Camps of the Dead (1947) - full transcript

A short film created by the U.S. Army Signal Corps which documents the Nazi concentration camps.




The land of horror,
it opens here,

on this siding, along
this abandoned train

which conducts no one.

Here, they didn't bother
to construct a camp.

The wooden cars

were good enough for a
no doubt temporary lodging.

And in these cars,
2,500 deportees,

torn from all the
countries of Europe,

were condemned to live,
that is, to die.

One day they were picked up,

a family here, a man there,
a woman elsewhere,

random raids and deportations.

Babies were taken
with their mothers,

good men were guarded.

Those who had not yet lived,

those who were
almost done living,

made a good start on death.

And one day they all
found themselves there,

enclosed in this train
of merchandise,

on a box with no exit.

Indeed, there was no exit.

How many died? Half?

The Germans didn't count.

Why count, indeed,
since one day

the lost train must
find itself empty.

This was a small camp,
one of the least known,

but a camp like the others.

There was killing,
there was torture.

A little camp, with barracks
and common graves.

And the graves, in the end,
were more crowded.

Only when the graves
are emptied will we know

the number of corpses
they swallowed.

All the Germans of the village
work at this appalling task.

But were these
deaths necessary

for all the men of a village
to become grave-diggers?

General Eisenhower could testify
to the horrors of Ohrdrus.

With a tense face
he visited this camp

where the Nazis organized
a factory of torture.

How many are there here,

who have known clubs,
beatings, cigar burns, famine?

How many died,

Thousands of men
followed one another here.

They died every day,

new ones were furnished
to fill the void.

Many people in Europe

had to die for the glory
of the German Reich,

or die there, of misery,
fatigue, brutality, hunger.

The corpses were emptied
of all human substance.

This depot of death fed
butchers and common graves.

In this shocking promiscuity,
men continued to live.

Men seen as beasts,
or seen as crazy.

Perhaps among them
was a savant, a genius.

This is what the
Germans did to them.

Dachau, with Buchenwald,
headed up this death list.

It was a nice camp,

established before the war
for the anti-Nazis,

a nice camp for which
the Nazis saw a long future.

The future of its detainees
was itself strictly limited.

The trenches which
crossed the camp

took away corpses
every day,

those who precipitated
the Nazi's hate,

or simply despair.

There were thousands
of women in Dachau,

amidst a crowd which
reached 60,000 at times.

A crowd
perpetually renewed,

the dead replaced
at once with new lives.

Their treatment was
as awful as the men's.

Some among them
served as guinea-pigs

in experiments
by German doctors,

without anesthesia,
of course.

One was used in artificial
insemination experiments.

Another gave five spinal cord
samples in a single week.

Another was the subject of
phosphorous burn studies.

The most shocking scientific
sadism was given free rein.

The skeletal corpses
are enough.

The prisoners were charged
for the clothes which they wore,

and which served
for the next arrivals.

The crematory fires didn't
cease day or night,

and the cycle began again

with the dressing
of new arrivals.

At Dachau, death was done
by assembly line.

In Germany's last days,
a last train arrived at Dachau.

It came from Buchenwald.
It brought 1,600 convicts

evacuated before
the Allied advance.

The trip lasted ten days.

Ten days without water
and without food.

600 unfortunates
died in this convoy,

transformed into a
rolling cemetery.

Elsewhere, the
Germans did better.

They put the detainees on a
munitions pile they couldn't move,

and they blew up everything.

This is Buchenwald.

It's a name that poetically
means "beechwood".

They make gallows from
this wood in Germany.

The commission of inquiry
from British Parliament

visited this camp at the
time of its liberation.

They found traces of
an immense crime.

Spread out
over 200 hectares,

Buchenwald contained
65 barracks,

destined to contain
18,000 detainees.

They had them,
up to 86,000.

In that hell which
had no precedent,

five thousand detainees
died every month.

Five thousand per month,
one every ten minutes.

The industry of death
functioned at capacity.

People died on
the schlague.

People died by hanging.

People died by bludgeon.

The crematory fires,
burning day and night,

couldn't keep up with
the rhythm of death.

The heaps of burnt remains
grew every day.

Buchenwald was simply
a factory of great output.

The point was that one died.

There were execution squads.

There were injections
which burst the arteries.

And 50,000 Jews were implicated
simply by their arrival.

There were also dogs,
and flame-throwers.

It was a perfected camp.

The factory pounded.
The S.S. amused themselves.

The camp director's wife
liked original tattoos,

unfortunately for those
who brought them.

They were slaughtered quickly,
and their tanned skin

served to make
a new lamp-shade.

At the rate of
300 corpses per day,

the crematory fires
weren't enough.

The corpses piled up.

While waiting for
new graves to open,

they agonized.

During the last days,
the Germans got scared.

They rushed to erase the
evidence of their crimes.

The furnaces were

Before closing the doors,
they cast out the living.

But the crime
spoke too loudly.

At Tehkla,
it was worse.

The day of their departure,
the S.S. locked in a barracks

three hundred prisoners.
Then, they set it on fire.

Only four, four out of
three hundred,

succeeded in escaping
the torture.

At the price of what
anguish, and what pain?

Beneath the floorboards of
the burning barracks,

the unfortunates succeeded,
with other comrades,

in digging a hole through
which they escaped.

Not everyone.

They still had to cross the electric
wires which surrounded the camp.

The four escapees
succeeded in passing.

For their companions,
stuck on the barbed wire,

they were an easy target for the
machine guns and flame throwers.

At Belsen,

65,000 detainees, including
28,000 women and children,

were still alive at the
Allied arrival.

All the jailers
weren't able to flee.

Their chief, the executioner
Kramer, is a prisoner today.

He will pay.

His aides, arrested
with him, will pay too.

The women like the men,
for there were women,

women even more sordid and
ferocious than the males.

Life at Belsen pushed the limit of
what separates man from beast.

A stagnant pool served the
needs of all the prisoners.

The Germans, as they say,

are the propagators of
culture, of progress,

and even sanitation.

To eat, a hazy soup or some
detritus swimming in the water.

It's not surprising
that in this regime,

the majority of deportees
became living skeletons.

Nor is it surprising that cases
of cannibalism occurred.

Vermin swarmed over
these weakened bodies.

Epidemics ran wild.

But unfortunately for the
sick, they were condemned.

The health conditions were
such that at the Allied arrival,

800 deportees
died per day.

80,000 deportees perished
among these sinister barracks.

German civilization
delivered them to violence,

to savagery,
to sickness, to famine,

and sometimes, in the name
of science, to vivisection.

Finally Mittelgladsbach was,
according to the Germans,

in this tragic enumeration,
a bucolic stop.

It was listed as a rest camp.

But it was the camp of typhus.

Nearly all these men with
arms tattooed with a number

were struck by
horrible sickness.

They were left to
agonize without care,

covered with vermin and
shaking with fever,

in their filthy barracks,
soiled with excrement.

the rest camp.

How many died every day?

An unimportant detail,
since they would all die.

Death is indeed eternal rest,

and Mittelgladsbach was
the rest camp.

And the graves of
Mittelgladsbach were filled,

day after day,

while at the same time
graves were filled

at Dachau, Buchenwald,
Auschwitz, Majdanek, Belsen,

and all these cities
of unpardonable crime.

They were filled
with hollow bodies,

reduced to the most
absolute skeletons.

They were filled
with dead flesh

which once had thought,
action and life.

Mittelgladsbach, the rest camp.

And in this strange prison,

where Germany enrolled
typhus as another torturer,

there remained the living.

But here, words fail.

The "danse macabre" of old
legends and church paintings,

here it is.

Here the dead are
upright, and they walk.

They have no words, but their
wounds speak for them.

They speak of
cities of the dead

that the most
disordered imagination

could't have invented
without German sadism.

They confirm that all these
camps had only one purpose:


And if there is a difference,

it's only in the
number of victims.

In the crime, there is none.