Liberation of Wöbbelin Concentration Camp

The hate of the Nazis for all who were not Aryan was so great that even in the last months of the war, they still set up a new concentration camp.

The camp, near the city of Ludwigslust, was a subcamp of the Neuengamme concentration camp. The SS had established Wöbbelin in early February 1945 to house concentration camp prisoners whom the SS had evacuated from other camps to prevent their liberation by the Allies. At its height, Wöbbelin held some 5,000 inmates, many of whom were suffering from starvation and disease.

On 2 May 1945, the camp was liberated by US troops, These are some of the testimonies.

Living conditions in the camp, when the U.S. 8th Infantry and the 82nd Airborne arrived were deplorable. There was little food or water and some prisoners had resorted to cannibalism. When the units arrived, they found about 1,000 inmates dead in the camp. In the aftermath, the U.S. Army ordered the townspeople in Ludwigslust to visit the camp and bury the dead

James Megellas, was among the first soldiers to enter the Wöbbelin camp. He was 28 at the time and wrote about his experiences in his book ‘All the Way to Berlin: A Paratrooper at War in Europe.’

“I was not prepared mentally to deal with the horror of the camp,” Inside, he said he found “two hundred twisted, nude bodies of skin and bone piled four to five feet high.” In the corner of the room was a pile of clothes taken off the bodies for reuse. Individual forms were almost indistinguishable. There could not have been a body more than sixty pounds,”

In another building, Megellas found living prisoners.

“Most were lying on the dirt floor or propped against the sides of the building too weak to get up. With sunken eyes and skin taut, they looked like skeletons.”

On May 7, 1945, the 82nd Airborne Division conducted a funeral service in Ludwigslust for 200 inmates. Engineers dug the graves, and citizens of Ludwigslust buried each one in parachute silk, Megellas said.

A chaplain from the 82nd delivered the following eulogy:

“The crimes here committed in the name of the German people and by their acquiescence were minor compared to those to be found in concentration camps elsewhere in Germany. Here there were no gas chambers, no crematoria; these men of Holland, Russia, Poland, Czechoslovakia and France were simply allowed to starve to death. Within four miles of your comfortable homes, 4,000 men were forced to live like animals, deprived even of the food you would give to your dogs.”

Megellas said he will never forget what he saw at Wöbbelin. The incident reinforced why he and his men fought the war.

“We stood there and we realized that it was to destroy the monstrosity that the Nazis had created.”

In accordance with a policy mandated by General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, the U.S. Army in Ludwigslust ordered “all atrocity victims to be buried in a public place” with crosses placed at the graves of Christians and Stars of David on the Jewish graves, along with a stone monument to commemorate the dead.



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