American G.I.’s began entering the Nazi concentration camps sixty-five years ago this month. Liberating. Witnessing. And showing the world the horrors of what had been done.
In recent weeks, ceremonies in Germany and the U.S. have commemorated the liberations, which continued through the month of April and into May, 1945.
The G.I.’s who were there are now in their twilight years, some already gone.
But their stories and their service remain an essential part of the Holocaust story. Today, we’ll hear their eyewitness accounts.
This Hour, On Point: G.I.’s and the concentration camps.
Michael Hirsh, author of “The Liberators: America’s Witnesses to the Holocaust.” You can read an excerpt. A Vietnam War veteran, Hirsh has written extensively on military affairs and was a longtime broadcast journalist. For the book, he interviewed more than 150 World War II veterans who entered the concentration camps. You can listen to many of the interviews Hirsh conducted, archived at the University of South Florida’s Holocaust and Genocide Studies Center Oral History Project.
Milton Silva, sergeant with the Army’s 120th Evacuation Hospital who arrived at the Nazi Buchenwald concentration camp on April 14, 1945, as U.S. troops liberated the complex and began helping survivors. He later spent a career as a judge in Massachusetts.
Stanley Friedenberg, an officer in the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps. He arrived at the Nazi Ohrdruf concentration camp on April 5, 1945, in the hours after U.S. troops first entered the complex. Part of the Buchenwald system of subcamps, Ohrdruf was the first concentration camp to be liberated by American soldiers. Later, Friedenberg was also at the concentration camp at Gusen-Mauthausen, in Austria, on May 5.