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Title: The liberation of Nazi camps by the Allies
Other Titles: La libération des camps nazis par les Alliés (1944-1945)
Authors: Mesnard, Eric
Keywords: MIH
digital module
módulo digital
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: UPEC - University of East Paris Créteil - IUFM
Abstract: When soldiers of Allies army freed Europe, they discovered the scale of atrocities committed by the occupants, but, it took several weeks to understand the realities of the Nazi concentration camp system and the specificity of the Genocide that suffered the Jewish populations in Europe. “The sites liberation and the liberation of people should be distinguished. Indeed, many times, as the back of the front line, the SS commander decided the prior evacuation of camps with all their inmates…” (François Bédarida, « le phénomène concentrationnaire » in Bédarida François, Gervereau Laurent, La déportation. Le système concentrationnaire nazi, Paris, Musée d’histoire contemporaine/ BDIC, 1995). In the East, Soviets « freed » killing center (Sobibor, Belzec, Treblinka) which had been destroyed by the SS in 1943. In July 1944, Soviet armies passed through Treblinka and Sobibor without knowing that hundreds of thousands of Jews were gassed and burned. When Soviet soldiers got in the concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau on the 27th of January 1945, they only found 7 000 survivors because on the 18th and 19th of January, the SS evacuated the camp with 58 000 prisoners who suffered the hardships of the “walks of death”. However, testimonials and the study of facilities confided to an inquiry commission allowed the awareness of what really happened at Auschwitz (« 1945: Libération des camps et découverte de l’univers concentrationnaire; crime contre l’humanité et génocide » Mémoire vivante n° 43, octobre 2004). In the West, American troops entered the Natzweiler-Struthof camp (Alsace) where inmates were evacuated. In spring 1945, the allied troops advanced rapidly. The evacuations of prisoners by the SS happened in appalling conditions. In April and May 1945, discoveries kept going…and, gave liberators nightmare visions: “It’s wrong to say that we didn’t know about Nazi concentration camps’ horrors before their liberation…But there is a difference between knowing and seeing… Now we cannot look away any longer. The abomination is under our eyes with all its nauseating details. Doors of Hell are open. ” Allies, that were sure to win against the Nazi Germany, decided to spread by the press, screened news and the radio, images of mass graves and evidence of survivors. But, the specific fate of Jewish wasn’t taken into account. When the extermination is evoked, it was associated with “Nazi crimes” as well as the economic European looting and the “deportation of workers” in Germany.
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