Witnesses for Change: Stories of Liberation


As the Allies retook control of lands that had been occupied by the Germans, they came across many Nazi camps. In some instances, the Nazis had tried to destroy all evidence of the camps, in order to conceal from the world what had happened there. In other cases, only the buildings remained as the Nazis had sent the prisoners elsewhere, often on death marches.

However, in many camps, the Allied soldiers found hundreds or even thousands of emaciated survivors living in horrific conditions, many of whom were dying of malnourishment and disease.

The liberation of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps began in Eastern Europe when Soviet troops reached Majdanek in July 1944. Soon they found many other camp sites, some of which were camouflaged from the outside. The British and American troops who were approaching from the west did not reach the concentration camps of Germany until the spring of 1945. What they found were tens of thousands on the verge of death, as well as piles upon piles of corpses. The Allied liberators tried to help the survivors, but many died anyway in the weeks after liberation.

—From Lesson 8: Echoes and Reflections–A Multimedia Curriculum on the Holocaust