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Liberating Concentration Camps - American GIs in World War II

Updated on June 17, 2013
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Theresa Ast earned a PhD (Emory) in European History and has taught history for 20 years. "Confronting the Holocaust" available at AMAZON..

U.S. Posters and Photographs - World War II - National Archives


Starvation and Disease in the Concentration Camps

Not all inmates were physically capable of rushing up to GIs to request food; their physical strength varied greatly. Recent arrivals to camp might be, and often were, relatively healthy, but many long term internees were severely debilitated and near death. Officer Stoneking noticed many inmates who lacked the strength to walk steadily. "They were sitting down everywhere with arms outstretched to us."[1]

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph W. Batch of the medical corps evaluated the inmates of Dachau. About half were in "advanced stages of malnutrition. The wasting was extreme and many were so weak they were unable to walk. Practically all had the appearance of indifference and apathy indicative of mental changes."[2]

GIs were uniformly struck by the dreadful physical appearance of the inmates. "We came along with the hospital here to see what we could do about saving some lives....They are a pitiful sight....I could put my thumb and index finger around the average arm or leg, even at the thigh. They are so ill and thin it is indescribable...most are too weak to move...." In his book Dr. Brendan Phibbs recalled the condition of many of the survivors.

"Their faces were skulls, bones painted brown, and the fingers clutching the bread were like thick wires..... I had seen hundreds of people die of wasting diseases, of cancer, of terminal kidney or heart disease, of infections...but not in the wildest ravaging of a virus or a malignancy had I seen the human body reduced to the stages of these prisoners. Nothing in the lexicon of medical horrors could have so shriveled the flesh from around the bones and from under the skin."[3]

One of the great frustrations for regular soldiers and for medical personnel was the intolerance of the survivor's damaged intestinal tracts for normal food. In areas where food was quickly available and distributed, some survivors died immediately upon ingesting the food supplied by American soldiers.

This rich and concentrated food, perfectly adequate for those with healthy and non-traumatized digestive systems, constituted a severe shock to the digestive systems of the diseased and starved camp inmates. Nurses and doctors labored to find the proper balance of food, multivitamins, plasma for body proteins, and intravenous and oral fluids for each patient.[4]

Realizing that the ingestion of normal food was causing fatalities, medics and doctors began to caution GIs not to give their rations to inmates no matter how desperate or pitiful their physical condition. Military POW and DP reports confirm individual observations. "Information from recovered Displaced Persons indicated that conditions have recently been deplorable. In the majority of cases the liberated individual cannot assimilate the U. S. ration until after medical treatment due to prior undernourishment."[5]

Private William McConahey and other American soldiers described their frustration. "In the camps the sick were still dying. We couldn't save them. We tried to feed some of these people, and really we couldn't....You couldn't save them. We felt terrible! They were dying under our eyes! Nothing we could do because they were so close to death, and you couldn't feed them."[6]

There were also malnourished inmates just approaching the early stages of starvation who still possessed a modicum of physical strength and energy, and who posed control and order problems for the American military. These relatively healthy survivors at times fought over government food rations and struggled to get into food lines once the soldiers set up mess kitchens. Occasionally supply wagons and trucks were stormed by inmates desperate for food.[7]

In a number of camps soldiers witnessed ambulatory survivors fighting over and consuming raw meat--chickens, cows, horses.[8] Starving inmates also consumed items like cigarettes and raw flour. Major Aaron Cohn was at Ebensee. "There was a group of them [camp inmates] standing by the vehicle when a sack of flour burst open and half of it was spilled in the mud in the courtyard; I saw six men leap to the ground on their stomachs and lick the flour from the black mud and from the water...."[9]

Survivors whose starvation was more profound were too weak and listless to feed themselves even when food was abundant and readily available. Corporal Fred Mercer described a man he encountered in Buchenwald. The man was leaning huddled in a corner, too weak to stand or to eat. Surrounding him on the floor was a six month supply of food; apparently dozens of GIs who had seen the man left him their rations.[10]

Many survivors in the camps were equally debilitated; a large number of them weighed between fifty and seventy pounds when they were liberated.[11] The weight loss caused by prolonged starvation was also documented by examining and weighing inmate corpses. American surgeons found that adult male corpses usually weighed between sixty and eighty pounds. They estimated the loss of body weight at fifty to sixty per cent.

Weight losses of this magnitude are only comprehensible in the context of average daily caloric intake. Inmates at Dachau during the months prior to liberation were provided a diet containing approximately 600 calories per day. On this meager, imbalanced diet, they were required to perform hard physical labor in extremely cold weather with minimal clothing.[12]

Realizing that such severely wasted bodies could not tolerate regular food, soldiers, nurses, and medical corpsmen began to offer the survivors bland soup, thin gruel, or broth.[13] Blood transfusions, glucose injections, and intravenous drips were used with inmates whose systems could not tolerate soup or broth. As the patients slowly gained strength they were put on a diet of dilute cereal and milk.[14]

Based on his early experience at Dachau Dr. Laurence Thouin reported that some twenty to thirty patients died when he and his men administered glucose solution. They quickly discovered that the emaciated survivors could tolerate a diluted mix containing 75% water and 25% glucose solution. Sergeant Paul Marks, working with an Evacuation Hospital at Mauthausen, watched patients die because their veins had collapsed making intravenous feedings and injections impossible.[15]

American GIs encountered other problems as they tried to feed camp survivors. Army regulations and orders from administrative officers obstructed the flow of needed provisions in some areas. Dr. Phibbs was infuriated when he received orders not to feed concentration camp survivors on army rations. He sent numerous requests to 3rd Army detailing the shortage of foodstuffs and describing the condition of his patients.

Phibbs was also instructed not to remove food from nearby German warehouses or to use German livestock. The rationale offered was that the U.S. government does not steal or appropriate private property; armies are allowed to forage for food, which is not considered theft, but only to feed their own troops.

Unfortunately, while Phibbs was in need of food supplies for his typhus and tuberculosis patients, U.S. military dumps of rations sat on docks unused, and when they were put to use, it was often for profiteering and exchange on the local black market. Sufficient provisions were available for Phibbs' patients approximately four weeks after liberation. Lieutenant Colonel James Wilson also received orders from his superiors regarding use of army rations, but his orders were based on a different standard.

"We had to keep the displaced persons and the liberated prisoners separate because of messing arrangements. The [liberated] prisoners had to be fed army rations, and the displaced persons were fed off the land." A standardized American policy may have existed on paper, but it was not widely promulgated or enforced.[16]

On occasion American officers located and appropriated local food stores without the permission of their superiors. In many areas around the liberated camps, the general civilian population was not on the verge of starvation at the end of the war and liberators felt justified in taking local stores of provisions for the use of survivors.

Substantial and varied stocks of food were discovered in a great number of locations: a basement full of wheels of cheese, well-stocked canned foods factories, staples warehouses full of noodles, potatoes, soups, meat, and fresh vegetables, live cows and chickens.

Numerous official documents as well as individual GIs comment about the healthy and well-fed appearance of most German civilians. The striking contrast between well-fed civilians and the miserably emaciated survivors, helped contribute to the liberators' increased resentment and fury toward the German military [17]

Occasionally a GI would report rapid delivery of foodstuffs. Government trucks crisscrossed Germany delivering supplies to permanent hospitals, clinics, camps, schools, and makeshift tent hospitals set up in open fields. For example the 42nd Quartermaster Company headed for Dachau on 30 April 1945 and swiftly established division supply dumps at the railroad station.[18]

Reports from Dachau detail the magnitude of the supplies needed. "An immediate survey was made of food requirements by Lieutenant Rosenbloom within the camp and by Captain Taylor outside the camp, to determine possibilities for local provisioning. These rapid surveys indicated the camp had a food supply sufficient for 4 days, with very little available locally. Request was made to Seventh Army by telephone to provide automatic rations for 41,000 persons daily (population of camp was 31,000 plus 9,484 at the subsidiary work camp known as Allach)."[19]

Another report describes the changing and increased caloric intake for the average Dachau survivor. "On 29 April inmates received about 600 calories, unbalanced. U.S. control started with 1,200 calories which was shortly increased to 2,000 calories."[20]

Food requirements might vary significantly from day to day and week to week depending on the departure of reasonably healthy survivors and the arrival of recently liberated and desperately ill inmates. At Salzwedel "the Frenchmen appropriated a truckload of food and took it to the girls camp which needed it badly since about 1,500 women had arrived at the camp in the previous two weeks without any commensurate increase in the food ration."[21]

At other locations supplies were not readily available. A report from Mauthausen stressed the urgency of the need. "Immediate increase of diet is necessary, but is impossible due to the lack of transportation and inability to secure enough meats, flour, cereals, rice, potatoes, and other food."[22]

Often liberators did whatever was necessary to procure food for the survivors in their care. Men of the 802nd Field Artillery Battalion stationed near Nordhausen canvassed the local German population gathering foodstuffs for the Russian survivors of a Nazi slave labor camp.[23]

What was necessary in some camps was the restoration of a safe water supply. At Mauthausen-Ebensee GIs managed to get a bakery and soup kitchen operational; somehow they scrounged 2000 bowls and spoons for their inmates to use. At Nordhausen a working bakery lacked only a water supply.

Military Government reported that personnel "transported 500 gallons of water to a bakery...bread to be distributed to three temporary hospitals.... An additional 1,500 loaves can be procured daily...provided water is transported to the bakery."[24] As rapidly as possible, and using both American and German supplies and equipment, the GIs mobilized to provide sustenance for the remaining camp inmates.

As we have seen American soldiers worked in the concentration camps and with survivors to maintain order, and provide food and minimal medical care. Officers were responsible for general camp administration, duty assignments, requisitioning supplies, and keeping the peace. These were the primary and essential goals during the first two to four weeks. Thereafter, officers would bring in engineering battalions to restore water lines, build sanitary facilities, bury the dead, and participate in massive and gruesome cleanup efforts. Additional medics, orderlies, nurses, and doctors would arrive to work directly with the sick, injured, and starving survivors.

The need for medical care was so great that many regular soldiers were given rudimentary training on the spot and became integral parts of the medical teams. Chaplains, and their assistants, provided spiritual and emotional comfort, performed religious services, typed and circulated lists of survivors' names, and wrote letters to survivors' family members, often working side by side with the medical staff. But all of these efforts would be delayed until adequate personnel and supplies had been diverted to the camps. The American military command was not prepared, or had not prepared, for immediate response to the situation found in most Nazi concentration camps.

End Notes ~ Citations

[1]Stoneking, DMC.

[2]LTC Joseph W. Batch, Medical Corps, Inspection of Dachau Concentration Camp, 2 May 1945, Entry 54, RG 331.

[3]Leslie G. Brown, letter II; Leslie G. Brown, Memoir, 50; both in the World War II Collection, MHI; Brendan Phibbs, The Other Side of Time: A Combat Surgeon in World War II, (Boston: Little, Brown and Company), 317-319, (hereafter cited as Phibbs, Combat Surgeon).

[4]116th Evacuation Hospital, Semi-Annual Report, Jan-June 45, RG 407.

[5]Coulston, DeProphetis, Pincus, Gratz; Wehmoff, 3, Montesinos, 5 Emory; Darr, 4, JCRC; Stein, James, USHMM; Robert Gravlin, 3rd Army Division Papers, MHI; Gerald McMahon, Riding Point for Patton: The 5th Infantry Regiment in World War II (LeRoy, New York: Yaderman Books, 1987), 32 (hereafter cited as McMahon, Riding Point); PFC George Porter, B Company, 14th Infantry Regiment, 71st Infantry Division, in McMahon, Siegfried, 466; POW and Displaced Persons Division, Report, April 1945, RG 332.

[6]McConahey, JCRC; Dowdle, 77, DMC; Paul B. Marks, Medic, 99th Infantry Division, World War II Collection, MHI (emphasis original).

[7]Milbauer, Peretz, USHMM; Walters, Gratz; Theodore Draper, The 84th Infantry Division in the Battle of Germany, November 1944-May 1945 (New York: Viking Press, 1946), 244; Gavin, 82nd Airborne Division, 289; PFC O'Neill, B Battery, 608th Field Artillery, 71st Infantry Division, in McMahon, Siegfried, 467.

[8]131st Evacuation Hospital, Organizational History, 1946, 81, RG 407; Manning, 75, DMC; Fletcher, 71st Came, 10.

[9]Cohn, 7, Emory; Fletcher, 71st Came, 10.

[10]Mercer, 7-8, Emory.

[11]Ralph Mueller and Jerry Turk, Report After Action: Story of the 103rd Infantry Division, (Innsbruck: Wagnerische Universitats-Buchdruckerei, 1945), 134; Herbst, USHMM.

[12]POW and Displaced Persons Division, Reconnaissance Report, April 1945, RG 332; SHAEF FWD G-5, Incoming Message 7th Army, 8 June 1945, RG 331.

[13]Elizabeth Holey, 1, Q-Ast; Seibel, Ward, USHMM; Adzick, 2, Q-Ast.

[14]Buchenwald Parliamentary, RG 319; James Gavin, On to Berlin: Battles of an Airborne Commander, 1943-1946, (New York: Viking Press, 1978), 289; Combat History of 3rd Armored Division, RG 407; SHAEF FWD, Incoming Message, 12th Army Corps, 9 May 1945, RG 331.

[15]Thouin, 5, Emory; Marks, 2, Q-Ast.

[16]Phibbs, Combat Surgeon, 328-334; Wilson, Q-Ast.

[17]Ambrose, Band, 270; Seibel, USHMM; Fletcher, 71st Came, 11; Malachowsky, Liberators, 31; Nost, 8, JCRC; G-2 BID Report, Mauthausen Concentration Camp, RG 319; Keith Winston, V-Mail: Letters of a World War II Combat Medic, (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Algonquin Books, 1985), 208, 216; HQ, 116th Evacuation Hospital, Unit History, May 1945, RG 407; POW and DP Division, Reconnaissance Report, April 45, RG 332; G-5 Problems in First U.S. Army, 9 May 45, RG 407.

[18]Stoneking, DMC; Walters, Gratz; 42nd Quartermaster Company, Narrative, April 1945, to Adjutant General, Washington, DC, RG 407.

[19]XV Corps, "Action Against Enemy Reports--After, April 1945, Annex 5/ G-5 Historical Data, 9, RG 407.

[20]SHAEF FWD G-5, Incoming Message, Seventh Army, 8 June 1945,

RG 331.

[21]Ninth Army, 4th Information and Historical Service, Salzwedel, April 1945, RG 407.

[22]131st Evacuation Hospital, Report Mauthausen, 14 May 1945, RG 407.

[23]History of 802nd Field Artillery Battalion, April 1940 to May 1945, 61.

[24]Buch, USHMM; 131st Evacuation Hospital Report, Mauthausen Concentration Camp, 13 May 1945, RG 407; Military Government Report, DET H6B3, Nordhausen, 12-15 April 1945, RG 331.


Comments - Liberating the Nazi Concentration Camps

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    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      raymier - I posted a hub on here that has an extensive list of sources I have used over the years in my research, but I never specifically focused on what you have mentioned, but surely somebody has.

      (1) Go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website. Search it thoroughly (should take several hours) and see if they don't list some documents or books that would point you in the right direction.

      (2) There is a database of university dissertations (don't have the info right now) that probably lists thousands of dissertations by topic and title. Find it and do a search for your topic.

      (3) The final fallback is always Google. Type in displaced persons, World War II and see what you get. You will need to go through the results carefully to find the reliable sources, but you should get some.

      It won't be easy of course or you would have already found what you are looking for. But be persistent and perhaps investigate archives other than USHMM. Best of luck on your search.

    • profile image 

      4 years ago

      I am old enough to remember the war, the posters, the scrimping of rationing. I've read much about the camps that housed the persecuted but have found very little about those displaced persons who survived years in German camps, private homes and later make-shift American shelters. Any suggestions of sources for this information?

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Hi Jaye - Sorry it took me so long to respond, but the college actually expects me to teach classes for that paycheck they hand me. :) Gelb is absolutely correct (this was my major area of research at Emory) about this. There was very little mention or publicity about "that aspect" of the war. Sometimes, as in this case, it was due to insecurities about being Jewish. Fascinating connections - Gelb, Punch, Arthur, and Ochs.

      But there were other reasons as well which explain in part why almost all media outlets printed very little. The United States suffered at the time from a gentlemanly degree of low-level anti-semitism. The White house and Roosevelt did not want to be seen as "jew-lovers" and they feared a political backlash. The army top brass in consultation with the white House had decided that defeating Hitler was the first and only priority. Once he was defeated or dead, then resources could be diverted to the concentration camps.

      And then in all fairness we knew little about the death camps in Poland and the extraordinary number of Jews and non-Jews who died there because the Russians liberated those camps and they sat on the information fro quite awhile.

      Interestingly, our military was asked to bomb the Auschwitz crematoriums - by leaders inside the camp, who knew that many would probably die as a result of the bombings. We refused because we had "one priority" to win the war and defeat Hitler. The horrible irony and tragedy of this is that our bombers and fighters flew over Auschwitz on the way to to their targets.

      It is a fascinating history and you have so piqued my interest, I believe I will find a copy of Gelb's book. Thanks for mentioning it. Later. :) Theresa

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      It is also funny (odd) the way coincidences link things together. I just finished reading CITY DESK, by Arthur Gelb. The book is Gelb's memoir of his career at The New York Times, beginning in 1944 when he was 20 and hired as a copy boy. He retired as the newspaper's managing editor 45 years later.

      Gelb writes about the paucity of coverage given by The NYTimes to the liberation of the concentration camps and pow camps in Germany, as well as a general lack of editorial position about the slaughter of millions of Jews. This omission stirred outrage in readers. The then-publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, was the successor of his father-in-law, Adolph Ochs, who was determined The Times should never be considered "just a Jewish newspaper", and his editorial policy was to not call attention to his own ethnic origins.

      In allowing himself to follow Ochs' example, Sulzberger earned the dismay of his own son, "Punch" Sulzberger, who succeeded his father as publisher of The Times. In 1993, Gelb and Punch Sulzberger visited the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where both were appalled at the scanty display of reports from The New York Times about the Jewish slaughter. Sulzberger made it clear that lack of coverage would never have happened on his watch, for he didn't suffer from his father's and grandfather's insecurities about being Jewish.

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thank you Jaye. It can be heart-breaking to research at times. It will be interesting to see if Csatary is handled primarily based on sympathy/mercy for his age or based on the demands of justice. He was and is a monster.

      Its funny, I looked into and joined HP at the urging of Kathleen Cochran who is a friend. I was intrigued, but as I kept saying to her, all I write are history essays and conference papers. So the first 10 or 12 hubs I posted were taken directly from my research. Slowly, I began to see other issues and topics I could write about...and here I am having just spent the last 8 weeks in a collaborative and creative project with 15 other authors. You never quite know now where life will take you. :) Theresa

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Beautifully written, Theresa, and heartbreaking to read...It makes me hope that recently-captured 97-year-old Nazi fugitive, Laszlo Csatary, receives earthly punishment and some justice for his victims. This monster has been hiding from justice for nearly seven decades and does not deserve mercy, regardless of his advanced age.

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      dragonfly - You are absolutely correct. There would be all sorts of outrage about these posters today and the artist would be considered quite insensitive and prejudiced, not to mention sexist! I thought about that when I stumbled across these pictures and decided to use them. They were just too good to pass up...and it was a different time then with different sensibilities.

      Tragically, you are right, too many Americans have forgotten that we should and must support our fighting men and women, whether we agree with our governments choices about where to send them. Thanks for a great comment. Have a great weekend.

    • dragonflyfla profile image


      6 years ago from South Florida

      Hi Phadast7,

      I can't help but think how some of these posters would be considered politically incorrect in today's fight for freedom! So many Americans have forgotten what the fight is for and instead are welcoming those who suppress freedom with open arms.


    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Good morning Thomas - Years ago I downloaded a large file of public domain pictures so I could use them for academic materials - course handouts, movie flyers, program brochures, the department website. That was in the pre-HP era, but they have come in very handy. :) When I found these, they seemed like a good fit.

      I am trying to keep the documentation strong with the more academic posts. Thank you for the read, the votes, the encouraging response, and for sharing. I guess I must be in the right job after all. :)

      I hope that all is well with you. Have a great weekend. :)


    • ThoughtSandwiches profile image


      6 years ago from Reno, Nevada


      The excellent treatment promised with Part 1 was also delivered with part 2 here. You have done the subject and your lucky readers credit with this extremely well researched series!

      Love the Pictures!


      PS...Voting Up and sharing!

    • Patriette profile image


      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      A profoundly difficult subject matter to study, but we should also know about and reflect on the many, many acts of decency that took place pre and post liberation. Well done,Theresa.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      We'll probably never know ALL the horrors inflicted by the Nazis on Jews and Jewish sympathizers. Which is perhaps a good thing, since (like you said) it's hard to fully grasp that it happened...and that's from what we DO know.

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Cred2 - I remember that scene from Schindler's List. That and many other gruesome, gross, and horrifying situation did enable some people to survive. Hard to fathom. In fact, even after all I have read and studied, it is still hard to fully grasp that it all happened.

      Thanks for commenting. Theresa

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I agree genes, skills, talents, background family and friend connections, physical hardiness, strong immune systems...all sorts of things were factors in who survived and who didn't. There is a large literature on this very topic. I do remember the story about the little boy who survived in the latrine - hard to imagine, but true.

      In autobiographical Holocaust literature survivors make this point again and again. They state that the smartest, strongest, fastest did not necessarily survive...that often it was the slight, the weak who survived against all odds. I was thinking about those dynamics I think.

      I appreciate all your interesting and thoughtful comments. Theresa

    • Credence2 profile image


      6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Theresa, For example, one boy hid for several days (and nights) in the pit of a latrine, with only his head above the muck until U.S. soldiers arrived. During that time, of course, the latrine was in use

      I remember such a scene in the very disturbing film Schlindler's List...

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Frank - Thank you for such high praise. I am glad that my history work seems "dramatic, raw, insightful" and does not remind you of the old history classroom and textbooks. And you are very welcome; your comments are always a great encouragement to me. They make the time and effort invested more than worth it. Take care. :)

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Luck and chance certainly played an important part in who survived and who didn't. But I think genes played a factor, too. Some were simply born hardier than others, or inherited a natural immunity to disease. For example, one boy hid for several days (and nights) in the pit of a latrine, with only his head above the muck until U.S. soldiers arrived. During that time, of course, the latrine was in use. Amazingly, after a very thorough scrubbing, the boy suffered none of the ill effects one would expect from being mostly submerged in human excrement.

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Jama- There have been times in the past in the middle of research or while reading a book about the Holocaust that I would put my head down and cry. But the work seems very important to me and my family background does make me uniquely qualified to pursue it. The years of research in Academia have made it a little easier to deal with, but I still have a catch in my throat at times when I am talking to my classes. I just tell them why I am emotional and we continue.

      How anyone survived those conditions I will never know, and of course so many didn't. My students and I often talk about the degree to which luck or chance played a role in survival. Were you late coming home from work and miss being rounded up? Did you happen to have Aryan friends who would hide you? Did you have survival skills - could you feed yourself off the land and become a partisan in the forest?

      Did you speak several languages? Could you forge paperwork? Did you know anything about explosives? Did you have a skill (or could you fake a skill) that the SS running a camp happened to need (tailor, shoemaker, electrician, plumber, barber, cook)? It was so random, no one ever knew for sure which skills and abilities would be helpful in which situations.

      Very interesting to think about what might have happened if the situation at the Art School in Vienna had been entirely different. A lot of intriguing "what ifs" there. As always, thank you for your thoughtful and detailed comments. Theresa

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 years ago from Shelton

      You know PHDAST7 it's not like reliving those days in the history classroom with your hubs.. you know where you have to dig through piles of text-books for information,, your hubs are a sit down and read .. dramatic raw, insightful, and the way you deliver the information is a strategy that works up and useful.. though pg13 labels apply here-- you can't word it any other way.. thanks for this hub Frank

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Cred2 - You have expressed my feelings exactly, "while I have read it before, it resonates with ones conscience at each retelling." I was very pleased when I found the posters. They do speak to morale and the need for sacrifice and they are also a little slice of American society and culture and in the 1940s.

      When you have time, you should do a Hub on Hollywood goes to War. That would be fascinating and probably enlightening to a lot of people. I don't think the last couple of generations has any idea how business and especially media used to support American national/war interests. It would be a revelation to many of them, I would imagine.

      Right and wrong were very clear and distinct back then, as they should be. Good point -there was no sympathy for the Axis powers. As always, thanks for your thoughtful comments. Theresa

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I certainly applaud you, of Polish blood, for condensing this dark period into several hubs. I tried very hard to read them, but have not yet gotten over the images of the atrocities so vividly portrayed in the nine books of the series "The Zion Covenant", a historical novel called "Sarah's Key", two in-depth biographies of Churchill, and one of Edward R. Murrow.

      It boggles the mind that anyone could have survived the conditions imposed by Hitler and non-Jewish Germans on an entire race of innocents, and then later claim they "had no idea" what was happening. One can't help but wonder if the head of the art school that rejected the teenage Adolph had been of another race or religion, would he have made members of that race/religion the target of his hate and lust for power instead of the Jews.

    • Credence2 profile image


      6 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Phdast, what a tragedy, while I have read it before, it resonates with ones conscience at each retelling. The propaganda posters are very interesting and telling of the nature of maintaining moral and the spirit of sacrifice for the war effort. We had never seen anything like this during Vietnam. I was just struck on how I remember Warner Brothers getting into the act with its loveable cartoon characters to drive on the war effort. I would like to delve into a hub entitled, Hollywood goes to War, focusing on American films of the WWII era. But alas, so much to do and so little time.

      No wonder so many historians refer to this conflict as the "last good war", if that is not an oxymoron. Our objectives were clearly defined and no one saw any of the Axis powers in a sympathetic light.

      Nice work, Cred2

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thank you for reading this Hub and I appreciate your comments. It indeed sad and terrible to think about what these poor people endured.

    • profile image

      Marcia Ours 

      6 years ago

      Excellent hub! So sad and pitiful what some of these people went through and the conditions they were in. Terrible!

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      You are right, it was one of the most emotional parts for me to write about - an enormous number of men (and a few women) died with in two weeks of their liberation in spite of the doctors and nurses best efforts.

      The idea of suffering so much and holding on through it all, being liberated, and then succumbing after all really is just about unbearable. This was also a very emotional, traumatic, and angry subject for many of the GIs; it affected them deeply and permanently, I think.

    • phdast7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Theresa Ast 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      rlbert00 - Thank you for your positive and thoughtful comments. You are right, very few books or articles seem to look at the logistical problems and they were simply overwhelming. The government had heard about "camps" but they had no idea what they were facing.

      And there was training for those who would come in after the war and establish an allied Military Government. They were prepared for a DP "displaced persons" problem - they expected to repatriate tens of thousands of reasonably healthy slave laborers who kept German industry running during the war.

      The military did not prepare GIs for the hundreds of thousands of starving camp prisoners they would find. And it was indeed horrifying and gut wrenching. Some of the veterans choked up and cried about it when giving their testimony in the 1980s and 1990s.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 

      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      In many ways this is the hardest part of the tragedy to hear about. They were rescued but still in so much danger. Well done.

    • rlbert00 profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      An excellent insight into the situation facing the camp victims and those now required to care for them. In everything I've read I've never even considered the logistics involved in caring for these victims after they had been liberated from the concentration camps. I imagine the prospect of watching people die simply because their veins had collapsed and were unable to receive nutrients had be gut-wrenching. Excellent article. Nicely done.


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