Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Eugene Arden - February 21, 1984

Helping Civilians

Uh, last time we talked, you mentioned something about um, a few people said, you said some of the inmates asked if you would help relatives and you said there were one or two people that you had made contact with, although not, not enough. Do you remember any, any of those specifics beside this French couple that you mentioned?

Um, I really don't and probably whatever little we ever tried we were unsuccessful at. It, it, the, the thing you know, one characteristic of the t...of, of that whole period that, that needs to be uh, emphasized, probably many other people that you spoke to I would think that they, they, they emphasize it too, was the--how chaotic the conditions were. How--I mean, our own mail didn't come through but for sometimes weeks at a time and we just didn't know uh, off...officially we had even, we had less information than you could get over the radio. If we really wanted to know what the hell was going on in Europe we turned on Armed Forces Radio just to, it, it. We simply didn't know. The only thing that we had was a kind of informal network that helped a little bit, although not all that much uh, because a great many of us in the uh, military government units that were then skimmed off and put into this uh, either Displaced Persons Camps, which is where I spent most of my time or on occasion even a uh, a concentration camp assignment uh, most of us knew each other in England and in France. Uh, we camped in the same general area together. I don't mean that we knew each other the way maybe um, a dozen or fifteen people would, I'm talking about several hundred people. But in any unit there would usually be one of the men who happened to have been friendly with someone in a second unit of military government and then another guy was friendly with a third one or two officers had trained together back in the States even and had ended up uh, within uh, you know, twenty or thirty or forty or fifty miles of one another in terms of what uh, county or uh, or city that we were assigned to. So there was a certain amount of uh, getting back and forth to one another, even occasionally visiting with one another and trying to pick up some news of who was doing what and how things looked and uh, how you accomplished things, uh. I can't uh, give you uh, I--the specifics are difficult but a lot of times we would say, we would ask another things like, "All right, if you need some lumber to uh, build something um, uh, where did you get it?" You know, uh, uh, which really meant most of the time, what did you trade for it? Because half of what we got or more didn't even come through regular you know, army supply uh, routes.

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