Friday, April 8, 2011

APRIL IN HISTORY: THE LIBERATION OF BUCHENWALD



Buchenwald Prisoners, 1945 (Time Inc.)
Margaret Bourke-White: Buchenwald Prisoners, 1945 (©Time Inc.)

A detachment of troops belonging to the US 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, 6th Armored Division of the US Third Army, arrived at Buchenwald on April 11, 1945 under the leadership of Captain Frederic Keffer.

Impending victory was sobered by the grim facts of the atrocities which allied troops were uncovering all over Germany. Margaret Bourke-White was with General Patton's third army when they reached Buchenwald on the outskirts of Weimar. Patton was so incensed by what he saw that he ordered his police to get a thousand civilians to make them see with their own eyes what their leaders had done. The MPs were so enraged they brought back 2,000. Bourke-White said, "I saw and photographed the piles of naked, lifeless bodies, the human skeletons in furnaces, the living skeletons who would die the next day... and tattooed skin for lampshades. Using the camera was almost a relief. It interposed a slight barrier between myself and the horror in front of me." LIFE published in their May 7, 1945 issue many photographs of these atrocities, saying, "Dead men will have indeed died in vain if live men refuse to look at them."




Margaret Bourke-White prepares to take a photo of corpses, April 16, 1945
Photo Credit: USHMM