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“Soldiers who in years of combat had seen things no man should ever see now gawked in disbelief at the iniquities confronting them. ‘There was no fat on them to decompose,’ Major Ralph Ingersoll wrote after viewing corpses at Landsberg. ‘You are repelled by the sight of your own leg, because in its shape it reminds you of one of those legs. It is a degenerating experience.’ At the Wöbbelin camp near Ludwigslust, General Gavin ordered local civilians to open the mass graves of camp victims and lift the dead into wagon beds lined with evergreen boughs; they were to be reinterred in graves dug on the town square. ‘Each body was pulled out, handed up and wrapped in a white sheet or tablecloth,’ an 82nd Airborne lieutenant wrote his sister. ‘We were united in a bond of shame that we had ever seen such things.’ Gavin arranged for a film crew to record the proceedings, and years later he wept while watching the footage. ‘It was a defining moment in our lives,’ a paratrooper said. ‘Who we were, what we believed in, and what we stood for.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

Published inRick AtkinsonThe Second World War

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