What were the death marches?

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As the German army began to retreat westwards during the last months of the war, prisoners were marched and transported to camps in Germany and Austria.

The Germans still wanted to exploit Jewish slave labour from the concentration camps and wanted to make sure that there were no witnesses to their crimes.

The death marches often lasted for weeks at a time. Up to 250,000 people died due to the appalling conditions they faced either through marching on foot or being herded into freight cars.

After the war many hundreds of mass graves containing the victims were found along the routes of the marches.

In November 1944 some 70,000 Jews from Budapest were marched to Dachau (in Germany) and Mauthausen (in Austria). Many thousands were murdered on the way.

Likewise, on 18 January 1945, 66,000 prisoners of Auschwitz-Birkenau and its sub-camps were evacuated, first on foot and then by open-top railway wagons. By the time the prisoners reached their destinations such as Gross-Rosen, Buchenwald, Dachau and Mauthausen in excess of 15,000 had died or were murdered by the guards. The SS also evacuated camps other camps in much the same manner.

Links for October 2014