This Material May Only be Used With Permission From Emory University.
EDOUARD V.M. IZAC
INTERVIEWER: DR. FRED CRAWFORD
CAMP: BUCHENWALD, DACHAU & NORDHAUSEN
DATE: MAY 7, 1981
Edouard V. M. Izac (R-CA) interview
Transcript of an audio recording. Izac was a member of the Naval Affairs
Committee in 1945. He served on the congressional committee requested
by General Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1945 to visit several concentration
camps shortly after their liberation. As a member of that committee, he
visited Dachau, Buchenwald and Nordhausen.
identify myself by saying I am Edouard V.M. Izac, former member of Congress,
residing at 5608 Chesterbrook Road, Bethesda, Maryland.
were you born?
A: I was born December 18, 1891. So I am really
in my ninetieth year, which I will complete on December 18. 1 was born
in Krego, Iowa and went to the Naval Academy and graduated from there
in 1915. I was on various battleships until the 1st World War... the death
Q: Can I
take you now to the spring of 1945 to about April and you were serving
A: I was on the Naval Affairs Committee and sat
next to the later-President Johnson, and Carl Vinson was the Chairman
of the Naval Affairs committee, when the call came from the Commander-in-Chief
in Europe, Eisenhower. He picked me and Jim Mott of Oregon as the representatives
that were to go to Eisenhower's headquarters and see the concentration
camps that his Army, by that time, had uncovered throughout Europe. There
were 2 also from the Military Affairs Committee and 2 from the Foreign
Affairs Committee. All from the House. We provided the 6 members of the
House of Representatives. Barkeley, who was leader in the Senate, named
himself in place of Walsh of Massachusetts who didn't want to go to see
the concentration camps. He also named George, and Thomas and Brooks and
Warey and Saltonstall.
Q: Yes Sir.
A: Now, when it came time to prepare for the trip,
we met in Barkeley's office in the Senate, on a Saturday. We made all
arrangements to leave the following morning and we had a plane that carried
a certain number of Army files that went along to conduct us through Europe.
These were with us all during the trip and we went on that next day, Sunday,
to Bermuda. We layed over in Bermuda until that night. We took off for
the Azores and came down at Santa Margerita from where we proceeded to
Paris. The flight from the Azores to Paris, France was over the Channel
Islands, Mont Saint Michel, and we arrived there in due course and were
put up at the Ritz Hotel on the Place Vendome, not far from the Louvre,
not far from the Champs Elysees and not far from the American Embassy.
We were at the Ritz until we left on the return trip, but we started from
Paris to the various destinations that Eisenhower had scheduled. One was...I
think the first one-was to his headquarters in Reims and all during our
trip, the relative of the members of Congress were brought to his headquarters
so that we could meet with our relatives. My daughter had...my oldest
daughter ... had married a lad who was drafted but who won a commission
in France. He met me at Eisenhower's headquarters and another brother-in-law,
my wife' s brother, had, by that time, also reached Paris with his assignment
to one of the German automobile factories in Mannheim. So I saw the two
relatives there, and while my oldest son was serving along the Eastern
seaboard on the watch for German submarines that were laying in wait for
our bauxite coming from South America.
Izac, when did you go to... was it Buchenwald that the committee went
to first? The concentration camp at Buchenwald?
A: We went to Buchenwald, the first place after
we left Reims, the headquarters of Eisenhower. They, all of us, went there.
It was especially- I have this recollection especially for Poles... and
the Poles that they brought from Poland were ranged all the way from 10-12
years old, say, to 25, many of whom were in the hospital that we had taken
over because they had over-run that place about 3 weeks earlier.
What did the camp look like? Do you...
A: The camp there was a very large expanse of building.
It had its crematorium, as we found out ... where they cremated all the
prisoners that died, and they had especially a building for the hospital.
They had one building for the crematorium. They had 2-3 buildings given
over to the manufacture of various arms and most of these people were
prisoners, political prisoners. They had no prisoners-of-war. They never
kept the prisoners-of-war in these concentration camps.
there still prisoners... now liberated prisoners were there still people
in the camp at Buchenwald when you saw it?
A: Oh yes. Yes, but the Americans had over-run the
camp three weeks before so they had cleaned it up, but they couldn't...
they had to admit that the crematorium was there and that the hospital
was there and the various factories lying outside of the high barbed wire
Q: Did anyone
say anything to you about the o-called "Bitch of Buchenwald"
- a woman; an S.S. woman by the name of Coch, who used to have men killed
who had tattoos on their arm, and made into book covers... Did you see
any of that material?
A: Oh yes. I have that... I have her picture in
Q: In your
collection of pictures?
Q: Did you
actually see those things that were made out of human skin?
but they said that she indulged in that, and I have her picture. She is
a vicious looking person, female...
Q: She eventually
committed suicide, as I understand the story...
A: I don't know, I don't know whatever became of
Q: Did you
see anything like a gas chamber at Buchenwald? They didn't say there was
A: Oh, yes. In every one of those camps, and we
only visited three. The British had Auschwitz and those farther out to
the north so the only ones that we saw were down south.
Nordhausen, the Dora camp. Can we talk about the Dora camp for a little
while. You got to that one...
A: That was, in many respects, more remarkable than
any because they had built a camp and put good working people there across
the street from a mountain. Now they had tunneled out that mountain for
something like 30-some miles and in there was the Vl and V2 missiles that
they shot. We saw one that had exploded a couple of days before in Antwerp
and they exploded in London and in various parts of England, of course,
because their aim wasn't too good at that time. But inside this mountain
we saw all kind of munitions. They had probably 25,000 workmen in there.
Q: How many
of them were slave laborers?
A: Apparently, most. Most were slave laborers and
when they gave out, due to bad nourishment, or no nourishment, they sent
them over to the hospital and a lot of the people have since said when
they were supposed to go to the hospital, they were exterminated on the
way, so they didn't clutter up the hospital. Anyway, that was one of the
most remarkable, I think, of all and there again I was very fortunate
in getting to be the first... in that first conveyance all the way from
Ulm to Dachau.
Now, Dachau. We really want you to tell us about that trip. You were with
A: Patch and Saltonstall were in the front seat.
I and Dewey Short and Jim Mott were in the back seat. We three were in
this sequestered home just on the outskirts of Dachau, not more than...
you could walk it-probably three blocks away. And here was a real prison
camp. It had... it occupied a space, I would say, of 4 square blocks of
our city block. Over and apart there was an inner fence and an outer fence.
The outer fence was electric, so nobody from the outside dared touch it.
On the inside, it was about 8-10 feet high, and it was a woven wire fence.
At every-I would say, 30 paces, there would be a tower and the tower...
We say they were 20 feet tall, but they may have been 30 feet tall, because
the guards up there could look down and see if there was any tampering
all around. And that went all the way around on the four sides. Across
the street--and that close, was the railroad track in which the bodies
of the prisoners - political prisoners - were sent ahead of the army.
But our army caught up with them at Dachau and, as a result, we killed
or captured all of the guards up, topside; how many down below even the
army doesn't know, because they were the spearhead coming there ahead
of mot of the troops.
Q: Do you
remember the day you got to Dachau?
A: Yes, we were there the evening of the 2nd day
and I have never forgotten my first impression of Dachau. Here was a shed,
next to the crematorium and it was an open shed, 50-60 feet long, in which
human corpses were stacked exactly like cordwood. We, in this country,
stacked our cordwood, prior to chopping it up into that size that we can
use in a fireplace or a stove. They had them stacked in there, very neatly,
about...I would say there were thousands. I'll never know, because they
were so emaciated that they didn't take up much space. There was not a
pound of flesh on any of them. They had been starved to death and, incidentally,
when they made these reports about how many prisoners were in a camp,
we would always under-estimate for the simple reason that they were given
a number ... as that number died, he was washed out and somebody else
took that same number. As a result, there was this intelligentsia place,
which is mostly from Northern Europe. When we arrived, we talked with
probably oh, 20 or 30 of the ones that were still there and they were
some sick in bed ... our doctors were taking care of them already...I
found that a minimum of 2,000, maybe as many as 3,000 -- we will never
know -- but these were Catholic priests from the north of Europe: Belgium,
Holland, France. Just those alone formed about 2500 - to be in the middle
- and so we saved some that were not too bad off at the time we arrived.
They could tell what their food was and how they were treated all along.
There were such things as places to be killed; if you were from a certain
region and were of the intelligentsia you would have a place to kneel
before they would shoot you in the back of the head ... right through
the head. Two other places; one apparently was for women ... but all along,
we saw practically no women. I must tell you about the railroad track.
I climbed aboard one of those open gondola cars and here were people -
dead - lying all over the back. I mean all over the floor of the car.
I climbed over several cars. They had just been sent down ahead of our
army but our army caught up with them at that point.
Q: The German
wanted to send those bodies away so that the evidence might be burned
A: Yes, that's right, or to put them in a place
where they could be burned--but these
Yeah, they had been surprised
by our finding them still in these gondola cars.
Q: Do you
remember the odor of the camp? The smell of the camp?
A: Oh, yes. That was one of the places because we
hadn't had time enough in there ... the army hadn't had time to fumigate
and do all of the cleaning up that was necessary in all of those places.
Q: One of
the key points about that camp was the gas chamber. Did you see a gas
A: I went into the gas chamber.
did it look like?
A: I saw, it was brick and concrete. I climbed up
to see the valve. Here was the valve with a peephole so that someone on
the outside could see inside and the valve was operated by the guy looking
through the peephole. (tape stops temporarily). So many of them: thousands
occupying ... well, just like a cord of wood; a log of wood and so many
of them ... of course, they took able-bodied people wherever they found
them and impressed them into service but they didn't give them any food
Q: In fact,
they lived 90 days and in 90 days, they'd replace them with another one.
A: Yes, that's right.
go back now to the gas chamber at Dachau. Tell us what you saw.
A: I went into this so-called gas chamber. I found
it constructed of brick and concrete. The floor was all concrete. I climbed
up on the outside in the space that they had hollowed so the operator
could work the valve that opened for the gas to enter the extermination
chamber which was, I would say, 30 feet across and of round construction.
The gas was still on, because nobody had turned it off yet. But I mean,
the valve had been secured, of course.
Q: But the
gas could still have been sent through there?
A: Yes, it could have gone through.
they had wanted to kill someone else. So there is no question in your
mind that this was an actual gas chamber?
A: Oh, there is no question about that.
Q: Was there
any question that people had actually been murdered there? That human
beings had actually been brought into that chamber and executed by gas?
A: They all seemed to know that the Jews of all
nationalities ... I mean from all countries that were brought in and they
were men, women and children; some babies, with a little ear-ring and
so on, they took all of those things and deposited the gold in a certain
place in one of the other buildings of the camp and then they turned on
the gas and of course, everybody was dead and they went through and picked
out all the gold teeth, for instance; denture work and rings, wedding
rings of all kinds, of course, on men and women and they ... but I mean
men, women and children, apparently
They played no favorites. If
they were Jews, they were subjected to this.
Q: One of
the things that lead us to you was a document, that is, Senate Publication
#47 published by the 79th Congress in its first session and the date is
May, the 15th legislative day of 1945. The title of this document is "Atrocities
and Other Conditions in Concentration Camps in Germany, Report of the
Committee Requested by General Dwight D. Eisenhower to the Chief of Staff,
General George C. Marshall, to the Congress of the United States,"
and if I might hand you this, there is a section on Dachau, and I understand
that you wrote this document. Is that accurate?
A: Well, Barkeley and I wrote it. Barkeley was chosen
by the Senators and I was chosen by the House members, to write the report.
Q: And you
tell us, in this document that you are really using three kinds of evidence:
First is your own eyewitness testimony. You saw it.
A: We reported what we saw.
you talked to these other eyewitnesses like the prisoners in Dachau who
could speak English, for example-you learned from them.
A: That's right, and sometimes from our own soldiers
who were leading the advance of the Americans and arrived long before
Q: And the
third was of course, the common knowledge that did exist in that camp,
a it does in any organized group
A: I must tell you of this occurrence: when Eisenhower
found out about this, he said what we should do is order the civilians
in these towns near the camp to come out and see what they must have known
existed in their midst. And I have seen the picture of one of the places
where he ordered them to come out and they were the intelligentsia of
the town: the mayor, the city council or whatever they have and even in
their top hats, with shovels and axes and various implements to bury some
of the dead that had been heretofore burned down to well, just to cinder
to dust; just to ashes.
Q: Let me
take you back once more to the Dachau area. Did anyone speak about torture,
or did they show you the whips that were used to torture, to whip some
of the prisoners with? Did you see any of those kinds of things?
A: Yes. In the--under the crematorium, there was
a chamber, and the chamber usually had a chute, a concrete chute leading
down below the level of ground. That was for the people who were to be
cremated, to be sent down below where they had hooks on the wall... great
big hooks where you would hang a side of beef, like our butcher uses--a
side of beef. You know, they hook it over? Well, this was for prisoners
who were either dead or dying and
they would string them up like
that until the next turn of the crematorium, because they had so many
to dispose of that they never caught up with the...
that they had to kill.
A: Right, they had so many that were killed there.
Q: Did you
see any Jews? Were there still any Jews left in the camp?
A: No, the only ones that I remember seeing were
the Poles in, I think it was Dora, either Buchenwald or Dora.
Q: But down
at Dachau itself, it was basically the intelligentsia? You mention the
priests...were there nuns in that camp? There's been one report that there
may have been some nuns.
A: No, there were no women there at all. But they
apparently had been because they pointed out one of the places where the
women would be put to death and that was already covered with blood showing
that it must have happened in the few days prior to our arrival. That
was at Dachau.
other things do you remember about the prisoners themselves? About their
condition and their bodies?
A: Well, I noticed that due to malnutrition they
were skeletonized long before they died. In other words, like some of
our prisoners today, they were on a hunger strike induced by the lack
of food. In other words, when the food ran out or they didn't have enough
for the Schustaffel and the guards, the guards got theirs, of course,
A: The prisoner did not.
Q: And they
starved to death?
A: Yeah, there really were a great number of those
that we saw who starved to death. And I am thinking now of looking into
one of the chambers and all I can see are arms. I mean, bones of arms,
legs and so on that had been partly consumed by the fire when they were
interrupted. All kind of ashes with human bones all through them. Of course,
the doctors among our army pointed them out to us members of Congress
immediately. They would say, there's part of a head; there's a knee; here's
a foot, or an ankle, or something like that. And that was commonplace
in all of the crematoria. I think that is, of course, the crux of the
atrocity program put into effect by Hitler
oh, I must show you...
we would like to see whatever you do have.
A: I must show you something... When we got into...
I remember that the day after we arrived at the prison camp of Dachau,
we went with General Patch into the city of Munich - Munchen, and on the
way into the city we came to a great plaza, I would call it, an open-air
plaza, over which the people had built two rails for their trains, right
across an open concrete yard, of maybe a 3 block duration in every direction.
It was the entrance, apparently, that the people of Munich liked to present
to visitors. So we approached in the General's car, we noticed these tracks
and in trying to go over them, we ripped out the bottom of the touring
car. His sequestered oil went all over, so we all got out and, to make
a long story short, he got another car in order to go back but, anyway,
while we were there, there was still shooting on the far side of Munich.
Their retreating army, you see, and our advance unit were in contact and
they kept on all the way to Biergestaden. Well, anyway, that gave us an
opportunity to visit the immediate section of the city-immediate next
to this wide-open space. So I had an idea that here is where Hitler got
his start, in a beer garden, and I hoped that somebody would lead me to
it. So, come to find out, they had (Side 2 - continued)
the last place that the bombs hadn't reached. I found oh, 50-100 of these
could you hold that up... that beer stein.
Q: And these
were still sitting on the tables?
A: These were still ... with a little beer in the
bottom of them ... showing that they followed Hitler in using the beer
following the "crazy man".
Q: The "crazy-man"?
... Could I ask you one more thing about what's happening today, because
the world doesn't really know a great deal about that awful time and I
have an article from "The Spotlight", dated March 23, 1981,
in this article written by Louis Branden, who calls himself the Director
of the Institute for Historical Review, he talks about a "Liberator's
Conference" that is being planned for October of this year--he says
November - but then he talks about your visit to the concentration camps
and there is one photograph here showing Senators Warey and Brooks and
Representative Richards and what he is saying is that the gas chamber
that you saw was not a gas chamber; that the kinds of deaths that the
Nazis imposed on the prisoners were just normal things: that they died
of disease, or they died of malnutrition, but they weren't shot in the
back of the head; they weren't killed in the gas chamber. What can we
say to a man who would write this kind of thing in 1981?
A: Well, that is not true because we have too much
evidence showing how even the intelligentsia were subjected to gun shot
through the head; many, of course, were flogged and mistreated in various
ways as well as suffering from malnutrition...
then of course, the gas chamber, because the bodies, in a sense, were
also even stacked up in two rooms on either side of the gas chamber itself.
I was there on the 30th of April
I saw Dachau, myself. And it is
so important that we tell the truth about what we saw.
the truth is that we can never describe sufficiently the degradation that
people were subjected to by the Nazis. And the only trouble I had in writing
the report with Barkeley was that he wanted to name, always, Nazis. I
felt you should use the word "German" because I had had a sample
of it as a prisoner of war in the 1st World War and I found that they
were like that. They are despicable characters and they stoop to anything
to vent their rage or vent their anger....
they were trying to conquer the world and they took all of the Allied
Force to top them. Could you, just quite briefly, tell us about how you
escaped as a prisoner of war in WWI? Would you mind just telling us a
A: Well, I had been captured by that submarine
was looking for the captain and couldn't find him, but I had been back
there with my gun. The captain had changed his uniform to another outfit
and... (tape ended).