Ohrdruf

Ohrdruf was a slave labor subcamp of Buchenwald that opened in late 1944. Its 10,000 prisoners built railroad lines and dug tunnels.

Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, and Eddy view the remains of prisoners burned during the forced evacuation of Ohrdruf, April 12, 1945.

Photograph Col. Meches, USHMM, courtesy National Archives, photo no. 21700

Liberation
As U.S. forces advanced in early April 1945, SS guards forced prisoners on a death march out of Ohrdruf. The Americans discovered piles of bodies, some smoking on half-burned pyres, others stacked in sheds. They found the remains of over 9,000 people in mass graves.

Ohrdruf was the first camp that U.S. troops liberated. Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton visited the site in order to view the evidence and ensure that the world learned of the atrocities.

Yank: The Army Weekly, June 1, 1945, exposed German atrocities at Ohrdruf and Buchenwald.

"We had known. The world had vaguely heard. But until now no one of us had looked on this . . . It was as though we had penetrated at last to the center of the black heart, to the very crawling inside of the vicious heart."
Novelist and war correspondent Meyer Levin describing his April 1945 visit to Ohrdruf

"It made me ashamed to be a member of the human race."
Margaret Bourke-White, Life photographer, describing her visit to Buchenwald on April 15, 1945, The Taste of War: Margaret Bourke-White (1985)

American soldiers and liberated prisoners at the main entrance of Buchenwald, May 1945.

Courtesy USHMM

Buchenwald
The Nazis murdered almost 60,000 people at Buchenwald, one of the largest concentration camp complexes. At the height of the war, 110,000 slave laborers worked in factories and quarries at 87 subcamps.

As American forces approached Buchenwald in April 1945, SS guards evacuated almost 40,000 prisoners. One third died on death marches.

On April 11, 1945, the remaining prisoners took control of Buchenwald. Shortly thereafter, U.S. soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division found more than 20,000 survivors.

U.S. troops view corpses stacked behind a crematorium during inspection tour of Buchenwald, April 17, 1945.

Photograph William Alexander Scott III, USHMM, courtesy William Alexander Scott

Survivors describe the use of the gallows to General Eisenhower in Ohrdruf, April 12, 1945.

Photograph Moore, USHMM, courtesy National Archives, photo no. 77190

"The things I saw beggar description . . . The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were . . . overpowering . . . I made the visit deliberately in order to be in a position to give firsthand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to 'propaganda.'"
General Dwight D. Eisenhower reporting on his visit to Ohrdruf, April 1945