This Material May Only be Used With Permission From Emory University.
DENNIS E. WILE
DATE: AUGUST 8, 1978
1270th COMBAT ENGINEER BATTALION PHOTOGRAPHER
Q: Of course, our topic is the German practice of putting people into
various kinds of prisons, and doing all sorts of things to them and I
think what we're really aware of is that these were all kind of people;
that they weren't just the Jews but they were French and Rumanians and
anybody the Germans caught. And it was the experience of the American
soldier in his regular line of duty, almost, as he swept across Europe
to once in a while encounter one of these camps. So, if you don't mind,
just tell us what happened to you, in your own military career.
About 1945, April, someplace in there...
We had just been witnessed to the most fantastic episode to witness in
terms of military might, when third army and first army were ordered in
different directions. We were on our way to Berlin, as we saw it and then
we were ordered south. At that point, these two armies at this particular
location and I can't tell you now, it's been so far back when it occurred;
but we had the planes overhead and we had the half-tracks and the tanks
and the trucks... it was just one constant dIn for three days of all of
this material and tremendous war machine changing directions, two armies
and here I was along with my buddies, witnessing an aspect of the war.
It was shortly after that, that as I understand it, every photographer
within a range of a hundred miles of Buchenwald was ordered into that
camp, into that concentration camp. The reason given was that Patton didn't
ever want it to be forgotten, and so he was recording it pictorially for
all those that come after....
And your assignment in those days, was as a photographer..
Well, as I understand the 1270th Engineering Combat Battalion's function
since third army was moving so rapidly, they had a shortage of Bailey
Bridges, and what our function was, to go beneath the Bailey Bridges that
were up and construct Bridges and as soon as they were usable to tear
down that Bailey Bridge and transport it ahead to use it again at another
site in a crossing over a river or stream or what ever it was; and in
order for this to work in each instance and give Patton the direction
he wanted; what we were doing was taking bridge-type pictures, ahead of
putting up the next Bailey Bridge and we might take three or four site
pictures and then come back and develop them in the field and then deliver
'em to Patton's war room, one of them was at... Gosh, it's been a long
time ago.... it was one site near
was the S.S. Officer's training facility, a very substantial quarters,
stone building, as I recall, in fact, I might have a picture here, some
where, of that facility .... and we were taking these pictures in to that
location on several occasions, I remember doing that, and then, the next
thing, the Captain said that he wanted us to go to the concentration camp,
Buchenwald, and to be part of taking pictures of that site.
What do you remember of that experience?
Well, we parked outside of the gates into the camp...
Did you have any trouble locating it?
No, I never had the opportunity to have to check maps. I always had drivers
and people that were taking me somewhere, and so I pay very little attention
to that, which now I can see is a terrible weakness in my recollection
of where I was or what I was doing, but it seemed to me that it was just
a very short time after we left our location, that we arrived at this
concentration camp, Buchenwald, and parked outside, and I would judge
the by the time we got there, it must have been, maybe three in the afternoon,
of whatever day that that occured. And the first thing that I think I
can remember was people coming up to me and pleading with me for handouts
of either cigarettes or anything of that nature. And that there was a
variety of age groups that were obviously prisoners here, but the majority
of everybody I was seeing were not walking. They were sitting with their
knees up against their chests and leaning over and their backs against
the walls of what few buildings were there or fences and then scattered
throughout the stacks of the dead and on one stack outside of the ovens,
crematory, draped over the emaciated bodies of the inmates were the strapping,
young husky individuals in their twenties, maybe, or younger, and about
that time an individual whose name I don't have and I can't recall the
few pictures I have left but who looked very well fed, began showing us
Now, this picture is of the ...
And the person in the middle of it is the person in civilian clothes who
was well fed and who was now showing...
And could speak some English, in fact, he spoke quite a bit of English,
as I recollect, and it sticks in my mind that he told me that he was a
New Yorker and my obvious first question to him was "How can you explain
your condition versus what I'm seeing around me, since he had already
explained that he was Jewish?" And, he said, "One has to live!" and then
explained it no further, so, and the fact that he was walking around living
amongst these people where what they had conveyed to me or what he had
conveyed to me, that these strapping, husky, young people that were draped
over the piles of emaciated bodies were the guards of the camp that were
pummeled toward the very end, by the inmates themselves and maybe just
their fists or whatever they used. All of that detail is very vague to
me. I was seeing so much and it was such a shock too, and then again it
wasn't a shock. Possibly, in war, there is no horror that you're not prepared
to see, really, and only after all these many years, when you see something
on T.V. to resurrect it, does it have an impact on you in such a way that,you
know, it shakes you up? It really does!
How many people were with you in your jeep or in the group that went through
Uh, I would say that we probably went over in a three-quarter ton, and
that all of these people, all these soldiers in this picture, here in
the crematorium, were part of my group, so I would say that with the Captain
and myself, there could have been as many as, maybe eight people.
Were there other American or Allied Soldiers there?
There were others there, but it sticks in my mind that vaguely, it seems
there were quite a few there, but there wasn't a tremendous number there
at the time. At this moment, things were moving so rapidly that we were
doing what we had been ordered to do and I did see some other photographers
there, but even that part of it is very vague in my mind, now, because
I was wrapped up in what I was seeing. In fact, I didn't take as many
pictures as I'd wished I'd taken, now. And I didn't realize that the time
we were gonna be there was gonna be so limited and that we were gonna
be moving on, but many of the pictures that I did take, the negatives
are gone. I, was hospitalized shortly after that, and when I got back
in, the outfit had moved and the negatives stayed with the outfit and
I never saw them again.
I noticed you've written some comments on the back of the picture which
to me are very interesting...
The civilian is a Jew - Polished apples for six years at Weimar Concentration
camp - who knows what price he's paid for his life or what deeds he's
Do you want me to see if I can read it?
Why don't you finish it for me, Dr., its too rough.
"We need a place to burn, our prisoners will build it and run it; we will
supervise." 6,000 in one day - 6,000 in one day - Russians..Belgians..
Frenchmen.. Jews.. Americans.. English.... The Aryan Race - the Nazis!
The S.S. Troupers! The Supermen!" And you felt this, you lived this at
And it's still with you...
It sure is!
It's with us all!
6,000 in one day, figure came from, since I've mentioned it a couple of
times here, it may be that this is as I understood what the guide was
telling me and I, I seem to recall that he said that they had moved many
bodies that they hadn't burned on flat cars or box cars to Dauchau, because
this was one of the first camps that was over-run by the Americans. And,
they were trying to cover up and hide their deeds, but Patton forces,
tanks moved in there just to quickly!
Now, this is the second picture, which we will mark B and tell. us about
In the blocks where the prisoners slept on boards, the only thing I can
liken it to is a broiler house like you might find here in Georgia, and
there were either two or three tiers of these shelving arrangements, just
boards laying down that the prisoners slept on, and then, each night,
as they died in their sleep or whenever they died in these blocks then
there were details, that each morning took the dead to the end of the
blocks, and stripped the clothes off of them and then they were moved
out into this storage area, here; at least, this is where we found this
pile of bodies and then, later, they were burned in the crematorium.
I notice, that yet on the back of this one, "If you starve them, when
they die you have less to burn, and the more you burn the more healthy
your workmen by replacement." This is obviously something that was written
on the walls or that people had told you - the German philosophy was really
Yea, Now this is... I didn't dream that statement up; that had to be told
Was it written on a wall or a paper or one of the guides gave you an official
No, the guide didn't give me a.. we weren't there at the time that they
were passing anything out, he was just....
He was just telling it to you...
He was just telling it to me. We were there at a time when they hadn't
any printed matter or if they did have it, we didn't see it.
And you were thinking about people at home, because the next sentence
is "This is just another pile of dead people, America! The Nazis have
many more at this place This is typical on a small scale - Burn! - 6,000,
one day Jew! - Burn Deadmen!" What else do you remember about that afternoon?
Well, one of the things that I remember in detail was in the crematorium
in the basement, which was off of this end, was the chute that came down
into the basement area and the drain in the center of this room. And,
then, meat hooks hanging up along the side of the room. And a, looked
like an old club that had a thong through the end of it, about that big
About three inches big around!
Right! And what was explained to me, was that they brought Russian prisoners
in from the front in closed trucks; they had some sort of a way that they
forced them in there, and the cordwood fashion as I recall what was told
to me and they drew this top over them and that many of them by the time
they got to the crematorium were dead, by the time they got to Buchenwald
were dead! They backed the truck up to the crematorium where this chute
that came down into the basement was and as the bodies were pushed down
the chute, any that were still moving, their skulls were cracked by this
club, and then they were hung at the base of the skull on these meat hooks.
They were stripped of their clothes, there teeth were knocked out and
all the gold was rendered from their teeth and then there was a cart on
tracks that they loaded these bodies on ... And an elevator arrangement,
the details of which are too vague to me now, but this cart went up on
these tracks down the center, and they moved these carts up to these ovens
and just kept throwing the bodies in.
And of course, that work was really done by other prisoners!
By other prisoners, right! And that's why I say this fellow here, I don't
know what he had done, or how he had managed to survive in that kind of
shape, but that was that aspect of it.
Do you remember an odor about the place?
Well, uh, I had a terrible revulsion which I can feel stems to a great
deal from odor, that being one of the senses that affect you, and if there
was an odor, subconciously I was thinking there should be, maybe, because
of the condition of the prisoners that were still living, breathing, and
sitting around the buildings. The one building that I had that greatest
abhorance about going into and seeing was a building more or less in the
center of the area, that had a single pipe that ran around the outside
wall and there was a trough in the center, a pit, and around this pit
was a wall higher than this desk, and maybe three or four inches wide.
And it was explained to me that this was the bathroom. And that they could
get their water, now this is the camp as I recall them telling me, at
least fifty thousand and they told me that in this particular part of
the camp, this was the only building to which you could go to get water,
that there was no other source of water. So, fifty thousand people, I
was looking at this and I couldn't even believe what I was hearing, knowing
a little bit about how complex it is to feed 600 and whatever of a battalion
of men, so in this pit was that aspect of it. Outside they had dug trenches
between some of the buildings or off in one area in which bodies had been
thrown. They were still in there, they hadn't cleaned that out yet. And,
there was just evidences of the worst condition that you could believe
a human could be in and still be alive. And, it sticks in my mind that
there was an odor, but that part of it was not, what your eyes were beholding,
that was the impact of what was going on and what the people were saying
to you, the way they were saying it in a voice that was devoid of all
energy whatsoever. The lowest possible voice - a healthy person couldn't
possibly speak that low even he was whispering, he couldn't make that
kind of a voice, because it's not possible for a healthy person to speak
in this fashion.
Another picture, here, of survivors ... (C)
A: Well, these, I think this
is the famous Block 64, where the experiments took place. What was told
me here, uh, to the best of my recollection, was that these people had
been injected with Typhus and that if they survived, then their blood
was drawn from them and was taken to Berlin and they were used to innoculate
German citizens to prevent them from getting Typhus; And all these people,
they were telling me, and this was being translated, were dying, because
of Typhus, for being innoculated with the Typhus germ to see if they would
survive, and then, I think this was the same block that the big tank was
in where they were immersing as many as eighteen thousand people, and
they found one fellow that lived, I think, eighteen minutes and they were
pretty impressed with that where the average man was living about ten
women by hanging them by their ankles and I don't know what else, and
these people were in the worst of shape than that same ...
And here's another film (D) and this is also on ....
I think so, I don't know what I have written on the back there I didn't
even read that. According to what was told us, if we'd a been any later
the Germans would have machine-gunned 20,000 people in that camp, but
because of the rapidity of which the camp was over run, they didn't have
time to do that, they just got away with their own
Is this a picture of you?
No, this, uh, in one aspect of the war, this is Arthur Goldburg, a man
that drove for me in several instances, and we later came across one another
at headquarters command that used to be in Frankfort. And, Goldburg and
I had been, I think, at Tech or some other place together in the States
here, and I don't know, we ran into one another and he was with me in
England for awhile, driving. Uh, he, when we first got to Germany, there
was an old fraternization ban on, and you could not fraternize with the
enemy and Goldburg said that he was gonna fraternize and what he was going
to do was to inseminate every German girl that he could in reprisal for
what they had done, but to show you how the fates brew what you
in life, about the first girl that he met, he fell so deeply in love with
her that it was impossible for him to carry out that praticular design
to seek vengence upon the Germans and it's one of the things that's stuck
with me as to how the fates do twist the direction a person takes as time
What time did you leave the camp that day?
It was just very close to last light when we walked out the gates and
left the camp and I can't recall now, I think the first thing we did was
to go to a little town south of Weimar, in the mountains, and we were
one of the first in the town. They didn't have any military government
in there and we took over their facilities and I ended up in a wash-house
in a very old kind of a quadrangle type construction and getting these
prints ready for Patton's war room.
You went ahead and ...
That very next. or that, it might've been, no, it wasn't that night, it
had to be the next day I started, I finished that night, I think that's
when it was...
You developed them and went on....
Oh, yea, we ...
Do it right there! Are there other films in there that... ?
Well, I have so many here, but...
These are the ones that really get after Buchenwald
Right! Yea, the Buchenwald experiences...
We'll come back to that again, and if you don't mind let me ask you some
other things because we're getting this kind of information for everyone,
but, what is your date of birth?
November 23rd, 1922.
Are you married?
Do you have children?
How old were you at the time that this experience occurred, do you remember?
Well, let's see, I would be....
Spring of '45 ...
'20 to '45, 1 would be 23..
What was your profession or what did you hope to become before the time
the war was started in '42 or '41 ...
A: Well, I had aspirations
of becoming a civil engineer at that time and because my father was a
contractor and evidenced in his discussions with me that was something
that all good contractors could need more of, if they can get them and
so took off in that direction..
What is your present occupation?
At this very moment, since December 5th, I'm a senior environmental assistant
with the Noise Program for the Environmental Protection Agency, and what's
interesting is that some of the experience I had using the camera, I've
starting using it again a little bit because it allows me to take a few
pictures for them, and this is under what they call the Older Americans
Program. I had quit a job that I had been with for eighteen years,because
of a disfunction with some of the higher-ups, and...
What was your rank?
I was a technician, 5th grade or corporal..
And where had you enlisted, or where did you come in?
I was a Canadian Citizen, and I was drafted and when I got to, when I
was drafting while living in , Massachusetts, and the first place I went
to was Fort Devons or Camp Devons is what they called it. The next thing
I knew I was shipped to Spartenburg, N.C. to Camp Croft in Spartenburg
and the Judge came up from Greenville and there was 130 of us in a room
in Spartenburg, somewhere in the courthouse in downtown Spartenburg, and
he said, "Raise your right hand" and thirty seconds later I was a citizen
of the United States.
That's an amazing story in itself! I didn't realize it, uh, let me go
back over some of the other questions that we hope to get some attitudes
about. When did you first hear about the concentration camps? Was it before
you got to Europe or was it after you got overseas?
I can't definitely say excepting that it does stick in my mind that there
was a Jewish photographer on the S.S. Seaowl, which was a liberty ship
that took us over,that I believe was telling stories about what he'd been
hearing on his previous trips and that he'd made several crossings and
I think that that was the first word that I can remember and I don't even
know why I say that, but somehow that sticks in my mind...
Had you heard anymore about them as you finally got into the continent,
or was there any talk about them?
No, at that time, we weren't talking about that ...
You were fighting a war..
We were fighting a war and waiting to find out what we were going to be
doing, and we landed at charburg and moved in from there and we did alot
of traveling very rapidly to try to catch up with Patton to get into position
to do this very thing. And from that stand point, why, we weren't talking
about concentration camps because we weren't really getting any of that
kind of news, it was just, where are we going to be today or tomorrow
or what are we going to be doing or what's all that noise and then when
we got up to where this site, where the third army finally was to turn
south, why, that was the last foxhole I think I dug, right there, uh,
after that, no more foxholes, 'cause the war was moving so fast that there
was no point in digging foxholes, and by that time we had isolated so
many pockets of Germans,all we were doing was, uh, posting guards every
night and they were trying to avoid us and we were trying to keep them
from pulling any of their last minute stand, so, one place, we wound up
in a copper mine and used all those facilities to store gallons of gasoline
and barb wire fence, ammunition and I don't know what else! Everything
Well, as the Buchenwald was suddenly identified and it was there and the
order went out - Go There! What were you thinking as you got up to those
gates that you mentioned to us?
Well, I just had very little concept about what I was going to see. I
wasn't really prepared to see human beings in the condition that I saw
them in or was I prepared to see a human stacked like cordwood, after
they were dead and of course, then they did have the table out next to
the opening there with the lampshades and the ...
... Of skin ...
..And the bookcovers and that sort of and tattoos that they had ....
Did ya'll, in your own little unit talk much about it after you left the
place, or was -- were you just.... ?
I don't believe that we talked about it alot, uh, we, we went back and
were abandoned at the site, because they needed my truck for hauling barb
wire, as I recall. And there was about three or four of us left at this
coppermine. And, two prisoners, the next morning when I was on duty, came
out of the woods, and one of the fellows, I don't even think he went,
I know he didn't go to the concentration camp. We wanted to shoot them
right there, but I said. "no, we're not gonna do that" and then we turned
'em in to, to one of our sites where we just had, I couldn't count the
prisoners, as far as you could see, German prisoners, and I took some,
a classic one, showing a naval officer; How in the hell we ever got him,
makes no - I guess he might have been home on leave, or something and
he looked pretty perplexed about the, what was going on around him, I
Do you know, have you ever heard anything that happened to the people
who were still alive in the camp, was there any other comment or information
that you picked up later about what happened?
Yea, later, I had one experience I read "Frankl, The Meaning of Life",
I think was the title of the book. How he survived six years of a concentration
camp by either going right or left, or saying "yes" or "no",
and his observation was that when the prisoners got out of the concentration
camp, dressed in that horrible, God-forsaken, striped gown, pajama type
uniform they were forced to wear and since that time I've never been able
to look at striped pajamas.
And you'd see 'em on the roads, in ones or twos, maybe threes, but not
often threes, I don't recall. Walkin' back, awalkin', going somewhere,
and Frankl explains in the book which points up the selfishness of man,
when one of them got back home again and his neighbor was standing there
who hadn't been in the concentration camp and then he said, "Here I am;
I just survived six years of Buchenwald!" And the neighbor said, "Well,
it's been pretty rough here, too!" And at that point, the former prisoner
of Buchenwald wished he was back in Buchenwald because Frankl said that
you knew what to expect, each and every minute when you were in the camp.
There were no surprises! But, you werent prepared for that!
What happened to the pictures you developed and printed, did you send
them on up to.... ?
Most of them went to Patton's war room
Was it very quickly after you had been able to...
Very quickly - I was asked to get the job done...
And you got it done and ...
The preservation of these prints for hypo and all that, stuff there, none
of that was, this, some of these were done in tents, uh, out in the, the
men would set the tent up for me, and they treated me like I was General
Patton, himself, because I was taking pictures of them and they were sending
pictures home and officers on down, it didn't matter, if you were a photographer,
you had first class go about what you - they had all of England restricted
to quarters, but they didn't restrict any photographers...
Isn't that amazing...
And, uh, it was just...
It was an amazing thing. Everybody had, they never to pick out the photographers
to do anything, but to make him feel wanted...
And let him do his job!
Was the captain of your unit with you, in....
Well, it was another captain, ....
Oh, it was a different captain?
Yea it was a different captain ... He was anxious to go and I guess he
wanted to see it and it if it hadn't been for him, maybe some of the things,
we wouldn't have seen, but...
He was an officer and they realized it,
Right! So we had that, so...
Did you say anything to your own officers about it, of course, I bet you,
they saw all the pictures of it, and...
Well, yea, everybody saw the pictures, you see, this, this was the impact
of my visit to Buchenwald, and,, uh., I guess I did discuss it because
everybody in headquarters company was always wanting to see what came
out of the dark room...
Yea! And so they, these were seen by all of the officers and many of the
G.I.'s, uh, that, uh, were with me and that I depended on to help me out.
And, uh, there were some mean things going on by Americans at this time.
This little town, if I could think of the name of it, south of Weimar,
where we wound up and I did the developing of these particular pictures,
here. There were two military, no, one military government person, PFC.,
and there was a curfew on and no German was suppose to be on the road
after seven P.M. or so many an hour before sundown, whatever it was, but,
and he had gone out and brought in two people dressed, two men, dressed
in civilian clothes and had them in the back of the jeep, and, wanted
to know if anybody wanted to go with him while he interrogated them. And
nobody did, and later, it was discovered that he had taken them out in
the field and shot them. He claims that he did that because be found a
list of towns on these people where ambushes had occured, but, uh, I did't
feel that the PFC had the authority to take life, myself.
Were these S.S ....
Well, they were dressed in civilian clothes...
Who knows what they were! In this particular town, we do know that every
night there was an influx of people from out of the woods from surrounding
countryside. We could hear them coming in but we were headquarters company
and we weren't trying to - that wasn't our function!
Did you see any S.S. Troopers during your run through that part of Europe?
Well, we captured an S.S. Headquarters in which I did not see any personel.
Yea, but there weren't any still at the prison, they'd all, either fled
or they were killed...
Yea, well, what had happened in this same town that I'm describing where
I did the developing, was this driver (in picture) standing with these
Yes! This is on film, uh, Picture B.|
Yea, as the fates would have it, and I can't recall his name. We had two
German prisoners working in the kitchen in German uniforms and when we
got to this little town, they were close to where they lived and somehow,
somebody in the kitchen got to talkin' about, they wanted pancakes, but
they needed some baking soda or baking powder, baking powder I guess it
was, to make the pancakes so they can rise. One of these German prisoners
said, "Oh, my home's not to far from here. We can go over there and we
can get some, from my wife." Naturally he wanted to go home and see his
family and see what's going on, so this driver, a carpenter, by the name
of Jones from Arkansas, and one or two of the cooks came to me, and said,
"Come on and go with us, and get this baking powder", and said, "we're
going to use, we wanna use your three-quarter ton." And I said, "Well,
you're gonna have to check with the Captain, first, and see if you can
do that." So they come back and said, "Yea, he said we could use this
three-quarter ton." And, now here it was, about sunset, of that second
day, when I was still working on these pictures and I said, "No, I've
got to get this out, I can't go." And that truck, that three-quarter ton,
was ambushed about two miles out of town. And everybody died, except the
carpenter, and what happened was the carpenter got out of the back of
the truck after he fired every round of his Ml and the rest of 'em drove
off, the pocket of Germans probably led by an S.S. Trooper. In fact, the
two that we captured back at the coppermine said that they had escaped
from an S.S. Trooper. That they didn't want to fight any more, and, Jones
got out in his stupor and turned the truck around, but fainted and drove
into a bank and the next morning a heavy maintenance outfit, one of their
prime movers loaded that truck and everybody on it and took it to a field
hospital, and late the next afternoon, we discovered where they were and
they went and got the story from Jones, So, this man, standing here (in
picture) that had driven us to Buchenwald, as the fates would have it,
added him to the pile.
Did you see many German civilians around the
or as you moved away from it or towards it?
Going through Weimar, and this is very vague, and it may be that Tim thinking
things that I've read more than I'm remembering things that I saw, but
it does stick in my mind that we saw some civilians, but that camp was
in a remote location from Weimar and...
So it's very possible that - what do you think the civilians knew about
it? Do you think the German civilians around there knew the camp was there?
Well, we were told that Patton had already made them come out and see
it,! We were told that when we got there that they had already been out
there and seen it, the camp.
Did your own feelings about the German civilians change after you'd seen
the camp at all...?
No! Uh, part of the reason for this, I think was some of the contact that
I had in talking with the Germans, And, uh, I don't think I said to myself,
"Well, I'm here and I have no choice that I had, so what control do people
have their government of it goes bad", you know, I don't know that happened
until later when I was in Frankfort and I talked with some of the Germans
and they posed the question, "What could we do about it? You know, if
we were against the government, or if we didn't agree with it, what could
we do about it? And, it was a good question!
How long did you stay in Germany, in other words, when did you start back
Well, I left Germany and I was in Paris for three months and went back
to Germany, and was in Germany another three of four months and I started
home in December from Antwerp, and, got home just before Christmas...
But you'd been back and forth to Germany several times...
Yea! I've been in and out of Germany, from Holland and Belgium and France...
That's interesting! Did you write home or say anything to your folks about...
Oh, I sent all these pictures and I sent some to the newspapers. I sent
some to the News Tribute which was our hometown newspaper and..
You thought it was important then, that they knew...
I did! And I was disappointed in some of the responses that I got from
my folks. I don't think, I didn't feel as if they placed the grave thoughts
about, how did this happen, or why did it happen, that I place on it,
and which goes to show you that a picture is very descriptive, but there
is alot left out...
And you can't tell...
Can't tell! And if you don't experience it first hand, then the picture
can only cover so much, it can only imply, it just doesn't really, it's
not the territory, it's only the map...
Only the map ... Were you married at that time?
I married just before I went over, been married about three weeks when
I went over...
Did you tell your wife about it when you came back?
Uh, I don't think I dotedon it, I don't think she was inquisitive about
any of it, uh, she had one brother in the marines in the Pacific and un,
they lived from day to day, and wondered whether he was gonna come back
and then she said that she was very concerned about me when I was over
there. So, it never really - only when we would see it on T.V. on National
Educational Television, here, not to many months ago now, maybe in the
winter some time, that I had watched this accounting and it was difficult
for me to watch it.
What about your children, did you ever tell them any of it?
Yes, I told them and showed them the pictures...
About how old were they?
I would say that, I didn't spare them if they wanted to look at them and
I can't remember, now, just how old...
Were they teenagers?
A: I think they were, I believe
they were younger than that when they first saw these pictures!
It's really a fascinating pattern that we're seeing because there are
some people who just put 'em away and don't even let their minds think
about it.. it's just destructive...Others wanted the world to see what
had happended with their own eyes, you know...
Well, my experience with it, went to the degree that when I got to Paris,
I had these pictures with me in the hospital and a lady by the name of
Madame Susan Buchie, whose husband , M. Buchie, had printed the the French
Underground Paper and she was a Grey Lady and I was very surly in the
hospital - it's the Red Cross and the Grey Ladies, I don't know, I think
this was a symatical reaction I was having at that time, I didn't realize
it and she persisted and was very kind and invited me to her home. And
wanted me to bring these pictures and show them to her husband and I didn't
realize at this time that the contribution that this family had made to
the war. But, they had saved seventeen American and Allied Flyers, including
their little boy, seven, and their little girl, nine, at the time and
by the time I met them they were nine and eleven, something like that.
But, then she had a party and she particularly wanted me to come to this
party and bring these pictures because there was a Swedish salesman there
that had been selling material to the Germans, copper in particular, I
think it was, and he would have none of this concentration camp stuff
- it never happened and so she wanted me to shove these pictures up in
his face and I can remember, uh, her absolute distaste for this person
and determination in every way to rub it in that he had done wrong and
that he was not neutral as they claimed and that Sweden was more guilty
of acts than France was in letting Germany overrun them. So, at this party
in her apartment I had these pictures in a pocket secretary, like I always
have carried them, and I whipped them out and said, "What do you think
of these?" and he said, "What are these?" And I said, "These are the pictures
I took in Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Weimar, Germany", and looked
him in the eye. He says, "Well, you could have taken those in America."
So, I didn't beat him to death or anything like that, I just said that
just shows the,
you know, that's exactly what his answer had to be, It could be nothing
else, see, unless you were to drag him by the scruff of the neck and taken
him back there and show it to him, you see...
When you thought of this, then, did you think that it was just Jews or
did you ....
Were you aware that it was as you'd written on the back....
They, they explained to us...
Q: They knew that it was everybody,...
Yea, they were, it, it just wasn't Jewish people! They made what this
People I spoke with....
Were there any religious overtones that you might have had, did this do
anything to your religion or make you think anything about religious questions?
I can't recall that that was ....
Did you ever talk to a chaplain about it, or did you ever see a chaplain?
No! Not I never did that and I never dreamed about that, uh, because I'd
had an experience earlier in my childhood, when I went to Brand University,
which wasn't called University at the time, it was led, can't think of
the name of it hey called it, I can't recall now, anyway, before, this
University was a medical school of less than perfect reputation. Uh, it
was an old castle type, place, and they had cadivers, that they operated
on, and this fellow took me there when I was about nine and we looked
through the windows and I dreamed for a solid year after seeing this,
uh, about a dead person down in the basement, so I must have gotten over
death, about that point. I didn't have any need to go see a chaplain.
Well, I just wondered if anybody did?
I can't recall that - my religious experience in the army was absolutely
zero as I recall, except when I was in Paris. this family the Buchies
- their children would take me into Paris and I would photograph, uh,
Notre Dame, and I had great reverence for this heaven and its history
and of the timelessness of what it represented in terms of what these
people adhered to and believed in and only when I got back and had reached
the age of about 30, did I have a religious experience and it was because
of a man that I met while I was having my car repaired and he invited
me to come to Sunday School Class. And shortlv after-I joined the Church
I became one of the youngest elders of the Church. Presbyterian ...
For heaven's sakes! My son's in Columbia Seminary.
Is that right?
Yea, He's goin' to be a Presbyterian Preacher...
A: So, that was a very enriching
Q: But, during that period of the war and after-war there just wasn't
a problem of religion or...
There wasn't that sense of values or I wasn't calling on God to explain
to me why this happened or how it happened!
What about your political beliefs?
Well, I'm an Ike - man-, I mean he was supreme commander and he was ....
It didn't really matter if he was a Republican or a Democrat?
I would have to say that I'm biased towards the Republicans because my
family is, my parents were for the Republicans and my father's a Republican...
Yea, but you didn't really - political questions didn't come into this
either , did they?
No! Not at that time....
Did it affect any of the political interests and activities that you had...
You did mention that you had seen on the television some of the Holocaust
. Was it the Holocaust show...
No, I avoided that because that to me was trading on the war in a fashion
that was not a historical documentation. I cannot bring myself to be interested
in that kind of show.
This is why you did make the very exact distinction between the educational
television that actually had parts of those stories that are so real that
no one can deny them .... But not for the commercialized version...
No you can't trade on that-in my mind, you just can't do it. No matter
what you do, there's no way that your gonna fake this and you're not gonna
re-live it and you're not gonna act it and there's nobody that's gonna
portray it. They can forget that! In my mind, there's only one way that
you have to discuss this and that's totally among the basis of the facts
and the historical significance of it from that aspect. That is my neurosymatical
feeling about it.
Do you think it can happen again?
Absolutely! And I wouldn't even doubt that it's not happening this very
minute somewhere. Yea!
What in your own life do you think the impact of that experience at Buchenwald
has been on yourself?
To recognize the human is a very difficult thing to get rid of: And there
isn't anything that a human will not do to another human, and that the
leadership of this world has not paid close attention to the tremendous
pressure that population is causing us to have to contend with at some
point and not too far down the road. This is my impression and feeling
and observation of what's going on here, I mean, here was civilization,
as old as it is, and what's very obvious is that our ability to communicate
to each other and to exact commitments as to what I feel is worse derilation
of our leaders, and that is to permit us to think we would go on and on
I deeply appreciate your sharing this with us! It is a terribly important
thing and you're so....