Interim Associate Dean
Learning & Research
World War II Liberators
As the Allies advanced across Europe, they encountered and then liberated Nazi concentration camps and the inmates they found there. Despite the efforts by the Germans to hide or destroy evidence of mass murder, many camps remained intact and still held significant prisoner populations. After Soviet troops liberated Majdanek in July 1944, they proceeded to liberate camps throughout Eastern Europe, including Auschwitz in January 1945. Coming from the west, United States forces liberated Buchenwald and Dachau in April 1945 and the British liberated Bergen-Belsen that same month.
The liberating units encountered deplorable conditions in the camps, where malnutrition and disease were rampant, and corpses lay unburied. The soldiers reacted in shock and disbelief to the evidence of Nazi atrocities. In addition to burying the dead, the Allied forces attempted to help and comfort the survivors with food, clothing and medical assistance. Though official reports were prepared at the time of liberation, individual soldiers often did not record their impressions of the camps until many years later. These accounts, recorded in the form of official unit histories, personal statements, and oral testimonies, provide an important resource in the study and understanding of the Holocaust.