Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Eugene Arden - February 21, 1984

Trading for Supplies

We, there was a, I wouldn't call it a black market, it was really more a grey market, to, to go out and get things because if you waited until the Army sent something forward it uh, you probably would get your, your orders to move out, to move ahead by the time you got the stuff. So there was a lot of uh, informal uh, swapping and trading or uh, uh, exchange of information. I know a pla...now a lumber yard down at Kaiserslautern where the guy has got um, a whole yard full of two-by-four planks locked up and uh, he's crazy about--actually, we, we did a lot of our trading with uh, we came across a huge case of uh, uh some uh, uh, uh, sweet vermouth. We carried sweet vermouth across half of Germany and that's what we used as uh, to barter or something. We bartered with American units and we bartered sometimes with uh, with guys who, with uh, with uh, natives--with locals that had something that we needed or wanted. And um, uh, at, at, the, the, as I say, the conditions were extraordinarily chaotic and uh, there was a lot of hit and miss so that um, uh, information--we could have used a computer, but of course they hadn't invented them yet. But I tell you, an IBM PC or a Macintosh would have been uh, a miracle in the midst of uh, of all that chaos, just to keep track of who was where, who had what uh, and uh, where and when you could get it. So I guess a, a part of the larger answer that I, I guess uh, came through before, in this relatively brief period of a few weeks uh, of various you know, it had a special emotional effect uh, on us, but it was a very minor portion of the um, uh, work done by my detachment, I-18G3--I can't remember my social security number sometimes, but I remember my detachment number, literally, I-18G3 uh, that, that we, that we did in, in following uh, uh, the 7th Army across Europe.

Were you making up lists of names of people there?

I wish I had. I wish, now I could--I mean, I don't really want to live the whole thing over again. But I could have, I could be so smart and so productive and so useful knowing what I know now. But of course, you, you seldom know anything when you're nineteen--twenty years old. That's uh, uh, uh, you know, except um, uh, having a good time staying alive, uh. I also want to emphasize that even to the extent that those units--not just ours, I really think this was probably generally true uh, as I recall the stories that were exchanged and the information that was exchanged and the like with other uh, of these small units in, in neighboring areas. A tremendous amount of the time and effort um, uh, on the part of all of these units were spent in, in, in really in the, in the most um, uh, primitive and urgent tasks of getting food and medical supplies in. We were, we, we really didn't uh, I'm not sure that we could have done a great deal more than we did do, except for something more at the personal level. That's where I f...I, I feel um, guilty uh, uh, but I don't know, maybe--we were tired. We were, we were harried, we were uh, un...unsure of--I think, most of us really didn't know. I wouldn't say we didn't know what we were doing, but we were um, uh, we were not really prepared for it or really trained for it. We ad hoc-ed everything as we went along. And uh, in some ways I'm surprised we did as, we did accomplish as much as we did do, but we could have accomplished a lot more if we had been better trained, better equipped and if some of us had not been uh, very young kids that, that, that hadn't yet the right kind of background and experience to uh, to uh, respond to, to this in a, in a, in a better way uh, I think, than uh, than we did. But as I say, we were saw--I think I mentioned last time our, our unit was on...had only, most of the time had only six people. There were two officers and four enlisted men. And um, uh, we would pick up sort of a ??? around us. Once we had a Czechoslovakian fellow that traveled around with us, once we had that French couple, once we had--l...literally, we just sort of got uh, uh, people who, who uh, uh, in exchange for food and for security would just sort of augment our staff to, to work with us as best as they could and uh, it usually helped obviously if they knew a little English because only two out of the six of us knew any l...any lang...two of us knew German, the others didn't know anything other than English, so.

© Board of Regents University of Michigan-Dearborn