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Anthony Acevedo oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Michael Hirsh.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (21 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (8 p.)
Concentration camp liberators oral history project
This interview was conducted as research for The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust / Michael Hirsch (New York: Bantam Books, 2010).
Interview conducted November 1, 2008.
This is an oral history interview with World War II prisoner of war Anthony Acevedo. Acevedo was a medic in the 70th Infantry Division, captured at the Battle of the Bulge. He was sent first to Stalag IX B, was interrogated there, and was then sent to Berga along with 350 other American POWs. Acevedo describes the incident that, in his opinion, led to this: while a teenager in Mexico, he heard a radio message about German spies, which he reported to his father, a public official. He continued to work as a medic while in Berga, keeping records and trying to help his fellow prisoners. They left Berga on a death march, and were eventually liberated by the American army.
The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust (New York: Bantam Books, 2010) and Concentration Camp Liberators Oral History Project, University of South Florida Libraries, 2010 Michael Hirsh.
Transcripts, excerpts, or any component of this interview may be used without the author's express written permission only for educational or research purposes. No portion of the interview audio or text may be broadcast, cablecast, webcast, or distributed without the author's express written permission.
Infantry Division, 70th.
Infantry Division, 70th
v Personal narratives.
Berga (Concentration camp)
Stalag IX B.
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
Personal narratives, American.
World War, 1939-1945
Prisoners of war
Crimes against humanity.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center.
University of South Florida.
Special & Digital Collections.
Oral History Program.
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects.
Concentration camp liberators oral history project.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Anthony Acevedo: We had the last person that died, and we rushed out when we heard the rumbling, and we headed almost tripping on the grass, on the dirt and all that, to head for the highway. When the Armored Division came back, we were flabbergasted. We thought we were done for, because they were pointing rifles at us, thinking that we were the enemy.
Michael Hirsh: Mm-hm. Is it okay if I turn the recorder on?
AA: No, no, no. Fine.
MH: Okay. Im talking with Anthony Acevedo, A-c-e-v-e-d-o. So, you didnt even know that it was Americans at that point.
AA: They didnt know that we were Americans.
MH: Oh, got it.
AA: Yeah. I mean, we heard the rumbling of the machine guns and tanks coming. We thought, Oh, my God, here comes our liberators. But the German commanders wanted to force us to follow them. We were at the end, at a stalemate; we couldnt do anything anymore. Our last buddy at thatwhat youd call a barn, (inaudible), I mean, he died, and the Germans started to get off. They tried to force us by gun to get us to follow them. But we headedas soon as they left, one of the guards handed over his rifle and committed himself to us, and he said, Im your prisoner. And then, from there on, then we headed out towards the tanks. Just then, they were rumbling close by, and I remember when I got up to the highway, one of the fellows in the tank picked me up by one arm and set me right on the tank.
AA: I was down to about 87 pounds, from 149. Just rolling down the highway, a ladya girlhad a flask on her shoulder, and she had milk. Ill never forget it. She offered it, and I drank some of the milk, but it made me sick. My stomach got bloated up, and they had to pump it out when I got to the hospital.
MH: When they say thatIve talked to other prisoners, other GIs who said that when they came across death marches, that the Germans just seemed to run off. And thats what happened with nearly all of them with you, is they just took off running?
AA: Well, they took off. They just felt thatwell, the Germans, they more or less felt that the Russians werethey didnt care for the Russians. They were afraid of the Russians, to fall in the hands of the Russians. They more or less felt that it would bethey would feel that they would be morein American hands, because they would have felt more secured. And the Russians were more savage.
MH: Right. How did you happen to draw the picture of the death march?
AA: Well, to illustrate my mind, if I could draw any better, I wish I would have illustrated a little better. But what I saw, it was very, very, very emotional. When I saw the people heading from one end to the other trying to fight for their lives, and jump over the fences. They had no other ways to dosave their lives.
MH: Where is this that youre talking about, now?
MH: Tell me where youre talking about; when youre talking about jumping over the fence.
AA: Off the highway, on the death march.
MH: Oh, okay. Right.
AA: When the Germans had miniature tanks, remote controlled tanks, we were pushing and pulling a wagon with our fellows on top of the wagon dying of thirst, dying of hunger, dying of diseases. There was no other thing to survive.
MH: What were the remote controlled tanks all about?
AA: Well, I understood that the Germans had established, was that they hadwe were supposed to, I understood that we were supposed to head to Hitlers nest; home.
AA: Bavaria. So, I understood that what I heard was clear of the blue sky that they had these tanks shuttle behind us in case we tried to escape. They could blow up a tank, in case we tried to escape. It was remote controlled.
MH: How big were they?
AA: Small. I dont think they were knee-size.
MH: Okay. And how many were there following you?
AA: I dont know. There were several. They were behind us: two, three, four.
MH: What was the first time you ever saw those tanks?
AA: Thats the first time in my life.
MH: You never saw them at Berga?
AA: No, no, no. Never. As a matter of fact, thisI mean, youre here. When you hear whispers, and you hear one whisper from the other; it travels among fellows one to the other, and this came up maybe from one of the guards, remote controlled tanks. Whats the first thing you think? Your life.
MH: Yeah. It just seems like such a strange thing for them to put on the road.
AA: Right. Exactly. Who would have thought of it? I mean, the Germans had intuition of everything. They were the Gestapo.
AA: We were under SS, the Gestapo. You never heard of it, but that was the worstwhatd you call?
MH: I know the casualty rate for Berga, the POWs at Berga, was higher than anywhere else.
AA: Yes. Yes.
MH: You were at Stalag IX B first, right?
AA: Yes, I was at Stalag IX B.
MH: Did they tell you why they picked you to go to Berga?
AA: No, but I figured why.
AA: I was interrogated for spying on two employees of my fathers when I was seventeen and a half years old, when I lived in Mexico.
AA: I dont know if you heard about it?
MH: No, I havent. I dont know anything about it.
AA: I grew upmy parents were kicked out of the United States at time, during the [Great] Depression. I was about ten years old when my parents had to leave the United States. I grew up in Pasadena, California
AA: with my cousins, half-cousins. I lost my mother when I was a year and a half old, then my father remarried. When he remarriedwell, he was a professional engineer, architectural engineer, lived in Mexico. I didnt think about much. Well, whats Mexico? It was nothing to me, because in those days it was almost like I was oblivious to everything. All I lived for was
AA: Raised in aslept outside of my house, slept in the garage. Didnt have anywhere to sleep but [to] sleep outside. My half-cousins would accompany me to keep me company. Thats that story.
MH: How did you end up in the American Army?
AA: When I wasthe American Consulate in Mexico kept after me and kept close tabs, and told me not to forget that Im supposed to come back to the United States. During that time, in the forties [1940s] right up around forty-two , there was the Olympics in Mexico. My father built a big swimming pool, Olympic swimming pool. Ill never forget the Olympics. There were two students and myself; we used to travel to school in the morning. Get up in the morning at five oclock, go swimming at that swimming pool, Olympic swimming pool.
And then, that one morning, five oclock in the morning, we were out there swimming in the midst, and one of my buddies whispers that theres a spy going on, and that radio operators that my father had that worked in thatthe swimming pool was a radio operation. He heard the Morse code, and he picked up the message. It said that spiesBaja, California submarines. U-boats were connecting with Durango, Mexico. I didnt realize that Durango had a German colony. Well, I knew the Schrader familythey owned the hardware storebut who would think that they were in operation with the Germans? Not that I know. But they were nice people, and he was our Scoutmaster. He and I worked a lot, because I knew English and I provided all the information I could to show the fellows, the students, the English language.
When that message came through, immediately we got out of there, and I headed tomy father was the director of public works for the state of Durango. I went in and gave him the message that there was a spy going on. So, they were arrested. And so, take it from there until I was captured and I was interrogatedand blue, and I was blue sky. Â I was in acrucified. My interrogators put needles in my fingernails [to get me] to talk.
MH: At Stalag IX B?
AA: Yep. Thats where I got interrogated. So, what happened was that when they selected 350 American Jews that look Jew, spoke Jew, they had a name Jew, they carried a star (inaudible), and theyre undesirables. I didnt know. I mean, a question mark. I didnt know nothing. But then I was picked, probably by the group, to be sent to a slave camp.
MH: So, they found out about you turning in the people in Durango.
MH: I had read in one book that, in addition to the Jews, they were also sending Catholics. So, they were sending Jews, Catholics, and troublemakers.
AA: Exactly, undesirables.
MH: Undesirables. Okay. So, that was you.
AA: That was me. (laughs)
MH: (laughs) Im glad you can laugh about it now.
AA: What can I do? (laughs)
MH: Yes. Well, (laughs) Im sorry.
AA: No, but this is a deep story to the whole thing, because it does make lifeyou can say more, the feelings, the subjections, the way you were subjected to it. Being a medic is worse, and trying to do the medic is worse.
MH: Did they let you operate as a medic in Berga, or did you have to work the tunnels, too?
AA: No. No, I didnt have to work in the tunnels, but I kept records to see that the fellows were kept alive. And I tried to maintain a schedule, so that they can vary the personnel in and out, but they wouldnt let me. Theres a lot of details to that.
MH: You didnt have any medicine or anything else to work with, did you?
AA: I only had sulfas with me all the time, and morphine.
MH: Did the Germans give you that?
AA: No, I carried it with me.
MH: So, when you went to Berga, you still had it?
AA: I still had it with me.
MH: Im surprised they didnt search you and take it away from you.
AA: Being a medic, they shouldnt have.
AA: I tried to hide them.
MH: So, you had it what, in your field jacket?
AA: I had them in my field jacket, in my pouch, in between myin the seams of my pants.
MH: Amazing. Being a medic has to be one of the toughest jobs in combat. I was
AA: Yeah, especially when I wanted to operate on one of the fellows before we headed for that death march. When I was toldI wanted to operate on that fellow because he wasnt going to make it. There were six fellows seriously ill, heading for a British hospital. This one fellow had diphtheria. He couldnt breathe anymore; he wasnt going to make it. I asked the guard if I could operate on him, put a tracheotomy. He called the commander, the commander came over and he stood there, and I told him, If I dont operate, youre going to kill him. He got the rifle and beat me to a pulp, and hit me right square in the face, in the jaw, the neck.
MH: That was Metz
Nazi Commander Erwin Metz, who headed the Berga camp.
MH: And the man died.
AA: Oh, yeah, he died. He couldnt breathe anymore. I was going to use my fountain pen as a tracheotomy.
MH: Right. How much advance notice did they give you before they started the death march?
AA: Oh! Were going tomorrow, leaving tomorrow. Get up in the morning. Were leaving.
MH: Okay. Now, I have one other strange question to ask you. When the American aircraft would go overhead, when they were going on the mission to bomb Dresden and there were a thousand planes going overhead, were those planes going over at daytime or at nighttime?
AA: Sometimes they were in daytime, depending on the clarity of the skies. I mean, you could feel the hinges of the windows coming apart.
MH: From the vibration from the planes?
AA: From the vibration, yes.
MH: How did that make you feel when you saw that, or felt that?
AA: We were emotional. We cried. We made the sign of the crossIm a Catholic.
AA: They would bea guard, an Austrian guardtheyre very Catholic. They would look up at the sky and made the sign of the cross and said, Oh, God, help us. They were glad to see our planes bombing.
MH: The Austrian guards were?
AA: Yeah. Oh, yeah. But they had to treat us as bad as the Germans, otherwise they would get punished.
MH: Okay. All right, well, I thank you very much for talking to me. I really appreciate it.
MH: Ill send you an email with my address, and Ill tell you a little bit about the book.
MH: When you have time, if you could send me that drawing. And Id also like to get a picture of you, but Ill put it in the email. Okay?
MH: All right. Thank you very much, Tony. I sure appreciate you calling me back.
AA: It was a pleasure.
MH: Okay. I will talk to you.
AA: Thank you.
MH: Youre welcome, sir. Thank you for everything you did, too.
AA: Thank you.
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