Nothing could have prepared them for what they were about to experience. As the troops marched closer to the camp, their minds filled with the horrors they would face upon arrival. However, when they reached the camp, the sights they encountered were more grotesque than they could have ever imagined.
On April 29, 1945, the 42nd "Rainbow" Infantry Division reached the gates of the Dachau concentration camp and fought their way inside. Once inside, they became witnesses to man's inhumanity to man.
Mountainous piles of human bodies, most dead, a few still struggling feverishly for life from underneath the suffocating heap of bones and flesh; men referred to as "living skeletons" who were barely recognizable as human beings for they had not seen food for numerous days; and the nauseating stench of burnt flesh that hung over the entire camp-these were just a few of the horrors they encountered. It is no wonder that, as the liberators arrived, the excited prisoners flung themselves at the surrounding electric fence in their frenzy of gaining freedom.
Tues to their word, the liberators destroyed the insane and madmen. Hunting the SS men, they discovered several dressed as prisoners and killed them (Smith, p. 284). Prisoners were given guns to help fight, and when the battle was over, they found it necessary to shoot over their heads to regain control (Smith, p. 285). During the battle, inmates who did not have guns made use of sticks or other objects they found to beat on the SS.
Another action noticed was the playing of soccer with the heads of the SS men, which proved their hatred of them (Wallace).
Because of the strong actions displayed, bruises and scars, missing body parts, and frighteningly thin bodies, it was enough evidence that the prisoners had been endlessly tortured day and night.
While in the concentration camps (a polite term for death camps), the prisoners became victims of barbarism. When the SS were not satisfied with the prisoners-an example being if the prisoner was suspected of withholding information, or being too weak to work-they could pick any means of punishment. Punishment consisted of extra work, less food or none at all, being beaten with a stick or whip, suspension by the wrists from a tree or pole, cremation, hanging, or other special tortures (Kogon, p. 75).
Young children who had grown up in the camps had been deprived of schooling, and found it extremely hard to get jobs after liberation. It was very rare for an entire family to have survived the Holocaust. Survivors searched for family members, asking and spreading the word about those missing. With houses bombed, family members dead, no money, no food, there was little reason left to live. Many continued to die from the effects of mistreatment, malnourishment, and diseases such as Typhus. Ex-prisoners had no place to go and belonged nowhere. Some found means of transportation back to their home lands where they hopes to reunite with their families. Others immigrated to America in search of friendly faces, kind hearts, and perhaps a place to call home.
Those who chose not to forget their lives at the camp wanted to share it with the rest of the world. Searching for comfort or a sense of understanding of what had happened and why, Holocaust survivors wrote about their experiences during imprisonment. Reliving the anguish through writing proved to be a form of therapy for many of them.
Their minds having been "toyed" with during their imprisonment, many ex-prisoners faced psychological problems and were left in a daze about what had happened. These people were the few that chose to remain silent about had taken place at the camps. However, this kind of action did not always help them. Furthermore, it just kept their mixed up feeling bottled up inside.
An example of this is that people are still trying to say that these actions never happened. These people say prisoners of the camps exaggerated about these experiences just to receive attention. From personal stories, diaries, and even photographs taken during this time, it would almost be impossible to give in to this theory.
We cannot ignore the fact that the Holocaust happened. It demands our attention, and we need to keep it in our minds so that when our generation grows up, and there are no more witnesses left to the Holocaust, we can have an idea of what it was like and keep ourselves from repeating this mistake in history. We do not need or even want this suffering in our world ever again. Just because it happened and was documented in textbooks and shown on videos does not mean it was inevitable. Man had caused it and there is no way of knowing that man will not create it again. It was a time that was not understood, nor ever will be understood.
Let us keep it this way and hope this kind of action happens Never Again!
Creasman, J.W., (Commentary on Dachau).
Daly, Lt. Hugh C., 42nd "Rainbow" Infantry Division (Rainbow Division Veterans Memorial Foundation Inc., 1979), p. 104.
Kogon, E., Concentration Camp Dachau (Comite International
Lerman, Miles, From the Chairman. Update (United States
Smith, Marcus J., The Harrowing of Hell-Dachau (University
Wallace, I.H., (Verbal quote).
Wiesel, Elie, The Holocaust: The Nazi Destruction of Europe's
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