Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps

Published on
February 6, 2024
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Ian Baxter
Company: Pen & Sword - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Casemate Publishers - Website: Visit Site
Front Cover

Ian Baxter has done it again. Not only is he an amazing, captivating author, he once more approached a very difficult topic, and did it well, presenting the horrifying facts in a manner that honors the dead, but doesn’t sugar coat it. This book follows the familiar Images of War format with brief introductions for each chapter followed by a lot of photographs to complement his topics.

Between the covers of this (9.6”x7.4”) paperback book are 144 pages, with over 250 black and white photographs, and two very detailed appendices, is the story of the Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps during 1944 and 1945. It is composed of the following:

  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: Liberation of the Polish Concentration Camps
  • Chapter Two: Liberation of German and Austrian Concentration Camps by US Forces
  • Chapter Three: Liberation of German Concentration Camps by French, British and Canadian Forces
  • Chapter Four: Liberation of German Concentration Camps by Soviet and Polish Forces
  • Appendix I: List of Concentration Camps and Sub-Camps
  • Appendix II: Most Populated Liberated/Captured Concentration Camps and
  • Death Camps

This book’s timing was remarkable. I received it on Saturday, 27 January 2024, National Holocaust Remembrance Day, after I read an article about Korean War Medal of Honor recipient Tibor Ruben (Hungarian born Jewish soldier who spent over two years in a Chinese POW Camp, and a survivor of Mauthausen Concentration Camp). The Tibor Ruben article had a photo of Americans liberating Mauthausen, which turned out to be the main cover photo of this book.

In the Preface, the author wrote,

As the Allies advanced across Europe from the west and the Soviet army advanced from the east at the end of the Second World War, they came across concentration camps filled with dead, sick and starving prisoners. In this latest of the Images of War series, the book presents a unique visual account of what the soldiers found when they liberated the camps. It also gives the reader a disturbing insight into the proof of what the liberators discovered of a brutal regime of murder, torture and starvation.

This book illustrates how the Germans attempted to hide the evidence of mass murder by demolishing much of the camps’ infrastructure, including the gas chamber facilities. However, in Poland, the Soviet advance was so rapid that, at the first major camp to be liberated at Majdanek near Lublin, Poland in July 1944, the Germans did not have enough time to destroy their gas chambers and so they were left standing.

As a student of history and being stationed in Germany in the mid-1990s, I did a lot of road trips across Europe to view historic sites and gain a better understanding. None was more powerful than the remaining concentration camps.There are deniers that the atrocities did not happen, that the scope was too large to comprehend. The Holocaust did happen, and the atrocities were indeed too large and numerous to comprehend. Ian Baxter has done a commendable job of documenting this dark Nazi legacy in this book and several others. This book cannot be recommended enough as it goes into great photographical detail, along with concise chapters on what the liberating armies discovered during the last year of the war in Europe, and the efforts of the Germans to hide their crimes and eliminate the survivors in the last moments.

There is a lot known about the concentration camps and as an interested human who wants to better understand what happened to help prevent this from occurring again, there were a lot of details in this book that were unknown to me. The German attempts at neutralizing a site, especially in the east, are incredible. In 1943, the Reinhard Camps composing Treblinka, Sobibor and Belzec (Poland) were closed, and all traces of the camps and their activities removed. At Treblinka, this included burying and burning the bodies, dismantling the entire camps, and shipping the components back to Germany by rail, leveling the area, and “A building firm was immediately brought in to construct a farmhouse on top of the existing site using bricks from the gas chambers. Once this had been hastily built, livestock was brought in and a Ukrainian by the name of Strebel who had been a guard at Treblinka was asked to live there and farm the land with his family.”

Appendix I lists the concentration camps with their subcamps (Buchenwald had 174) in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, North Africa, Holland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Russia and Yugoslavia. Appendix II lists the most populated concentration and death camps by type, location, date established, date evacuated, date liberated, and number murdered.

On 12 April 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower visited Ohrdruf Concentration Camp and said the following,

The things I saw beggar description. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty, and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick…I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda’.

Profuse thanks to Casemate and IPMS/USA for providing the review sample.


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