Jenn’s post on Pearl Harbor earlier this week got me to thinking about World War II. It was a terrible time with terrible atrocities. Did you know Jewish American GIs and other GIs were sent to a special camp where they were worked to death?
- 1945- More than 4000 soldiers were at Stalag IX. It was notorious for having the worst conditions out of all the Stalags.
- One day they were all ordered out on to the field. The commandant decreed all Jewish soldiers to step forward and identify themselves. Others whispered for them not to do this. He then stated they had until 6am to declare themselves. After that, all Jews found in camp would be shot as would anyone who tried to help.
- About 130 stepped forward. They were put in segregated quarters. 50 other non-commissioned officers were also taken. Any others that were deemed trouble makers were also taken. They left camp never to return.
- Berga was a special camp for the creation of underground tunnels leading to a munitions dump located deep in a mountain.
- They were placed in train cars like so many others going to concentration camps.
- After 5 days, they arrived at Berga, a quaint little town on the Elster River. There is almost no mention of these concentration camps in the history books.
- Stalag IX seemed like a hotel when they discovered life in Berga.
- Each day they walked nearly two miles each way to these shafts cut deep into the earth. Cruel overseers forced them to work until they literally dropped dead.
- The tunnels were made by explosions. They wouldn’t even let the air clear before they sent them back in. Sometimes they couldn’t see more than a few inches in front of their face.
- They huddled together to survive the cold at night. Their meager food rations were sometimes mixed with saw dust or ground glass.
- On April 4, 1945, the commandant received orders to evacuate the camp because the allies were closing in.
- He gathered the survivors and forced them on a death march. If they stumbled, they were shot.
- When they were rescued, most men only weighed 85 lbs or so.
- The American government has never publicly acknowledged they were mistreated. In fact, one survivor was told he should go to a psychiatrist. Officials at the VA told him he had made up the whole story.
- 2 of the men responsible for these atrocities were tried and found guilty of war crimes- even though there was no witnesses there. The case was reviewed later and the verdict was upheld. Even so, a few years later, it was reviewed again and decided there was insufficient evidence and they were released with time served. Many believe it was a trade made for intelligence that they may have had.
- Only 63 of the original 350 US GIs returned home after Berga. 23% were Jewish.