Carroll County Illinois
World War II
German Atrocities 8 May 1945
Transcribed and Contributed by Karen Fyock
"Your 13th of April letter with inquiries about Germany and the German people arrived this morning and demands an immediate reply. Before getting into Germany, I suspected that some of the tales handed to us by the Russians about Lublin and similar places were exaggerated in order to stir us up into putting forth greater efforts. Now I know, I have seen differently. Perhaps if I give you a chronological account of my visit to the Ordruf P. O. W. camp, you can better understand the kind of people we are dealing with.
One of the officers at headquarters upon the capture of Ordruf, called and stated he was going to investigate the P. O. W. camp located about a mile from that town, He had heard that there were quite a number of unburied bodies around, so he wanted me to go along in an official capacity. About five of us set out to see how the German camps are run and in particular to see what had happened at Ordruf. We walked into the wire enclosure and in the courtyard found 31 people on the ground. The most striking thing about the scene, outside of the contorted positions of the bodies, was the evidence of malnutrition on all of them. Arms were not over an inch in diameter and nothing appeared under the skin of the legs but bone and ligaments. Stomachs looked like the inverted side of a deep basin. Medics were with us to make autopsies. All they could tell was that all of the victims had been shot and that there was evidence of blows on the heads of those who had failed to die when the bullets struck them. (We later learned from eye witnesses that a Nazi officer had put out of existence with a crowbar those who had not died from the shooting.)
We then went into the rear of the enclosure to a small building where, according to some of the former inmates, were a number of bodies. Upon opening the door of the shed, we found a pile of neatly stacked bodies. I counted 52, stacked head to toe, on top of one another and about 10 wide at the base. To control the odor, and to keep the place as sanitary as possible, the prison guards had had other P. W's sprinkle lime on each layer of bodies as they were stacked..... It was all quite efficient looking. Inmates who were anxious for us to hear and see the whole story then suggested we see the burial pit and crematory which were located another mile away from the town in back of the enclosure.
We drove out there and discovered a very crude arrangement for burning the bodies. The guards of the camp had obtained two sections of a small gauge railroad track, each about 30 feet long. These two sections of track were set up in parallel rows about four feet apart (the track section is about 2 1/2 feet wide) and about 3 1/2 feet above the ground. Under the tracks were the burned out logs which had been put out by the flesh of the bodies above when the Nazis had fled, leaving the fire unattended . In the pile we counted about 15 partially burned torsos. Between the rows of the tracks was a neat row of white slivers of human bones. Occasionally, one could see fairly good sized pieces of ribs and pelvic bones. About 40 feet away were two burial pits, about 80 feet long, 10 feet wide by 8 feet deep. Each pit was filled with dirt for about two-thirds of its length. In order to destroy evidence, the Germans had been busy removing the bodies from the pits and burning them before we arrived. Except for a few legs and heads showing above the dirt, the remainder were still covered. When the American army was approaching, the Germans decided that the bodies should be burned, hence the small gauge railroad track was set up. One of the master-minds outdid himself in devising a fiendish looking poker with which to stir the bodies. These 30-foot pokers with an iron hook on one end, were give to the P. W.'s who were told to place the bodies on the tracks, build a fire under them and keep them well stirred until all was consumed. This business had been going on for about three weeks before we arrived.
Back at the camp again, we went over the story of the victims lying in the courtyard, It seemed the Nazis planned to evacuate the camp before the arrival of the Americans. Since they lacked transportation, it was decided to walk the P.W.'s toward the interior. Many in the camp, too weak from malnutrition or sickness to walk, were marched or carried into the courtyard. As soon as the other inmates had been marched out of the camp, the remaining guards machine-gunned nearly all those who had been left behind. When this took place, it was almost dark and two of the P. W's managed to disappear and hide in the shed where the bodies were stacked. There they remained for about 30 hours or until the American army arrived.
The P.W.'s in the camp were a mixture of European nationalities. Only one American had been in this camp. He had been killed because he had been too weak to march into the interior. His remains had been removed before I arrived. However, an inmate told me that 300 American parachutists had been shot in a similar manner in a camp about 60 miles away. He (the P.W.) had been there when the massacre had taken place. So far, we have discovered no reason to doubt his testimony. Inmates had been brought to this camp to work in a stone quarry, the stone being used in the construction of the Autobahn. Despite the very heavy work, the men were given only two meals a day. Food consisted to turnip mash, potato rind soup and black bread - sour heavy stuff. I looked at it and even tasted a small piece - it was simply terrible. No meat or whole potatoes were ever served. Cigarettes were unheard of. Perhaps one of the most interesting features of the camp was the barracks. Each one housed 300 inmates. Mattress covers filled with straw covered the entire inside of the building except one aisle through the center. There were two rows on each side of the aisle with no space between the mattresses. Lighting in this room came from a few small windows about six inches by two feet, spaced every 10 feet on both sides of the roof of the building. At each end of the barracks was a washroom with two water spigots. The floor of this room was concrete as contrasted to the mixture of ground and wood in the rest of the building. In the 12-foot square bathroom were three large pans in which the prisoners bathed and washed their clothes. Along the sides of the room were five 5-gallon paint pails which served as water closets. The stench in this room was terrific. Naturally people could not stand this existence indefinitely.
The rate of death in this camp was between 25 and 30 a day. The prisoners in general ranged in age from 20 to 40, although there were a few youngsters of 15 and oldsters mixed in. The strange part of all this was that the villagers claimed they never suspected anything was out of the way up at the camp. The army had told them to stay away, so like good Germans, they stayed away. They insisted they had not even smelled the burning bodies. And a burning body smells - it smells to high heaven. The mayor of the town, a bunch of his buddies and all of the prominent citizens were taken to the camp and shown, on a conducted tour, how the master race ran its labor camps. They showed all the indignation and horror good burghers would be expected to display.
That night both the mayor and his wife shot themselves. These good Germans were not concerned enough about humanitarianism to investigate these camps or to find out how they were operated. They blindly supported Adolf Hitler and the party. They had their parades and sent their sons into the army to fight for the Nazi gang. They wore their iron crosses proudly and worked the clock around for the Vaterland. They were prosperous under the Nazis and happy - they all say that. But they forgot that their prosperity was based upon such slave labor as we found in the Ordruf camp.
.................... Charles E. Hoy
This is a true accounting from one who was there.