This Material May Only be Used With Permission
From Emory University.
DATE: JUNE 8, 1980
TRANSCRIBER: SHARON L. ROGER
My name is Kaethe Solomon. I am interviewing Fred Mercer at Emory University
on Sunday, June 8, 1980. Mr. Fred Mercer lives at 308 Evergreen Street,
Warner Robin, Georgia 31903. His date of birth is August 25, 1922. His
age at the time of liberation was twenty-two, and his prospective occupation
at the beginning of the war was nothing clearly defined. He enlisted in
the Army. His present occupation is barber. His military unit at the time
of the liberation was Company B, 69th Signal Battalion, 20th Corps, 3rd
Army. His rank at the time of liberation was Corporal, and he was involved
in the liberation of Buchenwald. That gets us down to some of the questions.
Fred, how did you first hear about the camp?
A: WeII, my unit, as I said, Iiberated the camp itseIf, part of the unit,
the 20th corp, which I was a member of. On approaching the camp, they
had just opened the gates and let the inmates out. They were streaming
down the autobahn in an endless line, still of course in their striped
Do you remember the date?
A: No, I don't, but I might have it in this book.
Oh, I see you have a book of your own.
The Ghosts Corps.Is that the name of the book ?
("Through hell and high water.") ?
A: It was put out for the members of the 20th Corps with that letter to
each one of us, if you would like to read it.
Can we have a copy of this book or copy this book? Can we copy it? I see
you are hesitating; I assume you want to retain ownership of the original.
A: Yes, if I could have some guarantee that I would get these things back,
because I have lost the negatives. There is no way on God's green earth
that I can replace them. This book here, I don't know whether you have
noticed the signature.
I did not. Oh, General patton Jr's signature is in the book. Now this
is his actual signiture?
A: Yes. Of course . there he is.
And the picture of General Patton.
A: And this is the 20th Corp Commander, General Walton H. Walker.
How this would be valuable.
A: Not only has it the information, here is the complete route that we
took from the time we left South Hampton untill we ended up in Lynse,
Austria. This is all the towns that we stopped in, and the dates that
we were there.
So this is actually an entire history of your Corp and not specifically
in terms of liberation of the camp.
A: The camp is mentioned in there.
I will take a quick glance at it after we finish the interview, and then
make the determination if we really want to take the responsibility of
keeping it here. You went in a day after it was liberated, because you
were sort of a second part of your Company that went in?
A: In other words, my particular unit acted a a signal unit. The tanks
went in first, the infantry went in and cleaned up. We, as a signal unit,
would reestablish communication where they were not found, or whatever.
So we were the third into andarea, after it was liberated.
I see. Did you expect to enter there? Were you told?
A: No. as a matter of fact, when it wa liberated General Patton, himself,
was surprised that it was there.
And where did you get the information that he was surprised?
A: Just through the grapevine type of thing.
So there wa reaIIy no awareness.
A: Thats right.
The mood of the unit, as you approached this camp, you were coming at
A: We were just going across Germany. Period. And I talked to some of
the people that lives in the village close by, of which I don't remember
the name of that, they said that they did not know what wa going on in
this camp. And the village was about a quarter of a mile down the hill.
Did you believe them at the time?
A: Well, it was hard to.
A: Because the odor of burning bodie, if nothing else. Because I have
pictures here of them burned. I have pictures in here of the actually-the
bodies in the oven. So they had to know it.
There was know way that they could not question the odor.
A: No, because I don't know whether you have smelled the odor of a human
being, but it is a whole lot different from an animal. It's a very pungent,
tangy odor. In other words, to be perfectly blunt; it opened your sinues
is about what it amounted to.
As you talk about that odor now, can you till smell it in your Memory?
A: Oh, yeah. This right here is Omar Bradley. This is Walton Walker, these
are some of the dead bodies, as you can see here. Now this is General
Patton right here.
Did you take these photos yourseIf ?
A: Oh, yes, I took these photos myelf. And these photos are so well done
that there is no grain in the picture because I took them with a real
photography film. Now, when General Patton was standing up here and he
said to us and you can see how close I was standing to him.
He was in a jeep.
A: That's right, he was in a jeep. I'll tell you something else about
that later that was in a movie I saw not too long ago. I am going to quote
what he said, so if I shock you don't be surprised. He said,"You can see
what the German's do to People," he said, "don't capture a one of the
sons of bitches; kill all the bastards."That was his exact words, when
I took this picture.
These are valuable pictures.
A: Now this is GeneraI Isenhower, as you can see, I waIked right up to
him and took the picture, here he is here.
And now this is looking at the camp
A: Yeah, this is some of the camp, some of the barracks in the camp.
Yeah, thats Buchenwald Camp. Now when I first saw him , he was about back
here. In other words I could see just the top of his head. And there's
a friend of mine, I'll how you his picture over here, and I said to him
"Who in the hell is that up here with a garrison cap on," of course he
takes about two more steps and I said "Well I guess its alright seeting
its him. There he is here, and this is Omar Bradly. Now here are the bodies,
as you can see. Now the surprising thing about these that I can't undertand,
unless they were hypnotised or just did not care any more or what not,
but each one of these bodies that you see there are more of them further.
They have a little hole right in the back of thier heads where they have
been shot, and they were obvioutly shot with a small caliber pistol, because
their faces weren't blown off. And they were laying as you see there.
Now this is the gallows, where they hung some of them.
When you ay they were hypnotised. Why?
A: How could you get people to , that many people-hundreds of them, that
many people to stand still that long to be shot? And it is quite obvious
that they shot them and left them lay where they were, because they weren't
drug there or anything of that nature. Now see this one burned, see the
part of his skull here. Now these were grown men weighing about fifty
or sixty pounds. They were just pilled up in a pi le. There is where the
odor came from here. Now this was the German soldier. He was at the front
gate. He was one of the guards. They just killed him and walked over him.
See the holes in him - see the little holes? Somebody meant for him to
die, because there must be twenty-five or thirty holes in him. Now this
is the very front gates. Now this other fellow I was telling you about
has got a picture of that front gate, of which I did't get. It is a big
archway type gate, but this fellow was laying right in front of it. Now
this one was in a lab, partly disected. Now this is one of the mass graves,
seet. They just dug them with bulldozes and covered them up. If you walked
round there you could see maybe an arm or a leg ficking out from there.
But on the gallows they used wire , not a rope. Of course they kicked
them off here and dropped down, they were decapitated all at the same
time. Now see these burned here. Now here is your double fence in the
Buchenwald prison. Now see here, see how the yard was just full of them.
Now when I took this picture, I stepped right across and walked right
into that building right over there. Now these here, they had already
started getting some of them ready for burrial See the rib cage in the
oven. Have you ever seen a picture with these people in these locations?
No not in these locations.
A: See General Patton standing there; see the 3rd Army patch right there
on the cap. That right there is a life photographer and a reporter. Why
I have never seen any pictures they must have them put away somewhere.
Yes, they do, .. They have them in their national archives. Washington.
A: That's right , this guy was a reporter for life magazine. There is
yours trully standing right there. And this is Isenhower's jeep and here
is Patton's and there they are in the background.
Gee, if we could have some of these copies , it would be great.
A: Here is that friend I was telling you about.
And here they are aII at the camp.
A: You can see there is Bradley. Now the rest of these pictures are personal
and of that nature.
I would really hate to have the responsibility of holding on to these
A: There is your truely at twenty-three years old.
Oh, my. Way back when, huh. Let me say this to you. I know you don't get
into Atlanta that often and thats a problem.
A: This right here. We are unloading the boat onto the LST' to go on Utah
beach. This building right here no longer exists.
if we could keep those pictures here and send them down to you.- registered
A: I got a purple heart at a result of that building.
Oh, really, that's the purple heart.
A: Yep. There's my and there's my dog tags, rifle ....
Now as a result of that building- your going to have to give me a short
explanation of that- why you got a purpIe heart .
A: WeIl I was in the building directly across the street and the way the
Army reads any projectile hitting a member of the Armed forces that has
to be taken care of by a medic or a hospital is entitled to a purple heart.
In other words,something that blew from this building wounded me.
When it was hit. Obviouly. Lets refer to those pictures a little later
on. Here are all your patches. Gee, I see my uncles coming back when I
see those patches. Your pictures wouId be very vaIuabIe to us. I wouId
Iike to taIk a little bit more about how we can possibly copy them, which
we have done in the past- copy photos. But certainly without jeaperdizing
your own photos. Lets go back to your arrival at the camp. Takes us back
to what you saw there, what you remember seeing, the sights, the sounds,
A: Well, the first thing actually was seeing the inmates themselves,..
Just walking endless down the autobahn. They were out. They had no idea
where they were going. They couldn't care less. They were out. They just
started walking in the opposite direction. Of course we were going east
and they were going back west where we just come from
Did anybody come toward you personally? Want to hold your hand? Want to
A: No, because were in vehicles, moving along the autobahn, and they were,
of course, walking. And. there wa one incident that I remember very well.
There was a German soldier they were --the Germans were surrendering in
droves at the time. In other words..
Were there any soldier left at the time you were moving in there? Were
there any SS ?
A: No. No.
But any other soldiers?
A: Yea, but there were surrendering in groups or whatever. They would
just throw down their weapons, come out with their hands on their head
and want to surrender. And we would tell them the compound is there, walk
down. They'd open the gate and they'd walk in. I mean the
And this particular soldier all by himself, a German soldier. He had probably
obviously dropped his weapon, out in the woods someplace and he come walking
along and they was one man, course you couldnt tell their ages because
of loss of weight and that kind of stuff. I had know idea--they all looked
like they were one hundred years old. And as he come walking up the highway
and he had his hands on his head and he was going commrade, comrade. Well
this inmate stopped kind of looked around and he found a stick laying
on the ground. It wa about four feet long and about that big around. He
picked it up. Just stood there and this soldier walked on up near him
and he just stood there and beat him to death.
The inmate beat him to death.
A: That's right. He was taking out his frustrations. He had to -- of course
we didn't bother him.
You didn't stop him.
The inmate. Describe What did he look like? Imatiated?
A: Oh, yes.
So he was still able to walk?
A: Oh, he was still able to walk. Was as a matter of fact when we got
into camp. There was some still in the camp that was still alive.And as
a matter of fact there was one that was standing - well, he was so weak
- that he was just standing up in a corner. And every GI that went in
there had given him some food-- sea rations, k rations , whatever, but
he couldn't eat it. He had enough food in that room-- it was about the
size of this one. He was standing right on the corner, leaning up he was
too weak to stand. He was just leaning in the corner. They was enough
food in that room to feed him for the next six months and he couldn't
eat it because his stomach just wasn't ...
But that inmate , that was of starvation stature, had enough strength
to pick up that piece of wood and beat this German soldier ...
A: To death. And there was another one jut a little bit further down the
road that was just a little bit further gone, because he walked along
and all of a sudden he began to stagger and he dropped down and his mouth
dropped open and he began foaming at the mouth, obviously dropped dead
right there. He had gotten out and that was as far as he got. Just walked
a few miles down the highway.
Where these mainly men that were still left?
No young boys.
A: Like I said you really couldn't tell the age, but the one that I did
see There was no women, as I saw.
first of all it was predominantly men.
A: Yeah, And these all men. The ones that you saw in the pile there. They
wouldn't have weighed more than sixty to seventy-five pounds.
What was your reaction when you saw the first inmate-when you saw this
A: Well, back in those days, as I said I was young. I was twenty-two years
old. Nothing bothered me. I went through the war and it just never dawned
on me that when it was over with I wouldn't be back.
you have that feeling over in Vietnam or were you scared to death or what?(
3rd person-- I was petrified. I think.
A: Well you see I wasn't. I don't know why,but I wasn't.
I would like to clarify something here for the tape. We have a Mr. Russ
Jarvi who is here with Fred Mercer today. Russ is a veteran of the Vietnam
War. So in the process of this tape you will hear a little bit of cross
conservation between the three of us. I just need to clarify that for
the purpoe of the tape. Ok, thank you.
A: But like I said it- nothing seemed to bother me. I would just roll
with the punches and went right on through the war. You got to a place
after a while and go ( waving tongue sound) you missed me.
That was survival armor probably that...
A: And the fact that you knew that everybody was around and you were more
or less protected and I don't know . Just what gave me the feeling and
now I get a hangnaiI and I wonder if I am going to end up with cancer.
The difference in the age.
You saw these inmates. You were in a vehicle at the time.
A: The ones that were walking.Yes.
When you saw the ones walking you did step out of the vehicle.
At no time.
A: At no time.
So you didn't have an opportunity to give any food or to really talk to
an inmate. Or talk to anybody that was. ...
A: Not until after I got into the camp.
TeII us what happened when you got into the camp.
A: WelI it-- now as far as the conversation concerned it wa thirty-five
years ago. But I was- there was a guy with me that spoke yiddish. And
he translated and we would just carry on conversations back and forth
between the inmates. Now like said the extent of the conversation has
been so many years that - Its hard to recall. I just don't remember it
alI . But the one ...
The man that you were with spoke yeddish, obviously he was a Jewish man.
A: Well, no, he was a member of the armed forced.
And spoke yiddish, and was not Jewish.
A: Now that I don't know.
The probabiIity is that ..
A: But I say that he poke yiddish or Jewish or whatever, because he was
able to talk them and translate.
It wasn't German that he was speaking.
A: Oh.. no, it was not German.
Do you remember his reaction?
A: No, he was just- it seemed that it was one of these things of being
in the right place at the right time, I guess and I just happened to walk
up to the guy and he was talking to the inmates and I just more or less
fell into the crowd and just listened to what-- and as we moved along
I just listened to
--- and as we moved along tried to stay close to him.
You went into the camp. What happened when you went to the camp? Did you
do anything there? Did you have an assignment there?
A: Oh,no. I just was as a matter of fact Isenhower says to me,"What are
you doing here.
Isenhower spoke to you.
A: Yeah. He says; what are you
doing here?" And I said, " I'm just looking around."And until this day
I cannot understand his answer, but he says," Enjoy yourself." Now the
only thing I can think of that maybe was enjoy yourself in thinking God
that ain't you. Or maybe that he had met so many people in receiving line
that the first thing that popped into your mind is what you come back
That's very interesting to here that.
A: But I mean that was his words. He says, "Enjoy yourself."
Ienhower was there. Apparently there were many other top brass there as
A: The four , yeah. Let's see there was Ienhower who had five stars, Patton
had three Bradley had three, and General Walker had two. Now that was
very surprising to have that much brass that close to the front lines
in a group.
At one time.
A: At one time. It didn't used to happen, Because the possibility of one
hangrenade could Have practically anialated the entire command in Europe.
Exactly, do you have any idea as to why these men found themselves in
the same positions at that time?
A: They were surprised that we found the place and they wanted to see
So news got back to them that that exited.
A: That's right.
And they all came at one time to see Buchenwald.
A: That's right.
Did you ever hear any conversation between these men?
A: No, the onIy thing Iike I said- was what Patton said to us when he
was standing up there in the jeep, and what Ienhower. I mean, but they
were standing around like what you saw in the pictures carrying on conversation
back and forth.But I mean that conversation I didn't hear, no.
When you went through the camp you were with somebody else. You were with
A: His name was Tom Knott. He lives in Detroit Michigan.
Is that right?
Do you still hear from him?
A: Yeah. We exchange Christmas cards every year. We have for thirty-five
Really. Please leave his name with us. He may be interested in being involved
in our project. And we do plan to ...
A: Now his name -- I'll have to send you back his address.
I would appreciate that, thank you so much. Did you exchange any reactions
with each other? as you walked through the camp? Do you remember talking
about it at all?
A: No, about the only thing I can remember was just the fact that we were
just walking around looking at these people and there was very little
conversation between the two of us, as far as that was concerned.
I see. The camp at that time had obviously a lot of people in it, as you
were talking about the brass that was there.
A: And of course there was a Iot more GI's besides ourselves that were
And did you see any reaction between the GI's and the inmates? There were
still some inmates left besides the inmates that were on the road.
A: Just like this conversation that I was telling you about. I mean they
would ask some questions and get the course reaction they could with the
There was no physical contact.
A: There was no physical contact. No,"I'm glad to see you," type of thing.
Nothing of that nature.
Did you see any food being exchanged and actually eaten by an inmate.
A: No. The food was there, but I didn't see anybody eating anything.
What was the general feeling in this real milling around? Did you get...|
A: About surprise is about the only thing could...
As opposed to shock?
A: Yeah. Well I did have this reaction --- how one human being could do
this to another has always been foremost in my mind, because I can't do
it to an animal much less what these people had gone through.
You saw a lot of death around you during the war outside of this death--the
camps. I don't know if you remember thinking about it at the time, but
this was one death and the death you saw during the war in terms of combat
death. Did you have the same reaction to them? Was it different?
A: Oh, no it was different, because the people that you saw, you know.
We were talking about that coming up and he was taking about a party that
they were having at Christmas time. He was actually in combat, and the
people that were stationed over there in--were having a party. And the
planes were coming back-- Fewer planes were coming back than had left
on the raid that night and the other people were getting drunk and he
was worried to death, because his friend wasn't coming back.
person: We were stationed in Guam, We were flying B-52's out of Guam and
to Vietnam and back . And Guam was another overseas assignment. Where
permanent parties can take their families and kids. We were actually flying
into North Vietnam and back to Guam. We were dying and they were having
a Christmas party.
Well, there was one time in France . One of the guys came up to me a my
capacity as company clerk I kept all the service records, made all the
payrolls, did all the correpondence between company, batalion, home, and
Washington D.C.. So anytime anybody had any change of status in my company
it came to me. But this fellow walks in one day and he lays down a photostatic
copy of a birth certificate and he said "Fred, my wife just had a baby."Well,
I filled out the usual forms. He signed them, changed his aIIotment, therefore
his wife getting more money for the baby and so forth. So I said to him,
"When your wife has another baby, let me know and I says I'll make out
, make out another form. He says to me," She better not have another one
until I get back home." Three days later I made out his death certificate.
The horrors of war. In terms of then the death in combat being a much
more tramatic thing for you to be part of since it was a friend, somebody
that was a
of yours and close. As opposed to going into a camp....?
A: Well, just like the night that I got wounded. It was about 2 two o'clock
in the morning and Johnny Frankins. We had been shelled every night for
several days and each shell wa big enough that it just completely anialated
Ok, they found out where the shells were coming from. It was a World War
I Big Bertha and they had it mounted on a railroad car and they had it
up in the side of a mountain. They would load it, run it out, fire it,
run it back inside the mountain. Well, General Patton says "I'm getting
God damn sick and tired of this," he says,"find that gun." And I said
I was going to use the language so he could--- in other words this is
the way he talked.
Oh, sure, General Patton was notorious for his vocabulary.
A: So, he sent a patrol out, they found it. They came back he gets on
the radio and calls back to the 9th Airforce in England. He says,"I want
that gun destroyed. Gives them the location. one p-47 with one bomb came
over. He dropped the bomb, scooped it into the mouthe of the cave and
that's all there was to it. No more shot.
Pn point bombing?
A: Pinpoint bombing.
Is that what one calls that? yea, there is a big difference in the different
types of death.
A: We moved so fast that we would run off maps. In other words they'd
give you a map of a certain terrain and these dates here would show you
how fast we moved. And we would get into a town that wasn't on a map and
didn't know where we were really.
A: So, General Patton says that we gotta have some maps so he calls back
over to England again. He wants some maps. He says," How are you going
to get them over?" He says," That's your Goddamn problem." So a guy with
a P-5 came over with the maps. Dropped them out to us. Went back to England.
When he got back., he gotback on the radio and he says, "Hey" , he
says,"You sons of bitches almost got me killed." And the guy on the
radio said, "What happened?" Well. He says "I was going back across the
channel and I had to take my guns out of the plane to put the maps in,"He
says,"I didn't have a gun." The guy said," Well, what did you do"
He said," I just out flew the son of a bitch."
Wow, these are war stories, Let me tell you... That's incredible. We're
going to go back to some of these experiences that you had. You had very
little exchange with the prisoners from what you have said.
A: Oh, yeah. It was more or less just walking in, looking around. I was
there for about --- oh, an hour.
Your feelings --as you said the inhumanity.to humanity. Did you find it
difficult to think of these inmates as human beings?
A: Oh, yes. It bothered me along those lines. Like I said I just couldn't
see how one human being could do that to another one.
But were you able to think of these piles as having been human being.
A : Oh, yeah.
There were no guards present at the camp?
A: No, they had already been taken prisoner with the exception of the
one that I showed you the pictureof, and of course he was dead. He had
just been laying there over 24 hours.
And you saw no violent incidents between survivors and guards except for
that one story that you told me. Right. We are going to talk a little
a bit about the German, the civiIians. I don't know how much contact you
had there. Were there any German civilians around when you were there?
A: Well,the Burgermaster of the town was there.
Did you have any contact with him?
A: Like I said somebody ask him--I forget who it was-- about the situation
there. He said that, " We did not know that this was going on up here."
That was from the Burgermaster of the town?
A: Yeah. Well I ay it wa the Burgermaster- he had on a long coat and a
tall silk hat, and thats what the usual... Now the camp itself wa up on
top of a hill. And the little town was down below it. You could see the
little town I know.
If you were to describe the camp to us what would it Iook like, the structure,
the type of material used for the building? What would it look like?
A: Just tar paper shacks. With a double fence-- a double barbed wire fence.
Guards could walk between the inside fence and the outside fence.
Tar papered shacks?
A: In other words you had just the frame.
A wood frame?
A: A wood frame. With covered wood and just black--as you can see in these
pictures-- They were just plane black roofing type of material.
And were there any openings in it?
A: Oh, yeah. As you can see. Yeah. See the windows.
Yeah. I see the windows on it. And the fencing looked like what?
A: It was just barbed wire. I would say about ten to twelve feet high.
It was a double fenced with space enough in between where the guards could
Now You have a picture there of a what looks Iike a skeleton on a table.That
was in a medical part of the camp? Do you remember?
A: As you can see it was in the laboratory. See the table,the lights.
The lights were stiII on.
And that wa in BuchenwaId camp?
A: Yes. Now this one had been partly disected as you can see.
A: And they were experimenting with it some way some how.
You said partly disected. Was it dry? Was it still wet?
A: Oh yeah, it was wet.
Was there a lot of blood till? I don't want to soundgory.
A: That's alright--1 mean --Yeah.
Was anybody with you when you were taking that picture.
A: Oh, yes, this other fellow . This Tom Knott.
A: Yeah. I imagine he must have some of the same pictures, because he
had a camera there at the same time. Like I said there he is right there.
A: In other words I took that picture of him and he took this one of me.
Of you? For both of you, right? You apparently--You really focused on
the experience. You were able to take pictures of it and so forth. You
took pictures all along of your war experience?
Oh, yes. A whole album from the day I went into the service untill...
And your work in the service. Please forgive my ignorance--the signal
corps.Were you involved in photography in terms of your job description?
A: No. my actual job was clerical. The main function of the unit, itself
was telephone , teletype, and radio.
I see so it was communications.
A: Yeah. Strictly communications.
So your photography--your photographs was an individual thing.
A: Oh, yeah. We had all the film that we needed. You could get all the
film that you needed of any description. Well as a matter of fact now
this film here, as I said wa aerial photography film. German aerial photography
How did you get it?
A: Once you went into a town there was no problem of picking up anything.
In other words , we were the conquerers, we liberated it and we looted
it, abusing no one. Any home that we went into or any place theat we went
into.-- If we stayed there over night or how ever long we stayed there
, we left it in the same condition as when we went in there. We stayed
in the best homes, the best situations, and the best conditions that you
could find. In other words when we went into any city when we got into
Germany itself, not in France, but indo Germany. We picked out the best
section of town. The biggest home and what not, we knocked on the door,
we said we would be there a few days, find someplace else to stay. You
walked into the building, and you looked around for a bedroom, you took
your equipment off, your gun or whatever you had. You threw it on the
bed. That wa s automatically yours as long as you stayed there. Course
the first place you went to was the shower.
This was according to instruction?
A: Oh, yes. Now the buildings were actually vacated by our executive officer
who was a major and an interpreter. He would just walk around and figure
out how many buildings we needed for the amount of men and just start
knocking on doors.
You mentioned Germany as opposed to France.
A: Yeah. Because we were liberating France. We were conquering Germany.
That's an important distinction in terms of the knowledge. Ok. when you
were in these-- in Germany and you went into these homes. After you took
pictures at Buchenwald, did you ever discuss any of what you saw with
No. because the resident of the home were already gone when we got there.
The one thing I do remember is that the day the war ended I was in Lyne
Austria, and I was out on the street and this one woman came along-- I
would say he was forty-five years old. And I said,"Have you heard the
war is over?" And he said, "Thank God." But now the German people themselves,
the average person you met on the street seemed to be very highly intelligent,
very clean, as a matter of fact when you went from France into Germany
the grass got greener. There was that much distinction between the German
and the French people. And these homes that we stayed in were imaculate.
They had silverware, linen and china--that khnd of stuff. We used it.
We washed it. And we put it back in the cupboard. There was nothing taken
and nothing destroyed.
How did you feel about the Germans?
l admired them, because we were not fighting the German people. They were
in the dame situation we were in. They were conned into thid war and we
went over there a volunteers and draftees. The Nazis were the ones that
were the culprets. As a matter of fact I've got a picture here--that's
an SS trouper' shirt that I've got on, right there. See the SS on the
front of it?
Oh, my. Yeah. What made you put on that Ss trouper shirt? That's the first
I've ever seen like that. It got the lock...
A: In other words we had copied them and what have you.
It was your shirt?
A: It was my shirt.
Better I should be alive to wear it than you
A: Yeah. Look at these right here. These are Hungarians. There was fifteen
thousand surrendered that day and that's the way they had gotten down
to traveling, because the war was winging down. They were traveling na
horses and wagons and their wives and families were in with them.
those are some pictures that you have here. These are incredible. We are
going to get back to Germany in terms of the cilivian. You didn't have
to much to do with hemt apparently. You had order to protect them from
any possible violence--the German.
A: Oh, yeah. The German cilivian--we were not to bother them.. As a matter
of fact we had a nonfraternization.
That was the next question in terms of the fraternization policy, because
you were a young man yourself at the time you were over there.
A: But just like any young man--we didn't pay any attention to it really.
We just tried not to get caught, because it wa hard to meet people face
to face and come in contact with them--we actually weren't even supposed
to say, "Hello."' In other words it was non-fraternization.
You will have nothing to do with a cilivian.
Did you come across any men--Jewish men-- in your unit who were involved
in possibly the Buchenwald?
A: No. although there was some Jewish fellow in my unit. There is one
right here. His name was Joe Kent he was from Chicago, but I used to---course
we always had pet names for nationalities. And of course Jews are not
supposed to eat pork. Every time pork was served he would eat some. I
said Joe, your not a Jew, your a Kyke. If you were a Jew you wouldn't
eat that stuff." He said," Looks like veal to me."
I am interested in terms of reaction to the experience on the part of
the various ethnic group. Obviouly you didn't experience anything.
A: Well, no we didn't. That ethnic business only started in the last couple
of ten years. I mean there was-- all right in my outfit there was twelve
hundred men. We had men from thirty-six states and fifteen different countries.
You would refer to a man from Poland as a Pollack or a person from Italy
as Wap or whatever, but there was never any animosity or any physical
contact or anything of that nature.
No my interest is in the reaction of the various nationalities to a similar
experience. You know as an American how you would react to that. As a
Jew certainly were there was so muchpointed at the Jew . Getting into
the military aspect of coping with what you had seen at Buchenwald. Was
there ever any discussion---formal discussion-- about having seen what
you saw at Buchenwald superiors.
No. It was just another town another place that we liberated and we just
And you weren't there to hear any formal declerations on the part of the
There were no Chaplains that you know of at that point?
Did you ever tell anybody about your experiences at Buchenwald:--That
you had seen the camp prior to this particular incident?
A: Oh, yes. As a matter of fact I'm quite proud of these pictures. I've
shown them for years to friends, relatives, whatever. But I mean nobody
in this type of situation.
I see And the reaction of your friend to your experience at Buchenwald.
A: "Isn't that awful," or that type of reaction, but you can't visualize
without being there and seeing that. Now you can look at those pictures
and say,"My that's awful," but to step on and walk around them and look
at them just laying out there it is just an intirely different feeling
Does this experience become more vivid to you as time goes on for you
than it was in the past when you were closer to the experience or indeed
when you went through it? With the passing time?
A: It just one of the things that happendd to me in time of war.
A: Oh, no.
Did you watch the Holocaust TV show?
A: No, I didn't.
You have a wife?
A: Two adopted children. As a matter of fact my son is in the army.
Did you ever share your experience with your wife and children--your experience..
A: Yes, course now you got a different reaction. At the time that I showed
these to my children they were children. They could care less. They had
no knowledge of it and it was just something that I had said to them and
none of them have ever asked to look at the pictures since then.
Did your wife watch the Holocaust TV how?
A: I don't remember whether he did or not.
And you don't know if your children watched it?
A: No, I'm sure the children...My son might have. He is quite a bug of
coure he's -everybody in our house has got a television set so we watch
what we want to in each of the rooms.
he didn't come to you a a result of the TV how and ay he ha
No.. but he' a --he' military oriented. Not aic a relult of me-- it jut
omething --one of those intioct that came along. He read all the military
book and you have no doubt seen thee war game that are out now. He has
got tack of themthi high and they jut-)**keyx*xx get on--they used to
before he went into the ervize -- a a matter of fact he has got ome of
them with him now in the service, They Axx.*xqx"x jut get down in the
middle of the floor and spread them out and fight the battle of the Buldge
or Dunkirk or whatever, and all of them-- four of hi friend went in together
and they are till in the outfit the ame together at Ft. Hood Texa. And
they are all tank driver.
So there has been no-- in other words you showed them those pictures at
one period and never shown them again. That was it.
And that was it. Just like when you here people talking about when I was
your age this happened-- that's something I never did with my children.
I went through the depression. My children could care less. They don't
know what the depression was like. Like my daughter said when she was
a little girl. She aid.,"Dad what kind of TV shows did you watch when
you was a boy?"
A: Well, there had been TV all her life.
Even the telephone. Its so difficult for the youngsters to..
A: But I never said," Son when I was your age I had to do this or When
I was your age I Only made 5ct doing this particular job."
Did your father ever say that to you?
A: No, my father never around to say too much of anything of description.
So, did you lose him at an early age?
A: No, he was just one of those guys that-- he had no affection at all.
And he went his way and my mother and father were seperated at times and
they would get bact together- ,first thing I knew I was at this Grandmother's
house and I was at that grandmother' house and all of a sudded I went
back home. And I would have given my eye teeth for my father to have just
say "Hi, son," pat me on the back,but he never did.