The death of Andy Rooney was reported on all the TV news shows with the added information that he was a soldier in World War II who served as a reporter for the Army newspaper Stars and Stripes. He was one of the first Americans to see the Buchenwald concentration camp and he also visited the Thekla sub-camp of Buchenwald.
You don’t hear much about Thekla these days which is strange because Thekla was the site of one of the worst atrocities of World War II. Ohrdruf is another sub-camp of Buchenwald which is now world-famous because Barak Obama’s great-uncle visited it. I don’t understand why the story of Thekla never became popular, but now that it has been mentioned in connection with Andy Rooney, maybe it will become well-known.
I read about Thekla many years ago in Robert Abzug’s book “Inside the Vicious Heart.” I was shocked when I learned that the Germans had burned prisoners alive at Thekla in the last days of the war. The book has photos of the burned bodies of the “political prisoners” who had been working in an aircraft factory nearby. A photo of prisoners who had been burned alive at Thekla is on page 75 of Abzug’s book, across from a photo, on page 74, of a body found in the burned barn at Gargelegen.
Why would the Germans have been burning prisoners alive in the last days of the war? First in Gardelegen and then at Thekla.
Here is a quote from page 74 of “Inside the Vicious Heart”:
Men of the First Army were shown a similar atrocity as they surged eastward toward the Elbe. On April 18th, as the fight for Leipzig was winding down, an escaped French prisoner made contact with Lieutenant Daniel Camous, a French officer attached to the American army. He led Camous to the suburb of Thekla, northeast of the city, and showed him a still smoldering flattened barracks.
So it was a “French prisoner” who alerted a “French officer” attached to the American Army? Could this have been a French Resistance fighter who was a prisoner in a German concentration camp because he had been captured as an illegal combatant? Was the French officer attached to the American army because General Eisenhower had declared the French Resistance to be a legal fighting force?
On April 19th, 1945, the Thekla sub-camp of Buchenwald was officially liberated by the Fighting 69th Infantry Division. The famous Link-Up between the American 69th Infantry Division and the 58th Soviet Guards Division at the Elbe River took place on April 25, 1945.
So around the time that the prisoners were burned alive at Thekla, the Russians were coming and the Germans were terrified. German soldiers were jumping into the Elbe river and swimming across to the American side to escape capture by the Soviets. German girls were hiding in the attic or the basement as the Russians raped their way across Germany. German civilians were committing suicide as the end was near. President Roosevelt had announced, even before the war crimes were committed by the Germans, that there would be war crimes trials.
What should the Germans do, as their country was being over run by the enemy? Let’s see…the best thing to do would be to burn some enemy combatants alive for no reason at all.
I have never visited Thekla and I have not researched the story of the burning of prisoners alive at Thekla, but I am suspicious of this story. Why has the Thekla story not been promoted? Is there something that Abzug is not telling us?
You can see a video of a film taken by George C. Stevens which shows the aftermath of the Thekla atrocity.