoerfer.

Schwabmunchen
From the Arnold Bauer Barach Collection, courtesy of USHMM Photo Archives

Eichelsdoerfer was tried at Nuremberg, but I have yet to find out his fate. Given the deaths of those he stood among, I don't imagine it was as horrible as he deserved.

Unseen History: Schwabmunchen 2
Their Hands Are Bloody With The Guts Of Humanity

Albert Gaynes visited Kaufering4/Schwabmunchen two days after it was liberated. He wrote home to his wife about what he saw there. I've added links through the letter where I've been able to locate further information about the people and places he mentions.

Debbie,

I have seen today the full, complete bestiality of what was one of the Nazis horror concentration camps. I saw for myself with my own eyes the ungodly sight. Debbie, I hope that you will never see what I will see until I die.

Our division overran a concentration camp located in the path of our advance. The last town I visited before this location was Augsburg in southern Germany. It has been several days since its capture when I visited it.

The camp is located about 300 yards off a main road. It's not hidden or out of the way. The shacks resembled the OCS barracks which you saw at Aberdeen - the tar paper ones. But for sleeping quarters the prisoners lived on the dirt floor with nothing but some dirty straw.

But how can I describe the actual inhuman, unbelievable sights.
I saw dead men lying inside of these shacks. I saw them lying in the fields and on the ground.

They were naked. How had they died? They were starved and tortured to death. They were skeletons with skin. Their hideous faces appalled me, but I wandered about almost refusing to believe that I was not dreaming. I saw men with their arms broken into all shapes; men with arms and legs cut off; men with their throats slit; men with their heads cut off; men with their legs twisted and misshapen. I personally saw 50 or 60 of these creatures which once were Human beings. There were some shacks which the Nazis had burned and I saw the charred bodies.

When I had seen all my mind and stomach and heart stand, I left. Others of the company who explored the area found long ditches for graves which were littered with dead bodies which had not even been filled with dirt
.
What had these men done to warrant being tortured. (They were tortured; not just starved. The arms and legs and countless other mutilations must have been done while the inmates still lived.)

These men had disagreed with the Nazis. They were political prisoners - Jews, communists, liberals, devout Catholics - anyone who had disagreed with the Nazi political philosophy.

I saw these mangled, misshapen, starved bodies being carried to be buried by German civilians at the point of our soldiers guns. These German bastards looked just like the corner delicatessen owner. But they were black inside and their hands are bloody with the guts of humanity.

Don't ever let another sonofabitch tell you that the rape of Lidice, that the slaughter of 2,000,000 Jews in Poland, that the human furnaces, that the concentration camps you read about are lies. I have seen it with my own eyes. I have seen the unbelievable. I have seen the depths of depravity to which so called human beings - the nazis - can fall. Debbie it is unbelievable--but, believe me. I have seen It.

I could expound on my observations going into details, but my pen cannot continue. I shall remember what I have seen. I shall never forget it. Whatever is done with the Nazis - leaders and followers cannot repay them for what they have done - unless it is the same torture.

I have read Ilya Erhenberg - the Russian correspondents Communiques on German atrocities and the proposals for reprisals. I had read the smug American newspapers criticism of his suggestions of extermination of Nazis. I thought he was bloodthirsty. But after witnessing what he must have seen I can countenance any acts against the Nazis which he proposes.

My heart is heavy and sad. For the rest of my life I shall have impressed upon me the possibility of another Hitler and his gang of inhumans. They must never be permitted to rise again. We must also recognize the possibility of such individuals gaining control over our own country. The fascists of our own nation - the Coughlins and Smiths and Pilleys and Williams - are capable of the same inhumanities. The Nazis are not the exclusive possessors of warped minds. I will never tolerate the anti-Semite or the fascist. He is dangerous and a potential torturer.

The war has a newer meaning to me - the extermination of Nazism must be accomplished and the recurrence of such a regime must be prevented.

I repeat, my Debbie. It is true - all the horror stories that the Nazis have perpetrated. From what I have seen they are capable of any inhumanity describable. There are none which they would not or could not execute. In all the world's history this black mark is most, horrible. We are supposed to live in a civilized world. But I have seen the barbarism and cannibalism of a so called civilized nation. Their scientific achievements are dwarfed by their utter lack of _______ . I am lost for words.

All of Germany will soon be occupied. The Nazi regime will have been defeated. But it is the peace to follow which will have to be won. Another Nazi regime or its counter part must be prevented. And I shall do some serious thinking. I must find the solution. And when I do I will do my utmost to see that it succeeds. And you must help me think and act.

Goodnight, Debbie. My heart is heavy. But the knowledge that we are eliminating this scourge on the earth - and quickly - fills me with joy. On the streets of this City I see free Poles, Russians, Jews, Catholics, Mongols, Blacks, French et al. I am proud that I played a part in their freedom.

Do not fear for my feelings or attitude. Despite all the horror I have seen, I am glad that I saw it. I no longer fear that we may do an injustice to the Germans. They are guilty of inhumanity and murder.

I should like to continue writing now, but I will close.

I feel very close to you Debbie. I am happy that you are safe. I feel almost that I have personally saved you and your Mom and our folks and all our relatives from the Nazis because that would have been our fate also.

Other Eyewitness accounts from the men of the Twelfth Armored Division, the unit that liberated Kaufering IV, can be seen here.

schwabmunchen
Click on picture for a larger version.

AP 64696
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: The gutted remains of the burnt-out prison camp. In the foreground are burnt, emaciated bodies of prisoners.
Associated Press Photo 278019
WAR POOL PHOTO, NOT FOR USE IN BRITISH ISLES, FRANCE, OR WESTERN HEMISPHERE
SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO LIST B-1
CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR

Notes: Blue ink #14090 Only about half the barracks, which look like they were constructed by piling dirt on top of lumber appear burned. The building in the upper right appears to be of a more solid construction, likely it was the guardhouse. Like the Ohrdruf exterior, this is the only photo I've found of Kaufering that shows something of the layout of the camp.

schwabmunchen
Click on picture for a larger version.

AP 64699
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Emaciated and burned bodies of prisoners litter the camp enclosure. In the background are the smoldering remains of their crude living quarters in which they were burnt alive of shot as they tried to escape the flames.
Associated Press Photo 278021
WAR POOL PHOTO, NOT FOR USE IN BRITISH ISLES, FRANCE, OR WESTERN HEMISPHERE
SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO LIST B-1
CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR

Notes: Blue ink #14149 The large number of naked corpses in these photos are due to Schwabmunchen/Kaufering IV having been declared a Krankenlager, or sick camp, earlier in the war. After that, sick prisoners were not allowed clothing. Most spent their days lying naked atop the one woolen blanket they were issued.

schwabmunchen
Click on picture for a larger version.

AP 64697
THIS PHOTO SHOWS: Naked, starved and half-burned bodies line in the gutter of a roadway through Schwabmunchen.
Associated Press Photo 278018
WAR POOL PHOTO, NOT FOR USE IN BRITISH ISLES, FRANCE, OR WESTERN HEMISPHERE
SERVICED BY LONDON OWI TO LIST B-1
CERTIFIED AS PASSED BY SHAEF CENSOR

Notes: Blue ink #14091

For the dead prisoners in camp Kaufering IV, there was a special work detail. ... The task of this detail was to bury the 20, 25, or 30 people who died each day. Since this was the only possibility for me to get out of the camp, I volunteered for this detail on March 21, the first day of spring. The naked corpses were placed on a hand cart. The gold teeth had already been removed. This was a special task for one of the prisoners- - a dentist. The teeth were broken out of the mouths of the dead people under the supervision of an SS- guard. ... The burial detail left the camp every day - 15-20 corpses and more. It was a rule to have as many prisoners on the detail as there were corpses. - Dr. Norbert Fried

Johann Baptist Eichelsdorfer, the Commandant of Schwabmunchen/KauferingIV, was found guilty of Violation of the Laws and Usages of War, sentenced to death, and hung on the 29th of May, 1946.




From the 89th Infantry Web Site

The 89th Infantry Division in World War II was the first unit to actually come upon a Nazi concentration camp. The discovery of the Ohrdruf camp, by the 89th Infantry Division, is memorialized in the Holocaust Museum located in Washington, DC. camp

Ohrdruf was a work camp, not an extermination camp, but the difference is difficult to discern. Prisoners were literally worked to death and disposed of by burning in incinerators, which was the most "cost-effective method". As the Allies approached, panic set in for the guards. Those inmates who couldn't walk were shot. Others were forced to march towards a "safe haven", with most of them dying in the effort. It was a horrible and unbelievable scene which seared its way into one's memory.

Almost 50 years after World War II ended, veterans of the 89th and their families visited France and Germany as part of our final "Tour of Remembrance." Towards the end of the trip, we visited Ohrdruf and, to our surprise (although we had been forewarned) found nothing, absolutely nothing. All traces of it had disappeared. There is only a graveyard for POWs and a German Army Training Camp. It was like it never existed. But it did and we can testify to it personally. Most Germans today were not even born then but we pray that the German people never let future generations forget what a mad regime can do.




OHRDRUF RESOURCES

Report from the Ohrdruf Liberation
Ohrdruf-Nord forced labor camp
REPORT ON SURRENDER OF THE GERMAN CONCENTRATION CAMP AT OHRDRUF: The discovery of the Ohrdruf camp, by the 89th Infantry Division
OHRDRUF




My Other Sites

Anerica's North Shore Journal My blog, political and social rants and raves

Dad's Unit History, the official unit history of my Dad's unit in World War Two, a tribute site.


Copyright 2003-2008 in part by Chuck Simmins, and in part by the blogger Bigwig as cited above and as noted. Please write with updates, corrections, and acknowledgments.