Report on Wöbbelin concentration camp

Werner T. Angress1945-05-07

Jewish Museum Berlin

Jewish Museum Berlin

Report by Werner T. Angress (1920–2010), typewritten, English, Ludwigslust, 07.05.1945.

In his report, Angress describes the liberation of Wöbbelin concentration camp and the funeral for the prisoners who had died there. He sent the report to Curt Bondy in the USA, and requested him to bring it to public attention.

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  • Title: Report on Wöbbelin concentration camp
  • Creator: Werner T. Angress
  • Date: 1945-05-07
  • Location: Ludwigslust
  • Physical Dimensions: 28 x 21,5 cm
  • Original Language: englisch
  • Provenance: Gift of Werner T. Angress
  • Transcript: Somewhere in Germany 7-5-45 Today we buried the dead that we found in the concentration camp right outside our town. We buried them in the public square of the town, right opposite the castle of the Grandduke, and the whole population as well as the captured German Generals and higher ranking officers had to attend. But before I go into details I would like to tell you a few words about the concentration camp. We found it outside the town, alongside the road, in a wood clearing. It is just a small camp, with about ten buildings behind the usual barbed wire, and it housed 2000-3000 slave labourers. The sight was the most horrible one I have ever seen. The place was filthy and smelled of decay, of dead bodies and foul turnips; gnawed on turnips were lying around on the barrack floors, in addition to the filth and the dead bodies of the inmates. You found them all over the place: piled up, head to feet; in the latrine, in the so called wash room, in the barrack corners. 200 of them lay there, unburied, simply starved to death. Their limbs, partly fallen off their bodies already, were as thin as stick. It was a repulsing, sickening sight. Their bodies were shrunk, only bones and skin. And over a thousand more bodies were being dug out of mass graves by the German population right then, while I was up there. But six km. away were people living in a town as good as you can imagine, a bit rationed but not suffering, in nice houses, with dogs and cats that had to be fed and with good clothes to wear. I found several survivors in the camp yet, and talked to them. They still wore their striped suits, they looked more dead than alive, and their faces, regardless of age, looked old. They showed me their numbers which were tattooed to their arms, they told me of their sufferings, and even if they had not done so the sight out there talked louder than these people could. I don’t want to tell you any more. It is one dirtspot in the history of Germany which will never be washed off. The burial ceremony was rather impressive. The population was assembled and had to file through the lines of dead which were placed besides their individual graves. Their faces were uncovered, the rest of their bodies was wrapped in white sheets which had to be furnished by the population. We soldiers stood alongside the graves behind the white crosses. Men, women and children walked through, their heads bared, their faces either sad or sullen. Some of them refused to go. We made them go. Then all of them went back to their places opposite of the cemetery and the mayor of the town made a little speech. He said that it was up to the people of X to wash off this undoing, and that all decent people and Christians were shocked and sorry. He looked pathetic in his white hair and his black top hat, talking into the loudspeaker which was held by one of our officers. After that the deads were lowered into their graves, while the band played funeral music. I forgot to mention the group of German officers, led by five generals, who stood in front of the population at rigid attention, with faces of stone, and stared into nothing. I would have liked to know what they have thought. Their faces betrayed nothing. In front of them, facing the rows of graves, stood our two generals and their staff. When the bodies were lowered, the chaplains said prayers for the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish victims, and one chaplain read a speech in German and English, telling once more the story and explaining why those people were buried in the middle of the town. He said that it was the crime of every German, either actually committed by cruel guards, or indifferently tolerated by the people. He warned the people never to allow again any party or any man to arise and to do things like that. He appealed to the human decency to atone for these crimes. Our national anthem followed. We saluted, and so did the German officers while the tune was played. Then the bugles sounded taps. That was the end of the ceremony. Thus were buried 200 human beings, Dutch, French, Poles, Russians and Jews, buried by their former oppressors and by the liberating Americans, who had come too late for them, in the middle of a German town. W[erner] T[om] A[ngress]
  • Type: Letter
  • Rights: Leo Baeck Institute (Dependance Jüdisches Museum Berlin)
  • Inventarnummer: LBI-2009/1/7