Death Marches Research

By: Gabriella Lopez

What were death marches?

Death marches were the forced evacuations of concentration and slave labor camp prisoners. The prisoners were forced to march long distances in the brutal winter of 1944-45 with little or no food, water or rest.

What was the purpose of death marches?

The evacuations of the concentration camps had three purposes:

  • The SS authorities did not want prisoners to fall into enemy hands alive and tell their stories to liberators.
  • The SS thought they needed prisoners to maintain the production of weaponry wherever needed.
  • Some SS leaders believed that they could use Jewish concentration camp prisoners as hostages to bargain for peace in the west, that would guarantee the survival of the Nazi regime.

Who participated in the death marches?

  • An estimated 250,000 concentration camp prisoners were murdered or died during the forced death marches.
  • The death marches were made up of men, women, and children of all ages.

What happened to those who were too weak march?

During death marches, the SS guards were given strict orders to shoot those who could not keep up with the other prisoners during the marches.

Dachau Death March

In April 1945, three days prior to the liberation of Dachau, the SS ordered about 7,000 prisoners to travel a six-day death march from Dachau to Tergernsee. During the six-day death march, many prisoners died from exposure, hunger, and exhaustion. The prisoners were given no other mode of transportation and were forced to march about 50 miles to their destination. Months after the march, a mass grave containing 1,071 prisoners from the march was found along the route.


  • The death marches lasted for weeks at a time.
  • About 250,000 prisoners died due to the horrible conditions they faced through marching on foot, or being herded into freight cars.
  • The death rate was often more than 50 percents and sometimes only one in ten survived.
  • There were 59 different marches from Nazi concentration camps during the final winter of German domination.


  • "What Were the Death Marches?" The Holocaust Explained. N.p., 2011. Web. 19 May 2016
  • Levine, Jason. "Death Marches." Jewish Virtual Library. N.p., 2008. Web. 19 May 2016
  • "Death Marches." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. United States Holocaust Memorial Council, 29 Jan. 2016. Web. 19 May 2016.
  • "Dachau." A&E Television Networks, 01 Jan. 2009. Web. 19 May 2016.