The 20th Armored Division
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.e 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.
The 20th Armored Division disembarked at the French port of Le Havre in February 1945. In April, the division moved through Belgium and into Germany. Later that month, the 20th advanced deep into Bavaria, crossing the Danube River and capturing the city of Munich on April 30, 1945. The end of hostilities found this tank division in Austria.
On April 29, 1945, the 20th Armored Division was one of three US Army divisions to take part in the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp.
The 20th 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 1985.
Casualty figures for the 20th Armored Division, European theater of operations:
- Total battle casualties: 186
- Total deaths in battle: 59
Although no nickname is commonly associated with the 20th, "Armoraiders" may have been occasionally in use during World War II.
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?