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This is How the German soldiers reacted to footage of concentration camps, 1945

Ian Smith

The photos below depict the  shows the horrified faces of German POWs, captured by Americans while watching a film about a concentration camp.

This forced confrontation brought Germans face-to-face with the evils of the Third Reich. It must be really hard to go through what they did and look back knowing that everything that happened to them, all of their friends who were killed or maimed was in the name of something horrific, something totally repugnant to their own values.

This forced process was part of the Allied policy of postwar denazification, meant to purge Germany of the remnants of Nazi rule and rebuild its civil society, infrastructure, and economy. The program included compulsory visits to nearby concentration camps, posters displaying dead bodies of prisoners hung in public places, and forcing German POWs to view films documenting the Nazis’ treatment of “inferior” people. The footage came from a newsreel shown in the US and was seen by millions and millions of people at the time. Seeing is believing. Often the only thing capable of denting humanity’s monumental ability to bunker down in a state of denial is indisputable, visual evidence. When cruel things take place on a massive and institutionalized scale behind closed doors and out of sight in societies, only jarring confrontation can shatter the delusions. If the ear won’t listen, tell it to the eye.

Recent German historiography showed that a lot of Germans were definitely aware of mass killings of Jews (Slavs, mentally disabled etc.), but not what specifically happened in the concentration camps. You had lots of soldiers who saw these killings and reports of them did make it back to the home front. Jews were often rounded up and their mass deportations were not a secret and often watched by bystanders. Some of the mass killings were even public. It was common for Germans to listen to foreign radio stations, which mentioned the mass killings of Jews as well. Some people did speak out against that, most famously the resistance movement White Rose, who distributed pamphlets which attacked the killings of hundreds of thousands of Jews. They were identified, captured and sentenced to death.


Ian Smith

Ian Smith is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News