The Ohrdruf camp was a subcamp of the Buchenwald concentration camp, and the first Nazi camp liberated by American troops. Established by the Nazis in November 1944 near the town of Gotha, Germany, Ohrdruf supplied prisoners for forced labor on railway construction. In late March 1945, the camp had a prisoner population of some 11,700, but in early April the SS evacuated almost all prisoners on death marches to Buchenwald. The SS guards killed many of the remaining prisoners who were too ill to walk. When the soldiers of the American 4th Armored Division entered the camp, they discovered piles of bodies, some partially incinerated.
The ghastly nature of their discovery led General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, to visit the camp on April 12, with Generals George S. Patton and Omar Bradley. Seeing the Nazi crimes committed at Ohrdruf made a powerful impact on Eisenhower, and he wanted the world to know what happened in the concentration camps. He requested that members of the U.S. Congress and journalists come to the newly liberated camps so that they could bring the horrible truth about Nazi atrocities to the American public. The 4th Armored Division's discovery of the Ohrdruf camp opened the eyes of many to the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis during the Holocaust.