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SS Officer Karl von Eberstein on the conditions of the camps / Piles of bodies & Emaciated Corpses
Especially this post, and the one preceding it: viewtopic.php?p=93837#p93837
As well as this thread:
Starvation in Third Reich-controlled areas during WWII
"Louse-borne typhus is responsible for large epidemics in populations with poor sanitary and overcrowded conditions
Historically, large suspected outbreaks of epidemic typhus occurred worldwide especially among military troops during the Napoleonic Wars, and first and second World Wars.
Epidemic typhus was widespread globally prior to the introduction of modern antibiotics. Outbreaks of louse-borne typhus occur during the colder months and have been associated with the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions that are prevalent in time of war
Overcrowding leads to close personal contact and spread of arthropod vectors (particularly lice) among individuals."- European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control;
Facts about epidemic louse-borne typhus
http://web.archive.org/web/201909261803 ... phus/facts
Also check out a US Army report from 1954:
"(5) Foreigners in the Rhineland …
The whole area seethed with foreign peoples, conscript laborers moving this way and that and in all directions, hoping to reach their homes, in search of food, seeking shelter. Most of the typhus was within this group and they carried the disease with them. They moved along the highways and in country lanes – now a dozen Roumanians pulling a cart loaded with their remaining belongings; here a little band of Frenchmen working their way toward France, there some Netherlanders, or perhaps Belgians; and everywhere, the varied nationalities of the East – Ukrainians, Poles, Czechs, Russians. They moved mostly on foot, halted, then gathered in great camps of sometimes 15,000 or more, extemporized, of primitive sanitation, crowded, and with all too little sense of order or cleanliness.
These were the people where typhus predominated, more than a half million of them in the Rhineland, wearied with the war, undernourished, poorly clothed and long inured to sanitary underprivilege and low level hygiene. Add to this shifting population the hundreds of released political prisoners, often heavily infected with typhus but happily far fewer in numbers; the German refugees, first moving ahead of our troops and then sifting back to their homes through the American lines. Rarely if ever has a situation existed so conducive to the spread of typhus.
Typhus fever in a stable population is bad enough. It has demonstrated its potentialities in both war and peace. The Rhineland in those days of March, 1945, could scarcely be believed by those who saw it – it is beyond the appreciation of those who did not. It was Wild West, the hordes of Genghis Khan, the Klondike gold rush, and Napoleon's retreat from Moscow all rolled up into one. Such was the typhus problem in the Rhineland.
The Epidemiologic Situation
The great assault of the Rhine River got under way on March 24, the British 21st Army Group and the U. S. Ninth Army to the north, the First and Third Armies in the center. and somewhat later the U. S. Seventh Army and the First French Army to the South. All found typhus fever; the British scarcely any, the Ninth some, the First and Third a great deal, while in the south the U. S. Seventh and the First French Armies again encountered relatively little.
The first really serious condition appeared when Buchenwald concentration camp was occupied by the Third Army on April 12th. The British soon uncovered Belsen camp, with still more typhus and misery. Then followed in order Dachau, Flossenburg and finally Mauthausen, all with hundreds of cases of typhus fever and sometimes thousands.
These concentration camps with their political prisoners and their typhus fever would have been problem enough. Added to the situation were millions of conscript laborers suddenly released from employment and from camps that were many times typhus infested. They scattered throughout the country. Many were gathered in large improvised camps. They spread typhus widely … Germany in the spring months of April and May was an astounding sight, a mixture of humanity travelling this way and that, homeless, often hungry and carrying typhus with them.
Special Epidemiological Problems
The outbreaks in concentration camps and prisons made up the great bulk of typhus infection encountered in Germany. Each presented an individual epidemiologic problem. That of Dachau is illustrative. The Dachau camp, located in Bavaria about 5 kilometers north of Munich, was one of the largest and certainly one of the most notorious of the Nazi installations housing political prisoners. It was liberated by units of the U. S. Seventh Army on May 1, 1945.
An estimated 35,000 – 40,000 prisoners were found in the camp, living under conditions bad even for a German camp of this kind and worse than any other that came into American hands. Extreme filthiness, louse infestation and overcrowding prevailed throughout the camp buildings. Several car-loads of human bodies were found packed in box cars in the railroad yards adjacent to the camp, the vestiges of a shipment of prisoners from camps farther north who were transferred to Dachau in the late days of the war to escape the advancing United States troops.
The number of patients with typhus fever at the time the camp was first occupied will never be known. Days passed before a census of patients could be accomplished. Several hundreds were found in the prison hospital, but their number was small compared with the patients who continued to live with their comrades in the camp barracks, bedridden and unattended, lying in bunks 4 tiers high with 2 and sometimes 3 men to a narrow shelf-like bed; the sick and the well; crowded beyond all description; reeking with filth and neglect-and everywhere the smell of death.
During the first few days little more could be done with the limited staff that was available than make the rounds of the barracks, pulling out the dead and the dying …
Available records failed to demonstrate how many of the 4,032 patients of the Dachau epidemic were actually ill with typhus at the time the camp came under American jurisdiction, how many developed the disease within the succeeding today incubation period,
… Even the appreciable figures cited fail to include all who contracted typhus fever in Dachau concentration camp. Freed from the sort of existence they had been living, it was no wonder that those strong enough should attempt to escape. Many did, and scattered widely through the nearby country, especially to the region south of Munich. Some were actually in the clinical stages of typhus fever and many were incubating the disease. They were later found with typhus fever in other areas.
The camp was promptly quarantined. Hospitals were moved in to augment the small prison hospital. Case finding teams initiated control work through survey of the surrounding area for former inmates developing typhus after leaving. The dusting of prisoners with DDT powder was started May 3, 1945, and completed May 8.
Summary and Conclusions
Conditions in Western Europe in many respects favored a much greater spread of typhus fever than actually occurred. Germany was in chaos. The destruction of whole cities and the path left by advancing armies produced a disruption of living conditions contributing to the spread of the disease. Sanitation was low grade, public utilities were seriously disrupted, food supply and food distribution were poor, housing was inadequate and order and discipline were everywhere lacking. Still more important, a shifting of populations was occurring such as few countries and few times have experienced.
Native Germans, dislodged from their homes and often moving long distances to escape the enemy, were finding their way back to their native lands. The roads, the countryside, were full of released German prisoners of war who lacked transportation and were their to their homes on foot ...
Two important factors served to limit the extent of the outbreak. The most significant was the time of the year that allied troops entered Germany. Had this been December instead of March, as would have happened except for disrupted military plans, the problem would have been much more serious. Von Rundstedt's Battle of the Bulge, although of serious import militarily, had the favorable aspect of postponing contact with typhus until the spring months.
Spring brought a lower potential of louse infestation, it permitted life outdoors instead of crowding within existing habitations, and the movement of displaced persons and refugees was facilitated, with consequent greater dispersal. Dispersal of course, had advantages and disadvantages. It tended to disseminate infection broadly-it limited concentrated outbreaks."- John E. Gordon, "Louse-borne Typhus Fever in the European Theater of Operations, U.S. Army, 1945"
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