I Was a Prisoner at Ohrdruf

a barracks at Ohrdruf

A former prisoner shows an American officer a barracks at Ohrdruf

The original blogger comments:

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.

89th Infantry Division

The following are remarks presented on 23 April 1995 by two liberated former Ohrdruf Nazi Concentration Camp Prisoners — approximately 50 years after their liberation by men of the 89th Division. The occasion was a ceremony at Wichita, Kansas during which the 89th Regional Support Command honored the 89th Division, WWII for its liberation of Ohrdruf on 6 April 1945. The 89th RSC had researched and located these two gentlemen, who immigrated to the United States after liberation, to speak at this occasion.

His daughter delivered these remarks in behalf of Mr. Andrew Rosner as he stood beside her. He was too emotional to read his own words.

He that saves just one life, it is as if he saved the entire world. In April of 1945, the Nazis evacuated the walking dead prisoners of Concentration Camp Ohrdruf as the Americans advanced into Germany.

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.”

2 comments on “I Was a Prisoner at Ohrdruf
  1. brooke says:

    My grandfather was an American soldier in the 89th Division and helped liberate Ohrdruf…. reading this made me cry….

  2. Toni says:

    I met a veteran at the VA Medical Center where I worked who was a young soldier who helped liberate Ohrdruf. He would come to tears whenever he would talk about it, which wasn’t often, because the memories were painful. I so admired that veteran!

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