Nazi Archive Reveals A Panorama Of Misery
The Associated Press
Looking back at the first weeks after World War II, a French lieutenant named Henri Francois-Poncet despaired at ever fulfilling his mission to establish the fate of French inmates of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
For the living skeletons who survived the Nazi terror, the Displaced Persons camp set up two miles (three kilometers) away offered little relief from misery.
People still died at the rate of 1,000 to 1,500 a day. Corpses were stacked in front of barracks, to be carted away by captured SS guards. "Bodies frequently remained for several days in the huts, the other inmates being too weak to carry them out," Francois-Poncet wrote in a report for the Allied Military Government.
"As most of the survivors could not even give their own names, it was useless trying to obtain information as to the identity of the dead," he wrote. He reported a meager 25 percent success rate.
When the Third Reich surrendered in May 1945, 8 million people were left uprooted around Europe. Millions drifted through the 2,500 hastily arranged DP camps before they were repatriated.
A bleak picture springs with stark immediacy from typewritten reports by the Allied officers, found in the massive archive of the International Tracing Service in the central German town of Bad Arolsen. The Associated Press has been given extensive access to the archive on condition that identities of victims and refugees are protected.