Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Eugene Arden - February 21, 1984


Can I stop you for a second?


Let me go back to Landsberg. What, what confronted you, how many people you think, what, what were conditions, what was the barracks like?

The barracks were uh, just um, they were just, they were barracks that were--they had double decker beds uh, quite close together. One had impressions of like masses of faces peering out at you. It was obviously overcrowded, it was obviously unsanitary, it was obviously um, uh, dirty and, and smelly and, and uh, uh. The people were emaciated you know, they were just what they looked like, I mean, just what you would expect them to look like and uh, needed a great deal of medical attention. Oh you know, I, I'm, everything you say is obvious you know, I mean, you can't--it's very difficult to say anything that isn't...

Did you speak to them?

Uh, some. They were not um, you had to be around them for a little while before you could speak to them. They were, we had uniforms on and most of them were really afraid of us. Or at least they appeared to be afraid um, it was very difficult to make connection uh, w...with them. And um, generally speaking the sicker they--I--you know, I'm not sure this generalization--I don't know that I can, I could prove this in any empirical way. But my, my general impression then and memory now is that the sicker the people were, the harder it was to reach them, to make any, any real contact. I think that they were so beaten down and so fearful that you know, even an irrational fear that is. I think they knew, they knew we were Americans and that they you know, and that everything was going to be different. But they were still afraid of us. Or, or uh, very cautious, very reluctant to uh, um, uh, get close to us. And it was very, it was very difficult uh, to get beyond the crudest um, uh, kind of, of, of relationship where we could you know, help them medically. Incidentally the--there were German nuns uh, that were probably the most useful people on the camp there for the first--we weren't there for but a few, three weeks I think, in Landsberg itself, in Landsberg camp. And for most of that time, the most im...important people were really uh, those with some kind of medical, these were uh, um, uh, uh, nuns who were, who had trained as nurses. And uh, uh, they were absolutely marvelous. I, I mean, I don't know you know, what their feelings were about these uh, Jewish victims or what role they had played or not played in the past uh, in terms of their--the, the nun--the order of nuns and the like. But they were um, uh, they seemed to need no sleep. They worked harder than we did and longer than we did and they were doing in general I would say more useful things than we, we were for the first few weeks. But of course we were able to, we were able to route food in there, we were able to get uh, some clothing in there, we were able to get some shelter in there. We had--we were very short-handed and very short of supplies but we were great scroungers and um, we uh, uh, and the food wasn't you know, it was a lot of times it was just those uh, c-rations and cardboard uh, uh, containers. Uh, but, umm...

Did anybody react--have physical reactions to the food? The prisoners?

Not--you know, the specific nature of that is I, no one, I, I'm not sure that I know what you mean. I mean, no one said or this is the best stuff we've had, but obviously they needed nourishment and they took the food and ate the food and, and many of them um, um, uh, I--when I say got better. I mean, the, the, the uh, um, nature of the life in, in, in the camp uh, improved uh, more quickly than I think you would--you know, than you would imagine. Some delousing and some quinine or similar types of, of general purpose you know, medicine. Uh, some uh, sterilized water. Um, some assurance that everything was going to be okay. You know, whether they believed you right at the moment or not, um...

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