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April showers

“On April 15 [1945] when the 11th Armored Division stumbled upon the Bergen-Belsen camp, fifty miles south of Hamburg . . . Over forty thousand men, women, and children jammed a compound designed for eight thousand; since January they had survived on watery soup, fourteen ounces of rye bread a day, and a kind of beet called magel-wurzel, normally used as livestock feed. But for the past four days they had received neither food nor water and were reduced to eating the hearts, livers, and kidneys of the dead. Plundered bodies lay in such numbers that it was ‘like trying to count the stars,’ a medic reported. Ten thousand corpses littered the camp: two thousand lined a pit on the southern perimeter and others were stacked four deep around the crude hospital. ‘Both inside and outside the huts,’ the British Army reported, ‘was an almost continuous carpet of dead bodies, human excreta, rags, and filth.’ One soldier recounted seeing ‘a woman squatting gnawing at a human thigh bone. . . . In war you see humanity at the end of its tether.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

Published inRick AtkinsonThe Second World War

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