They say a picture tells a thousand words. But it never tells the full story. The picture above has a clear description of how evil men can be, below are some testimonies and eye witness accounts of liberators and survivors of the Holocaust.
Gina Rappaport was liberated by the US Army in April 1945, after spending two years in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. After her liberation, she wrote down her story. This is an excerpt of what she wrote.
“After two years the SS told us to pack our things and go to the station, and they put us on a train which travelled for an unknown destination. We were seven days in the train travelling very slowly, when we were liberated by the American army on the 13th of April. It was the luckiest day of my life.
At that moment I was bathing in the river when I saw the first American soldier from afar. What a joy. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was sure it was a dream, but still it was true.
A few minutes before the American soldiers arrived we were told that we should have to go on foot over the Elbe River. But the American army saved us from a sure death, which we will never forget.
I was also sad this day because I remembered how many people of value had died and couldn’t see the liberation and the fall of the barbarian, Hitler. I shall never forget what I owe to the American army.
I hope that I will be able to estimate the right value, what the Americans have done for us. Now, after five years of suffering I shall know how to appreciate the more my liberty.”
In spring 1945, Benjamin Ferencz began investigating crimes committed by the Nazis. In the area outside the Flossenbürg concentration camp, he followed a trail of mass graves. This is his recollection.
“As the camps were about to be liberated, the Germans tried to move the inmates out, those who were still able to walk or to work. They left those behind to be killed or to die, who were too sick. But they marched them out. And they were marching—I think it was from Flossenbürg to Dachau, or one of the camps. And they took them through the woods and they marched at night, and if anybody faltered on the way, they were immediately shot. If anybody paused to try to pick up a potato or to eat a root or something, they were shot.
And I was able to follow this trail through the woods of mass graves—10, 20, 30, 50 killed, you know.
And I would get the nearest farmer to, say, dig them up. They would say, “Oh yes, we heard firing last night, there was shooting going on.” “Where was it?” ‘Over there in the woods.’ And I would say, ‘Let’s
go.’ And we’d go out to the woods and there would be a newly dug-up place, and I would say, ‘Get some shovels.’ And then stop some Germans on the street, ‘Take this shovel, dig them up.’ And we’d dig up the
bodies of people who’d been obviously shot through the head, usually top of the skull was blown off, shot probably kneeling from the back. Some of them were tied still, you know, just lightly covered over with six
inches of dirt, something like that. But I could follow the trail of crime being committed all along the way”
Marie Knowles Ellifritz was 22 when she tended to the survivors of the Mauthausen concentration camp. Her commanding officer gave the nurses the option not to enter the camp because he couldn’t bring himself
to subject them to the horrors he had seen. This is her recollection.
“The emotional trauma caused by our medical participation in the liberation of the European concentration camps was beyond belief. As Americans and as women we never before had been subjected to such inhumanity to man. And my initial feeling was of a tremendous job to do.
To take in 1,500 patients into a 400-bed hospital had to be madness. That fact became our madness. And it proved to become a tremendous overwhelming job. Clinically, it was a matter of sorting the dead from the
living, deciding who would live for at least three days or more, and to make all those we found comfortable and to begin the process of treatment. A tent to keep the patient dry, an air mattress to give them a place
to lie down, a blanket to help them keep warm, pajamas to give them some dignity, a small amount of foodto nourish them, and plasma to preserve the remaining life and begin them on a road back to living.
Everyone had work to do. The patients themselves helped as much as they could. We deloused them. We moved them out of the larger camp into our tent city and we let the fresh air, the sunshine, the space, and
most of all their freedom do its work.
It seemed to take one to three days for us to convince some of them that they were truly free at last.
And when that reality came they simply closed their eyes and died in peace and freedom. Some of the patients seemed to know immediately that they were free once again and so they were able to rejoice and begin to make plans for the future. Life force for these patients had begun when the camp’s gates were opened by their liberators.”
Mr. PATRICK GORDON WALKER (BBC): I reached Weimar’s concentration camp a few days after its liberation by British soldiers. I met these soldiers. They were filled with righteous anger. Unlike British soldiers as a rule, they wanted to talk, to tell the world what they had seen. I made recordings of these men, all of them of the outfit …(unintelligible) just outside the camp itself.
Mr. TYLER McKENNEY PAYNE (British Soldier): I’m Tyler McKenney Payne(ph) of the …(unintelligible). I live at Mansfield Woodhouse(ph). I want to tell you a tale, just one tale, as there are many other horrible sights in the past days that I saw. I myself was guarding the milk store, and around this milk store was a screaming crowd of women with babies. I kept picking a few babies out and feeding them.
And one woman who was–I think she was mad, kept kissing my feet and clothing, so I took the baby from her. When I looked at the baby, his face was black and he had been dead for a few days. I couldn’t come to say it was dead so I burst the milk can opened and poured milk down through its dead lips. The woman crooned and giggled with delight. I gave her the baby back and she staggered off and lay in the sun. And when I next looked, she was dead with the baby in her arms. So I put her in the stack of the dead bodies, 2 or 300 dead, and then I turned away. I was allowed to say that I’m a British soldier and it’s not propaganda; it’s the truth.
Mr. MURROW: As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others–they must have been over 60–were crawling towards the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it.
In another part of the camp, they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only six. One rolled up his sleeve, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm; D6030 it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die. An elderly man standing beside me said,
The children, enemies of the state.' I could see their ribs through their thin shirts. The old man said,I am Professor Charles Risha(ph) of the Sorbonne.’ The children clung to my hands and stared. We crossed to the courtyard. Men kept coming up to speak to me and to touch me. Professors from Poland, doctors from Vienna, men from all Europe, men from the countries that made America.
Lucjan Salzman, a Polish Jewish prisoner, was 17 when, in April 1945, he was liberated from the Wöbbelin concentration camp in Germany by the 82nd Airborne Division. This is his recollection.
“I ran in that direction and as I came onto that place I noticed many prisoners yelling and screaming and jumping and dancing. And there standing amongst them were seven giants, young people. They must have
been 18 or 19—American soldiers. There were seven or eight of them standing inside the camp. Apparently they cut the wire and came into the camp.
They were bewildered by us. Wild and unkempt and dirty and, I’m sure, smelly people, jumping and dancing and trying to embrace them and kiss them. And I did too. I also joined the crowd and yelled and screamed
and somehow knew that the day of liberation has come.
It was a strange feeling for me, however, because as I remember it, on the one hand, I was, I was overwhelmed by this unexpected and unhoped for encounter of freedom, but at the same time, what was happening was outside of me. I really—I didn’t know what to make of it. I knew I was free, but
I didn’t count on it. I somehow didn’t know what it meant. And I knew it was great, but I, I was overjoyed because all people around me were overjoyed and were singing and dancing and, and—but I, I was 17.
I, I was free, but what it meant I wasn’t sure.”