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.
In 1985, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the US Army's Center of Military History initiated a program to honor US Army divisions that took part in the liberation of Nazi camps. To date, 36 divisions, including the 101st Airborne Division, have been recognized as liberating units.
The Signal Corps, a longstanding part of the US Army expanded greatly during WWII. They had a crucial role in documenting the atrocities perpetrated during the Holocaust.
The Sephardic Jewish community of Monastir, historically the largest Jewish community in Macedonia. The Jews who trace their ancestry to the Macedonian city known since 1913 as Bitola continue to call the city by the name it bore during centuries of Ottoman rule: Monastir. The final chapter in the history of the Monastir Jewish community came in 1941, when the Germans invaded Yugoslavia and Germany's ally, Bulgaria, occupied Macedonia.
When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Jews were living in every country of Europe. A total of roughly nine million Jews lived in the countries that would be occupied by Germany during World War II. By the end of the war, two out of every three of these Jews would be dead, and European Jewish life would be changed forever.
Despite great obstacles, Jews throughout occupied Europe attempted armed resistance against the Germans and their Axis partners. They faced overwhelming odds and desperate scenarios, including lack of weapons and training, operating in hostile zones, parting from family members, and facing an ever-present Nazi terror. Yet thousands resisted by joining or forming partisan units. Among them was Joseph Greenblatt.
The Treaty of Versailles, imposed on Germany following its defeat in World War I, declared Danzig to be a free city jointly administered by Poland and the League of Nations. Germany bitterly resented the loss of this largely German city, which was also an important port on the Baltic Sea. The return of Danzig to Germany became a central focus of Adolf Hitler's foreign policy. Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. After the invasion of Poland, Germany unilaterally annexed Danzig. This German newsreel footage shows cheering crowds welcoming German forces into the city.
Denmark signed a nonaggression pact with Germany in 1939, hoping to maintain neutrality as it had in World War I. Germany, however, broke the agreement on April 9, 1940, when it occupied Denmark. King Christian X remained on the throne, and the Danish police and government reluctantly accepted the German occupation. This footage shows the German presence in the occupied Danish capital, Copenhagen. In 1943, as German policies towards Denmark toughened, the Danes would form one of the most active and successful resistance campaigns against the German occupation.
The Treaty of Versailles, imposed on defeated Germany following World War I, declared Danzig to be a free city jointly administered by Poland and the League of Nations. Germany bitterly resented the loss of this largely German city, which was also an important port on the Baltic Sea. The return of Danzig became a central feature of Adolf Hitler's foreign policy. This footage shows pro-German forces besieging a Polish garrison in Danzig's main post office. Germany annexed Danzig after the defeat of Poland in September 1939.
Insignia of the 84th Infantry Division. The 84th Infantry Division derives its nickname, "Railsplitter" division, from the divisional insignia, an ax splitting a rail. This design was created during World War I, when the division was known as the "Lincoln" division to represent the states that supplied soldiers for the division: Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky. All figured prominently in the life of President Abraham Lincoln, of log-splitting legend.
Insignia of the 86th Infantry Division. The 86th Infantry Division developed the blackhawk as its insignia during World War I, to honor the Native American warrior of that name who fought the US Army in Illinois and Wisconsin during the early nineteenth century. The nickname "The Blackhawks" or "Blackhawk" division is derived from the insignia.
Insignia of the 90th Infantry Division. Called the "Tough Ombres," the 90th Infantry Division was raised from draftees from the states of Texas and Oklahoma during World War I. The divisional insignia incorporates the letters "T" and "O" to symbolize both states. These letters later yielded the nickname "Tough Ombres," symbolizing the esprit de corps of the unit. The 90th was also sometimes called the "Alamo" division during World War II.
Insignia of the 83rd Infantry Division. The 83rd Infantry Division received its nickname, the "Thunderbolt" division, after a division-wide contest for a new nickname held in early 1945. The earlier nickname, "Ohio," was based on the division's insignia (which includes the name "Ohio," where the division was raised during World War I). A new nickname was desired to represent the nationwide origins of the division's personnel during World War II.
Insignia of the 101st Airborne Division. The nickname of the 101st Airborne Division, "Screaming Eagles," originates from the division's insignia, a bald eagle on a black shield. "Old Abe" was the eagle mascot of a Wisconsin regiment during the Civil War. The 101st was formed as a reserve unit in Wisconsin shortly after World War I and included "Old Abe" as part of the division's insignia.
Insignia of the 42nd Infantry Division. The nickname of the 42nd Infantry Division, the "Rainbow" division, reflects the composition of the division during World War I. The division was drawn from the National Guards of 26 states and the District of Columbia. It represented a cross section of the American people, as the rainbow represents a cross section of colors.
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