Hell Before Their Very Eyes

Hell Before Their Very Eyes : American Soldiers Liberate Concentration Camps in Germany, April 1945

4.17 (84 ratings by Goodreads)
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On April 4, 1945, United States Army units from the 89th Infantry Division and the 4th Armored Division seized Ohrdruf, the first of many Nazi concentration camps to be liberated in Germany. In the weeks that followed, as more camps were discovered, thousands of soldiers came face to face with the monstrous reality of Hitler's Germany. These men discovered the very depths of human - imposed cruelty and depravity: rail road cars stacked with emaciated, lifeless bodies; ovens full of incinerated human remains; warehouses filled with stolen shoes, clothes, luggage, and even eyeglasses; prison yards littered with implements of torture and dead bodies; and-perhaps most disturbing of all - the half-dead survivors of the camps. For the American soldiers of all ranks who witnessed such powerful evidence of Nazi crimes, the experience was life altering. Almost all were haunted for the rest of their lives by what they had seen, horrified that humans from ostensibly civilized societies were capable of such crimes. Military historian John C. McManus sheds new light on this often overlooked aspect of the Holocaust.
Drawing on a rich blend of archival sources and thousands of first hand accounts-including unit journals, interviews, oral histories, memoirs, diaries, letters, and published recollections - Hell Before Their Very Eyes focuses on the experiences of the soldiers who liberated Ohrdruf, Buchenwald, and Dachau and their determination to bear witness to this horrific history.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 208 pages
  • 152 x 229 x 13mm | 295g
  • Baltimore, MD, United States
  • English
  • 10 Illustrations, black and white
  • 1421417650
  • 9781421417653
  • 1,281,513

Table of contents

1. Encountering Ohrdruf
2. The Smell of Death Was Thick in the Air"
3. Treating Buchenwald
4. Dachau
5. "My Heart Was Going a Mile a Minute"
6. Dachau
Suggested Further Reading
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Review quote

It is not a book for the faint of heart... however, I feel it is a must-read for anyone interested in the Holocaust, and particularly, those who question its occurrence. Examiner.com This is the most powerful book I've read in decades. -- John Greenya The Washington Times The author excels at telling the story without sensationalizing the emotional turmoil the soldiers faced. He illustrates his scholarly integrity by including in his narrative the reprisal killings against Germans perpetrated by emotionally distraught GIs. Choice McManus [captures] the shock, anger, dismay, and other emotions of the soldiers who discovered what had been going on in the so-called 'Thousand Year Reich.' Journal of America's Military Past McManus skillfully uses oral histories as a counterweight to other sources... Michigan War Studies Review McManus has produced a fine brief survey of the American liberation of the Nazi concentration camps that is truly a compelling read. European History Quarterly
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About John C. McManus

John C. McManus is a Curators' Professor of History at Missouri University of Science and Technology. He is the author of The Deadly Brotherhood: The American Combat Soldier in World War II and Grunts: Inside the American Infantry Combat Experience, World War II Through Iraq.
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Rating details

84 ratings
4.17 out of 5 stars
5 39% (33)
4 42% (35)
3 17% (14)
2 1% (1)
1 1% (1)
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