No laughing matter

“As Allied forces had approached [Ohrdruf] from the west, Patton informed his diary, SS guards ‘had some of the slaves exhume the bodies and place them on a mammoth griddle composed of 60-centimeter railway tracks laid on brick foundations. They poured pitch on the bodies and then built a fire of pinewood and coal under them,’ leaving ‘bones, skulls, charred torsos.’ Most guards then fled, disguised in mufti, although a few were beaten or stabbed to death by vengeful inmates as the first Americans arrived. ‘You search the face to find what it is that is lacking, to find the mark of the beast,’ a reporter wrote after scrutinizing SS visages. The camp still reeked of feces and burned hair. Another burial trench dusted with lime ‘was almost filled with ash and human debris from which, here and there, emaciated limbs projected,’ wrote Osmar White, the Australian correspondent assigned to Third Army. ‘Patton,’ Bradley noted, ‘walked over to a corner and sickened.’ When a young GI giggled nervously, Eisenhower fixed him with a baleful eye. ‘Still having trouble hating them?’ he asked. To other troops gathered round him in the compound, the supreme commander said, ‘We are told that the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now at least he will know what he is fighting against.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

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