We Are All Human Beings

Liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp

Credit:US Army/Arnold E. Samuelson

As those who survived the Holocaust — as well as those who served during the Second World War in which the Holocaust’s atrocities took place — pass on, the words and pictures they left behind are all that we have to remind of us of the tragedy and the bravery the world witnessed during the mid-20th century.

Authors and historians Richard Cahan and Michael Williams first tackled World War II with their look at the Japanese American internment, but now return with a fascinating new book that looks at the war’s final year, 1945, through words and images from actual American soldiers, including photographs unseen for more than seventy years.

The above photo of the liberation of Holocaust survivors, along with this excerpt by co-author Mark Jacob and WWII vet Walter Rosenblum, show both the inhumanity and humanity that the world witnessed and must never forget:

A remarkable dignity shines through in this photo of the survivors of Ebensee, a sub-camp of Mauthausen in the Austrian Alps. The slave laborers of the Ebensee camp worked at a secret V-2 missile facility in a complex of tunnels in the mountains. The SS had fled the camp a day before the U.S. Army’s arrival, leaving Volkssturm militia to watch about 20,000 starving prisoners. The soldiers on the lead tank approached the camp’s entrance, took a rifle away from one of the Volkssturm, and smashed it over the turret of the American tank. That inspired a cheer from the prisoners behind the electrified, barbed-wire fences.

“One thing I’ve learned from photography is that all people are the same and need the same kind of respect,” wrote Walter Rosenblum of the 163rd. “We are all human beings of the same kind and the same variety. And people have the same aspirations, the same needs, the same desires, to have a family, to have children who they could help to live decent lives, eat properly, build a life doing something of consequence…”

Tags: Aftershock History Holocaust Mark Jacob Mauthausen Michael Williams Photography Richard Cahan World War II

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