Edward R. Murrow’s Report From Buchenwald
Legendary CBS reporter Edward R. Murrow described the scene at Buchenwald when he entered the camp after liberation: There surged around me an evil-smelling stink, men and boys reached out to touch me. They were in rags and the remnants of uniforms. Death already had marked many of them, but they were smiling with their eyes. I looked out over the mass of men to the green fields beyond, where well-fed Germans were ploughing…
I asked to see one of the barracks. It happened to be occupied by Czechoslovaks. When I entered, men crowded around, tried to lift me to their shoulders. They were too weak. Many of them could not get out of bed. I was told that this building had once stabled 80 horses. There were 1200 men in it, five to a bunk. The stink was beyond all description. They called the doctor. We inspected his records. There were only names in the little black book -nothing more -nothing about who had been where, what he had done or hoped. Behind the names of those who had died, there was a cross. I counted them. They totaled 242 -242 out of 1200, in one month.
As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others, they must have been over 60, were crawling toward the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it. In another part of the camp they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only 6 years old. One rolled up his sleeves, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm. B-6030, it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die. An elderly man standing beside me said: “The children -enemies of the state!” I could see their ribs through their thin shirts…
We went to the hospital. It was full. The doctor told me that 200 had died the day before. I asked the cause of death. He shrugged and said: “tuberculosis, starvation, fatigue and there are many who have no desire to live. It is very difficult.” He pulled back the blanket from a man’s feet to show me how swollen they were. The man was dead. Most of the patients could not move. I asked to see the kitchen. It was clean. The German in charge …. showed me the daily ration. One piece of brown bread about as thick as your thumb, on top of it a piece of margarine as big as three sticks of chewing gum. That, and a little stew, was what they received every 24 hours. He had a chart on the wall. Very complicated it was. There were little red tabs scattered through it. He said that was to indicate each 10 men who died. He had to account for the rations and he added: “We’re very efficient here.”
We proceeded to the small courtyard. The wall adjoined what had been a stable or garage. We entered. It was floored with concrete. There were two rows of bodies stacked up like cordwood. They were thin and very white. Some of the bodies were terribly bruised; though there seemed to be little flesh to bruise. Some had been shot through the head, but they bled but little. I arrived at the conclusion that all that was mortal of more than 500 men and boys lay there in two neat piles. There was a German trailer, which must have contained another 50, but it wasn’t possible to count them. The clothing was piled in a heap against the wall. It appeared that most of the men and boys had died of starvation; they had not been executed. But the manner of death seemed unimportant. Murder had been done at Buchenwald. God alone knows how many men and boys have died there during the last 12 years. Thursday, I was told that there were more than 20,000 in the camp. There had been as many as 60,000. Where are they now? I pray you to believe what I have said about Buchenwald. I reported what I saw and heard, but only part of it. For most of it, I have no words. If I have offended you by this rather mild account of Buchenwald, I’m not in the least sorry…
“They died 900 a Day in ‘the Best’ Nazi Death Camp,” PM, April 16, 1945
Canadians and the Holocaust
From the KLB Club and the accounts of Edward Carter-Edwards of Smithville, Ontario
Whenever the word Holocaust is heard on the radio, read in the newspapers or seen on TV, immediately scenes of crematoriums, mass graves of murdered innocent civilians, gas chambers, women, children, old and young men being savagely .herded into box-cars flash before our eyes. Yes, the whole world is aware of the” Holocaust, in which millions of Jewish people and other nationalities were exterminated, What is not known, especially here in Canada, is that 26 •former Canadian Air Force Air Crew personnel ended up in the infamous concentration camp called the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, and most survived 3 months as inmates of this ho1·rendous “Dea th Camp”. The question you may ask is, “How did this happen”? During the Spring of 1944 up to and shortly after “D” Day, with the increase of bomber and fighter raids on France, Holland and Belgium, a greater number of Air Crews were being shot down, which meant the Resistance movement was helping and handling more people than usual. This allowed the German Intelligence and their Collaborators to mingle unnoticed more easily with the Resistance and turn the Air Crew personnel over to the German authorities after arrangements had been made to move the Air Crew to safety whether to Spain, Switzerland, or holed up at a location picked out by the Resistance people, This is what happened to me. and all· the 168 Allied Air Crew who ended up in Buchenwald. While hiding out, most Airmen changed into civilian cl_othes to avoid capture. Regretfully, when turned over to the German authorities upon being sold out by a collaborator, we were classified as spies and saboteurs and threatened to be shot. We were beaten very thoroughly upon capture and taken to the notorious Gestapo prison called “Fresnes” near Paris, again beaten up, interrogated and threatened to be shot. Most spent many weeks in this prison, sometimes- four people to a cell approx. 6 ft. by 8 ft., infested with fleas, lice etc., and with meagre rations of food. Many became ill with dysentery and very weak from lack of exercise,
Eventually, because the Allies were rapidly approaching the city of·Paris, the German authorities evacuated the whole Prison, which contained captured members of ·the French Underground, black market operators, criminals, anyone who opposed the authority of the ruling German forces etc,, all civilian.s. We were the only militai-y personnel in Fresnes, and according to the Geneva Convention, we should have never been there in the first place. Most of us retained part of our uniform and our dog tags for identification, but when I was turned over to the German forces by the driver of the car I was in, a Collaborator, my dog tags were torn from my neck by the German Officer I stood in front of, and jabbing his Luger into my face he forced me to the ground and then kicked me, all the while calling me a spy and saboteur and asking me, “now prove who you say you are”. With my identification gone, I was at the mercy of this officer and his men and ended up in the Fresnes Prison along with the other 25 Canadians and part of the other 168 Allied Air Crew.
The whole Prison was taken to the ·railway yard by German trucks and buses and forced into box-cars. Some of the cars had 80 or 90 people packed into them, which meant the occupants could not lie down, sit down or stretch out. Toilet facilities consisted of an open pail in the centre of the box-car, which meant those near the centre were forced to suffer being splashed by the contents of the pail, again a most degrading experience. Very little food was supplied while on the trip to the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, which added to our already weakened condition. We were constantly exposed to strafing by our own Fighters and bombing by our own forces while standing at various marshalling yards. We were constantly threatened to be machine-gunned because many of the prisoners were hysterical, crying out for mercy and some of our group tried escaping by tearing up floor boards in the cars they were in. For this, all the occupants were forced to remove their clothing and threatened to be executed.
We eventually reached the Buchenwald Concentration Camp and immediately when the box-car doors were opened, we realized we were in for a very hard time. We were greeted by members of the dreaded ”SS” forces and a rifle butt or a Jack Boot directed you to the gates of the camp. Once inside the camp, the sights, sounds and smel1s before us turned any hope of survival into dispair. One of the sadistic pleasures enjoyed by the brutal guards, was grasping the collar of a guard dog in their hands, giving an order to the dog, releasing their hold whereas the dog jumped for tour face and the guard would pull back on the leash when the snarling teeth were only inches from your face, whereas the guards broke out in hillarious, savage, laughter; a most demoralizing experience.
Here we saw walking skeletons shuffling along with a minimum of clothing, many having no shoes at all, we didn’t either. There were electric fences, machine guns in towers, dogs snapping and snarling at will and orders being shouted out in German followed by a kick in the back or a rifle butt to the head. Here we found ourselves in a hopeless situation. Even though we tried to quote the protection we were entitled to under the Geneva Convention, our pleas fell on deaf ears and we were again called spies and saboteurs and told we would not leave Buchenwald. We found ourselves part of the 40,00q old and young men, even very young boys in this camp, and were treated like the rest of the civilian prisoners, The food was worse than in Fresnes in that maggots, fleas and lice we1·e floating i.n the very watery vegetable soup, the bread . was a very smal 1 portion and was very hard and tasted terrible. Very little meat was available which meant mass stai·va tion was taking place and everyone became extremely ill, losing 40 lbs, or more over the 3 month period while in Buchenwald. Roll call took several hours to perform twice a day and no one was allowed to leave the spot where they were sanding under threat of being shot on site. I personally witnessed this, taking place on· one of the roll calls. Everyone suffered dysentery and was passing blood which meant standing for the roll call posed a very embarrassing situation, as one could not leave the ranks to go to the “Pit”. Many of the sick prisoners fainted or collapsed train standing in all kinds of weather for this torturous roll call and no assistance was available for them, a very demoralizing situation, believe me. Tiny cuts,,flea bites etc, quickly became infected running sores and no medical treatment was available, w·hich meant you either survived on your own or died and were cremated. We lost 2 of our group in Buchenwald and they were cremated. I developed pneumonia and pleurisy while in Buchenwald and moved to a hut where the dying and very sick prisoners were housed. No medical treatment was given, it was simply a case of isolating us from the rest of the camp. I witnessed dozens of the sick prisoners dying every day, their fleshless skeletons placed on a wooden carrier.like cordwood and taken to the crematorium. The crematorium operated 24 ho11rs every day casting a pungent smell. over the camp; a very demoralizing and sickening situation to face every day. While in Buchenwald, we were aware that 30 Allied Intelligence Operators were in this camp and they were executed by hanging from hooks on a wall, a fate that was supposed to befall our group. Through· some miracle, the German Air Force became aware we were in Buchenwald and removed us to a regular POW Camp called Stalag Luft 3, – just in time, as we were slated to be executed by han9ing with piano wire. This miracle took place the last week of November 1944 for me, as I was too ill to be moved with the rest of our group who had left a little earlier; a few left a little later. It is difficult to believe a race of so called human beings could execute such inhuman, savage, callous, degrading treatment on :fellow human beings. I shall never, never forget this terrible experience as long as I live, and neither will the other 16 surviving members of the Canadian Air Crew. I sincerely hope that these dark pages of history will never repeat themselves.
October 23, 2001 Canadian Airmen to Receive Compensation from Germany
Ottawa -The Honourable Ron J. Duhamel, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Western Economic Diversification) (Francophonie), announced today that 15 surviving Canadian veteran airmen will receive financial compensation from Germany for injustices suffered at Buchenwald Concentration Camp during the Second World War. The compensation will be provided through the “Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” which has been set up by the German Government and German industry to compensate fmmer slave workers and forced labourers under the Nazi regime. These ainnen are unique among Canadian war veterans in that they were mistakenly arrested as civilians, detained under inhumane conditions in a concentration camp instead of a prisoner-of-war camp, and compelled to work. “We are pleased with this news,” said Minister Duhamel. 11While no amount of compensation can remove the scars of their wartime memories, this is an important recognition of the suffering of these deserving veterans.” An initial installment of approximately $5,400 CON (representing 50 per cent of the maximum 15,000 DM per person) will be made to each of the 15 surviving airmen from the International Organization for Migration (!OM). The !OM is one of the
organizations processing the compensation claims for the Foundation. The Government of Canada has decided to provide equal compensation payments to the surviving spouses of four airmen. These surviving spouses were not eligible for the German compensation because their husbands had died prior to the eligibility
timeframe set by the German legislation. These cheques will be sent directly from Veterans Affairs Canada. Additional installments to the airmen will depend on the total number of eligible applications the !OM receives before its December 200 l deadline. This recognition from Germany is in addition to a special payment which the Government of Canada made in 1998 to this group for the three months they spent at Buchenwald in 1944 in recognition of the particularly harsh treatment to which they were subjected. Other Canadians who were victims of slave or forced labour in German concentration camps can contact the !OM regarding application information by telephoning at (613) 237-0651