Gardelegen Massacre, 13 April 1945
German civilians forced to vist the barn
The photograph above appears to be a posed publicity picture, taken by the US Army Signal Corp. The three men are the mayors of the surrounding towns. They seem to be making a show of remorse for the camera, while in their hearts, they are probably glad that the citizens of their towns were spared from the horrors of what could have happened if these prisoners had all escaped.
Even before World War II was over, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was planning the campaign to de-Nazify Germany and rehabilitate the German people. He knew that it would not be easy to turn the German people against their country and their leaders, so he wanted to make sure that every German citizen knew about the war-time atrocities.
After seeing the abandoned forced labor camp at Ohrdruf on April 12, 1945, Eisenhower had given the order that as many German citizens as possible should be brought to the liberated concentration camps and forced to view the carnage. It was in keeping with this policy that General Frank A. Keating ordered that the men of Gardelegen and the surrounding villages should be forced to visit the barn on April 16th to view the bodies.
The photograph below shows American Army officers pointing out the mass graves that had been hastily dug near the barn by the SS, the Hitler Youth and the German prisoners who had been recruited to join the murderers. The burial was begun in the early morning hours of April 14th, but had stopped at 5:30 p.m. when the perpetrators learned that American troops had arrived at around 5 p.m. that day.
The two photographs below show the bodies of prisoners who were shot as they tried to escape from the burning barn.
This page was last updated on December 26, 2007