Little Grey Rabbit's Historical Skepticism Blog

Gardelegen and Leipzig-Thekla

Posted in Other Camps, Resistance and Psychological Warfare by littlegreyrabbit on August 6, 2015

The Reader, which I vaguely recall reading the book but not the film, if I recall correctly revolves around a former female SS guard who is charged with neglected to let concentration camp inmates out of a church that has been set on fire during Allied air raids in the dying days of the war.  Life photographer Margaret Bourke-White recounts a story near Leipzig that might have represented something similar in real life:

On the afternoon of the same day that Bill Walton and I had canvassed the City Hall, we had driven to the outskirts of Leipzig to hunt up an aircraft small-parts factory which had been an 8th Air Force bombing target […]

As we searched for the factory along a narrow country road bisecting ploughed fields, we began to smell a peculiar odor, quite different from anything in our experience.  We followed the smell until we saw, across a small meadow, a ten-foot barbed-wire fence which, curiously, seemed to surround nothing at all.  Parking the jeep, we ran through a small gate into the enclosure, and found ourselves standing at the edge of an acre of bones.

There was no one there; that is, there was no living person.  But flying grotesquely over the patch of skulls and charred ribs, from a tall slender flag-pole, was a white surrender flag.  There was eloquent testimony that the men who had been there so recently had not willing surrendered to death.  Plunged into the four-foot wide barrier of close-meshed barbed wire were blackened human figures whose desperate attitudes showed their passionate attempts to break to freedom.  Caught in the spiked coils, they had perished, flaming torches, as they tried to escape.

Nothing was left standing among the ashes, except the incongruous flag pole at the far edge.  Dotting the ghastly mottled carpet which covered the area were dozens of identical little graniteware basins and among them a scattering of spoons. [Margaret Bourke-White in Walter Kempowski’s Swansong.  pp 39-40]