In the 1940’s a heinous act of genocide was committed by the Nazi party against several groups of “undesirables”, at the end of the destruction 14 million were dead (Byers 12). The bulk of these killings were conducted at concentration camps and at the height of the tragedy “death camps”. The discovery of the camps and the events that followed left many lasting psychological effects on American soldiers.
Before the liberation of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945 few in the United States really knew or even understood the extreme actions the Nazi party had underwent to remove their nations undesirables (Wallenberg). Upon seeing the mass killing and torture many GIs felt anger toward the guards and even the German civilians living in the surrounding villages (Wadsworth). In many cases soldiers would execute any German guards unlucky enough to be left behind (Wadsworth). Soldiers soon found that any ill thoughts they harbored against the German soldiers or civilians were dwarfed in comparison when it came to the intense hatred many of the prisoners felt. Inmates soon fell to attacking escaping guards and even some townspeople; soldiers rarely intervened (Wadsworth). Soldiers discovered that many townspeople claimed ignorance to the entire situation. Veteran Norm Hirst said, “People in Gotha (a town near Buchenwald) didn’t know what it was all about. Some of the dignitaries might have known. They knew there was a lot of action, but they didn’t know what it was. And I keep telling people, ‘There were good Germans.’ They were scared to death of the Nazis” (Andrew).
It was soon learned by the medical personnel that many of the liberated facilities had to be burned to prevent the spread of TB and other infectious diseases (Starvation and Disease in Concentration Camps). Before these buildings could be destroyed they needed to be searched; consequently, evidence that the fleeing Nazis had failed to hide was found (SV:Conj Adv, SV) Norm Hirst recalls finding one of these horrific testaments to human cruelty when he entered a medical examination room, with a large box in the center, “Two-thirds of it full of baby shoes.” (Andrew).
After the impending out break of TB had been quelled medical personnel then faced several problems involving the care of the inmates. The most pressing concern was the fact that few of the inmates were even capable of eating solid food (Starvation and Disease in the Concentration Camps). It was even found that in areas where food was being distributed in large amounts by Gis inmates would later die after they had consumed the food because their damaged digestive systems could no longer handle hardy MREs. (Starvation and Disease in the Concentration Camps). This led to strong feelings of guilt from the soldiers because many perceived the inmates deaths as their own fault. Private Will McConahey spoke of his frustration “ In the camps the sick were still dying. We couldn’t save them. We tried to feed some of these people, and really...