[Twelfth Armored Division, Scrapbook 6] Page: 175 of 220
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striped suits wandering about the countryside. Some looked like walking skeletons. We
were in hot pursuit of the Germans and didn't have time to look after them. That would •
be for the troops behind us. My military duties were urgent and I could not stay longer.
We returned to headquarters where I ran into Capt. Wurm, a Jewish boy from New
York City, who was Chief of the "Order of Battle" Section of the Division Intelligence
Section. He had captured one of the high officials of one of the camps. Capt. Wurm
told me he had great difficulty getting the prisoner back to headquarters alive for
interrogation as the soldiers, who were so incensed at what they had seen that they
wanted to kill him.
Capt. Wurm also told me about an inmate he had talked with. This inmate was the
middle generation of three generations of his family in the camp. One day the guards
built a large fire and told him to push his father into it. He refused to do it. But
his father told him to go ahead as at least the son would survive. So he pushed his
father into the fire and the father perished. Some days later the guards built another
fire and told him to push his son into it. He refused. The guards led him away. They
were deciding what to do with him. Meanwhile our tanks arrived and the father was
liberated. Capt. Wurm said the man was crazy with hatred and probably would kill
Germans until the man himself was killed.
When I returned to Division Headquarters I found that my typhus shot was about to
become outdated, so I took another one.
Now I will give you Sgt. Hartwig's story. Sgt. Hartwig visited the camp the
next day when they were burying the bodies. Sgt. Hartwig begins by saying:
"Last night we moved into a town-—a very new town—new in the sense that the
krauts had just been run out of it. We roamed around a little catching all the
new rumors. There were some people who had been released from a camp. They told
us stories about some of the atrocities practiced by the Germans on their prisoners.
We took their stories, as one might say, 'with a grain of salt' and'didn't believe
all they had to say. They told us of being slowly starved, having to eat snails,
dandelions, weeds, and occasionally thin potato soup.
"Later in the evening at a meeting, our Captain John Paul Jones, commanding
Company C, 134th Armored Ordinance Battalion, told us of a slave labor camp near
us where some two hundred people had been burned that morning. That seemed impos-
sible to us as did the other stories. The next morning I had a chance to ride to
the scene, to actually view the results of this mass barbarianism and to take some
pictures. Our party consisted of Capt. Jones, Tec. 5 Robert L. Tannehill, Pfc.
<• Singer, and myself. After driving about eight miles we knew we were near a camp
site because of the sickening odor of burning bodies. About a mile to our right
were some smoking ruins. We drove past signs warning of typhus. As we drove
toward the buildings the sight that met our eyes was unbelievable. There were
rows upon rows of dead—dead who had died different and more horrible deaths.
We learned that the majority had died from injections. Injections of what we
were not sure. Some appeared to have been poisoned. I am told that people in
their condition were also killed by an injection of oxygen into their blood stream.
:? We know that some of them were as long as thirty hours dying. Even when we were
^ there an occasional groan could be heard from someone in that mass—-or movement
of an arm or leg could be seen. The expressions on their faces were indescrib-
able. The positions that they were in—some half sitting, others up on one arm or
I will now digress from Sgt. Hartwig's story to 3how you some of his photographs.
Number 1 is the entrance to the camp—a simple wire gate about 6f or 7 feet high
topped with barbed wire and a small sentry house to the right.
Number 2 is a scene of about five bodies scattered about just inside the gate.
The roof of a sleeping quarters building is in the near background and the edge
, of another building is on the left.
Note the expressions on the faces and how thin the people are in the following
Number 3 is a close-up of some of the bodies. One nan's face is shown adjacent
to the lower edge of the photograph about one-fourth the distance from the left.
Number 4 is also a close-up of some of the bodies but it didri't develop too
well. There were quite a few bodies in this group.
Number 5 is a close-up of two bodies. The face and meek of the one on the
left is covered with sores. So is the nose of the body on the right.
Number 6 is a close-up of four bodies. Notice how gaunt .they are. This
photo shows the head and upper torso of the bodies.
Number 7 is a close-up of two more bodies. Note the ribs and sunken cheeks.
This photograph shows the upper half of two bodies and the foot (on the left)
of a third body.
These close-ups show something of the condition) of the bodies and how the
inmates of the camp were starved and worked to death. It was completely un-
believable that one human being could do this to another. All of the bodies
shown in the following photographs looked this bad or worse.
We will now go back to Ggt. Hartwig's story.
"For now, let us identify the place as in the LandsbergiConcentration Camp area.
In the short time we were there we drove by five separate camp sites, each occupying
possibly a thousand acres. One of these we explored rather thoroughly. This particular
camp was known as the 'krankenlager', meaning in English the 'sick samp'. This is where
the biggest burnings took place. Many buildings were left standing. We went through
some of those that were empty. The odor was nauseating. The floor of each building
was of dirt and about three feet below the surface of the ground. It had a roughly
constructed wooden roof that was covered with dirt. There was no provision for drainage
and the slightest rain would leave water on the floor. Each building was about fifty
feet long and about fifteen feet wide. There was a wooden shelf about one and a half
feet above the floor and about five feet wide along each wall. A small pad of straw
was the bedding for prisoners sleeping on the shelf. They slept with their feet toward
the aisle. There was one stove in the middle of each building and without fuel. I
don't believe there was as much fuel in the whole camp as I have seen behind the average
farmhouse in Germany. There was one window at each end. (The roofs of two of the
buildings are shown in picture number 8 and one in picture number 9. Picture number
10 shows the inside of a building—note the disorderly condition.)
"The Germans claimed that the condition of the prisoners was due to typhus. Now
we knew that this was generally not true. Their ill health was due to malnutrition and
overwork. The kitchen was^ a filthy, half open building and contained large cooking pots
used to prepare soup and liquid foods. There was nothing in the building that could
have been used for preparing solid foods of any kind. Their food ration consisted of
potato soup trade to the proportion of one pound of potatoes to one gallon of water.
To make it worse the cooks ate a considerable amount of the potatoes instead of using
them in the soup. One one-pound loaf of bread was issued for eight men each day.
"Muoh of our information was gathered from two living inmates who had escaped into
the woods a few days before the Americans came. They had known from the ^actions of
the guards that the Americans were coming. One of these fellows was a Russian and the
other Jewish. They told us that approximately four hundred in walking condition of the
original four thousand were marched away the day before the Americans came. They showed
us records kept in the camp. (Picture number 11 showp a prisoner explaining things to
the GI's.) All the people in this camp were political prisoners. About three-fourths
of them were Jewish and the rest a mixture of othGr nationalities. .The Jewish fellow had
watched his wife and children be put in the gas chamber. He had been used on the work
detail that cleaned the bodies of his wife and children out of the gas chamber when
dead. He explained what the common method of mass burning was before the gas chamber
was perfected. A pit nine by thirty feet was filled with burning coals and live human
beings were dumped into this pit from railroad cars. The ashes were used for fertilizer.
"The first pile of dead contained about five hundred bodies. Some were burned,
many given injections and many more were beaten to death. (See picture number 12 for
a portion of the five hundred—note the grotesque positions.) Others we re killed with
an axe. (See picture number 13 for a killed by chopping his head off.)
"These were all freshly killed with their bodies still soft. Their skin was waxy
and wrapped tightly around the bones. The largest average diameter of their thighs was
about five inches. The hands were like claws. The skin was worn through to the meat
on the hands and knees of those who couldn't walk but could only crawl. Many carried
open wounds—old wounds for there was no nutrition to repair the tissues. Arras and
legs were broken, hanging rotting. (Show picture number 12 again. Picture number 14
shows some additional bodies?.)
"The GIs.went into Landsberg that morning and collected about two hundred Nazi
citizens and marched them out “to the camp. They were real nice Germans—the wealthy
ones. Let me say here that no one has money unless he is a Nazi. These were fat
Nazis, well dressed, yes, and some with shiny bald heads.
"Out at the camp they were divided into two groups. Part of them were put into
digging mass graves. (See picture number 15 which shows German civilians digging a
mass gravel) Each grave was thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide—rows of them. The
GI's were in charge. The digging didn't stop nor was there any hesitation on the part
of the diggers. Rifle butts and bayonets were used freely. Here let me put in that
Here’s what’s next.
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United States. Army. 12th Armored Division. [Twelfth Armored Division, Scrapbook 6], book, Date Unknown; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth639084/m1/175/: accessed August 13, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting The 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum.