14 April, 2012

14 April 1945

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
14 April, 1945       0935

My dearest sweetheart –

Last nite I received a couple of letters from you – the more recent being of the 30th March. They were both swell and made me feel mellow and content and I would love to have been near you. I was – in spirit – though – and it’s strange how time teaches you to appreciate something other than the material thing. I think it’s a good lesson to learn, too.

I also got mail from Dad A, and one from Stan Levine. He told me about the “big heads” everyone in Washington had the morning after the false rumor. He also mentioned that his mother was coming down for a few days.

And over here, sweetheart, the war goes on. Every now and then something turns up to remind us of that. Of course – the whole thing is so pointless and aggravating. Were we fighting a normal enemy – it would all have been over with when we crossed the Rhine. And it won’t end when we reach Berlin, either. We’ll have to wheel around, some North, some South – until we occupy every square inch of this cursed land. But that shouldn’t take long.

When we travel as swiftly as we do – we naturally by-pass many spots with fighting Germans left behind. Occasionally they’ll sneak in and shell a town – which is amazing, to say the least. One other thing disturbed all of us here in this town. We’ve read about it and so have you. The slave labor camp and crematory set-up. This town has one and we’ve seen it. Whenever in the past I’ve seen pictures of it – I’ve always found it difficult to believe. Words can’t describe what it’s actually like and our Colonel has had every one in Battalion go up to see it – just so we’ll remember what the Germans are. There were 3500 of them – mostly starved to death; the others riddled by machine-gun bullets; children, women, men. One of the men told us that they cremated 9000 of them in the past year – and he said that only some of them were dead before being cremated. Those we saw were laid out in long rows – a mass of skin and bones. The crematory had the gas chamber, the butcher table and all. Such depravity and bestiality just isn’t comprehensible unless you see it – and if anyone has a plan to exterminate all Germans – I’m for it.

[Some of Greg's experience of Nordhausen was captured in 5 photographs
which can be found by clicking on the box above, labeled "NORDHAUSEN."]

Well – to get on to a more pleasant subjects – I enjoyed the cartoon of Dahl that you enclosed in your latest letter. I always liked his style; he has such a nice way of putting his point cross. And you asked me about a cable on my Birthday, darling. No. I never received it and had even forgotten that you had told me about it. I suppose it got lost – but when I get it, dear, I’ll get the same kick out of it, because after all, it’s from you.

Your account of the peace story was interesting and I wonder just who started it. There just won’t be a peace, dear. There’ll just be a statement from Eisenhower that the campaign in Europe is over. We haven’t had any rumors here and it’s just as well.

Say – you once asked me about a Scheft family in Salem. Seems to me there were two Scheft girls I knew slightly when I was in Beverly – but I can’t remember much about them when I was in Salem. The family I knew were very ordinary – as I remember it. I wonder if it’s the same; be interested to hear.

Well, Sweetheart, I must be off. I’ve been interrupted twice and it is now 1140. They’ve locked up the owner of this place because he had slave labor and he’s to be investigated. I’ve got to tell his wife he won’t be back for awhile.

So long for now, dear, and love to the folks. Remember I love you strong, hard and ever.

All my deepest love,

P.S. Enclosed make 18. By the way – am not sending negatives. Will you ask the folks if they want them – I don’t think they do because there’s none of me.
Love, G


about Mittelbau-Dora and Nordhausen

Mittelbau-Dora (also Dora-Mittelbau and Nordhausen-Dora) was a Nazi Germany labor camp that provided workers for the Mittelwerk V-2 rocket factory, situated near Nordhausen, Germany. Approximately 60,000 prisoners from 21 nations (mostly Russians, Poles, and French) passed through Dora. An estimated 20,000 inmates died; 9000 died from exhaustion and collapse, 350 hanged (including 200 for sabotage), the remainder died mainly from disease and starvation. There were eventually 40 sub-camps of Konzentrationslager Mittelbau (Concentration Camp Central Construction).

Following Hitler's 22 August 1943 order for Heinrich Himmler to use concentration camp workers for A-4 production, 107 inmates arrived at Nordhausen from Buchenwald on 28 August 1943, followed by 1,223 on 2 September. Peenemünde workers departed for Dora on 13 October 1943. Originally called "Block 17/3 Buchenwald," the SS administration ordered Dora to be politically separated from Buchenwald at the end of September 1944 and to become the center of Konzentrationslager Mittelbau. In effect, the camp became operational on 1 November 1944 with 32,471 prisoners.

Tunnels in the Kohnstein mountain were used as quarters until workers completed the Dora camp on 31 December 1943, less than a kilometer from the tunnel B entrance to the South. The camp had 58 barracks buildings and the underground detainee accommodations ("sleeping tunnels") were dismantled in May 1944.

Official visits included a 10 December 1943 visit to Dora by Albert Speer, and Wernher von Braun visited the Nordhausen plant on 25 January 1944. Von Braun returned for a 6 May 1944, meeting with Walter Dornberger and Arthur Rudolph where Albin Sawatzki discussed the need to enslave 1,800 more skilled French workers.

Although most of the prisoners were men, a few women were held in the Dora Mittelbau camp and in the Groß Werther sub-camp. Only one woman guard is now known to have served in Dora. Regardless of sex, all prisoners were treated with extreme cruelty, which caused illness, injuries and deaths. Examples of the cruelty routinely inflicted on prisoners include: severe beatings that could permanently disable and/or disfigure the victims, deliberate and life-threatening starvation, physical and mental torture as well as summary execution under the smallest pretext.

The SS used the Boelcke Kaserne, a former barracks in Nordhausen city, as a dumping ground for hopeless prisoner cases. On the night of 2 April 1945, Royal Air Force bombers burned down much of Nordhausen city in two nighttime fire raids, killing 1,500 sick prisoners at Boelcke Kaserne. On 3 April 1945, prisoners began leaving Dora to the Harzungen sub-camp about 10 miles (16 km) around Kohnstein mountain.

Private John M. Galione of the 104th Timberwolf Army Infantry Division discovered Mittelbau Dora on 10 April 1945, and broke into the camp with the help of two other soldiers before sunrise on 11 April. Galione then radioed the Third Armored Division and various 104th Division attachments, giving them directions to the camp. The medics of the 3rd Armored Division (United States) reported that they discovered Nordhausen Camp on the way to Camp Dora (Dora and Nordhausen are two separate camps within the same complex). Lying in both camps were about 5,000 corpses. Over 1,200 patients were evacuated, with 15 dying en route to the hospital area and 300 subsequently dying of malnutrition.

From the book "Inside the Vicious Heart - Americans and the Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps" written by Robert H. Abzug and published by Oxford University Press, New York, 1958, comes this text, picture and quotes:
The Americans evacuated the survivors to army hospitals or evicted Germans from apartments in town and used these living quarters as makeshift clinics. The dead, thousands of them, posed a greater challenge. First the bodies were taken from the barracks and laid side by side over an area of two acres. Two thousand townspeople, who had been forcibly enlisted for the burial effort, were divided into two groups. The first dug a series of trench graves 150 feet long and 5 feet wide, room enough for somewhere between fifty and a hundred bodies, on a hill overlooking the camp. The other group carried the corpses the half-mile between the camp and the burial trenches, sometimes two or four men to a body, in a seemingly endless procession.

Oh the odors, well there is no way to describe the odors... Many of the boys I am talking about now - these were tough soldiers, there were combat men who had been all the way through the invasion - were ill and vomiting, throwing up, just the sight of this... - C.W. Doughty, 49th Engineers, Combat Battalion, attached to the Third Armored Division at the time of the Nordhausen liberation

[The prisoners] were so thin they didn't have anything - didn't have any buttocks to lie on; there wasn't any flesh on their arms to rest their skulls on... one man that I saw there who had died on his knees with his arms and head in a praying position and he was still here, apparently had been for days. - William B. Lovelady, commander of the task force of the Third Armored Division which captured Nordhausen

I must also say that my fellow G.I.'s, most of them American born, had no particular feeling for fighting the Germans. They also thought that any storeies they had read in the paper, or that I had told them of hirst-hand experience, were either not true or at least exaggerated. And it did not sink in, what this was all about, until we got into Nordhausen. - Fred Bohn, an Austrian-born American soldier who helped liberate Nordhausen
Here is film footage taken during the liberation of Nordhausen...


This video shows images from KZ DORA MITTELBAU then and now...

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