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Ventura De La Torre oral history interview

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Material Information

Title:
Ventura De La Torre oral history interview
Series Title:
Concentration camp liberators oral history project
Uniform Title:
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects
Physical Description:
1 sound file (12 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Language:
English
Creator:
De La Torre, Ventura, 1924-
Hirsh, Michael, 1943-
University of South Florida Libraries -- Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center
University of South Florida -- Library. -- Special & Digital Collections. -- Oral History Program
Publisher:
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publication Date:

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Concentration camps -- History -- Germany   ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Concentration camps -- Germany   ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Concentration camps -- Liberation   ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Atrocities   ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American   ( lcsh )
World War, 1939-1945 -- Veterans -- United States   ( lcsh )
Veterans -- Interviews -- United States   ( lcsh )
Genocide   ( lcsh )
Crimes against humanity   ( lcsh )
Genre:
Oral history   ( local )
Online audio   ( local )
Oral history.   ( local )
Online audio.   ( local )
interview   ( marcgt )

Notes

Summary:
This is an oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator Ventura De La Torre. De La Torre was a truck driver in the 80th Infantry Division, which liberated Buchenwald on April 12, 1945. One of the division's original members, he arrived in Europe in August 1944; their first combat was at Argentan later that month. In this interview, De La Torre describes going into Buchenwald and seeing the prisoners, and his reaction to them.
Venue:
Interview conducted August 21, 2008.
Preferred Citation:
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.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Michael Hirsh.
General Note:
This interview was conducted as research for The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust / Michael Hirsch (New York: Bantam Books, 2010).

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 021796950
oclc - 587279325
usfldc doi - C65-00025
usfldc handle - c65.25
System ID:
SFS0022081:00001


This item is only available as the following downloads:


Full Text
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text Michael Hirsh: First of all, can you give me your name and spell it for me, please?
1
00:00:3.2
Ventura De La Torre: Ventura De La Torre. Capital D-e-capital L-a-capital T-o-r-r-e.
2
00:00:11.7
MH: And your address?
3
00:00:12.6
VT:
4
00:00:13.3
MH: And your phone number?
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00:00:13.7
VT:
6
00:00:14.2
MH: And whats your date of birth?
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00:00:15.1
VT: June 25, 1924.
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00:00:18.2
MH: What unit were you in?
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00:00:20.2
VT: I was with Cannon Company, 317 Regiment.
10
00:00:25.6
MH: Regiment of the 80th Division?
11
00:00:27.0
VT: 80th Infantry Division.
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00:00:29.2
MH: Where were you before you went in the Army?
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00:00:31.7
VT: Well, I was at home working.
14
00:00:35.9
MH: Wheres that?
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00:00:36.6
VT: In La Habra, California.
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00:00:38.8
MH: Okay. What were you doing?
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00:00:39.9
VT: I worked in the citrus groves; thats all there was in Orange County.
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00:00:46.6
MH: In Orange County, okay. So, you were drafted?
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00:00:48.7
VT: Yes.
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00:00:49.3
MH: And whered they send you?
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00:00:50.9
VT: They sent me to Little Rock, Arkansas. [Camp] Joseph T. Robinson.
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00:00:55.1
MH: Were you one of the original 80th guys?
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00:00:57.9
VT: I joined the Division out of Camp Forrest [Tennessee], 1943.
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00:01:5.2
MH: And went overseas when?
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00:01:7.1
VT: July 1, 1944.
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MH: Forty-four [1944]. Did you go on the Queen Mary?
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00:01:15.0
VT: Yes.
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MH: So, there were a lot of the guys from the division on that ship. You didnt go as a replacement?
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00:01:21.8
VT: Oh, yes. No, no.
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00:01:23.2
MH: Oh, okay. So you get to Europe. Where do you go? Whats your first combat?
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00:01:26.7
VT: Our first combat was in Argentan, in France, and it was August 12, 1944.
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00:01:36.8
MH: What was that like for you?
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00:01:38.8
VT: It was quite an experience. (laughs)
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00:01:42.3
MH: (laughs) Ill bet.
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VT: Well, being green, you knowfrom what I hear, we had lost a lot of men. In fact, one of my best buddies was killed the very first day there.
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00:01:53.3
MH: In Cannon Company, what was your job?
37
00:01:56.3
VT: I was a truck driver. I was doing a 105 Hauser. We had a crew of, I believe, nine or twelve; I forget now what there was. I was a driver, one of the drivers. We had six guns in our company. But the primary, it was just my driving. Wed unload the ammunition and help the crew with getting the shells ready and everything.
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00:02:30.5
MH: Right. Were you aware of the concentration camps or anything like that?
39
00:02:35.2
VT: No, not before, until that day they took us in to see what was going on in there. It was quite a shock see all those people half dead in there. And the people who were dead, stacked up like wood. You could open the barracks in there, and there were so many people in there; they couldnt even move, they were so weak.
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00:02:59.3
MH: When you went in the barracks, what did you see?
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00:03:1.4
VT: Well, those people lined up shoulder to shoulder there, and they were just staring at us. They couldnt believe what was going on, I guess. And they were so weak that a lot of them couldnt even get out. And there were dead with them in there. I dont know when they found out or how they were checked, but I guess they just take them out and just pile them up outside the barracks.
42
00:03:32.1
MH: What did you do? You walk in the barracks and you see this. What happens?
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00:03:35.9
VT: I couldnt believe it. It was a terrible sight, and [I was] feeling sorry for these people that they couldnt help themselves; nobody to help them. When we arrived, the people just walking toward us, like asking us, Get us out of here, that was our feeling.
44
00:03:58.0
MH: But they werent speaking English?
45
00:03:59.9
VT: No, no. They were different, I guess, different religionsI mean, nationalities. There were Poles, French. I dont know what the other ones were in there, but there were a lot of them.
46
00:04:17.4
MH: What did the ones who were walking look like? Are they dressed?
47
00:04:21.4
VT: Nowell, some just had a piece of blanket covering them. And their knees were nothing but skin and bone. Their ribsit was a terrible sight to see them. You see a person like that, and then theyre all over the place. From what I hear, the Germansbefore they left, they machine-gunned some of these inmates that were in there. The people were half dead already; I dont know why they did that. And when we went in, some of those guardsfrom what I hear, they had changed into inmates dressing, but some of the people recognized them, and they beat them up.
48
00:05:7.6
MH: I heard they tore them apart.
49
00:05:9.7
VT: I heard that they killed some of them. I didnt see it. And then, they had the ovens there, the skeletons still in there. Oh, it wasthe smell, you justwhen I think about it, I can almost smell that thing.
50
00:05:26.1
MH: How long did you stay in the camp?
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00:05:28.5
VT: Oh, probably about two, three hours, I guess. I dont remember.
52
00:05:33.8
MH: Just wandering around?
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VT: Just wandering around.
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00:05:36.3
MH: What else did you see there? Were the medics, American medics, already helping these people, or hadnt they arrived yet?
55
00:05:43.5
VT: No, I dont know if they were helping them or not. But they had thewe went in, and we went into a room where the showers were at, and it was full of people there, naked: men and women, kids, dead on the floor there.
56
00:06:1.3
MH: Whats it do to your mind to see that? I mean, how old were you then? You were twenty?
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00:06:9.7
VT: I was twenty years old.
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00:06:10.9
MH: Almost twenty-one.
59
00:06:11.9
VT: Yes.
60
00:06:12.6
MH: So, whats it do to you to see that?
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00:06:15.3
VT: You know, its hard to believe whats going on, because we had never seen nothing like that. Everybody went in with a look on their faces like, Man, whats going on here? It was terrible.
62
00:06:31.3
MH: What was the conversation like among the GIs after you left the camp?
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00:06:35.3
VT: Well, we were all talking about how could this happen? Why did they do this? Why were they killing like that?
64
00:06:43.7
MH: Did it change your attitude toward German prisoners?
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00:06:47.9
VT: Well, no, not really. Because after all, we were fighting againstit was either you or me. But no, it never changed, because a lot of them were not at fault. It was the officers and whoever ordered that.
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00:07:10.8
MH: Did you see any other camps?
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00:07:12.8
VT: No, just that one. Thats the only camp I saw.
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00:07:16.5
MH: When you came back to the States, did you tell people about it?
69
00:07:21.0
VT: Yes, I used to tell them. But you know, people here couldnt imagine what I was talking about. To see all these people that were starved, half deadno, I dont think they understood what I saw out there.
70
00:07:41.4
MH: Whens the first time you told your son about it?
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00:07:46.2
VT: Well, I dont recall how old he was, but I told him as soon as he could understand what I had been through. I had books of the Division and pictures that I had taken before. I told him how it was. But you tell a person thats never been in combat or something, they cant imagine whats going on. You know thatyou fought, but they dont know what we went through, the suffering. Like I used to tell my kids, I just had a blanket, since I was a driver, and whenever I had a chance, I just curled up with that and just take a nap, whatever chance I got, because I was on the go most of the time with General [George S.] Patton. We were moving pretty fast.
72
00:08:36.5
MH: Where we you when the war ended?
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VT: I was in Austria.
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00:08:41.6
MH: In Austria?
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VT: In Austria. And then, since I was one of the young guysthey were being discharged by points. And I didnt have any points. I think I had sixty points.
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00:08:59.5
MH: How many did you need to go home?
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00:09:2.1
VT: Oh, aboutI dont really recall what it was. Maybe I had less than that, because all the married men were going home first because they got five points for each child, and then they got points for being in the Army, how many months you were in the Army, and how long you had been overseas. And then, for every decoration, you got five points. So, it varied.
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00:09:31.6
MH: So, you were there for a while.
79
00:09:36.1
VT: I was there for a while.
80
00:09:37.3
MH: When did you get home?
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00:09:38.2
VT: I arrived in the States the 28th of December, 1945.
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00:09:45.2
MH: And got right out of the service?
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VT: No, right after that, the 28th of December, then we celebrated New Years in New York, Times Square, and I was discharged the 8th of January, 1946.
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00:10:3.3
MH: So, whatd you do the rest of your life? What kind of job did you have?
85
00:10:8.4
VT: Oh, I married. Im married for sixty-two years. I worked in thethe first job right after that, I wanted to go to work. I got a job in a foundry because that was the first place that I looked for. I stayed there forwell, I did that kind of work for eleven years, making soil pipe. First a molders helper and then I became a molder, and then I used to rend pipe, soil pipe. I did that kind of work for about eleven years. And then I did a little welding, and then I got a job with the City of Fullerton. I worked there twenty-seven years and retired. In the meantime, I got bored, because I was working the graveyard driving the street sweeper. I liked it because it was
86
00:11:10.4
MH: Its quiet.
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00:11:11.2
VT: midnight to seven oclock in the morning. It was boring staying home after that, so I went to barber college, and I worked as a barber for about twenty-six years on the side. So, thats what I did.
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00:11:25.1
MH: How many kids? How many children?
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00:11:27.9
VT: I have three, one boy and two girls.
90
00:11:30.7
MH: And grandchildren?
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00:11:31.6
VT: Four grandchildren and one great-grandson. Hes a year old now.
92
00:11:37.4
MH: Well, thank you very, very much. I appreciate it.
93
00:11:39.9
VT: Thank you.
94
00:11:40.4
MH: Okay. And thanks for doing what you did.
95
00:11:42.6
VT: Thank you.


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De La Torre, Ventura,
1924-
245
Ventura De La Torre oral history interview
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interviewed by Michael Hirsh.
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Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
2008.
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1 sound file (12 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
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Concentration camp liberators oral history project
5 FTS
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This interview was conducted as research for The Liberators: America's Witnesses to the Holocaust / Michael Hirsch (New York: Bantam Books, 2010).
FTS
518
Interview conducted August 21, 2008.
FTS
520
This is an oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator Ventura De La Torre. De La Torre was a truck driver in the 80th Infantry Division, which liberated Buchenwald on April 12, 1945. One of the division's original members, he arrived in Europe in August 1944; their first combat was at Argentan later that month. In this interview, De La Torre describes going into Buchenwald and seeing the prisoners, and his reaction to them.
524
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.
540
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.
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1924-
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PAGE 1

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