New Photos Show Horror of Post-liberation Concentration Camps

Thirty photos from the 1945 liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp and sub-camp Ohrdruf, show piles of corpses, some burnt.

Thirty photographs shot by American forces in 1945 at the Buchenwald concentration camp and sub-camp Ohrdruf, showing piles of corpses, some burnt, were recently provided to the German daily Bild, which published them yesterday.

Alongside the bodies, the photos show liberating American soldiers in uniform. Some of the photos were taken at Ohrdruf, which was part of the Buchenwald camp network and was captured by the Americans on April 4, 1945, making it the first camp liberated by American forces.

soldier concentration camp
Courtesy of Bild

The photos received by Bild had been in private hands for 66 years. Some of them were published by Bild yesterday to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The German daily agreed to provide them to Haaretz as well.

The photos were taken by U.S. soldiers who sought to document the scenes of horror to which they were witness. They sent the film for development through a store in the nearby town of Weimar. A young employee at the shop made an additional copy of the photos and kept them.

They remained in her possession for the next 66 years and after her death became part of her estate. They recently come into the possession of another individual, who gave them to the German newspaper.

The Buchenwald concentration camp functioned from 1937 until 1945, during which about a quarter million people passed through the camp on the way to death camps. About 65,000 people, however, perished at Buchenwald itself. The detainees at the camp included Israel’s former chief rabbi and the current chief rabbi of Tel Aviv, Israel Meir Lau, as well as writer Elie Wiesel and journalist Jean Amery.

The nearby Ohrdruf sub-camp was established in November of 1944 near the central German town of Gotha to house a workforce of prisoners involved in railroad construction. In late March 1945, there were about 12,000 prisoners there, but most were sent by the German SS on a death march to Buchenwald itself. Those who were too weak to leave the camp were killed immediately.

When American forces entered Ohrdruf on the afternoon of April 4, 1945, they found about 70 bodies, at which time some of the photos now being released were filmed. Some bodies had been covered by the Nazis with lime. Others had been burned.