Liberation of the Concentration Camps:
1944 - 1945
1. Read the information below to learn about the liberation of the concentration camps.
In 1944 and 1945, Allied forces freed the remaining prisoners from the concentration camps. What they saw there would haunt them for the rest of their lives. Allied troops, physicians, and relief workers tried to provide nourishment for the surviving prisoners, but many of them were too weak to digest food and could not be saved. In spite of the liberators' efforts, many camp survivors died. Half of the prisoners discovered alive in Auschwitz died within a few days of being freed.
2. Read the account of an army journalist who was part of the liberation of a concentration camp.
Bill Barrett, an American army journalist, described what he saw at Dachau: "There were about a dozen bodies in the dirty train car, men and women alike. They had gone without food so long that their dead wrists were broomsticks tipped with claws. These were the victims of a deliberate starvation diet..."
3. Watch the video to see what American forces saw when they liberated a Nazi death camp.
4. Read to learn about the reaction of the survivors.
Survivors had mixed reactions to their newfound freedom. While a few looked forward to being reunited with other family members, some felt guilty for surviving when so many of their relatives and friends had died. Some felt overwhelmed, as one survivor, Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist, expressed: "Timidly, we looked around and glanced at each other questioningly. Then we ventured a few steps out of the camp. This time no orders were shouted at us, nor was there any need to duck quickly to avoid a blow or a kick. 'Freedom,' we repeated to ourselves, and yet we could not grasp it."
5. Watch the video to hear the words of someone who survived the Holocaust.