Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
- Advanced Placement European
I Company Recollections and Quotes
As I Company neared the SS infirmary, Private Lee recalled: "My buddy and I heard a loud scream and commotion around the side of one of the buildings. We went to investigate and there were two inmates beating a [German] medic in a white coat with shovels. By the time we got there, he was a bloody mess. We ordered them to halt. They said they were Poles, and one of them dropped his pants to show he had been castrated in the hospital and this German was somehow involved in the operation."
Several of the SS prisoners in the coal yard refused to keep their hands up, and others began muttering to each other in German. At that point, the handful of GIs guarding them were getting nervous. Lee recalled that the GIs "shouted for the SS to keep their Goddamned hands up and stay back."
The SS men, seeing the machine gun being cocked, apparently thought they were about to be shot. They panicked and started toward the Americans. Someone yelled "FIRE!" and the machine gun opened up with a short burst of fire. Three or four riflemen also fired.
"The gunner had fired one burst - maybe ten or twelve shots - at the guards." The SS guard dived for the ground, but in the hail of gunfire, 17 of them were killed. Sparks said: "I ran back an kicked the gunner in the back and knocked him forward onto the gun, then grabbed him by the collar and yelled, 'What the hell are you doing?' He said they were trying to get away, and then he started crying. I pulled out my .45 and fired several shots into the air and said there would be no more firing unless I gave the Order. I told them I was taking over command of the company."
"I recall seeing the ovens used to burn bodies and recollect there were still some partly consumed bodies in some of them," Bird said. "One of my buddies photographed many scenes there, and later provided copies. I do not have them now because I think my mother destroyed them, since they were beyond her belief."
Northwest Corner of the Prison
According to Linden's later testimony to the inspector general, at approximately 1530 the 42nd's advance party, following on the heels of the 45th, came upon the ghastly scene at the railroad siding. Technician Fifth Grade John R. Veitch, who was driving a jeep, recalled: "I had no idea where we were going or what we were going to see. Then we encountered the train with all the bodies. It was terrible."
Following Guerisse toward some buildings, Walsh was astounded by the hellish scenes that unfolded before him. "There's two or three guys in uniform that are being hammered to death with shovels… by the inmates. They're the kapos or the… trustees, or whatever. They have them in every camp, and there they are they're being beaten to death. And he takes us up into an area where they had been experimenting on high-altitude stuff… there were a lot of bodies on this boardwalk outside this building… where they used to take these high-altitude tests… used to put these guys in this thing and drain the air out… I go to another barracks and the bunks are roughly four feet high, and they're all full of straw. There's no mattresses or anything… There's an old guy in the second bunk and he's reached out and he's got a cigarette in hand. A German cigarette, I think and it's water stained, a little yellow color on it, and he's offering it to me. The Englishman's right behind me and, of course, everybody is staring out of their bunks at us … and I say 'Oh, no, you keep it.'"
Guerisse understood the significance of that gesture. By offering to give away his only worldly possession, the prisoner was showing his deep gratitude for the arrival of the Americans. Guerisse whispered in Walsh's ear: "Take it. That's the only thing that guy owns in this world. That's his everything… a cigarette. Take it."
- AP Modern European History in Depth -
Lecture Notes and Further Reading
Modern European History Quotes
AP Class Activities
Additonal Course Info / AP Class Policy
Highlands Ranch High School 9375 South Cresthill Lane Highlands Ranch, Colorado 80126 303-471-7000
Mr. Sedivy's History Classes
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