Matthew Nash

Ohrdruf Extended: In The Mailbag

Panorama of the Jonastal site. Courtesy of Stiftung Gedenkstatten Buchenwald und Mittelbau-Dora

Panorama of the Jonastal site. Courtesy of Stiftung Gedenkstatten Buchenwald und Mittelbau-Dora

Today I arrived home from vacation to find two packages waiting for me, both related to my film 16 Photographs At Ohrdruf. I’m constantly amazed at the generosity of people, and how much history I am starting to collect about a small concentration camp from WWII.

The first package is from Doug and Ute Dillard. We have been corresponding a lot lately! Ute is a German national from the Ohrdruf area, and she is very active in the Jonastal Foundation — the group preserving the history of the camps in the Jonas Valley including Ohrdruf. The concentration camp that the Americans liberated on April 4, 1945 was the first camp found by the Allies, and the prisoners were brought there from Büchenwald by the Nazis to dig tunnels into the mountainside of the nearby Jonas Valley. This was known as Jonastal. You can seen photos of the work they were doing at the Jonastal Foundation website, and the image at the top of this post shows a panorama of the worksite.

The package from Doug and Ute contained 2 books by Klaus-Peter Shambach, another citizen of the Ohrdruf area who has done extensive historical work on the Jonastal site. Mr. Shambach and I have also been corresponding, and he asked Col. Dillard to bring me his books!

My German reading skills are terrible (OK, non-existent) but there are tons if images, maps and other details to absorb without any need for translation. It is an amazing resource!


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Ernie Bartels, veteran of the 282nd Field Artillery Btn



The second package was from Ernie Bartels, a veteran of the 282nd Field Artillery Battalion. Ernie and I spoke by phone recently, and I’ll be posting excerpts of our interview in the next few weeks. He was also at Ohrdruf in the days after liberation, and shared with me his experiences and what it was like to be there as a U.S. soldier. He is a really interesting and generous man and I’m glad I got to talk with him.

Ernie sent me some reprints of news about the 282nd Field Artillery, and I can’t wait to go through it. Unit histories often contain the most personal and distinct memories of the war, and there is a real sense of brotherhood to be found in the letters they write, even all these years later.




I’ll have time to go through this new material in detail later this month, and will post any interesting findings. In the meantime, I wanted to thank Doug, Ute, Klaus-Peter and Ernie for sharing with me. My Ohrdruf Archives are growing and I’m hoping to have them all collected and available online soon for other researchers, veterans, family members, survivors and anyone interested in the Ohrdruf SIII camp.

Of course, if anyone out there is reading this and wants to send me stuff, I’ll add it to the archives. This important story has been forgotten for way too long!

Categorised as: 16 Photographs At Ohrdruf

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