Dora-Mittelbau, near Nordhausen, was one of 30 slave labor subcamps. Its inmates built bombproof underground factories for the production of V-2 missiles. By 1944, most of the camp's 12,000 prisoners were confined underground. Hard labor and dangerous and unsanitary conditions resulted in one of the highest mortality rates of any concentration camp.

A grieving survivor in liberated Nordhausen, c. April 11, 1945.

USHMM, courtesy Stuart Denenberg

U.S. troops entered Dora-Mittelbau on April 11, 1945 to find about 750 sick and emaciated survivors scattered amongst nearly 3,000 corpses. Soldiers found it difficult to distinguish between the living and the dead.

The Army rushed medical personnel, food, and equipment to the camp. Despite their efforts, many survivors died shortly after liberation. American personnel forced hundreds of German citizens from the nearby town of Nordhausen to bear witness to the atrocities, help evacuate survivors, and bury the dead.

"The extermination took place by working them to death. They just didn't feed them. They let them work until they dropped in this underground buzz bomb factory."
S/Sgt. David Malachowsky, 104th Infantry Division, in a 1975 interview on the liberation of Nordhausen

"This is what hell must be like."
Jean Mialet, survivor of Dora-Mittlebau

American medical personnel remove survivors for medical treatment, Dora-Mittelbau, April 16, 1945.

USHMM, courtesy Nancy & Michael Krzyzanowski

Final Days
SS guards began evacuating prisoners from Dora-Mittelbau in early April 1945. Many were killed on death marches; others met their deaths at the Bergen-Belsen camp. Only a few hundred prisoners survived to see U.S. soldiers arrive on April 11, 1945.

Two survivors lie among corpses on a straw-covered floor, April 11, 1945.

Photograph Harold M. Roberts, USHMM, courtesy National Archives

U.S. forces compelled German citizens of Nordhausen to carry bodies found in Dora-Mittelbau to mass graves, April 13-14, 1945.

USHMM, courtesy Joseph Mendelsohn