Hitler's GI Death Camp

America's Concentration Camp Survivors
Anthony Acevedo, One Man's Story

By Imogen Reed

(Each Photo enlarges when clicked)


We've all read about the atrocities and unimaginable suffering that went on within the concentration camps that were built and run by the Nazis during World War Two. Such horrors took place that are still unbelievable to this day. The images and stories that we hear are just as shocking as they were then. What is very rarely, if ever heard about, are the US soldiers and servicemen who were victims of these places too. There is one gentleman in particular whose story still sends shivers running through anyone who encounters it to this day. That man is Anthony Acevedo and this is his personal story.

Berga Camp and its Origins

Anthony wasn't the only US serviceman to be taken prisoner; as many as three hundred and fifty soldiers were held within the walls of these places. Many where taken and kept at the place in which Acevedo was sent to, a camp in Berga, Germany, or to give it its full Deustche title "Berga an der Elster". This was a camp that had been built for inmates who were forced to dig some seventeen tunnels that would lead to an underground ammunition factory. Prisoners there had come from two other camps - "Buchenwald" and "Stalag IX-B". Many of the prisoners who were brought to Berga died simply through overwork and malnutrition (as was the case for many of the other camps in the Nazi regime.) Some prisoners even reported that being sent to Berga was often used as a threat.

Stalag IX-B was reportedly the worst of the Stalags to be interred in, as it suffered from dreadful overcrowding and also was subject to increased scrutiny from Nazi leaders who began to mercilessly and maliciously segregate prisoners by religion. They reserved particular venom for any Jewish-American troops who were eventually sent along to Berga to build the aforementioned tunnels. You can learn more about Berga here:

Berga - National Geographic Channel
A Youtube video

Anthony Acevedo, 10/14/1944 (NatGeo)

Anthony's Story

Anthony Acevedo was working as an Army Medic when he was captured and sent first to Stalag IX-B and later to Berga Camp.

He had his army induction in August 1943 and was assigned to what was then the 70th Infantry Division. He underwent rigorous medical training for six months before eventually being sent off to Marseilles, France - from there he went onto Phillipsburg in Germany where he took up a post as a medic with the 275th Regiment, Company B.

It was on 6th January 1945 that things went drastically wrong. Acavedo and his men had been heading back from a special mission when they were attacked by the Germans. He and his men had no ammunition left and therefore no choice but to surrender. It was from here they were taken to Stalag IX-B and the real nightmare of the servicemen's ordeal truly began.


During this time he somehow managed to keep a diary of all the atrocities and wrongdoings he saw committed, this document has recently been unearthed and is now held safe inside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It is quite an extraordinary feat he

managed to do this when you consider that many prisoners had had to use their own personal paper rations or even letters from loved ones as lavatory paper such were the unsanitary conditions and squalor they were kept in.

Acavedo named his diary "A Wartime Log". The simplicity of the title belies what is held within its pages. The events
happened over sixty years ago, but to Acavedo they are still as fresh and disturbing as they were then. In an interview that was conducted for CNN, he tells of how he held a soldier by the name of Vogel in his arms as he died. You can
"I want to die! I want to die! I want to die!
read the full article here. He says simply "He died in my arms. He wouldn't eat, he didn't want to eat. He said "I want to die! I want to die! I want to die!"".


Prisoners (NatGeo)
Acavedo remembers the acute hunger, people starving. Food was unimaginable; the prisoners were fed soup that had been made from weeds that had been mixed with dead animals, usually rats or cats that had been found festering locally. The soldiers were given bread, but the mix had usually been adulterated with things like sawdust or sand and ground glass. Their bread ration was one hundred grams... per week. He recalls the hunger, commenting "You would eat anything to stay alive".

Acavedo weighed one hundred and forty nine pounds when he was first interred. At the time of his liberation at the end of the war he weighed eighty seven. This was in complete contrast to the soldiers who were in control of the camps, who lived in relative luxury with home comforts, leather furniture, good food and clean clothes - a terrible and horrible
juxtaposition, which still causes anger and justifiable upset to this day. At a time in which people of their own country were dying of starvation, or from the injuries they sustained fighting it's a truly despicable image.

Here, in this video clip you can see and hear more about Acavedo's time in Berga:
Anthony Acavedo Speaks

The slave labor camp was finally liberated on 23rd April 1945 with Acavedo being one of the men who had managed to survive his horrific ordeal.

However, that was not the end of his suffering. Survivors were told to sign an affidavit by the Government which precluded them from ever mentioning what they had seen and heard ever again. Not only were they dealing the horrific experiences, the physical and mental scars, now they were being told they couldn't ever speak about what they had been through to anyone. More than anything this is the one thing that truly upset Acavedo - here was a man who had fought for his country, who had joined to help the war effort, yet was not allowed to speak out about the dreadful things he had witnessed.


 






Anthony Acevedo

It is only now, in the last three years that by talking about his experiences and sharing his diary that he feels he has begun to heal somewhat, more than sixty years on that's quite an admission.

Frank Shirer, the chief archivist at the U.S. Army Center of Military History, asserted that the men's stories were kept secret "to protect escape and evasion techniques and the names of personnel who helped POW escapees."*

"These heroes have not received the recognition and honor they deserve,"


The Berga G.I.s suffered the Nazi policy of "killing enemies through hard labor and deprivation." Jewish prisoners were segregated; and some were separated from their fellow P.O.W.s and never seen again. All were forced into labor ranging from coal or potash mining, stone quarrying or, in this case, to construct underground shelters for the dispersal of synthetic fuel plants which were never built. This mine entrance (now sealed) can still be seen after a short walk into the woods.

They worked without masks, overcoats, or protective footwear. They were severely beaten when their work did not live up to their supervisors demands. At least 70 GIs died at Berga.


Entrance to forced labor tunnel. Still remains.
(Portal EmDiv)

Cramped Barracks for 200. Still remaining.
(Portal EmDiv)

Editor's note: This is tiny cramped barracks was used to house some 200 prisoners. Germany, in 1999 did compensate some survivors of Nazi persecution. Their persecution of Jews and POWs is legendary but pales in comparison to those by the Japanese during WWII.

"In its rampage over the east, Japan had brought atrocity and death on a scale that staggers the imagination. In the midst of it were the prisoners of war. Japan held some 132,000 POWs from America, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Holland, and Australia. Of those, nearly 36,000 died, more than one in every four. Americans fared particularly badly; of
the 34,648 Americans held by Japan, 12,935-more than 37 percent-died. By comparison, only 1 percent of Americans held by the Nazis and Italians died. Japan murdered thousands of POWs on death marches,

and worked thousands of others to death in slavery, including some 16,000 POWs who died alongside as many as 100,000 Asian laborers forced to build the Burma-Siam Railway. Thousands of other POWs were beaten, burned, stabbed, or clubbed to death, shot, beheaded, killed during medical experiments, or eaten alive in ritual acts of cannibalism. And as a result of being fed grossly inadequate and befouled food and water, thousands more died of starvation and easily preventable diseases. Of the 2,500 POWs at Borneo's Sandakan camp, only 6, all escapees, made it to September 1945 alive. Left out of the numbing statistics are untold numbers of men who were captured and killed on the spot or dragged to places like Kwajalein, to be murdered without the world ever learning their fate.

In accordance with the kill-all order, the Japanese massacred all 5,000 Korean captives on Tinian, all of the POWs on Ballale, Wake, and Tarawa, and all but 11 POWs at Palawan. They were evidently about to murder all the other POWs and civilian internees in their custody when the atomic bomb brought their empire crashing down.

On the morning of September 2, 1945, Japan signed its formal surrender. The Second World War was over."**

For more reading on the subject:

A Former POW at Berga
Jewish Virtual Library

Given Up For Dead: American GI's in the Nazi Concentration Camp at Berga.

*History Net, Hundreds of American GIs Held in Concentration Camp

PBS — The Berga Camp

** Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption



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