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Liberated Prisoners at Buchenwald, Germany

Margaret Bourke-White (American, 1904-1971)

Liberated Prisoners at Buchenwald, Germany, 1945

  • Gelatin silver print
  • 10 5/8 x 10 5/8 in. (26.9 x 26.9 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Lillian Gordon Bequest, 2000-77
  • © Estate of Margaret Bourke-White/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

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Liberated Prisoners at Buchenwald, Germany

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Liberated Prisoners at Buchenwald, Germany

The Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany was liberated by the Fourth Armored Division of General George S. Patton's Third United States Army on April 11, 1945. The Americans found more than twenty-one thousand people alive in the camp. They were sick, emaciated, and exhausted but still alive. This was a mere fraction of the quarter of a million prisoners who had passed through the camp's gates during the previous eight years, the vast majority of whom were murdered at the hands of the Nazis.

Photojournalist and war correspondent Margaret Bourke-White was with the troops during those first days when they discovered the victims and survivors of the camp. With unflinching directness, she captured enduring images of the walking skeletons, the heaps of bodies, and the barbaric conditions in the camp. Life magazine published several of her photographs in its May 7, 1945, issue. These images became iconic documents of the Holocaust, showing many for the first time the extent of the suffering caused by Nazi brutality.