Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Eugene Arden - February 21, 1984

Knowledge of Camps

Wh...what was the first time you had heard about the camps? W...when were you briefed about any of this?

Uh, we really weren't. We were told at one point that we were headed for Landsberg. The only thing I knew about Landsberg at that time was that that's the place that Hitler had been in prison at one point and he had written a portion or all of Mein Kampf there and I thought as a young fellow uh, uh, my that'll be interesting to see, you know. I had no idea that we were coming to a concentration camp until we got there. I thought it was another displaced persons camp. In...incidentally, I, I, I should say maybe one other thing you know, sort of understand the setting at the time. The interest in the--of the Army in getting those displaced persons particularly uh, I had far more experience with DPs, as we called them, than with concentration or KZ people. But the, the interest of getting them into some kind of organized uh, uh, area and uh, uh, uh, fed and taken care of and deloused and, and was really control. Uh, I mean, I, I would hope that there was some feeling of um, uh, compassion and uh, concern for people who uh, who were uprooted and homeless and, and vulnerable and, and so on and so forth. But the main problem that they presented to the Army was that they clogged up the roads. Uh, they got into the way of things. Uh, they, they, they uh, in sufficient numbers they literally uh, impeded uh, some military operations and our principal objective we were told, was to get 'em out of the city streets, ou...off the roads, into--what we usually did was we took over abandoned German Army camps and converted them then to D...D...Displaced Persons camps.

The war was still going on.

Oh yes, yes. But the German Army by then was in very considerable retreat and disrepair and while uh, uh, most of this, most of my experience in Germany took place during uh, well, my experience with concentration camp--one concentration camp and, and various uh, uh, Displaced Person camps. It occurred during about the last three months of the war. Uh, February, March, April. Uh, on May, early May we--my unit had gotten across Germany into Austria, a town called Reutte, R-E-U-T-T-E. uh, which was uh, outside of Innsbruck. And we, we heard about the German surrender on the radio in Reutte, so that it literally was about a three to four month dash uh, trying to keep up with the 7th Army um, a...across uh, the uh, generally the southern tier of Germany uh, in...into Austria. So the war was still on and there were some casualties. Um, there were um, uh, I myself was in, was hospitalized uh, uh, once in Germany but that was because I was hit by an American tank, not by a German tank. Uh, but um, uh, so that in, in, in a sense, I mean, one can say yes, the war was on, but there was remarkably little hard fighting so that uh, we almost--our, our, our problem was to keep up with the Army rather than to worry about whether the Army units in front of us would be successful.

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