Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Eugene Arden - February 21, 1984

Communicating with Inmates

Did you speak Yiddish?

Some. Yes, yeah. But I--also, a lot of them knew German. Well, I mean you know, regardless of where they came from. I suppose they had to learn at least whatever German they needed to follow orders and the like. Uh, there was a lot of uh, body English and uh, and uh. But it, it, it was all at that superficial level. As I look back at it now, I say to myself, why didn't I get closer? You know, why didn't I sort of try to locate a, a few of them and, and get clo...but I didn't. I don't know why I didn't, you know. I, I think now if I, if God forbid, there should be some group like that again and I could be there to uh, to help them in any way, instead of just being uh, a soldier uh, I, I, I, I would be more personal now. And whether we were just uh, I don't know why I, I--but I didn't manage to do it. I, it, it may be the failing of uh, of a nineteen year old. But I--as I look back on it now, I say to myself you know, why wasn't I closer to uh, uh, to some individual group or family or a couple of people. But uh, I think back and we were, we were busy all the time. We were driven, um, as a matter of fact uh, we even had a little sort of in-joke amongst ourselves--to think about something in the opposite direction. Uh, we had an additional officer attached to us for awhile named Lieutenant Moskowitz. Lieutenant Moskowitz um, really wanted to--I, I think he had the feeling that he was bringing you know, like enlightenment to Africa or something. He drove us crazy. We, we're going to the next camp and he'd say, "We'll get them, when we get there I'm going to make a nice speech. It's been years since anybody has talked to them in a nice way." And we would all, of course, we were enlisted men and couldn't say very much. But we thought, they don't want to hear a nice speech. They want food. They want medicine. They--you know, and we sort of made fun of, a...a...amongst ourselves. Uh, we had our little jokes about Lieutenant Moskowitz and which in some ways they were justified. But I think back on it now uh, Lieutenant Moskowitz might not have been altogether wrong. I wish I, I don't know. I really don't know.

Did they show any affect at all, any kind of emotional response when you appeared? You said that they just sort of stared at you.

Um, the ones that were healthier, that were stronger uh, tended to come forward more and, and uh, uh, to talk a little more and uh, uh, to ask us for food or for medicine or to help a relative or someone that was there in the camp. I would say really for the first--it's hard for me to get it back out of my memory--but it would seem to me that for at least the first four, five days uh, uh, there was um, um, not as much--they--you know, in the movies whenever the American troops come in all the prisoners cheer. There was no cheering here. They, they were just uh, they had given up, almost given up hope, I think. And we, we, all we gave them was uh, food and water and uh, blankets and uh, medicine and uh, the, the hope part of it came much later. We just didn't know enough. We weren't um, well equipped enough, we weren't--there weren't enough of us. Uh, we just never really got to that part, the, the, the affect, except with small numbers of them. And um, uh, I, uh...

Did anyone weep?

I wish I could do it over again, uh.

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