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Q. Mr. Nash, we appreciate you taking the time to see us and talk with us, and appreciate you making this recording. Dr. Crawford, of course, is the director of this program, and what we'd like to have is what you saw, and what you experienced, and what you think was happening at the time in Germany. If you would please give us your name and address and age and just tell us whatever you remember and what you think about it.
A. My name is Lauren Nash. I was born October 14, 1918, and grew up in the rural county of Whips County, Georgia. Washington, Georgia is the county seat. I came to Atlanta in 1940 and then in January of 1943, I went in service, going with the 961st Engineer Maintenance Company. We took our basic in Camp Swift, Texas. After basic training maneuvers in Tennessee, from there to Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts. From there we went overseas, and we were sent to North Ireland, where we got prepared for the invasion of Normandy Beach. I went in on Omaha Beach, on the 10th of June 1944, and went in to St. Lo. There we joined the…General Patton's Third Army. I went in as a Second with the Second Armor Training Division, I believe they called it, then. Anyway, I went in with the Third Army, and we went through the campaign of France. I seen action through that into…on Christmas of 1944. We were at a little village outside of Neche, across the river…we were on the west side of the river from Neche, a little town of Haggendange…I believe that's spelled H-a-g-e-n-d-a-n-g-e, France. That's when the Battle of the Bulge…and during the Battle of the Bulge they transferred us up to the Clemency, Luxembourg, and from there we worked into Ailon, Belgium, as a back-up during the time the 101st was trapped there in Belgium. After then, we came back into…down into Gotha, Germany, and we…from there…I mean, excuse me, we went from there we came back to Konigsmarkel, France, near the Maginot Line, and from there we went in to St. Wendel…then into Weimar, where just outside of Weimar is the Buchenwald prison camp. And this is where we saw the first core of what we was fighting for. That was what Germany was doing to people…what they were destroying…the human race…trying to, and…

Q. You were with the group that liberated this camp?
A. Yes, I was. We were a service company. We were a maintenance company of the 20th Corps of Engineers, which it and the Fourth Armored was the ones who went in. so we went in the day that they liberated…we went in to see it.

Q. What was the first unit that went in, do you know?
A. Uh, I'm not sure.

Q. But you were with the 2nd unit that went in to the prison camp?
A. I was, and we went into the camp…I have pictures here…this is, let me show you.

Q. There's some real good pictures there.
A. This is the main entrance to the camp, and I have another one here if I can find it. Yes, here's a shot that I am back away that's showing…now this faces the southeast…you go through one of the prettiest forests you've ever seen. And the people in Weimar did not know that this camp existed or what was being carried on.

Q. It was right near them?
A. It was near them…less than five miles away in this forest.

Q. When did you first hear about the camp? When did you know that there was a camp there, and you were going to help liberate it?
A. The day after we went into Weimar.

Q. That's the first you heard of this camp?
A. Yes.

Q. What did you expect to find there?
A. We really didn't know. We just…there was nothing said too much to us…they just wanted to see it. Then after this happened, we used some of our trucks, and we went into town and rounded up some of the civilians, the old people and the women and all, and some of the teenagers, and we brought them in there and showed them this.

Q. And they didn't know anything about it?
A. They were appalled. They were just completely…this was kind of a…something that left them numb, because they did not know just what was going on…what Hitler was doing. They were supporting a government that they didn't know what they were doing.

Q. What did you actually see when you approached? What was your rank at the time?
A. I was a Tech Sergeant.

Q. You were a Tech Sergeant, and you carried your group in to view this…What did you actually see? What did you first see when you arrived there?
A. When I first got there…it was…you could smell the stench of a peculiar odor…which was the burning of these bodies…and the ovens were still warm, and we…I made some pictures inside, but not having a flash camera, they didn't come out…of these partially burned bodies that were in this oven. They had huge ovens that had a steel flat on wheels that ran on a track that had perforated holes right through the steel, and they laid these bodies on there, and they would slide them over these gas jets that were fired up under there, and it would burn the bodies up. All except for the ash. Now, I got a…I have a picture here of the ashes from those burned bodies. Of course there was a…calcium (?) bone ask that…this is a pile of ash.

Q. That's just a pile of ashes from where they burned the bodies?
A. That's right. It was dumped out back of the crematorium.

Q. Did you learn anything about how these people come to die before they were cremated?
A. Yes, they carried them in to a basement-like thing underneath this crematorium, and they questioned them and…I guess getting all the information they could from them, and they clubbed them to death…on the walls were ring handcuffs_______where their nails had just clawed in, and there was blood splattered all over the wall, and this table had this club that had blood on it, where they clubbed them to death after they tied them up and they put them on this conveyor that carried them up. It was like a small elevator that ran from there up to the floor. They loaded them on these flat steel carriages that had wheels on them like small…about this big…railroad-type wheel that ran on these little rails that went in the over. They closed the door and turned on the jets and the fire…and these ashes fell in the pit, and that's where they cleaned them out. Now this picture of some of the bodies stacked there, ready to be burned.

Q. Stacked up like cordwood, aren't they?
A. There's another one.

Q. Did you have an opportunity to see or talk to any of the people that were running this camp?
A. No, sir.

Q. They had all gone before you arrived?
A. They had arrested the ones in charge…also went over to the headquarters of this, and there was a guide that was taking us into this and showed us some lampshades that the camp commander's wife had made from tattooed skins. They had skinned the tattoo off the prisoners that had them…you probably read about that or heard about that.

Q. You actually saw that shade?
A. Yes, I actually saw that shade. Yes, sir. I sure did.

Q. That was a vicious and vile thing, wasn't it?
A. Yes sir, it was. (Flipping through pictures). This is a crematorium, and that is a chimney to the back of it...that's on the south side. It was…the main entrance was on the north side. Just trying to give you a little directions on those pictures. This is some of those survivors that…the barracks and…and there's one who put on…see how well he fits those GI clothes?

Q. Did you have an opportunity to talk to any of these people? These people survived…
A. They spoke mostly Polish and German, and I wasn't very up on that, so I couldn't talk to them other than just…I just took pictures of them.

Q. What was your reaction and thoughts to doing this thing?
A. Well, you was in a shock, so to speak…you couldn't…you felt like you was in a slaughter pen, like you had gone to a packing house or something like that…where they kill animals and process them for…

Q. Except they're Jews and human bodies?
A. Except that they were humans.

Q. And then destroying them by fire.
A. Well, of course, these bodies that are stacked up here…they were just outside piled up. There was also two trailers. They had rubber tires like the old Hoover wagon-type trailer. It was just piled with bodies too, and I don't know why those pictures didn't come out, but…

Q. You got some very good pictures there.
A. But this will show you…

Q. Especially good pictures of the bodies piled up.
A. You can see how skinny they are.

Q. What effect did this have on you, Mr. Nash?
A. Well, it sort of changed my outlook on what…what war is all about, this….some of the things, why we have entered various wars when we have seen persecution by one force overrunning another that's weaker. I guess that's partly because…some of the reasons we got into [the] Korean War, also some of the reasons we was in the Vietnam War, but those two wars seem to have been bungled a little. We didn't go there to conquer; we just went there to act as a police force, seems like. We didn't go in there to fight…like we did in France and Germany. We went there to conquer.

Q. What was your occupation before the war? What did you plan to do? What were you doing when you went into the army? Were you drafted, or did you volunteer?
A. No, I was drafted. I grew up on a farm and then when I got…when I went to Atlanta, I went to work for old Genesco.

Q. That was before the war?
A. That was before the war. I had worked there two years before I got drafted.

Q. Went into the army?
A. That's right. I was working in the maintenance department and also doing the shoelasting…forming the toes of the shoes. I ran a machine there for a good while, and I worked in the maintenance department.

Q. You are now operating a garage and an automobile agency?
A. No, just an auto repair shop.

Q. An auto repair shop here on Candler Road. Did your experience in Germany change your thought or change your work in any respect?
A. No, not really. I came back and took up life like I left off. I was married at the time. I had been married two years. I came back and still have the same wife.

Q. Congratulations.
A. Yes.

Q. How long did you stay in Germany?
A. I was there from June until October 4. We left Endezehofen…that's south of Munich. We were there until October 4th, and we went to Nuremberg, then on into LeHavre and back to the states and came back on the Queen Mary.

Q. Buchenwald was the first camp you went into?
A. That's the only concentration camp I saw over there.

Q. Did you see any other prisoners of war, or any other camps?
A. No, I didn't. Not that I know they had been prisons. There was a lot of people after the war ended with a pack on their back who were walking in some direction, possibly to their home. Now, whether they had been prisoners or Germans, I didn't know.

Q. You didn't know their nationality?
A. We also saw a lot of trainloads of prisoners, going back to Poland, heading north over there near Nuremberg.

Q. Did you see any American prisoners of war?
A. No, sir. Not during the time they had been prisoners.

Q. They were already liberated?
A. Yes.

Q. And the camp had already been liberated that you had an opportunity to visit. But you were right behind the liberators and saw everything there.
A. Yes, sir.

Q. And what they left. What else should we record about this?
A. Well, uh, you're more or less interested in this camp.

Q. We are interested in people like you who were there and saw it.
A. Yes, sir.

Q. Very much interested in what you saw and what you think. And what your reaction was to it.
A. Well, I thought it was the most terrible thing I had ever witnesses in my life, or even since…is what I saw in this camp. I just think that it's something that came along in my lifetime that I never want to see a repetition of it. Because it's terrible…it's awful…it's unbelievable what one human being will do to another when they have the advantage to do so.

Q. What was your reaction? And certainly you discussed it with your buddies? What were the German people trying to do in doing this kind of thing, you think?
A. Well, they were trying to eliminate the Jewish population that was in Germany and countries they conquered, such as Poland and other countries they had overrun.

Q. Was it your understanding that most of the people…all of the people in this camp were Jewish? Or were there other people there?
A. They were Jewish, and perhaps some of them were town officials that had opposed them. They had resisted the German movement into these places, such as the towns in Poland, Belgium, Holland, Russia and France, and any of these towns that they had overrun. But I couldn't single out any of them, the most of these they were the…I think that most in this camp were from Poland, they were…

Q. Polish Jews, or…
A. Yes, sir. I don't have any knowledge or record of any of the people that were executed in these camps as being prisoners or war, like American prisoners, because of the Geneva Convention and all agreement. 'Cause Germany knew we had a lot of their prisoners…and we could retaliate, had they done anything like this to our prisoners.

Q. Is it your understanding that some of the victims in this prison were officials and were opposing Germany?
A. Yes, sir. Like mayors, and…

Q. Then they were not Jewish people?
A. Some…

Q. What were their nationalities?
A. They might have been…I don't know their religious faith or what have you. They were most likely Catholics or some Protestants, perhaps, but most of the people we see here were Jews…That was his method…He would just round them up and take them into camp, and this is what happened to them.

Q. Kill them any way they could?
A. Some of the camps…now, they gassed them. They told them they were going to march them in to have a shower, but instead of water coming out of the showerhead, there was cyanide gas.

Q. Did you see any of those victims or any of that operation?
A. No, sir. I just head about those while I was over there.

Q. From your information here, the victims here were carried in and murdered.
A. They were murdered, I am pretty sure…or starved to death.

Q. And then burned the bodies?
A. Then they burned the bodies like straw. Some of the camps, they had mass graves and put them in and just covered them over, just huge trenches.

Q. Did you see any of those?
A. We saw one at Gotha, Germany that was covered over, but I didn't see them dig it up. We were just passing through at that time. I was told that that was a mass grave there.

Q. Experience you'll never forget?
A. No, sir.

Q. What's your reaction to the thing, today? What should be done?
A. I think if…unless you find any of the…I understand there are a few that have escaped from here…involved with this…some kind of officer, perhaps, or some guard…anything that was pertaining to it, that if they catch them, I think they should be dealt with in practically the same manner that they had done to these folks, just like they did Eichmann, when they caught him. They hanged him.

Q. Do you think that all these people that were involved in any way, even a minor way, that can be identified, should now be executed?
A. They should be charged with murder and executed if…if they prove they had any involvement in committing any of this crime.

Q. Can you think of anything else we ought to put on record, this morning?
A. No, not necessarily. That's about the extent…I was a soldier going through, and I carried out my orders and this is what I came across…when I was going through there. I see why we were over there fighting.

Q. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Lauren Nash.