Controlling Disease and Saving Lives in Nazi Concentration Camps

How do American soldiers Prioritize?

Body disposal and sanitation would seem less crucial priorities than providing camp survivors with food and medical assistance; however, these concerns had to be addressed concurrently. The removal of dead bodies, human waste, and infectious materials was an essential step in preventing the spread of communicable and often fatal diseases. Moreover, to provide even minimal food, an adequate safe water supply first had to be restored. A sanitary report from Mauthausen reveals the priorities of American personnel supervising the camp.

"First contact was on May 5. An American command was placed over the camp on the 6th. On the 7th a surgeon arrived and on the 8th, sanitary and public health teams from the Army and Corps began surveys and recommendations....Burials were begun immediately and continued daily. The removal of thousands of tons of trash and filth was organized under medical and line enlisted men of the division."[1] Conditions at Dachau and other camps were little different. "Only a few hours after the camp was liberated doctors and nurses moved into the camp...and the work of burying the dead began."[2]

[1]Sanitary Report Mauthausen, May 1945, to Surgeon General's Office, HQ 11th Armored Division, RG 407; HQ 11th Armored Division, Office of Surgeon General, Sanitary Report, CampMauthausen, 8-25 May 1945, RG 407.

[2]42nd "Rainbow" Infantry Division, 1946; Reese, 2, Emory.

Caring for the Living, Burying the Dead

Despite the pressing needs of the still living, burial of the dead inmates could not be postponed. In some camps it was impossible to walk without stepping around or over corpses.[1] At other locations a few survivors were found in the huge piles of corpses scattered around the concentration camp compounds. GIs worked frantically to locate these individuals, transporting them to infirmaries and temporary hospitals.

At Mauthausen Sergeant David Malachowsky and other soldiers were searching for those still alive. He described the assistance he and his men received. "Other groups came up, medical battalions and units; infantry men dropped their rifles, dropped their guns and began sorting these people out."[2] Approximately 500 survivors were removed from Camp Nordhausen and transported to the 51st Field Hospital. Military Government experts estimated that after this sorting 3,000 bodies remained to be buried.[3]

After survivors had been isolated and transferred to locations where they would receive medical assistance, the second order of business for many military units was the disposal of mountains of corpses. Mass burials, usually in unmarked graves, and general clean up of the camp grounds proceeded simultaneously.[4] At Bergen-Belsen SS were employed to collect bodies and perform menial labor. Paul Trepman recalled, "a few dozen SS men, all high-ranking officers--who are still here in Bergen-Belsen have to work like mules. They're cleaning up the camp, gathering up the unburied corpses of the inmates and piling them in one place."

[1]Ichelson, I Was There, 162; Simon Wiesenthal, in Gerd Korman, ed., The Hunter and the Hunted: Human History of the Holocaust, (New York: Viking Press, 1973), 288; Military Government Report, DET H6B3, Nordhausen, 12-15 April 1945, RG 331.

[2]Malakowsky, Liberators, 32; Mantler, 6, Emory.

[3]Military Government Report, DET H6B3, Nordhausen, 12-15 April 1945, RG 331.

[4]Inspection at Mauthausen, Nuremberg Trials Library, 24 May 1945, RG 238; Ichelson, I Was There, 162; McKeithern, 17, Q-Ast.

Death After the Days of Liberation

An official with Military Government made reference to Greek mythology when describing the duties of captured SS. "The SS staff of approximately 35 men and some women have been arrested and, under strict guard, are in the process of cleaning out this Augean Stable."[1] In liberated camps where no SS were captured, Military Government CO's obtained SS prisoners from nearby prison camps and under guard put them to work on body disposal.[2]

Tragically, many camp inmates who survived to the day of liberation died subsequently. Grover Carr described numerous truckloads of victims who died after liberation being taken to burial sites outside of the Dachau compound. SS were involved in these mass burials as well. "Behind the crematorium, SS men were digging graves for our 3,000 comrades who had died of starvation and exhaustion after the arrival of the Americans."[3]

The initial graves were usually no more than open pits into which bodies were bulldozed or haphazardly thrown. In some locations tanks equipped with blades were used to dig lengthy trenches. Most of the bodies buried in these pits and trenches had no identification.[4] As additional medical teams arrived to care for the survivors, more personnel were released to give careful attention to the burial of the remaining dead.

For example, at Mauthausen an initial 700 bodies were buried in mass without identification in the Sportzplatz, previously a recreation area for the SS. Later burials were individual, and the dead received the dignity of a Christian Cross or a Jewish Star of David inscribed with the victim's name and nationality.[5]

[1]Paul T. Trepman, Among Man and Beasts, (New York: A.S. Barnes and Company, 1978), 223; 411th Infantry Regiment, 103rd Division, Unit History, 1 May 1945, RG 407; CA/MG Weekly Field Report, No. 47, 21st Army Group, 10 May 1945, B15, Series I, RG 332.

[2]Berry, 71st Came, 1. The following excerpt gives some indication of the scope of the task faced by allied personnel. "Although the task of cleaning the camp had gone on busily for over a week...our immediate and continuing impression was of intense squalor; the odor of dissolution and disease still pervaded the entire place." "Buchenwald Parliamentary, RG 319.

[3]Carr, Grover C., Manuscript, "Individuality Lost World War II," World War II Collection, MHI; Wiesenthal, in Korman, Hunter and Hunted, 288.

[4]Prophetis, Gratz; Dowdle, 77, DMC.

[5]Seibel, USHMM. An additional 1,300 camp inmates died during Colonel Seibel's assignment to Mauthausen.

Civilians Participate in Burial Duty

As the burial process continued extensive use was made of German civilian labor. At Nordhausen civilians were required to assist military personnel with the overwhelming task of burying over 2,000 bodies. Approximately 150 civilians were engaged in general cleanup duties while another group of 250 removed bodies from buildings and transported them to the designated burial site. The commanding officer gave the local burgermeister one hour to devise a decent burial plan for the victims of Nordhausen.

This plan was implemented with local labor and the Catholic Chaplain assigned to the 104th Division said mass for those buried at Nordhausen. The commanding officer's report concluded, "At 1400 hours today, 15 April 1945, 2017 bodies have been interred. The cemetery was then cleaned up and white markers placed at the ends of the graves...It is recommended that the Military Government Detachment assigned to Nordhausen continue the supervision of this cemetery and see that grass is sowed and every effort made to beautify the spot."[1]

The efforts at Nordhausen were repeated throughout Germany at numerous camps where German civilians, under the supervision of American GIs, were required to serve as work crews both for cleanup and burial details. In many locations local townspeople, including women and older children, were compelled to attend funeral services as well.[2]

[1]Military Government Report, DET H6B3, Nordhausen, 12-15 April 1945, RG 331.

[2]Doyle, ILC; Gavin, 289.

Housing and a Safe Water Supply

The barracks and the buildings where camp inmates had been warehoused were usually burned to the ground. They were so filthy and disease ridden that to sanitize and restore the buildings was deemed impossible, not worth the labor required.[1] American officers also realized that camp survivors would find it morally and physically repugnant to return to the original buildings for medical care, no matter how thoroughly they had been cleansed or deloused.

A safe water supply and facilities for human waste were crucial concerns for the American Military Government personnel. In numerous camps, Gusen, Mauthausen, Buchenwald among others, no water supply or sewage system was operational at the time of liberation.[2] Initially American soldiers had to truck water in from army water depots for the use of the inmates and their own men.

Water kegs with faucets were placed in makeshift kitchens under armed guard to supply drinking water.[3] Engineer battalions worked feverishly to restore power lines and open up water mains. A report from Mauthausen indicated that "progress was rapid once electric power had been restored and the water reservoirs continued full. It was then possible to shower all the ambulatory patients in camp and clean the habitable places."

[1]Seibel, Buch, USHMM; Draper, 84th Infantry, 244; Dowdle, 77, DMC.

[2]HQ 120th EvacuationHospital, 26 October 1945, RG 407; HQ 11th Armored Division, Office of Surgeon, Sanitary Report--CampMauthausen. 8-25 May 1945, RG 407; 131st EvacuationHospital, Report--Gusen, 14 May 1945, RG 407.

[3]HQ 11th Armored Division, Office of Surgeon General, Sanitary Report -Camp Mauthausen, 8-25 May 1945, RG 407.

An Enormous and Overwhelming Task

By May 13, seventy-two shower heads were available at Mauthausen.[1] With an adequate water supply established, the next priority was the construction of an adequate number of wooden box latrines. In most camps the sewage disposal system was non-operational and would require extensive repair, cleanup, and expansion in order to serve the needs of the liberated inmates.[2]

In camp locations where sufficient skilled American troops were made available, work progressed on several fronts simultaneously. Medical personnel would immediately administer basic care, engineers would work on burial, trash disposal, water supply and sewage problems, while other detachments were busy constructing tent hospitals, field kitchens, and transporting, sometimes confiscating, the tons of supplies that were needed at virtually every camp discovered.

It was an enormous and overwhelming undertaking for American GIs, well beyond the efforts imposed upon soldiers at the conclusion of most wars and conflicts.

[1]Sanitary Report, Mauthausen, May 1945, to Surgeon General's Office, HQ 11th Armored Division, RG 407; 131st EvacuationHospital Report, Mauthausen Concentration Camp, 13 May 1945, RG 407.

[2]1st Unit, 30th Field Hospital, 25 June 1945, RG 407; 131st Evacuation Hospital Report, Mauthausen, 14 May 1945, RG 407.

The American Liberation of Concentration Camps

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Your Comments are Welcome and Appreciated 46 comments

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

The over whelming sadness. But the overwhelming humanity that fought to stop it and then to help. Horrible but yet inspiring. Never forget.

midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

This is why there should never be war....restoration is so heart rending and backbreaking. Thanks for sharing.

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

I cannot even imagine such in this life . . . that there are those who actually lived, suffered and died through such horrors.

God bless, Faith Reaper

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

If there is an underlying theme to my life, it is probably, Think Critically, Live Sacrificially, and Never Forget. From my father's family that lived through World War II, to my father's carer in the Air Force, to my mother's faith, to my choices in books and courses and education ---- they all lead to the same place.

Thank you Eric for reading and recognizing that in the very same place we find the greatest inhumanity which seeks to destroy, we also find the greatest humanity which seeks to save, preserve life, and redeem. Of course the redemption story functions on the mortal level, but our struggles are but a reflection, a shadow of the immortal and spiritual struggle waged on our behalf. In both cases the goal is to protect and redeem.....never thought about it quite like this before. Blessings.

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

This hub pulled me back as a song rang through my mind and continued playing. "as He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free"

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Eric - Is is a good and appropriate and moving song. I remember singing it a lot when I was a young girl. Theresa

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phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thanks so much for reading and commenting midget. Wouldn't that be an incredible world, if once and for all there was no more war. What a tremendous thing to hope for and work toward. Blessings. Theresa

phoenix2327 profile image

phoenix2327 3 years ago from United Kingdom

This was incredible. My mind can't even comprehend the level of emotion and determination needed to get this job done. You seldom read about 'what happened after...' This was a great history lesson.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi Faith - It is impossible to imagine. I started doing serious research on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust about twenty years ago in Grad School. To this day, when I look at the materials again, I am horrified, depressed and deeply saddened. I think those feelings would become a permanent condition, if they weren't balanced by the fact that I spend 80% of my time teaching other classes and working with students. Thanks for reading and commenting.

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

When will we all learn that war is terrible for the living and the dead. Someone is ultimately responsible for the cleanup, too, which is horrendous. Your hard work on this piece was excellent. Awesome and up.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello phoenix - We seldom do hear about what happened after and yet, there is this immense body of documents and reports from the very soldiers who were there just sitting in the National Archives. It surely required incredible determination and was a very emotional experience for them. It is emotional for me just writing about it. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. Theresa

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

phdast7 It's so clear that you have taken particular pains over this hub, im sure you must have copied, recopied and deleted so many different angles to come up with this final production.. That's how I come to see these types of hubs.. a well produced production.. and don't think your hard work goes unnoticed.. the final result is here .. uncovering the heartaches, the drama, the disease, the history.. thank you for not hesitating to point out the facts.. another hub well written.. no.. no I mean well produced..:)

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi avian - We study and teach history, but seldom do we focus on the aftermath, he cleanup, the attempt to restore society and civilization as best we can. Thank you for recognizing the time and effort that went into this essay.

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 3 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and interesting. The horror of those camps is overwhelming and you've graphically described it here to bring this to awareness. Great pics. Thanks for sharing your hard work. Passing this on.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Dear Frank - Thank you so much for noticing and commenting. This type of Hub is incredibly work and time intensive, which is why I can only produce one like this every now and then -- usually during my summer break (May, June, July) when I only teach two days a week and have considerably more time. Once you have amassed all the research, reports, documents, oral history transcripts, Unit Histories, military surveys, etc., then begins, as you graciously pointed out, the long job of sorting, arranging, and rearranging the information so that it conveys the reality of the historical events, but also conveys the truth of individual human experience. It is important to me for the sake of historical accuracy and in order to honor these men, America's soldiers, to "produce" the best work that I am able. I appreciate your emphasis on the work and care involved in the "final production." Theresa

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phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi Gypsy - It is hard work, but you are very welcome. Thank you for reading and commenting and sharing. The horror is overwhelming and yet I think we tend to forget what racism and extreme nationalism and conservatism (FASCISM) once led to and could lead to again. Theresa

MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

What can I say---this is such an awful piece of history, but it must be studied and shared. It is all we can do now for the victims: remember their story and grant them dignity posthumously. Thank you for being a historian for this extraordinarily difficult subject.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

MrsBrownsParlor - Thank you for reading and commenting. There isn't anything else we can do for those who suffered and died and not much we can do for their surviving families, but as you said, at least we can grant them the honor and dignity of being properly remembered. So aside from teaching a wide array of courses, what I do is research and present papers about various aspects of the Holocaust. It has only been in the last 18 months, and with great encouragement from a friend, that I have begun posting some of my work on HP. Thank you for the appreciation - generally historians work pretty much in solitude. Or with 30 hormonally challenged teenagers in the classroom! :)

MrsBrownsParlour profile image

MrsBrownsParlour 3 years ago from Chicagoland, Illinois

I think it's wonderful that you are sharing your work here, where you will reach a broader audience!

UnnamedHarald profile image

UnnamedHarald 3 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I know it's only a mini-series, but the episode in Band of Brothers where E company discovers the concentration camp is a very powerful scene-- just showing the tip of what your excellent article covers.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello Harald - Actually, they did a very good job in Band of Brothers,in particular with that scene. My oldest son bought the DVD's as soon as they cam out and we watched it together. I din't see anything that wasn't confirmed by the body of eye-witness testimony I used, and still use, in my research and writing. Thank you for the kind compliment. Hope your week has gone well. Theresa

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from California

You have so much knowledge in this area and you use it so well here. Somehow, making these more real for all of us seems important--humanizing an inhumane time.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello Audrey - It does seem important to me and I like how you phrased it, "humanizing an inhumane time."

I hope you have a productive and restful weekend. Blessings. Theresa

epigramman profile image

epigramman 3 years ago

Good morning Theresa from lake erie time 5:35am and you are the first read of my day with my first cup of coffee and a Joseph Haydn piano sonata playing and by 7am there will be a glorious daybreak and sunrise over the lake.

My dad who passed away back in 1992 missed the glory of the internet but he would have loved your writing. He was quite a historian himself and he fought in World War II as a Canadian soldier and landed on the Juno beach on D-Day.

In civilian life he wrote 69 novels and 1 memoirs of the war itself.

Certainly his son loves your writing and this is an essential subject to be taught to all of the classrooms in the world although as we both know - genocides/war attrocities are still happening.

Thank you for being a great writer and a truly caring person -

and sending you warm wishes from Colin and his cats

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Mercy me, Colin. You do get up with the early morning birds. Given the choice I am more of a night owl, and would work till 2 or 3 in the morning and get up at 10:00 every day. Of course I got up at six in the morning all those years my boys were at home. Had to see them off to school. :)

We have both lost our father's which is a hard thing. Yours served in WW II, mine in Vietnam. He was a loadmaster in charge of loading the planes that flew over Vietnam and dropped supplies for the troops- he was part of the ground troops ( in his mid thirties at the time).

Sixty-nine novels and a memoir! No wonder you are a writer! I do try to write well and like you of course, I think there is much history that we must keep teaching each generation. Sadly the atrocities do continue. Thank you for your warm wishes and give the cats an extra hig from me. Theresa

shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 3 years ago from Upstate, New York

I always devour your writings on WWII and must say thank you for providing such an important part of this horrible and dark chapter. Too often, future generations such as mine become detached from the awful and insurmountable suffering so many experienced. As you know, I read everything about WWII but more importantly the heartbreaking yet amazing strength so many survivors displayed. Making the local citizens bury the dead was necessary. So many not only stood by while others suffered and died, many locals supported the horrible death camps, turning a blind eye to their fellow human beings great suffering.

I have tears in my eyes from this important and necessary article.

Thank you again and I am voting up and sharing.

ImKarn23 profile image

ImKarn23 3 years ago

heartbreaking and disgusting beyond words!

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

hello ImKarn - Both words describe the events perfectly. Thanks for stopping to read.

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mours sshields 3 years ago from Elwood, Indiana

I can only imagine the awful task of burying so many people and trying to control sickness and disease. I'm sure it was extremely hard and overwhelming.

Marcia Ours

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi Marcia - Even after years and years of studying the Holocaust, it is still difficult for me to really understand what it must have been like for them. Like you, I can only imagine. Thanks for reading and commenting. Theresa

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hi shiningirish - I so appreciate your support and your encouraging words. It was indeed a terrible and dark chapter in the history of western civilization. Like you, I admire, and can;t imagine where they got it from, the strength and determination of the survivors. I wouldn't have lasted long at all...don't think most people today would have. I agree with you, I have always thought that making the locals participate in the burial was the right thing to do.

Thank you so much for reading, commenting, and sharing. I hope and trust that you and your family are all well. Take care. Theresa

tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

First we look on in disbelief and shock; then we try to look away, words like inhuman and horrendous comes to mind, but they don't come close to describing the horror of the holocaust, it is too terrible to comprehend. But we should remember!!...And you are right to remind us, lest we forget what a dark place this world can be when hell is unleashed on mankind. It is always painful to read about this subject, but I really admire your focus and determination. So much work must go into your research, but it must be heart wrenching also. Take care and my very best to you.


Peter Geekie profile image

Peter Geekie 3 years ago from Sittingbourne

Dear phdast7

Thank you for another exhaustive, well researched and written article on the almost overwhelming situation facing the various liberating forces when dealing with prison camps.

I can't help feeling that American and British troops were remarkably restrained when dealing with these monsters.

Kind regards Peter

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Hello Peter - You are more than welcome. They were cataclysmic events and they deserve to be well documented and it is good for us to remember. I agree with you entirely ... 99.9% of the time they exercised amazing restraint. I am not at all sure that I would have been able to do the same had I come face to face with those monsters. Thank you for reading and commenting.



ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 2 years ago

Theresa , as a patriot , a son of a soldier directly involved in the liberation of a couple of camps , a reader and writer : I want to say ,I am proud of you for carrying the torch of information often times forgotten , about the horrors of WWII , and heck ! ANY war ! I used to sit spellbound and listen to my Father describe the horrors of liberation ! Even fifty years afterwards , crying as he talked of just these issues ! He also talked of how the German civilians and public officials were force-marched through these camps by soldiers with orders to make them witness the horrors of what their blind following and ignorance had caused ! You have offered up many a historical article and hub to show the horrors of war . My Father would be as proud of you as I am !...Your buddy Ed

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

War is horrible. Thanks for shedding light on a sensitive subject that we should all be aware of. It makes me thankful for the soldiers

as well as those who try to make peace.

CarolynEmerick profile image

CarolynEmerick 2 years ago

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the Holocaust. It seems to always be everywhere, in film, books, articles, TV. It's just so horrific that sometimes I want to look away. But, of course, I have been exposed to a LOT of the history and I know the horrors of what happened, but there are others out there who do not know and NEED to be shown!

But to speak specifically your article, you bring a whole other level of understanding to the table. The Holocaust trauma did not end with liberation. I can't even imagine the emotion people felt having to dig those mass graves and basically throw human beings away with no marker to commemorate their life as an individual. It really makes you think about the aftermath of it all. It's not like America arrived and magically everything was perfect again. Victims of the Holocaust still had to face what happened, deal with it and somehow manage to rebuild new lives, often completely alone with no family left.

Since it's Holocaust remembrance day, I will give this a share on Facebook in memory of those lives lost. Thank you for keeping the flame burning for them.

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you Ed. Those long years I spent on research, interviews, and writing the dissertation, what kept me going was the belief that their story should be told and remembered. So, I did my best. Most on my earliest Hubs were taken from section of the dissertation, which didn't get published until last year (thank heavens for Amazon).

I am sure you were spellbound as he described his experiences. Being overcome with emotion and grief, crying, was a common reaction among the men I interviewed and studies, 30, 40, even 50 years later. It also brings tears to my eyes to know that you ad your father are proud of me. It makes all the effort that much more worthwhile. Would you mind sharing your father's name and Company, Battalion, Regiment, etc, with me. I may well have examined materials by men in the same Company, Battalion or Regiment. Blessings. Theresa

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phdast7 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

rebecca - It is indeed horrible and to be avoided if at all possible. Like you, I respect and admire those who defend our country and those wh work so hard to establish and preserve peace. They deserve both our respect and our thinks. Blessings. Theresa

ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 2 years ago

Theresa , My Father ; PFC Roland E Fisher , 334th , 84th infantry Division , Co. F , "The Rail-splitters " because they were so founded by Abe Lincoln in the civil war . My Father fought from the invasion of Normandy all the way to Berlin , throughout the "Battle of the Bulge " in 1944- 45 . after the surrender of Germany for a period of time ,I believe he also remained for "mop up" operations . Looking at the actual "Battle of the Bulge " , I find it hard to believe how tough these men truly were ! My father would have truly believed that you are a hero as well ! His one great wish , was to be remembered ! He wished ,also was for one of his sons to be an Infantry man ! You might think that with nine boys that would have happened ! My oldest brother Al, served proudly in Viet Nam , and Four older brothers served their country as well ! I once wrote a poem called "the hatchet men " because the Rail-splitters were so knick named that by the German SS troops fighting them in the" Bulge ", as with many soldiers my father suffered from what's now called PTSD , then called shell shock. He was also incredibly respected for his service by many friends and co-workers , as were many of our true patriots ! God Bless them all !...Ed

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Ed - It would have been a privilege to meet your father. He sounds just like so many of the tough, brave, and courageous GIs that I was fortunate to meet or interview in person when I was in graduate school, and hundreds of other soldiers that I came to know through their letters, reports, journals, and tape-recorded testimonies. All of these were the core of my research, my dissertation, and fifteen years later, a book, Confronting the Holocaust: American Soldiers Enter Concentration Camps.

So many people have told the story of WW II, the concentration camp, and the survivors, and they all deserve to be told, remembered, as your father said, but I wanted to tell the story and commemorate the American soldiers, who discovered, entered, and worked in the concentration camps and who were profoundly affected by their experiences. (During my research, it became very clear to me that many of them suffered terribly from what we today know as PTSD.)

Nine brothers, and so many of them served their country. My father was career Air Force and my grandfather, an uncle and my brother served in the army and navy. You are too kind and your father as well. They were and are the heroes. I am not a hero because I never had to sacrifice anything or face the possibility of death or terrible injury. But I was and am determined to keep their story alive to the best of my ability - in research, in writing, in my teaching, through HubPages, in any way that I can. Your father's generation was the greatest generation and they deserve our respect and honor. Thank you for sharing all this with me, it means a great deal to me. Theresa

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Carolyn - Sometimes it is overwhelming. The concentration camps were the focus of my graduate research and since I teach European history on the college level, it is something I teach fairly often. I find, like you mentioned, some people seem to have been exposed to WW II and holocaust history a lot, and other students seem to know nothing at all. :( You have analyzed and described my article well, and you are right, there was so much more to come, and to be done, after the camps were discovered, opened, and liberated.

Thank you so much for reading and then making such serious and important comments about what I wrote; it means a great deal to me. My grandparents and my father survived the Holocaust because the were Polish Catholics and they were very, very lucky. I do feel an obligation to "keep the flame alive" as best I can. Your comments and those of others give me hope. Theresa

CarolynEmerick profile image

CarolynEmerick 2 years ago

Theresa, with certain people out there denying the Holocaust today, what you are doing IS really important. Holocaust denial seems to be spreading. I spend time on international news pages and sometimes peruse the comments. Antisemitism has been growing over the years in Eastern Europe, and recent news stories from Ukraine highlight this. I have seen Eastern Europeans make comments about Jews that would be shocking and unacceptable to say in public in America, as if it's common opinion in their society. With Russia cozying up to Iran - another huge Holocaust denier... it's a little frightening wondering what could be brewing. I am very aware of the rise of antisemitism and vocal speaking out against it in my own spheres. So, even though as I mentioned I do often feel overwhelmed by the amount of Holocaust media I see, I absolutely believe it is important to keep that flame burning.

Your work is probably more important than you know. Remember one single person makes ripples that can reverberate into waves having impacts that you will never see. :-)

ahorseback profile image

ahorseback 2 years ago

Ahh but Theresa , I can see my Fathers tears right now saying ," YOU are the hero !" You , Theresa , keeping this alive . I mean ,can you even imagine how many are forgetting ? Or how many have chosen to say

" No , it couldn't have happened , because I didn't see it "? They are out there and you and I know that !.....Yes Theresa , you are a hero . Pure and simple !.........Ed

phdast7 profile image

phdast7 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Carolyn - It is quite disturbing. I think Holocaust Denial has been increasing during the past 15 years or so. It now seems acceptable for people to say things out loud, that once would have been unthinkable. Not sure why exactly. Politics have become polarizing, things like this get worse in rough and uncertain economic times, and clearly some political leaders and movements are using it to their advantage. Very disturbing and the Holocaust was not so long ago.

I am encouraged by your words. Maybe what I and many others do, does have ripple effects and contributes to positive changes. I certainly hope ao. Blessings. Theresa

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phdast7 2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Thank you Ed. You and your father have the right attitude. We should all care about the past and remember the reality of it and the sacrifices that were made by so many. If I can contribute to keeping those memories alive, then all the work has been worth it. Blessings have been worth it. Theresa

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