Horrors revealed at Nazi death camp

US troops race across the Reich. James Cusick chronicles the days leading up to the German surrender of 8 May 1945
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The Independent Online
11 April 1945. After travelling 73 miles today, troops of the 2nd Armoured Division, part of the US Ninth Army, reach the river Elbe at Magdeberg. In the sweep into Saxony, they are now only 63 miles from Berlin.

As the advance into Germany accelerates, the US Third Army passes a fenced- off enclosure: the extermination camp at Buchenwald.

At Buchenwald, the immediate problem is saving the lives of 20,000 people held in the camp. It is estimated that 2,500 are so close to death that little can be done. Around 900 boys under 14 are being cared for.

Although the authorities say it could be years before the full scale of the deaths at Buchenwald is accounted for, horror stories are already beginning to emerge.

The US troops preserved the portable scaffold used to hang Jewish prisoners. A lampshade made from human skin for the commandant's wife is also recovered. Evidence is also emerging that many of the camp's inmates were human guinea pigs in unethical medical experiments.

Meanwhile, the British Second Army advances on Bremen without much resistance. The rivers Leine and Aller are also crossed.

Norhausen, Osterode, Tettenborn and Neuhof are now in the hands of the western Allies. The town of Coburg also surrenders today. Reports indicate that Montgomery's Twenty-First Army is on course in the drive towards Hamburg.

At Norhausen, US Third Army troops discover a secret underground factory which was used to manufacture V-2 rockets.

On the Eastern Front, the battle for Vienna continues with fighting between Soviet troops and the German 2nd Panzer Division. In Vienna itself, the Russians reach the city centre. The parliament and city hall buildings are now in Russian hands. Today, the Russian forces announce that between 6 and 10 April they captured 142,000 Germans in the advance towards Berlin.

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