This Material May Only be Used With Permission From Emory University.
INTERVIEWER: HERBERT JENKINS
DATE: DECEMBER 7, 1978
TRANSCRIBER: SUE EPSTEIN (rev. 6/15/80)
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.
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
Christmas of 1944. We were at a little village outside of Neche, across
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
into Gotha, Germany, and we
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
Q. You were
with the group that liberated this camp?
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.
was the first unit that went in, do you know?
I'm not sure.
Q. But you
were with the 2nd unit that went in to the prison camp?
was, and we went into the camp
I have pictures here
let me show you.
some real good pictures there.
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
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?
was near them
less than five miles away in this forest.
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?
day after we went into Weimar.
the first you heard of this camp?
did you expect to find there?
really didn't know. We just
there was nothing said too much to us
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?
were appalled. They were just completely
this was kind of a
that left them numb, because they did not know just what was going on
Hitler was doing. They were supporting a government that they didn't know
what they were doing.
did you actually see when you approached? What was your rank at the time?
was a Tech Sergeant.
Q. You were
a Tech Sergeant, and you carried your group in to view this
did you actually see? What did you first see when you arrived there?
I first got there
you could smell the stench of a peculiar
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
(?) bone ask that
this is a pile of ash.
just a pile of ashes from where they burned the bodies?
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?
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
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
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.
up like cordwood, aren't they?
Q. Did you
have an opportunity to see or talk to any of the people that were running
had all gone before you arrived?
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
probably read about that or heard about that.
Q. You actually
saw that shade?
I actually saw that shade. Yes, sir. I sure did.
was a vicious and vile thing, wasn't it?
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
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
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
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.
was your reaction and thoughts to doing this thing?
you was in a shock, so to speak
you felt like you
was in a slaughter pen, like you had gone to a packing house or something
where they kill animals and process them for
they're Jews and human bodies?
that they were humans.
Q. And then
destroying them by fire.
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.
this will show you
good pictures of the bodies piled up.
can see how skinny they are.
effect did this have on you, Mr. Nash?
it sort of changed my outlook on what
what war is all about, this
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
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
we did in France and Germany. We went there to conquer.
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?
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.
was before the war?
was before the war. I had worked there two years before I got drafted.
into the army?
right. I was working in the maintenance department and also doing the
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?
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?
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. How long
did you stay in Germany?
was there from June until October 4. We left Endezehofen
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
was the first camp you went into?
the only concentration camp I saw over there.
Q. Did you
see any other prisoners of war, or any other camps?
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?
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?
sir. Not during the time they had been prisoners.
were already liberated?
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.
Q. And what
they left. What else should we record about this?
uh, you're more or less interested in this camp.
Q. We are
interested in people like you who were there and saw it.
much interested in what you saw and what you think. And what your reaction
was to it.
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 unbelievable what
one human being will do to another when they have the advantage to do
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?
they were trying to eliminate the Jewish population that was in Germany
and countries they conquered, such as Poland and other countries they
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?
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
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?
sir. Like mayors, and
they were not Jewish people?
were their nationalities?
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
just round them up and take them into camp, and this is what happened
them any way they could?
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?
sir. I just head about those while I was over there.
your information here, the victims here were carried in and murdered.
were murdered, I am pretty sure
or starved to death.
Q. And then
burned the bodies?
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?
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.
you'll never forget?
your reaction to the thing, today? What should be done?
unless you find any of the
I understand there are a
few that have escaped from here
involved with this
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?
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?
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
was going through there. I see why we were over there fighting.
thank you very much, Mr. Lauren Nash.