In January 1945, as the Third Reich was about to collapse, the Allies advanced from the east and from the west and forced the Germans to pull back to the center of the Reich. For the people in the camps it was the start of the last chapter: the death march. Without food or drink thousands of prisoners limped from one camp to the next. Those who couldn’t keep up were killed.
In July 1944 the Russians liberated the first German concentration camp in the eastern part of Poland: Majdanek. Because of the fast advance, the Germans didn’t have a chance to evacuate the camp and destroy evidence, and because of this the Russian film crews were able to record and make public the horrors of this camp – including interviews with exhausted survivors.
It was a nightmare for Heinrich Himmler and his SS. When the Allies also approached from the west, Himmler ordered the threatened camps to evacuate quickly, to destroy evidence, and to take the still ‘useful’ prisoners on foot or by train to the center of Germany because that was where the forced laborers were needed to keep the war industry going.