May 2, 1945: Berlin falls to Soviet forces.
The next day, General Wilding, the commander of the German troops in Berlin, finally surrendered the entire city to the Soviet army. There was no radio or newspaper, so vans with loudspeakers drove through the streets ordering us to cease all resistance. Suddenly, the shooting and bombing stopped and the unreal silence meant that one ordeal was over for us and another was about to begin. Our nightmare had become a reality. The entire three hundred square miles of what was left of Berlin were now completely under control of the Red Army. The last days of savage house to house fighting and street battles had been a human slaughter, with no prisoners being taken on either side. These final days were hell. Our last remaining and exhausted troops, primarily children and old men, stumbled into imprisonment. We were a city in ruins; almost no house remained intact.
This handsome man is Hans Scholl, one of the founding members of the White Rose. They were a bunch of kick-ass students and teachers who resisted the Nazi movement with non-violence. He started it with his sister Sophie and a few other students. They put graffiti all over Munich and handed out leaflets declaring Germany should be free of Nazis. Sadly, the members were captured by the Nazis. Hans was executed February 22 1943 at the age of 24. Not only was he part of a resistance group, he was gorgeous as well.
Russian soldiers and a civilian attempt to move a bronze eagle that had previously been installed above a doorway of the Reich Chancellery, Berlin, 1945.
I saw a post related to Anne Frank today; it really got me thinking about her. About how much of an icon she is. How so many people look up to her for her strength and insight. Anne Frank is truly an inspiration and deserves her spot in the history books.
But you know who we never hear about? Margot.
In case you didn’t know, Margot was Anne’s older sister. Now, Anne was known for her very restless, outspoken spirit. Margo was the opposite, she was quiet, behaved, she always did what she was told. Anne always writes about how she resented her because she was always seen as so perfect. And I don’t know, from what I’ve read about her, I really love her as a person. I feel so bad for her though. Margot was the one who followed the rules, but in the end, she was the one cast in the shadows. Remember that she went through the exact things as Anne, remember that Margo was just as strong. The only difference is that Margo didn’t have a diary, which is a shame because I’m sure her insight is just amazing.
Here’s a shout out to Margot Frank, because she was freaking awesome too.
April 11, 1945: Buchenwald concentration camp is liberated.
Buchenwald was established in 1937 near Weimar, making it one of the earliest concentration camps constructed within German borders. During its years of operation, Buchenwald served primarily as a source of slave laborers – political prisoners, Poles , Jews, Romani, criminals, prisoners of war, etc. – who worked to support German factories and production, and who died in massive numbers from their working and living conditions, although Buchenwald and camps like it were technically not considered “extermination camps” (these camps, equipped with gas chambers and crematoriums, were mostly located in Poland). Buchenwald was also made notorious by the brutality of its guards and overseers, most famously Ilse Koch, the “Bitch of Buchenwald”, who allegedly collected the tattoooed skins of camp prisoners. Tens of thousands of prisoners died at Buchenwald and in its subcamps by the time of its liberation by a detachment of American troops, while some 28,000 were evacuated and forced on a death march just days before the troops arrived.
Margaret Bourke-White, a war correspondent who was present at Buchenwald around the time of its liberation, wrote in her 1946 memoir Dear Fatherland, Rest Quietly on the German citizens from nearby Weimar who were made to walk through the camp and look upon the atrocities committed by their countrymen:
This whiteness had the fragile translucence of snow, and I wished that under the bright April sun which shone from a clean blue sky it would all simply melt away. I longed for it to disappear, because while it was there I was reminded that men actually had done this thing — men with arms and legs and eyes and hearts not so very unlike our own. And it made me ashamed to be a member of the human race.
The several hundred other spectators who filed through the Buchenwald courtyard on that sunny April afternoon were equally unwilling to admit association with the human beings who had perpetrated these horrors. But their reluctance had a certain tinge of self-interest; for these were the citizens of Weimar, eager to plead their ignorance of the outrages.
When US forces arrived at Buchenwald, the 21,000 prisoners who had been left behind had taken control of the camp after their SS guards fled, aware of the inevitable arrival of Allied forces.
LIFE Behind the Picture: The Liberation of Buchenwald, April 1945 (graphic images)
March 22, 1933: Dachau concentration camp opens.
Dachau concentration camp, located in the southern German state of Bavaria, was completed and opened less than two months after Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor or Germany, making it the earliest built of the Nazi concentration camps. The construction of Dachau took place amidst the Nazis’ consolidation of power in the German government (and very soon over all aspects of German life), and its initial purpose was to suppress any potential opponents of the new regime - political prisoners, often communists and social democrats. Later, the camp’s prisoner population came to include common criminals and religious dissidents; in 1935, Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals arrived as prisoners to Dachau; in 1938, after the annexations of Austria and the Sudetenland, 11,000 Jews were deported to the camp; and throughout the war, more prisoners from all across Europe came to Dachau. In 1939 its prisoners were relocated to Buchenwald, but by 1944 thousands of people had been packed together into this overcrowded, disease-ridden camp.
As the first camp to be established by the Nazis, Dachau served as the model for later concentration camps and a testing ground for techniques that would be used at those other sites. Theodor Eicke was made commandant of the camp in June of 1933, and it was he more than anyone who devised the system and regulations of Dachau and most later Nazi camps. His Lagerordnung served as the camps’ disciplinary code, laying out the various punishments, ranging from hard time to flogging to death, to be doled out to prisoners who violated dress codes or attempted to agitate revolt. Although distinct from the extermination camps of Poland, whose main purpose was to kill as many people as possible as efficiently as possible, Dachau claimed thousands of lives due to poor sanitation, starvation, overworking, outbreaks of typhus, and other factors.
Dachau, its subsidiary camps, and the approximately 60,000 people imprisoned within them were liberated in April of 1945 by American soldiers, who, after seeing the horrific conditions of the camps and the railroad cars piled high with bodies, killed a number of German guards. In May, the 7,000 prisoners (mostly Jews) who had been forced by their guards on a death march to Tegernsee were also liberated.
Three men who stood in the same line in Auschwitz have nearly consecutive numbers: From left, Menachem Shulovitz, 80, bears B14594; Anshel Udd Sharezky, 81, was B14595; and Jacob Zabetzky, 83, was B14597.
“We were strangers standing in line in Auschwitz, we all survived different paths of hell, and we met in Israel,” Mr. Sharezky said. “We stand here together now after 65 years. Do you realize the magnitude of the miracle?”
Amazing. And there should be more notes. Just saying.
And it does make you wonder about B14596 and what happened to him.
A heartbreaking sign left in a Little Tokyo store front window by Japanese Americans who were forced into internment camps following the outbreak of World War II.
Denazification: an Allied soldier removes an “Adolf Hitler” street sign and replaces it with one named for Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1945.
National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.