The Story of the First Concentration Camp to Be Liberated

The first concentration camp to be liberated was Ohrdruf, in April of 1945. It was a "work camp." Or so the locals in the town of Ohrdruf told themselves. An American company discovered the horrifying reality. The first thing the company saw inside the camp's gates were thirty bodies, still wet: prisoners that the German soldiers had shot before driving off in trucks. As the GIs crept forward, the surviving prisoners who could still walk (about half of the 500 who were there) “cautiously” came out of the barracks. They told how the German soldiers had made a hasty attempt to cover up the almost 2000 slave laborers that Ohrdruf had killed. Half had been exhumed from a mass grave, and half had been stacked in several buildings awaiting incineration.

No one had seen anything like this before. While spies and even escapees had been telling of the concentration camps, their reports were not widely known or believed. The American GIs left all the bodies where they were, and notified the division commanders. They shared their rations with the survivors and waited. At noon the division commanders arrived, and Patton himself came at 3:30 pm. General Eisenhower flew in from Belgium early the next morning. The highest commander of the Allied forces had to see this, and decide what was to be done.

When Eisenhower left, Patton brought the mayor of Ohrdruf and his wife to the camp to see for themselves what they had been telling themselves they did not know. German guards came to Ohrdruf off-duty, spending their pay on drinks and women, and undoubtedly telling stories of what the place they worked. Then Patton ordered the mayor, his wife and all the other able-bodied townsfolk to come back the next day and dig individual graves for the dead prisoners. They completed 80% of the graves, and promised to come back the next day and finish the burials. The mayor and his wife were found dead of suicide the next morning. Their suicide note said simply, “We didn’t know! – but we knew.”

The anatomy of the clitoris was shown in greater detail in an 1844 medical textbook than it is in today's medical textbooks. Why did things go backwards? In 1844 it was believed that the clitoris played a role in conception, so it was given a detailed anatomical drawing and write-up.

Left Behind

In 2014, archaeologists conducting surveys in Nevada’s Great Basin National Park found a .44-40 Winchester rifle propped against a juniper tree. Manufactured in 1882, apparently it had stood there for a century.

“It looked like someone propped it up there, sat down to have their lunch and got up to walk off without it,” Nichole Andler, the park’s chief of interpretation, told the Washington Post. Possibly it had belonged to a miner, a rancher, or a hunter. Winchester manufactured 25,000 of this model in 1882, so its presence isn’t exactly surprising. But why did the owner abandon a $25 rifle? If it could talk, that rifle probably has a good story to tell.

When Did Cats Arrive In Japan?

The domesticated cat may have arrived in Japan, via Korea, during the Nara period -- that's sometime between 710 and 794 CE. They were highly valued for their ability to kill rodents, and slowly became adopted as personal pets as well.

Famous stutterers from history include Moses, Greek orator Demosthenes, Friedrich Nietzsche, King George VI of England, Winston Churchill, and Marilyn Monroe.

Cato the Elder Had an Interesting View of Families

A man who beat his wife or child laid violent hands, Cato the Elder said, on what was most sacred. A good husband he believed to be more worthy of more praise than a great senator. He admired the ancient Socrates "for nothing so much as for having lived a temperate and contented life with a wife who was a scold, and children who were half-witted."

Theme Day: Videos!

Because I feel like it all three posts today will be videos. Enjoy!

The Re-Discovery of Cahokia's Beaded Burial

The people buried in one of America’s most famously ornate prehistoric graves are not who we thought they were, according to a new analysis. A new study of 900-year-old human remains, originally unearthed nearly 50 years ago at what was once Cahokia, reveals that their burial has been fundamentally misunderstood. The number of people buried there was wrong. The sexes of those buried there was wrong. Basically, archaeologists had been mis-interpreting Cahokia's most magnificent burial, and what that implies about its culture, for decades.

When Cahokia's Mound 72 was first excavated in 1967, researchers uncovered more than 270 people buried there in a series of mass graves sometime between 1000 and 1200 CE. But the mound’s centerpiece was a scene that that archaeologists described as a resplendent grave of six elite men.

It was nicknamed "The Beaded Burial" because of the centerpiece. Two bodies, stacked on top of each other, blanketed with more than 20,000 beads made from marine shells. The coating of beads appeared to be arranged into a tapered shape, resembling the head of a bird. Archaeologists theorized these beads connected Cahokia to the beliefs of modern Native American groups, specifically in the Bird Man: a legendary falcon-warrior hero whose beaked face has appeared on artifacts from Cahokia to Georgia. The two men underneath were real-life representations of the Bird Man, or perhaps his chosen rulers on earth. They were surrounded by four other men, perhaps the leaders' servants, perhaps representing other figures in the Bird Man myth. Regardless, the implications were clear: Cahokia was ruled by male warriors.

A recent re-analysis of the Beaded Burial shows this interpretation is fundamentally wrong. Because it was not two men buried under the beads, but a man and a woman. Likewise, a bundle of unarticulated bones that had been interpreted as one man's remains was actually the remains of both a male and female. And the team even discovered remains that had never been reported before, those a child between the ages of 3 and 6, alongside another female. All told, the researchers accounted for the remains of 12 people, not six, and at least four of them were female. Which makes you wonder if the original archaeologists were sexist, or bad at their job. Or both!

Some Mayan Cities Were Still Occupied When The Spanish Showed Up

The Maya city of Tulum, once a major trading port on the Yucatan Pensinsula, was still occupied in the 1500s. While the Maya civilization precipitously declined in the 800s CE, a handful of cities survived and even grew when their neighbors shrank and vanished. Tulum was one such city. A Spanish expedition in 1518 sailed past and the crew was said to be astonished by the city's grandeur, apparently describing it as "a village so large that Seville would not have appeared larger or better."

Unfortunately, Tulum could survive 600 years after their wider civilization collapsed, but Tulum could not survive 100 years of European contact. It was abandoned by the end of the century after diseases carried from Europe decimated the population.

Another WWII Fun Fact For Today

A 1947 study found that during the Second World War, only about 15 to 25 percent of the American infantry ever fired their rifles in combat.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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