On 13 April 1945, members of the SS, the Wehrmacht, and the Nazi party as well as local residents committed the mass murder of more than a thousand concentration camp inmates. To this day, the images of the Gardelegen massacre stand for the unchecked violence characterizing the death marches.
The SS had cleared various Mittelbau subcamps the previous week. On its odyssey through southern Lower Saxony, the transport had covered many stretches on foot and others by rail before coming to an unplanned halt in Mieste near Gardelegen on 9 April. After enduring there for several days, the inmates were driven on to Gardelegen by force. It was there that the SS and the Nazi party district leader agreed on mass murder. On the evening of 13 April, they locked more than a thousand inmates into a barn and set fire to it. Those who tried to escape the flames were shot. Members of the SS, the army, the Volkssturm militia, the Hitler Youth, the Reich Labour Service, the fire brigade, and the Nazi party NSDAP as well as other local residents participated in the crime.
The massacre claimed the lives of 1,016 concentration camp inmates. American troops reached Gardelegen 24 hours later and found the corpses of the victims the following day.
Daniel Blatman, Die Todesmärsche 1944/45: Das letzte Kapitel nationalsozialistischen Massenmords, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2011.
Andreas Froese, “Todesmarschverbrechen – Die neue Dauerausstellung Gardelegen 1945”, Gedenkstättenrundbrief, 200 (12/2020), pp. 3–17.