The Death March


Prisoners on a death march from Dachau move towards the south along the Noerdliche Muenchner street in Gruenwald. German civilians secretly photographed several death marches from the Dachau concentration camp as the prisoners moved slowly through the Bavarian towns of Gruenwald, Wolfratshausen, and Herbertshausen. Few civilians gave aid to the prisoners on the death marches. Germany, April 29, 1945.

The death marches refer to the forcible movement between Autumn 1944 and late April 1945 by Nazi Germany of thousands of prisoners, mostly Jews, from German concentration camps near the war front to camps inside Germany.

Towards the end of World War II in 1944, as Britain and the United States approached the concentration camps from the west, the Soviet Union  was advancing from the east. Trapped in the middle of the allied advance, the SS, not wanting the world to know about the Holocaust, decided to abandon the camps, moving or destroying evidence of the various atrocities they had committed there. Thousands of prisoners were killed in the camps before the marches commenced, in acts which at Nuremberg were tried as crimes against humanity.

Photo credit: courtesy USHMM.

Although the prisoners were already weak or ill after enduring the routine violence, overwork and starvation of concentration camp life, they were marched for tens of miles in the snow to railway stations; then transported for days at a time without food, water or shelter in freight carriages originally designed for cattle. On arrival at their destination, they were then forced to march again to the new camp. Any prisoners who were unable to keep up due to fatigue or illness were immediately and summarily executed by gunshot.

The first evacuation of Majdanek inmates started in April 1944. Prisoners of Kaiserwald were transported to Stutthof or killed in August. Mittelbau-Dora was evacuated in April 1945.



Home       |       Site Map       |      Exhibitions      |      About the Museum       |       Education      |      Contact Us       |       Links






Text adapted from Wikipedia.


Copyright 2008-9 Museum of Family History.  All rights reserved.  Image Use Policy.