The 95th Infantry Division
In 1985, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the US Army's Center of Military History began a program to honor US Army divisions that took part in the liberation of Nazi camps. To date, 36 divisions, including the 95th Infantry Division, have been recognized as liberating units.
Formed in 1942, the 95th Infantry Division landed in France on September 15, 1944, some three months after the Allies invaded France on D-Day (June 6, 1944). In October, the "Victory" division advanced to the Moselle in Lorraine, where it repelled German military efforts to cross the river.
The following month, the division captured the French city of Metz and entered Germany, establishing a bridgehead on the Saar River. In February 1945, the "Victory" division was redeployed to the Limburg province of the Netherlands, near the city of Maastricht. From there, the 95th moved into Germany and advanced into the industrial Ruhr region. On April 13, 1945, it captured the city of Dortmund.
In April 1945, the "Victory" division uncovered a German prison and civilian labor camp in the town of Werl. On April 7, the unit reported discovering a camp housing some 4,500 undernourished French officers and 800 enlisted men. The 95th provided the prisoners with emergency rations from the division's own supplies.
The 95th Infantry Division was recognized as a liberating unit by the US Army's Center of Military History and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1995.
Casualty figures for the 95th Infantry Division, European theater of operations:
- Total battle casualties: 6,591
- Total deaths in battle: 1,387
The 95th Infantry Division, the "Victory" division, gained its nickname from the divisional insignia approved in 1942: the arabic numeral "9" combined with the roman numeral "V" to represent "95." The "V" led to the nickname, since the letter "V" was universally recognized as an Allied symbol for resistance and victory over the Axis 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?