© 2014 Enfys McMurry All rights reserved.
May 9, 1945: The soldiers were now entering the concentration camps and witnessing the Nazi contempt for humanity. Gypsies, Germans who’d opposed the Nazis, homosexuals and Poles — but above all, Jews — were killed and it was done by experiments, disease, starvation and maltreatment. Pfc. Glen Morrow wrote to his mother in Centerville in such graphic terms much of the letter was deleted. A letter from Centerville’s Edson Kratzer told of being at Otting, where he watched his American officers dig up a mass grave of victims, build coffins for each one and then dig individual graves in the town’s best cemetery. Three coffins were put on display. All villagers were forced to file past them and pay tribute by sprinkling each with holy water. (504...to be continued)
May 10, 1945: Patton’s Third Army had reached Dachau. Centerville’s Major Charles Gragg found 38 flatcars standing on tracks filled with dead prisoners who’s been starved to death. He described the SS troopers as “bloodthirsty morons.” Harold Chapman wrote to his family in Centerville that he, too, had seen the flatcars. “When I entered the camp the prisoners appeared to be in a stupor… Then someone started to sing and it was as if the prisoners came to life.” They sang the Polish national anthem, the inmates apologizing to the soldiers for not knowing the words of “The Star Spangled Banner,” but they’d made a makeshift American flag and raised it over Dachau. (504...to be continued)
May 11, 1945: Of all the concentration camps, Buchenwald was the most disturbing. For Centerville’s Bob McGuire, it was unimaginable that human beings could be so treated. Lawrence “Sam” Mahoney, the engineer who’d been at the rebuilding of Cherbourg, was affected by its images for the rest of his life: the body piles, the mounds of ash, prisoners so starved they couldn’t move, lying in bunks “like big grocery shelves.” But the worst image, he said, was the prisoners’ eyes. They followed him wherever he moved. Their eyes haunted Sam forever. Another soldier haunted by what he saw was Centerville’s Cliff Herndon. After the initial shock, Cilff, a photographer, went back to camp to get his camera. He took pictures of Buchenwald:of prisoners holding up their arms to show their tattooed identification numbers; of men lying in their bunks; of cremation ovens; of the bodies, “just skin and bones,” lying in piles. Cliff sent his photographs to the Iowegian newspaper. “Print them,” he said, “...for one day people will refuse to believe what was done to human beings here.” Jesse Beck at the Iowegian printed only two, “as the others were too horrible to show.” (504/505)