Liberation of Buchenwald

Witness to the Holocaust

"My mind closed the door on this horror."

"As we rode into Buchenwald, I can remember thinking: 'There is no place as horrible as we have been told — no atrocities — we should turn around, stop wasting time, go back to Eisenach and establish our Battalion Headquarters.'

But we continued and finally arrived at a place that did not look so bad as we passed the main entrance. But as we rolled around the front building, we saw the feeble mass of survivors milling around. We got out of our vehicles, and some began to beck to us to follow and see what had been done in that place. They were walking skeletons. The sights were beyond description. What little we had been told in an orientation session in Northern France in early December 1944, was nothing in comparison.

I took out my camera and began to take some photos, but that only lasted for a few pictures. As the scenes became more gruesome, I put my camera in its case and walked in a daze with the survivors as we viewed all forms of dismemberment of the human body. We learned that 31,000 of the 51,000 persons there had been killed in a two-week period prior to our arrival. 

I began to realize why few, if any, people would believe the atrocities I had seen. HOLOCAUST was the word used to describe it, but one has to witness it to even begin to believe it. And finally, after going through several buildings with various displays — my mind closed the door on this horror.

And I don't know what the answer is to what we ran into in Buchenwald. As a matter of fact, it gave me a different attitude, a perspective, I suspect, on some of the ideas that we had always heard, and that is that one of the best ways to get away from the -- this type of attitude or functioning by humans was to become more educated. And here we were in a country that we had always been lead to believe was one of the most educated and literate nations in the world, producing great scientists, far advanced in art, literature, having great names of music, classical music: And it came up -- well, after I saw what I saw, possibly the worst crimes that you could imagine humans committing and this was done, I don't know in what -- in what was the conclusion of how they arrived at an idea that this should be done, but it just lead me to have a reevaluation of this whole notion of what we refer to as literate and education.

I was just sort of moving along with the tide and not really thinking a great deal about it at that time, but since I've been back I had been an interested observer, not necessarily a casual observer of the idea that would relate to education and how we use people."