Angelo Greco (2nd from right) and unidentified men look at graves dug by the 82nd to bury corpses of Wobbelin Inmates
On May 2, 1945, the 82nd American Airborne Division liberated the few survivors of a concentration camp in northern Germany. The rescue effort was one of the last missions for the paratroopers and as a grisly part of the effort, the Americans also helped bury the dead.
As the war ground to a halt, the 82nd U.S. Airborne Division accepted the unconditional surrender document of Nazi forces east of the Elbe River. Not long afterward, the division came across the remnants of the concentration camp of Wobbelin, The Terrible Wobbelin, as it was called. Wobbelin had been created only 10 weeks earlier as a sub-camp of the Hamburg concentration camp called Neuengamme and was to serve as a work camp for 5,000 political prisoners The camp had no infrastructure and no sanitation or food facilities. It consisted merely of barracks with open spaces and no doors.
The 82nd Airborne Division discovered more than 1,000 of these prisoners dead, their emaciated corpses having been thrown into mass graves or left lying on the ground. Most had died of starvation. Under the orders of Gen. Gavin the paratroopers gave 200 victims a proper and decent burial.
Before the burial ceremony, the townspeople of Ludwigslust and the entire command of the 21st German Wehrmacht Army were ordered to walk by the graves and pay their last respects for these unfortunates.
The American army also liberated 3,500 men from the camp. "It was a clear, blue sunny day and these guys [the paratroopers] showed up in the afternoon," remembered Laszlo Berkowits, who was liberated from Wobbelin that day and now serves as senior rabbi at a synagogue in Falls Church, VA. "If God had sent an angel down, he couldn’t have done a better job than these guys."
For further 82nd mention,
Wobbelin Concentration Camp Survivor Project
2013 Update -
Michael Reed, writing on behalf of his father who related his
experiences at Wobbelin.
"He is British and quite
active at the age of 90 years and an IPad user who is at home on the
web, but because of arthritis finds typing a long message difficult,
hence my help. He completed three landings during the war – North
Africa, Italy and Normandy. He recalls the time with the 82nd Airborne
Raymond Ernest Reed, a
former British Army Trooper, then a member of little known unit called
the Phantom (SAS) GHQ Liaison Regiment, recalls he was with a group of
mixed ranks and regiments who crossed the Elbe River with the 82nd
Airborne. His unit was active with any number of different nationalities
and their armies and on this occasion it was with the 82nd. It was not
until after the war he was allowed to reveal some of his clandestine
exploits. Some of his British colleagues wore black berets some red as
they were drawn from different regiments. As you might imagine the
internet has allowed him to revisit some incidents experienced during
the war, and this incident he remembers well.
He was present when the 82nd Airborne liberated the [Wobbelin]
concentration camp. He was there because he was on an advanced patrol
attached to the airborne when they crossed the Elbe.
He remembers vividly the whole process of liberation and the way the
American forces ensured that the victims and survivors were treated with
He wishes his memories to be recorded with you as a mark of respect to
the 82nd Airborne and to affirm that their actions should be recorded
Michael Reed for
31, Tywn Teg - Neath, Glamorgan, South Wales, UK.