The 14th Armored Division during World War II
As Allied troops moved across Europe in a series of offensives against Nazi Germany, they found tens of thousands of concentration camp prisoners in deplorable conditions. Malnutrition and disease were rampant, and corpses lay unburied. The soldiers reacted in shock and disbelief to the evidence of Nazi atrocities. In addition to burying the dead, the Allied forces attempted to help and comfort the survivors with food, clothing and medical assistance.
14th Armored Division Campaigns during World War II
The 14th Armored Division joined the Allied invasion of western Europe in October 1944, when it landed in Marseille in southern France. By early 1945, the "Liberators" had advanced as far as Alsace-Lorraine, provinces that had been incorporated into Germany after France's defeat in 1940. In March and April, the 14th penetrated the Rhineland and moved into Bavaria. By war's end, the division had reached the Danube River.
The 14th Armored Division and the Liberation of Dachau Subcamps
As the 14th advanced into southern Germany, it uncovered several subcamps of the Dachau concentration camp. Operating near the towns of Ampfing and Mühldorf, the unit discovered four large munitions plants built underground, some 15,000 tons of high explosive, and three large forced-labor camps, housing thousands of Polish and Soviet civilian workers. The 14th also liberated two other camps nearby, one holding 1,500 Jewish prisoners and the other filled with Jewish female inmates. The unit reported that of the 1,500 prisoners in the first camp, only 900 could walk, and that the lime pits were filled with the corpses of inmates.
Recognition as a Liberating Unit
The 14th Armored Division was recognized as a liberating unit by the US Army's Center of Military History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1991.
14th Armored Casualty Figures
Casualty figures for the 14th Armored Division, European theater of operations:
- Total battle casualties: 2,690
- Total deaths in battle: 566
14th Armored Division Nickname
Although lacking a nickname during the war, the 14th became known as the "Liberators" soon afterward to signify its accomplishments in liberating hundreds of thousands of forced and slave laborers, concentration camp prisoners, and Allied prisoners of war in 1945.
Critical Thinking Questions
- What challenges did Allied forces face when they encountered the camps and sites of other atrocities?
- What challenges faced survivors of the Holocaust upon liberation?