Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Eugene Arden - February 21, 1984

Return to Normal Life

After you um, were there for awhile in Landsberg um, were there any signs of beginning to go back to traditional Jewish life? Were there religious services? Did they, uh, uh...

No, having been there only, as I say, I think barely three weeks, that would have been much too--I mean, I don't---I never heard from any of the other units either that had been uh, for, for brief period of times in uh, uh, in, in the camps. I, I never, I don't recall ever hearing that um, uh, religious services were organized or, or undertaken. Now that might have come a little later or it might have just uh, but no. I um, I think that's another way uh, in which uh, at least those of us in the military government or in the, or in the camp unit that failed. I have to tell you, to my shame, that I don't recall any of us even asking if there were an interest in that. Now of course there wouldn't have been any prayer books, I mean or any shawls or anything, I mean, there, uh. But it didn't even occur to us that we might have gotten a minyan together you know, just then if somebody remembered some prayers or whatever that they could have, could have said them. Um, uh, it was just uh, I couldn't tell you why. It uh, it just that um, we didn't do that and we certainly, and we certainly should have, but uh...

None of the prisoners asked either.

Not that I can--I don't recall that ever being asked uh, of, of me. Of course, I don't know whether--they, they wouldn't have known one, one of us from another, so I suppose they might have asked some--one of the you know, it could have been that someone of them had asked one of the non-Jewish fellows and he didn't even know what he was talking about or didn't understand it or thought that it was irrelevant or we don't have any kind of we you know, we don't have that, we don't do that in the Army or something like that. And, and just brushed it off and never reported it or never suggested it. But um, it, it had, it had never, it had never come up. Now again, the people who were involved on a longer range--I don't even know who succeeded us. We'd get orders to move out and we'd go to so on, and then they'd say, here's the next place and, until V-E day on, on May 8th. And um, never, never knew what happened um, uh, at all. Now we didn't you know, well obviou...we didn't live in the camp. We, the, the detachment--the, the unit lived uh, in a, a, a couple of houses uh, within a few miles of the camp. I mean, civilian--regular civilian houses that had, had uh, had been requisitioned, uh. And um, but we did talk occasionally with some of the people in the, it, it, it was like a suburban, it wasn't rural really, it was more suburban um, uh, area and uh, we, we had the usual responses. I, I, I guess we scoffed at them then and maybe we would still scoff at them now. That until really very close to the end, they weren't aware that this was a concentration camp. It was--they knew obviously there was a labor camp there, that there were people who were prisoners. They wore you know, the uh, striped clothing and, and so on and so forth. And, of course, there were no, as I say, there was no crematoria, there were no crematoria there so, uh. But we you know, we talked as best as our--a few of us knew G...uh, let me see, of the six of us really only two of us were uh, even moderately fluent in German. Um, a couple of others knew a little bit of German. Uh, but uh, we weren't exactly a model linguistic team either you know, uh, it--considering especially in the Displaced Persons camp where you had maybe, I don't know, a dozen or fifteen languages represented. An awful lot of hand signs, body English and, and hollering was a way of communicating. We, we were uh, we'd have done well to have had some more people who knew Hungarian and Romanian and Polish and uh, Czech and so on. Now, of course, you couldn't have you know, a specialist in every language, but I wish we had had a little more uh, a little more um, uh, lang...ling...linguistic uh, ability in our unit than we did have.

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