Jewish prisoners after being liberated from a death train, 1945

It is Friday, April 13, 1945. A few miles north-west of Magdeburg there was a railroad in a wooded ravine off the river Elbe.

Major Clarence L. Benjamin was leading a small task force of two light tanks on a routine assignment of patrol in a jeep. The unit came upon about 200 shabby-looking civilians on the side of the road.

There was something immediately obvious about each of these people, men and women, that attracted attention. Each one of them was a skinny skeleton with hunger, a disease on their face, and the way they stood—and something else.

At the sight of the Americans, they laughed with joy—if that's called laughter. It was an outpouring of pure, near-hysterical relief. Tankers soon found out why. The reason was found on the railway siding.

There they came upon a long string of old, old boxcars parked silently on the tracks. Along the tracks, as if seeking some pitiful rest from the thin April sun, crowds of people in all manner of misery stretched themselves into a sorry, hopeless tableau.

As soon as the American uniform was seen, there was a great stir in this strange camp. Many people ran towards Major's jeep and two light tanks.

Slowly, as the Major found some English-speaking people, the story unfolded. It was and was a scary train. The train carrying about 2,500 Jews had left the Bergen-Belsen death camp a few days earlier.

Men, women, and children were loaded into the few available railway cars, some passengers and some freight, but mostly the typical archaic freight cars called "40s and 8s" WWI terminology.

This meant that these cars would carry 40 men or 8 horses. They were packed into all available spaces and there were about 60-70 people in cargo cars, most of whom had only standing space, so that they packed up like sardines.

As the war ended, the Nazis attempted to evacuate the concentration camps before the arrival of Allied forces. On 10 April 1945, three trains were sent from Bergen-Belsen with the aim of going east from the camp to the river Elbe, where they were informed not to advance due to the rapidly advancing Russian forces. will be given.

The train then changed direction and headed for Farsleben, where they were told they were going to the advancing US Army.

As a result, the train stopped at Farsleben and waited for further orders on where to go next. The engineers then received their orders, to drive the train over the river Elbe and over the bridge, and either blew it up, or drive it off the end of the damaged bridge, with all the cars on the train crashing into the river. in, and kill or drown all the occupants.

The engineers had some second thoughts about this action, as they would also be putting themselves to death, which is the point at which they were discovered, shortly after key elements of the 743rd Tank Battalion arrived on the scene. Afterwards.

Most of these Jews were from Poland, Russia and other eastern countries, so with the complete destruction of their homes, loss of families and dire prospects of coming under Soviet Union jurisdiction, most were fearful about their future.

Most chose to remain in Germany or the possibility of repatriation to some other Western European country. Eventually, many were eventually deported back to Israel, the South American countries for which many had passports, to England, Canada, and the United States.

Near the end of the war, when Germany's military might was declining, Allied forces were confined to Nazi concentration camps. The Germans began to take prisoners out of camps near the front and use them as forced laborers into camps within Germany. Prisoners were first taken by train and then on foot on a "death march" as they became known.

In the bitter cold, prisoners were forced to travel long distances with little or no food, water or rest. Those who could not keep up were shot. The greatest casualties occurred in the winter of March 1944–1945 when Soviet forces began the liberation of Poland.

Nine days before the Soviets reached Auschwitz, the Germans marched tens of thousands of prisoners towards Wodzisaw, a town thirty-five miles from the camp, where they were placed on freight trains to other camps. One in four died on the way.

The Nazis often executed large groups of prisoners before, during or after the march. During one march, 7,000 Jewish prisoners, of whom 6,000 were women, were taken from camps in the Danzig region bordered to the north by the Baltic Sea.

In the ten-day march, 700 were murdered. Those who were still alive, when the sailors reached the shore of the sea, were pushed into the water and shot.

1 comment:

  1. "Death trains" on their way to the non-existent gas chambers.


Powered by Blogger.