Events > Kupferberg Holocaust Resource Center & Archives

Their Brothers' Keepers: American Liberators of the Nazi Death Camp

Sunday, October 13, 2013
01h: 30m:35s | 1024 views

"The most moving moment of my life was the day the Americans arrived. It was the morning of April 11 [1945]. I will always remember with love a big black soldier. He was crying like a child-tears of all the pain in the world and all the rage. Everyone who was there that day will forever feel a sentiment of gratitude to the American soldiers who liberated us." ("Facing Hate," Public Affairs Television, 11/27/1991).

These were the words of Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, author, and Nobel Peace Prize winner. Forty-six years following his liberation from the Buchenwald concentration camp, Wiesel expressed in stark words a moment in his life that forever marked his future existence. He, together with thousands of other Jews and people of other nationalities enslaved and tortured by the Nazi war machine, vehemently greeted the American army that liberated them. All were grateful for the invaluable gift that was granted to them and that only a few weeks earlier before the liberation seemed a wishful dream: a new lease on life.

Buchenwald, Nordhausen, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau---are the names of only some of the camps the American army liberated. Many of them were surrounded by sub-camps, such as Ohrdruf Nord. A Buchenwald subcamp, Ohrdruf was the first camp that was encountered by American forces. The bulk of the army made up by 19-25 year-old men, had already experienced the ravages of war and the grief engendered by the sight of lost comrades in battle. But these young soldiers had neither heard of the concentration camps nor of the horrors that were committed inside their gates. Their memories would be forever marked by the atrocities they witnessed. When General Dwight D. Eisenhower, supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe arrived in Ohrdruf a few days following its liberation and saw for himself what his army had seen only a few days earlier, he issued an order: "I want every American unit not actually in the front lines to see this place...Now, at least, he will know what he is fighting against."

Rabbi Isidoro Aizenberg, Scholar -in- Residence is the curator of this exhibit