My country, wrong or wrong

“For the U.S. Army, the camp at Buchenwald offered a uniquely searing epiphany of liberation because of its size and the clear evidence of systemic evil. Built in 1937 outside Weimar, a city that had once been home to Goethe, Schiller, and Franz Liszt, Buchenwald and its satellites had grown to more than 100,000 inmates by March 1945, with offenders categorized by triangle insignia on their uniforms: red for political prisoners, pink for homosexuals, green for criminals, yellow for Jews. Just after noon on April 11 [1945], a warning over the public address system advised, ‘All S.S. men leave the camp immediately.’ Sentries ‘ran with long strides into the forest,’ a witness reported, and at 3:15 p.m. a white flag rose above the camp. An hour later, outriders of the Third Army’s 6th Armored Division burst through the main gate, which stood beneath a large sign proclaiming Recht oder Unrecht, mein Vaterland. Right or wrong, my Fatherland. They found twenty-one thousand survivors from thirty-one nations—engineers, lawyers, professors, editors, and a thousand boys under age fourteen—living on six hundred calories a day. As one liberator said of the liberated, ‘They were so thin and so dried out that they might have been monkeys or plaster of Paris and you had to keep saying to yourself, these are human beings.’ ” – Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light

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