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Through the Eyes of A Soldier
My name is Allen Park. I am a member of the 89th Infantry Division of the United States Army, and the horrors I saw in April 1945 at the Ohrdruf and Buchenwald concentration camps in south central Germany will leave an imprint on my brain forever.
On the morning of April 4, 1945 I was only nineteen years old. My platoon lead by Lt. Robert Ramirez was to liberate the concentration camp of Ohrdruf outside the city of Gotha. I was in Lt. Ramirez’s army jeep.
“What do you think we’ll find at Ohrdruf, Ramirez?” I asked him.
“I’m not sure, but we’ll soon find out.” He said, “We’re almost there. Just a few more miles.”
When we were close to the camp, the first thing I noticed was the smell. The stench was so awful. I could barely stand it from a distance away.
“I don’t want to know what is making the horrible odor.” One private said.
We entered the camp, and the smell was a lot worse. The camp was all but lifeless. There were a few SS officers in the barracks that stayed behind. My platoon took care of them. The rest of the camp was filled with over a thousand bodies. The bodies were all in rows. These people were systematically slaughtered. The corpses looked more like skeletons then real people, and they were still smoldering from the SS trying to burn them quickly before thy left.
We had found what was making the terrible odor, but the sight was worse than the smell. I was a pretty tough, war-hardened soldier, but the sight of all those bodies lying there on the ground was too much for me. It was too much for all of us. I couldn’t comprehend how the Nazis could have done such an inhumane thing. No one in my platoon had ever witnessed such bestiality, such wickedness.
One member of the platoon asked Lt. Ramirez, “What are our orders, sir?” I looked at him. He was quivering. Ramirez just stood there with a look of disgust and horror on his face. “Lieutenant!” He yelled, “Are you alright Lieutenant?” Ramirez came back to reality.
“Yes, your orders.” He said in a stuttered speech, “G-g-go look for survivors, m-m-men.” He forced the words out of his mouth. “I have never even thought that such a thing could ever happen in the world we live in, ever.” I heard him say under his breath. We followed the Lieutenant’s orders. We found no survivors in the camp, just more horrors. We left Ohrdruf, and no one talked on the way back to our temporary base in Germany.
On April 12th General Eisenhower learned about Ohdruf, and visited it himself along with Generals Bradley and Patton. The next day they all went and visited the extermination camped called Buchenwald, since it had been liberated days before. My platoon found out that most of the prisoners in Ohdruf were moved to Buchenwald days before we arrived at the gates of Ohdruf. General Eisenhower ordered all troops near Buchenwald and Ohdruf to visit the camps, to see first hand what we were up against. My platoon visited Buchenwald, and it was more horrid than Ohdruf. Bodies were lying on the ground by the tens of thousands, and the smell was much worse because of the crematories. In this camp the SS were so cruel that one room was filled with tanned human skin. The SS used the skin as book covers. Some soldiers had to leave the camp as soon as they arrived. It was an incredibly disturbing sight. I, myself, was disturbed by Buchenwald, and the images will haunt me forever. General Eisenhower made all the inhabitants of the town of Gotha tour the camps. When the mayor and his wife had seen the camps, they went home and hanged themselves.
Since I myself barely believe what I saw only months ago, I understand why General Eisenhower had civilian media and military combat camera unit record, document, and take photos of everything in the camps. This way, hopefully no one will deny the events of the Holocaust in the future.
The Nazis were cruel, cruel people, and what they did was entirely evil. People need to look back on past events to make sure nothing remotely close to the events happen again. I, Pvt. Allen Park will always have the memories of April 1945, and if anyone ever rejects the evidence of the Holocaust, they are a fool. I thank General Eisenhower for understanding that some people will deny the Holocaust in the future. His quick thinking to make records of the concentration camps may save the lives of innocent people in the future because the records will stop anyone from trying anything so inhumane ever again.