World War II (detail from Pearl Harbor photo)

On Towards Berlin

In early spring of 1945, Allied infantry and armored divisions, in concert with a massive, merciless bombing campaign, pushed toward Berlin from both west and east. Millions of Allied troops advanced across Germany, breaking through German defenses and taking thousands of prisoners of war.

Along the way, they freed Allied prisoners of war from prison camps. During the war nearly 94,000 Americans, about 200,000 Britons, and 5,700,000 Soviets were taken prisoners of war by Nazi Germany. While English and American captives were sometimes mistreated, Slavs—considered racially inferior by the Germans—were routinely brutalized, starved, left to die of disease, or executed.

Allied forces also liberated concentration and death camps where Nazis had killed six million Jews and five million more “undesirables”: Gypsies, disabled persons, homosexuals. Inside the camps, troops found piles of gaunt dead bodies, and some emaciated survivors.

In the first week of May, following Adolph Hitler’s suicide on April 30, the Nazi regime collapsed. Berlin fell to the Soviets, and Axis armies in Italy gave up. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered, and the war for Europe was over.

B-17 Flying Fortresses
U.S. Seventh Army infantrymen crossing the Rhine
Allied bombs drop on Bremen, Germany
Bombing destruction in Nuremberg
German prisoners on the march
American and Russian allies celebrate the fall of Berlin
Stalag Luft 3, a German POW camp for officers and pilots
General Eisenhower at the Ohrdruf concentration camp

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