The liberators were unprepared for the horror in the camps. Often, Allied troops came across camps by chance. Once their first shock had passed, they showed much compassion. But some officials still struggled to see beyond the dirt and disease; they could not appreciate how the terror and suffering had changed the prisoners. After the war, the US medical officer Samuel Glasshow recalled his complex emotions after the liberation on 2 May 1945 of Wöbbelin, an infernal satellite camp of Neuengamme.
We walked inside and saw these skinny people who were still living […]. These Jewish people and these Polish people were like animals, they were so degraded, there was no goodness, no kindness, nothing of that nature, there was no sharing. If they got a piece of something to eat, they grabbed it and ran away in a corner and fought off anyone who came near them.[…]
I never saw anything like this
I never saw anything like this [Wöbbelin], because when I walked out there, my feet were full of rotten feces, meat, garbage, and the smell was unbelievable.[…] This horror was of such a nature that I couldn’t wait to get away… and get that smell out of my nose and wipe the dirt off my feet, and yet I went back.
Source: R. Abzug, Inside the Vicious Heart (New York, 1985), pp. 63, 67