Liberation of Concentration Camps – Testimonies

Liberation of Concentration Camps was a varied experience on the part of US and Russian troops at the end of WWII.

Dachau Liberation
SS men conference with Gen. Henning Linden during liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. Pictured from left to right: SS aide, camp leader Untersturmführer Heinrich Wicker (mostly hidden by the aide), Paul Levy, a Belgian journalist (person with helmet looking to his left), Dr. Victor Maurer (back), General Henning Linden (person with helmet, looking to his right) and some US soldiers. Picture is taken from the USHMM.



Debate the Holocaust?
by Dan Johnson


I am a WW2 vet who was in the 102nd Infantry Division which spear- headed the 9th Army drive across Europe to the Elbe River where we met the Russians. We liberated a number of the death and work camps as we went along.

The camps, most of which were small could be drawn on for “free” labor. Political prisoners were worked to death and it didn’t matter to the Germans, as there were plenty more where they came from. The whole idea was to get rid of the prisoners permanently and make a gain of free labor in the process. I saw Buchenwald first hand shortly after it was liberated.

The ten-man combat team which I was a part of was directly involved in a place called Gardelegan. 1016 Jewish prisoners were being burned alive there in a barn on the edge of town by the SS troops who held the town. My buddy, Bob Zech, who spoke fluent German, perpetrated a ruse on the SS officer in charge by threatening a tank attack if he and the other SS troopers who had fallen into the trap did not surrender within the next twenty minutes or so. The SS bought it and surrendered. They had intended to kill us, which would have been easy and to their advantage because they wanted to cover what was going on the edge of town at the time.

An American lieutenant had just been captured by chance as heand his driver had wandered into the town from the other direction. They just wouldn’t have surrendered to a private without the presence of an American officer. After the SS Colonel surrendered, the barn where these political prisoners were being roasted to death was discovered at the edge of town. The smoke was still rising when I walked in. Curiously, the arm of one of the victims was burned badly and smelled like roast turkey to me. The Division Commander, General Keating, ordered the towns people to construct a cemetery and memorial as an attempt to honor the victims. A small brochure describing this event was printed and distributed to members of the 102nd Infantry Division. I still have mine after 52 years.

Ours and other infantry divisions were not capable of sustaining a continuous attack. We just ran out of steam and had to stop to re-group and replenish lost manpower due to battle casualties, etc. Another division would “pass” through us to give us a breather. During one of these lulls in battle we had an opportunity to go to Buchenwald which was a major Death Camp. Our officers winked us out on “special” mission so we could see what was going on. We saw the mountains of dead bodies, etc., although it was not necessarily new to us as we were directly involved in uncovering this sort of activity, but on a somewhat smaller scale.

I just can’t conceive of anyone not believing that these things happened. But I guess time has a way of altering history. The guys who actually witnessed thesethings are fast leaving the face of the planet. Soon there will be none of us left to give eyewitness accounts of what they saw. I salute the thousands and thousands of GIs and soldiers of other nations who gave their lives to put an end to this madness. I often wonder what they would think if they could awaken to see what I see around me. Would they think it was worth it?

I certainly would not attempt to debate the reality of those times. It would be tantamount to arguing with someone who believed the earth is flat…Where do you even start to debate such a premise?

Liberation of Concentration Camps

Dachau Liberation

My Holocaust Experiences

Displaced Person’s Camps by Chuck Ferree

Dachau and Its Liberation
“Tell us who were there that it never happened” by Felix Sparks, Retired General

Lt. William Cowling: Report from the Dachau Liberation

Liberation of Buchenwald by Harry J. Herder, Jr.

It is extremely important for Liberators and any other witnesses to the atrocities of the Holocaust to document their testimonies. We are building this Liberators’ section in the Cybrary, and Chuck Ferree was the first to share his story. If you’d like to participate in this important project by sharing your own testimony as a Liberator, please contact us.