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Gardelegen, Germany | by IMLS DCC
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Gardelegen, Germany

Description: On Friday, April 13, 1945 in preparation of their imminent surrender to U.S. troops; German SS troops, under the orders of a local Nazi official, slaughtered over 1,000 religious, political, and military prisoners of war in an attempt to hide their existence. The prisoners were led into a large masonery shed, in which gasoline soaked straw had been placed on the floor. Using phosphorus grenades the straw was set ablaze. Prisoners who tried to escape the burning barn where shot, the rest died in the fire. The German troops attempted to hide the bodies in a mass grave, but had managed to bury only 700 bodies before the area was taken over by U.S. forces. What the U.S. troops found was horrific. Over 300 bodies were discovered in the barn. One of the U.S. soldiers, Corporal Charles Overstreet was the photographer and radioman for the Headquarters Radio Unit of the 252nd Field Artillery Battalion during World War II and used his camera to record the evil deed. He was also there to hear the tale told by one of the handful of survivors. This man fell down while trying to escape and was covered by the bodies of his fellow prisoners as they were gunned down. He stayed where he was and played dead, even when the Germans returned and asked if anyone needed help. Those survivors that moved or responded were shot. He was still under the pile of corpses when U.S. soldiers arrived. Mr. Overstreet has used these and other photographs he took during the war to educate people about what occurred. This is an article printed in the Effingham Daily News on May 1, 1999. The article tells about a presentation that Mr. Overstreet gave at the Effingham High School about his experiences in Germany during World War II, especially the atrocities at Gardelegen.


Creator: Effingham Daily News


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Charles and Katie Overstreet have generously allowed the Flora Public Library to borrow their collection for digitization.


Part of Charles Overstreet Collection, Flora Public Library


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Taken circa 1945