Cautious Crusade: Franklin D. Roosevelt, American Public Opinion, and the War against Nazi Germany

By Steven Casey | Go to book overview

7
CONCLUSION AND
AFTERMATH
APRIL 1945 TO DECEMBER 1947

Yes, the decisions of a democracy might be
slowly arrived at. But when that decision is
made, it is proclaimed not with the voice of
one man but with the voice of one hundred
and thirty million.

—FDR, March 15, 1941

On April 12, 1945, generals Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar D. Bradley, and George S. Patton arrived at the Nazi concentration camp at Ohrdruf. This camp had been liberated more than a week earlier, when units of the Fourth Armored Division, racing through the heart of Germany in search of a secret Nazi communication center, had unexpectedly stumbled across it. Ohrdruf was not the first camp to be liberated by the Allies, nor was it an extermination camp on the same order as Auschwitz or Treblinka, designed purely for industrialized mass slaughter. But the conditions there deeply shocked and appalled the three generals. Indeed, nothing they had witnessed in two-and-a-half years of bitter fighting prepared them for the horrific sight of "more than 3,200 naked bodies" lying in "shallow graves, with lice crawling "over the yellow skin of their sharp, bony frames." Patton became physically ill at the sight, while Eisenhower found it difficult to control his anger, incredulous that "such cruelty, bestiality, and savagery could really exist in this world."

"I made this trip deliberately," Eisenhower wrote to Marshall a few days later, "in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these

-211-

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