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Documents on the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald, near Weimar, from the collection of David Irving

A GI's daughter writes looking for information on Buchenwald concentration camp


November 14, 1999

Lisa Smith wrote from the United States:

I AM looking for information concerning the particular divisions of American soldiers who may have been involved in the liberation of Buchenwald as well as the clean-up operations following liberation. My father was an MP in the US Army and has just recently given me photos he took at a concentration camp to which he was assigned immediately following liberation. His task, along with his entire MP group, was to supervise the clean-up operations, including burying many of the dead.

He had purchased a Brownie camera several months prior to this when he was on a brief leave and used it to take several photos of what he saw as he was sure no one would believe him. He was just past 20 at the time. He has never spoken of this experience except one time, which was when he showed me the photos.

He is a little uncertain what the name of the camp was to which he was assigned, but he remembered it started with a "B" that the assignment came just a few days after his birthday April 12th. Which leads me to believe it may indeed have been Buchenwald. I have been searching through all the photos I can find on-line of the various camps in hope to find something that matches.

Lisa Smith


Friday, November 19, 1999

AS for my dad's memories: Several of the men in his unit were called out very early one morning; told to dress and report at a certain time outside the sleeping area but were not told where they were going.

Not everyone from his unit was selected to go (he was in the US Army 553rd division - Military Police). He told me they were placed in the back of a truck and driven to the camp. Before they got off the truck, their commanding officer told them that what they were to see that day would probably be the hardest thing to witness, but that they were there to be of service to civilians. Their task was to assist some of the stronger prisoners in clean-up of the camp and disposal of bodies and cremated remains.

Corpses at BuchenwaldThey came and went from wherever they were camped to what I now know was Buchenwald for some time until their work was finished. What I find strange is that they were not discouraged from taking photos (as you can tell from Dad's shots) nor from talking with freed prisoners.

He spoke of talking to some of the prisoners, described their wasted bodies and spirits. A natural pacifist himself, he was shocked that the men he spoke to in the camp did not seem to seek revenge... perhaps they were "too tired and beaten down" he said. He talked about digging mass graves for the bodies and cleaning out the bones and "dust" from the ovens. He mentioned getting food for the former prisoners and the fact that many could not hardly eat as they would get sick as soon as they swallowed something.

He often stopped suddenly while he spoke and would silently drift off into some memory which I guess was too hard to share. I wanted to question and pry and probe, but it was obvious that it was so painful to him and while I wanted to learn so much more, I couldn't bear to cause him any more pain. He also shared with me some photos from Look magazine from 1946 which showed him on his next assignment, on a hanging detail when there were several Nazis being tried for various war crimes.

He spoke more about those days and how hard it was to guard them during the trial and protect them when all he could remember was the bodies at the camp and the faces of the freed men who stayed to help. He took the photos back that day and put them away. It was several weeks later when I asked him if I could have them. He agreed, but when I tried to ask him more questions, he couldn't speak about it anymore and that was it! It was like the door to this part of his life opened on that one day alone and then shut tight again.

I often wonder how his life might have been had he not witnessed that. What kind of profound impact such an experience makes on a young man of just 20 years old. We know some of the impact it has made from some of the memoirs written by those who lived through it... but until I had this conversation with my dad in 1993, I never stopped to think about the ripple effect of the Holocaust on those who were more "indirectly" involved.

Lisa Smith

The above letters have been edited for posting on this website

David Irving replies, Thursday, Nov 18, 1999:

Lisa, -- it is clearly Buchenwald. I have a book showing the same pile of corpses, with the same wreaths on the window sill above them, captioned: "Buchenwald May 1945. Senator Alben Barkley of Kentucky viewing bodies of prisoners being taken to a mass grave."

You will find much information in this book, The End of the Holocaust, The Liberation of the Camps, by Jon Bridgman, Areopagitica press, Portland, Oregon (published 1990). You might like to see some documents I have already posted.

What does your father recall of that day? I will invite other visitors to my website to share their information with you.


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