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Wendell Herbert Hall oral history interview

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Material Information

Title:
Wendell Herbert Hall oral history interview
Series Title:
Concentration camp liberators oral history project
Uniform Title:
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects
Physical Description:
1 sound file (41 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Language:
English
Creator:
Hall, Wendell H
Hirsh, Michael, 1943-
University of South Florida Libraries -- Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center
University of South Florida -- Library. -- Special & Digital Collections. -- Oral History Project
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 Wendell Hall. Hall was a member of the 103rd Infantry Division, which liberated one of the Kaufering camps on April 27, 1945. He and his unit approached the camp on foot and entered some of the huts, but spent only a few minutes there before their officers led them away. After the war ended, Hall spent several weeks at Dachau on occupation duty; although much of it had been sanitized by the time he arrived, he still found the empty crematorium ovens disturbing. Hall has written many letters about the Holocaust to his local newspaper; the letters are archived on his website, along with his wartime memoirs.
Venue:
Interview conducted January 25, 2009.
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.
Language:
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.
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 - 024873213
oclc - 653242369
usfldc doi - C65-00052
usfldc handle - c65.52
System ID:
SFS0022104:00001


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Full Text
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript segment idx 0 time 00:00:0.0 text Michael Hirsh: Could you give me your name and spell it for me? 1 00:00:1.9 Wendall Hall: Okay, its Wendell, W-e-n-d-e-l-l, and the middle initial H for Herbert, if you want that, Hall, H-a-l-l. 2 00:00:17.3 MH: Okay.  And your address? 3 00:00:18.6 WH: Pardon me? 4 00:00:19.8 MH: Your address? 5 00:00:20.7 WH: Oh, Im sorry; my hearing is not that good. Its. 6 00:00:23.6 MH: And your phone number is and your birth date? 7 00:00:28.6 WH: April 10, 1923. 8 00:00:32.2 MH: Where were you before you went in the service? 9 00:00:38.6 WH: Lets see.  I was a student at Weaver College, now a university.  At that time, it was just a two-year junior college, but Weaver College in Ogden, Utah. 10 00:00:53.6 MH: What year did you go in the Army? 11 00:00:58.7 WH: Boy, I have to think back.  Forty-three [1943]. 12 00:01:4.2 MH: Forty-three [1943].  Were you drafted or did you enlist? 13 00:01:6.6 WH: No, I enlisted.  I wasas a student, we had that opportunity.  They promised that we would become officers.  (laughs) And I could have, actually, but the circumstances changed, and I opted for ASTP, the Army Specialized Training Program instead, officer training. 14 00:01:30.5 MH: So, you went into ASTP, and then they did away with it. 15 00:01:34.2 WH: Thats correct, yes, and here I was in the anti-aircraft, relatively safe, and went directly to the infantry from ASTP.  That was an advancement, though, in reality, looking back on it.  I survived. 16 00:01:54.7 MH: Whered they send you? 17 00:01:56.5 WH: I was at the University of Oklahoma in ASTP, and they sent me down to Camp Howze, H-o-w-z-e, Texas, near Gainesville, Texas.   18 00:02:12.3 MH: And the divisionthat was the 19 00:02:13.9 WH: That was the 103rd [Infantry] Division. 20 00:02:16.3 MH: How long did it take before they sent you to Europe? 21 00:02:19.4 WH: Let me think.  It was in 1944, lets seeI try to keep my dates 22 00:02:36.7 MH: After D-Day? 23 00:02:39.8 WH: Yes, right.  Yes, the landing in Normandy had already taken place, and we were the first unit to arrive in Marseille.  The French Freedom Fighters had just liberated Marseille from Nazi control, and our convoy was the first one to enter. 24 00:03:2.4 MH: What was your MOS [Military Occupational Specialty]? What was your job? 25 00:03:4.9 WH: I wasthis is sort of comical, because [in] the Great Depression days, we didnt have a car.  I couldnt even drive, but you know the Army. (laughs) 26 00:03:18.5 MH: So, you became a truck driver. 27 00:03:19.8 WH: Thats right.   28 00:03:20.5 MH: Of course. 29 00:03:21.2 WH: My official designation was truck driver. (laughs) 30 00:03:24.0 MH: I could see it now. But, sir, I type really well.  Thats okay, we need truck drivers today. 31 00:03:28.5 WH: Okay. 32 00:03:30.8 MH: And you were carrying what?  An M1 rifle? 33 00:03:35.5 WH: An M1 and a .45, and all the grenades we could handle, and trench knives, bayonet. 34 00:03:47.5 MH: What was your first introduction to combat? 35 00:03:52.2 WH: Well, it wasnt a real introduction at Marseille, because when we landed, a Nazi plane just buzzed us, but we werent strafed or bombed.  And also, I dont remember how this radio broadcast was picked up, but Axis Sally welcomed us to France.  Just like there was a Tokyo Rose, youve heard 36 00:04:25.2 MH: Yes. 37 00:04:25.6 WH: Theres Axis Sally, too. 38 00:04:26.5 MH: Gave you great confidence in our ability to keep things secret. 39 00:04:31.6 WH: Oh, yeah. (laughs) Anyway, we went to a bivouacked area, a very barren place near Marseille, just a tent city, and we were there just a brief time and then up the beautiful Rhne Valley.  I could appreciate it somewhat, sinceI was going to say I was upfront, but that wasnt too often, because naturally an officer preferred that seat up by Joe Potter Barry, the truck driver.  I was just the assistant driver, so I usually rode in back. 40 00:05:10.8 MH: At what point did you know anything about the concentration camps or the Holocaust? 41 00:05:18.9 WH: I didnt know until we arrived in Landsberg.  I was absolutely shocked.  I had no idea that such horror existed, to come on those dead bodies sprawled out everywhere and the stench of it.  I justwhat is this?  It was incredible. 42 00:05:38.0 MH: How far away did you begin to smell it and know something was there? 43 00:05:42.5 WH: Well, I wish I had a photographic memory.  I cant even recall whether we drove by.  It seemed like we were marching; that is, we didnt march, you know, parade ground.  Went past.  It seems that we were on foot when we went by there, which made ityeah, we did.  Im positive of that, because otherwise we wouldnt have been able to take it in to the extent that we did. 44 00:06:14.8 MH: At what point did the 103rd get there? Do you remember what date? 45 00:06:20.3 WH: What date did the? 46 00:06:21.6 MH: 103rd arrive there? 47 00:06:24.2 WH: I tried to write everything up.  Have you seen my reminiscences? 48 00:06:32.1 MH: I actually have it printed out.  The armored units had gotten there before you, right? 49 00:06:42.8 WH: Oh, boy, let me think now.  Well, hmm, I know we werent the first at Dachau, thats for sure, but it seems like we were the first at Landsberg, I could be mistaken. 50 00:07:4.2 MH: Actually 51 00:07:5.2 WH: As I point out, what do we know, right? 52 00:07:7.2 MH: Actually Im looking at a list, and it has you, the 10th Armored, and the 12th Armored arriving on the 27th of April. 53 00:07:12.2 WH: Oh, okay. 54 00:07:12.2 MH: Did you ever ride on their tanks or were you following behind them? 55 00:07:19.6 WH: I never had that joy.  We were an anti-tank company, and that meant, basically, we were out ahead of the tanks to protect them as they arrived. 56 00:07:34.4 MH: So, you couldve been there ahead of them. 57 00:07:36.4 WH: Its possible, but what do we know no phone, no radio. 58 00:07:41.8 MH: This will be another silly question: do you remember where you were coming from or going to when you found Landsberg? 59 00:07:49.9 WH: Well, lets see.  I wish I had written this up sooner.  It was years after these things took place that I wrote it up, because my grandkids were saying, Weve got to report, blah, blah, interview a World War II veteran. So, I wrote things up the best I could.  In my letters home, we hardly had any opportunity to write home at all, and then when my mother passed on, nobody saved those letters.  Pity.  Didnt even save my uniform. (laughs) 60 00:08:30.1 MH: I got rid of mine, because I couldnt fit into it.  But my mother did save all my Vietnam letters. 61 00:08:36.0 WH: Your name rings a bell with me.  Were you in the 103rd? 62 00:08:40.7 MH: No, I was in the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam.  Imsixty-five years old. 63 00:08:46.5 WH: Oh, for some reason that Hirsh rang a bell. 64 00:08:49.8 MH: Theres a Michael Hirsh, who was the senior editor with Newsweek magazine. 65 00:08:54.9 WH: Oh, oh, that must be it. 66 00:08:56.9 MH: And then theres me, and Ive writtenthis will be my sixth book. 67 00:09:1.6 WH: Oh, congratulations.   68 00:09:4.5 MH: Oh, thank you. 69 00:09:4.8 WH: Ill have to look up those books.  Are they available at 70 00:09:9.5 MH: Yeah, the one that Id recommend is called None Braver, I was embedded with Air Force pararescue guys in Afghanistan. 71 00:09:17.4 72 00:09:18.0 MH: To write a book about what they were doing there. 73 00:09:20.9 WH: Ill look you up; youre on the internet, I guess.   74 00:09:23.1 MH: You can find it, yeah, on the internet, but youll get my books confused with his books. Ive been introduced at speeches with the list of both of us, and I have to stand up there and say, Im not the renaissance man you think I am. 75 00:09:36.5 WH: The one who wrote those good ones. 76 00:09:37.9 MH: Yeah, Im the one who wrote the ones that are readable.  Anyhow, back to World War II. 77 00:09:45.8 WH: Okay. 78 00:09:45.8 MH: So, you think you were probably walking at that point? 79 00:09:51.5 WH: Im just about positive we were. 80 00:09:53.6 MH: When youre walking, just single file down the side of the road? 81 00:09:59.7 WH: Well, yeah, roughly two by two.   82 00:10:4.4 MH: Two by two. 83 00:10:6.0 WH: In other words, no close-order drill or anything like that. 84 00:10:8.7 MH: Then what happened?  Somebody smelled something? 85 00:10:10.5 WH: Well, in my write-up, I mentioned that three of my very best buddies in the squad of ten were Jews, and such great young men.  I admire them to this day.  And I guess they realized that these skeletal living corpseswell, many of them were dead, of coursethey seemed to realize that they were Jews, and they were just shocked.  Their faces went pale.  And that was one of my first impressions, is the reaction of those buddies at my side. 86 00:10:55.5 MH: Do you remember their names? 87 00:10:58.8 WH: Yes.  There wasI want to call them by their nicknames. 88 00:11:6.1 MH: Thats okay. 89 00:11:8.4 WH: (laughs) Lets see, what was Finkels? Marvin Feldsnot Marvin, Martin. Martin Feldstein. We disrespectedly called him Finkle. I dont know where the name came from.  And then there was Haroldno, Ill never forget them or their names, but at this very momentoh, my other best friend, my wife is here prompting me, but Harold Howe was a Quaker.  Three Jews, a Quaker, and a Mormon. (laughs) 90 00:11:50.1 MH: That sounds like the beginning of a really bad joke. 91 00:11:53.8 WH: Yeah.  It does. (laughs) 92 00:11:57.1 MH: Three Jews, a Quaker and a Mormon jump off a deuce-and-a-half 93 00:12:0.2 WH: Yeah, we were in a plane, orI forget, but anyway, the others were Southern Baptists, good guys. 94 00:12:8.2 MH: So, you see them turn white? 95 00:12:12.3 WH: Thats truethey just went pale.  Well, I did, too, I guess, I was so shocked. 96 00:12:17.7 MH: What goes through your mind when youre seeing that? 97 00:12:21.2 WH: I thought, What is this? because you mentioned the stench.  Well, Im sure we didnt have to get too close to smell thatjust terrible, rotten.  Boy, our Army medics, of course, went there as soon as possible, started tending to those who could survive, have any chance of survival.  Werent too many of those.  Did you notice the huts they were in?   98 00:12:52.2 MH: Yes. 99 00:12:52.7 WH: Just terrible.  Oh, it was so sickening. 100 00:12:56.2 MH: Did you go into any of those huts? 101 00:12:58.9 WH: Yes, I came back out quick, though; it was so horrible. 102 00:13:2.6 MH: What prompted you to go in? 103 00:13:4.5 WH: Curiosity.  Well, and I thoughtin fact, this is the reason I wrote it up.  This has to be remembered, so that we can do our best to prevent such things happening again.  I took a quick look. 104 00:13:23.9 MH: To get in there, it looks like the doors on those things are only about, what, five feet tall. 105 00:13:28.0 WH: Thats right.  You had to stoop in those things.  Imagine. 106 00:13:33.1 MH: Were there electric lights inside? 107 00:13:35.4 WH: Not to my recollection, no. 108 00:13:38.4 MH: So, its pretty dark in there, then. 109 00:13:40.5 WH: Yeah. 110 00:13:41.3 MH: No windows? 111 00:13:42.8 WH: No.  Sunk down in the ground the way they were. 112 00:13:45.7 MH: And its just a dirt floor? 113 00:13:48.4 WH: Yeah. 114 00:13:49.5 MH: And shelves on both sides. 115 00:13:54.2 WH: Wow, I wish I had photos or something. 116 00:13:59.2 MH: Ive looked at pictures, which is why Im saying that.  So, you go in there.  How far into this thing do you walk? 117 00:14:8.0 WH: Oh, I just peered in and came back out.   118 00:14:13.0 MH: Do you gag? 119 00:14:15.1 WH: I mean, there was so much horror outsideI could hardly take that. 120 00:14:19.2 MH: Do you know which camp you walked into?  I mean, there were eleven camps at Kaufering. 121 00:14:27.2 WH: That many? 122 00:14:31.9 MH: Well, number IV is the one they burned. 123 00:14:34.7 WH: Did I put VI in my write-up? 124 00:14:39.2 MH: Im not sure, but I wouldnt 125 00:14:41.9 WH: I thought it was VI.  Thats when I wrote it up. 126 00:14:42.8 MH: I wouldnt worry about it.  You werent at the one where they had burned everybody. 127 00:14:48.4 WH: No, no. 128 00:14:49.5 MH: Just as well.  What kind of contact do you have with the people who are in there? 129 00:14:56.4 WH: Well, actually, we were at the front right or approaching.  We just had to continue; our officers, the non-coms, didnt let us linger.  And I guess they were eager to get out of there, anyway. 130 00:15:18.3 MH: What was your rank at that point? 131 00:15:22.2 WH: I was a private first class. 132 00:15:24.8 MH: How long do you think you actually stayed inside the wire there? 133 00:15:29.6 WH: Oh, it couldnt be more than, just a rough guess, ten, fifteen minutes.  Quite possibly less. 134 00:15:42.2 MH: Could you ever have imagined that the impact that ten or fifteen minutes would have on your life? 135 00:15:47.6 WH: Oh, I tell you, this is one of the most dramaticif you can call it thatmoments of my whole life.  I mean, in terms of impressions that stick with you.  Just unbelievable.  Inhumanity to man, I didnt realize it could reach some low depths. 136 00:16:20.7 MH: Lou Lifson, Paul Yesenow, and Martin Feldstein. 137 00:16:23.5 WH: Pardon me? 138 00:16:25.2 MH: Lou Lifson, Paul Yesenow, and Martin Feldstein. L-i-f-s-o-n, and Paul Y-e-s-e-n-o-w. 139 00:16:35.6 WH: Oh, yeah, sure.  Yeah, they were all terrific, like all my buddies.  Lou Lifson, especially, so intelligent. 140 00:16:43.0 MH: When you came home, did you talk about what youd seen? 141 00:16:49.8 WH: Well, I really didnt.  I had a boyhood friend; we were in junior high and high school together, and he turned out to be awhat should I call him?very popular individual.  He was a radio announcer and very well known, and when I came home, his name was Douglas Stringfellow, and they paid a lot of attention to him.  I was hardly noticed, it seems.  And its strange, because Stringfellowmaybe youve heard of this story.  HeIm LDS [Latter-Day Saints], if you know what that means. 142 00:17:38.8 MH: Yes. 143 00:17:40.0 WH: Im excommunicated, but with a Mormon heritage and background. 144 00:17:43.6 MH: I was about to ask you about that next. 145 00:17:46.3 WH: And I admire the people, dont get me wrong, very admirable all.  But I just cant accept the Book of Mormon as the word of God and so on.  Im a linguist, and I noticed certain things.  But, in any case, they made a lot about Doug Stringfellow; and, strangely, he had a right to feel honored and respected, but he made up all kinds of fabulous stories.  He was behind the German lines.  In the LDS church, they generally have speakers, nonprofessional clergy, and he gave a talk.  And what?  He went behind the lines, and he was evenwhat were the islands there where the Germans developed the atom bomb?  Anyway, he claimed to have been in on that, and I thought, What?  Eventually, he had to confess to Senator Arthur Watkins Senator Watkins was a Republican Senator from the state of Utah from 1947 to 1959. of the City of Provo, Utah, that it was all fraudulent; hed made it up and apologized on TV.  So, getting back to what brought this on, Doug received a lot of attention.  I didnt particularly want any, but I got it from my family.  That sufficed. 146 00:19:13.5 MH: What Im looking at is a letter that you wrote to the editor of the Provo Daily Herald on May 5, 2004.  Were you excommunicated before that or after that? 147 00:19:28.8 WH: Oh, let me see.  Two thousand four, and were now in 2009.  It seems like it was before that. 148 00:19:44.7 MH: So, I havent 149 00:19:45.8 WH: I could look it up. 150 00:19:47.1 MH: So, I have it in the transcript.  You were writing about Mel Gibsons movie, The Passion, and you wrote, Mel Gibsons The Passion has engendered debate over whether it fosters anti-Semitism.  What could be more infamously anti-Semitic and anti-Native American than these words from the Book of Mormon: For these people, the Jews, shall be scattered and shall become a dark, a filthy and loathsome people beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us, yea, even that which hath been amongst the Lamanites.  And you said Book of Mormon 5:15. 151 00:20:20.8 WH: Right. Well, Ive always been a great friend and admirer of the Jewish people, and I couldnt put up with anything like that.  But I was excommunicated because of awell, it seems that the position, besides mission president and other higher positions that I had most of my life in the church, was whats called a clerk, a ward clerk and a state clerk, to take the minutes of meetings.  And I was also a financial clerk.  And one daywell, if youve come across the Caractors, C-a-r-a-c-t-o-r-s, that Joseph Smith claimed to have copied from the gold plates? 152 00:21:13.9 MH: No. 153 00:21:15.2 WH: Well, you dont have to be a linguist to see that these are not in reformed Egyptian or Assyriac or Chaldaic or Arabic, except for the Arabic numeral seven and another one that appears to be an eight.  So as a linguist, well, that decided it.  I loved my parents, all my friends and relatives, but Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.  I couldnt put up with living a lie, and so I called my bishop and said I didnt feel I should continue as ward clerk because I didnt believe the Book of Mormon was the word of God.  And then first thing I knew, I was called up before whats called a high council court, and of course they didnt want to hear anything from me.  I shut up.  And I was soon excommunicated. 154 00:22:17.2 MH: What was the reaction to the letter?  Because the letter goes on to say, As a World War II infantryman, I faced serious injury or death as my regiment fought toward Landsberg and liberated the six concentration camps there.  At wars end, I was stationed for seven or eight weeks at the equally horrendous Dachau.  Three of my best buddies in our squad of ten were Jews.  How I admired these wonderful and amazingly resilient people to whom the world owes so much.  What was the reaction to that letter? 155 00:22:42.8 WH: Well, actually, there wasnt too much.  Lets see.  Ive written a number of letters to the editors, and theyre generally not too well received.  People think Im unduly critical. 156 00:23:4.8 MH: Are you surprised that theyre printed? 157 00:23:10.7 WH: Oh, you should see the ones that havent been printed.  I have them on my website under letters.html. http://www.nuspel.org.  A lot more are unpublished than published. 158 00:23:25.5 MH: I assume the Provo Daily Herald is connected with the church. 159 00:23:28.0 WH: Well, not directly, but undoubtedly most of them belong to the church, and theyre favorably disposed toward it.  Well, I am, too.  Its not the people or the righteous living, its just doctrinal matters.  Not even doctrinal.  I mean, just the pretense of gold plates and brass plates and all the rest, Urum and Thumum. 160 00:23:59.4 MH: How old are you now? 161 00:24:2.8 WH: I am just aboutwell, lets call it eighty-five, and eighty-six in April. 162 00:24:9.6 MH: At the age of almost eighty-six, can you say whether your experiences, seeing what you saw in the war, are still impacting your life? 163 00:24:21.6 WH: They definitely are, and sort of kept alive as I have mentioned.  I receive inquiries even now.  Well, mainly from grandchildren.  Itd be great-grandchildren now.  But then, well, theyre just experiences that are so prominent in your life, have a larger effect than almost anything else. 164 00:24:52.8 MH: Do you have nightmares as a result of what you saw in the camps? 165 00:24:57.6 WH: No, I dont think Ive particularly been bothered that way.  Maybe at first.  Who can sleep anyway when youre in combat, not right at the front but near the front.  And mainly, as I said, as an anti-tank company, we were always right up there.  I could mention this, that every young LDS person is expected to serve a mission.  When I returned home, my bishop, a wonderful old Dutchman that I lovedDemick was the namesaid, Well, I suppose you want to go back and preach to those people, the former enemy.  Actually, that was a great idea, but since my childhood, I wanted to be a missionary.  You dont know about the Book of Mormon, perhaps, but I wanted to be a missionary to the Lamanites, meaning the American Indians, Ammon in the Book of Mormon.  So, off I went to Argentina, where they have a few reservations like in the U.S., and the remainder are mainly Spanish and Italian descent.  Best pizza in the world down there, better than in Italy. Anyway, so yes, I wanted to go back, and I eventually was able to with a scholarship to the University of Vienna: a high point of my life. 166 00:26:38.0 MH: What was it like living there?  The German accent is so pronounced that if you spent a couple years with that accent being your enemy, how do you live among them and be comfortable? 167 00:26:56.0 WH: You mean the Viennese? 168 00:26:59.0 MH: Viennese, German. 169 00:27:0.1 WH: Yeah, well, the Viennese are the most relaxed of all Germanic people, I guess.  It was really a pleasure.  I was just today, in fact, listening to Che gelida manina from La Boheme and Puccini.  Oh, Vienna was just marvelous, going to the opera for a dollar 170 00:27:28.9 MH: Thats nice. 171 00:27:31.6 WH: as a student.  But the Viennese, of course, they were forced into the war, right?  That was the story always, and to a large extent, they were.   172 00:27:45.6 MH: I tend to put that in the same category as the people who said, We didnt know, nicht Nazi. 173 00:27:54.2 WH: Thats right, thats true.   174 00:27:57.6 MH: Let me ask you, what did you do at Dachau? 175 00:28:1.2 WH: Well, by the time I arrived there, the place had been sanitized quite a bit.  But just the sight of the ovens thereI had the impression that it was one big oven, but actually it was a number of smaller ovens that they justoh, Im looking at our oven here in the kitchen.  Not too much bigger: just large enough to shove a body into.   176 00:28:34.0 MHL Right, Ive seen the photos. 177 00:28:37.1 WH: And, as I say, it had been sanitized by the time we got there, but not totally. 178 00:28:44.6 MH: Were they still burying bodies, or had that been done already? 179 00:28:49.6 WH: Well, lets see.  When we got there, I think all of that kind of activity had ceased.  But just the sight of the empty ovens was bad enough. 180 00:29:5.9 MH: What about the survivors?  Were they still there being treated? 181 00:29:9.6 WH: Yes, some of them were.  Our medics, boy, I felt for them, the jobs that they had to do.  With our wounded and then with these victims, they were kept very busy. 182 00:29:27.6 MH: Ive interviewed nurses at one of the evac hospitals sent to Dachau, some of the female nurses, and they talked about what it was like in the early days, how many people were dying every day. 183 00:29:43.6 WH: Yeah. 184 00:29:45.1 MH: When did you get to Dachau? 185 00:29:47.3 WH: Let me think, now.  I was assistant truck driveror, pardon me, the term is weapons carrierand I made several trips with Joe (inaudible), my great Croatian friend.  I mention in my write-up that he was able to converse with the Russians because Croatian is a Slavic language.  It was great being with Joe, and I mention how he took some prisoners all the way to Sarrebourg, into France, where they were eventually repatriated to their sorrow.  Stalin thought they shouldve fought to the death, never surrendered, so I understand they went to Siberia.  So, let me try to put this together.  That seemed like it was after Joe and I went to Sarrebourg, and then we had to find our regiment, our company after that, because theyd moved in the meantime.  Or maybe Im confusing that with when I got an opportunity to visit my brother Donald in England and came back and theyd moved.  But Im trying to piece this together. 186 00:31:32.4 MH: If you had to pick one memory of the Holocaust from your own experience, what memory is that? 187 00:31:41.2 WH: Just the ghastly sight.  We couldnt believe our eyes what we were seeing, and also the horrible stench as well.  I should have nightmares still over that, its so horrible.  The pictures alone make you shudder, and the real thing, oh!  I suppose youve seen the pictures. 188 00:32:11.1 MH: Ive seen hundreds of pictures. 189 00:32:14.8 WH: The ones in our division? 190 00:32:16.1 MH: Yeah, and you almost have to guard against becoming accustomed to them that they dont have an impact.  Ive interviewed about 160 men who saw various camps, and after the twentieth person talks about bodies stacked like cordwood, the phrase begins to have no meaning.  Ive had to force myself to back up and say, This was a twenty-year-old kid seeing this for the first time. And Ive got to keep seeing it that way. And its difficult to do, because if the unbelievable becomes so common, its difficult to deal with.  Do you have a photo of yourself from your World War II days? 191 00:33:9.5 WH: I think the only photo I have is with my brother Donald when I went to England.  Right after the war, the notice on the bulletin board said, If you have relatives in the ETO, European Theater, apply to visit them, which I did immediately, and I was soon on my way to England.  So, I do have that one photo with Donald, my younger brother.   192 00:33:38.6 MH: But its over there? 193 00:33:39.8 WH: Thats right, in England. 194 00:33:41.9 MH: And you dont have a copy of it? 195 00:33:43.5 WH: Of course.  We werent allowed to have cameras, so there were no photos. 196 00:33:48.8 MH: Okay, what about a current picture of yourself? 197 00:33:52.4 WH: Um, Meryl, do I have a relatively current picture of myself?  Not too current.  Oh yeah, Im looking at a photo here.  I look quite young there. (laughs) Maybe I ought to have a current picture taken. 198 00:34:12.3 MH: Um, at some point, if you could send me a current pictureand Im in no rush for it because Im stillmy deadline to finish the manuscript isnt until May 1. So, Ive got time.  Do you have e-mail? 199 00:34:27.8 WH: Yes, I do. 200 00:34:28.8 MH: Whats your e-mail address? 201 00:34:29.4 WH: 202 00:34:30.6 MH: Ill send you my address and the information about the book that Im writing, and if you are able to get a picture taken that I can use in the book, Id appreciate it.  Ill also attach a release form to it that lets me have permission to use it.   203 00:34:47.4 WH: Okay. 204 00:34:45.5 MH: All right. 205 00:34:48.6 WH: Now, I appreciate your doing this, not for myself but for the whole idea of have a record of this, making it known. 206 00:34:59.6 MH: Well it was important to talk to, you know, you guys because you guys are disappearing day by day. 207 00:35:6.1 WH: Yes, we are. (laughs). Im young and vigorous in heart.  I have projects going all the time.  The latest one is a totem pole interrupted by the snow.  Im a great fan of mountain west sports, so this totem pole has all the mascots.  Naturally, since I was a professor at BYU [Brigham Young University], theres a cougar at the top.  Also studied and taught at the (inaudible) on the other side. 208 00:35:41.9 MH: Thats the one thing I didnt ask you, what did you teach? 209 00:35:46.3 WH: Im a professor of foreign languages.  I started out in chemistry, following in my eldest brothers footsteps.  Hes a renowned chemist, the first to synthesizeto make real diamonds in his laboratory.  H. Tracy Hall is his name.  And so I was going to be an alchemist like Tracy.  In fact, through my junior year, and then having served a mission in Argentina for three years, I thought, Oh, chemistrys great, but I just love these people and their culture, so Spanish it was for me, ever after.  Other languages, too. 210 00:36:32.9 MH: How many languages do you speak? 211 00:36:34.6 WH: Well, I speak Spanish well and German quite well, but the other languages, I just love French but I havent been able to spend much time in France.  I handle German and Spanish quite well, speaking, understanding, reading, writing.  But French, Italian, and Portuguese, I read them all the time; in fact, I make a habit of reading the Bible in a different language every week, so this week Ive been on Italian.  Next week, itll be German or Portuguese.   212 00:37:16.8 MH: So you could say youre reasonably 213 00:37:19.8 WH: I keep on them in reading, not so much writing anymore except in Spanish. 214 00:37:25.5 MH: But youre fluent in six languages? 215 00:37:27.6 WH: Well, I say six, with pig Latin. (laughs) 216 00:37:32.1 MH: (laughs) Thats the sort of thing Im likely to include in the book. 217 00:37:40.1 WH: Well, lets seeoh, I just wish I knew more languages.  Theyre so fascinating, and the culture, so thats my big thing, actually. 218 00:37:53.9 MH: Did you teach in Utah your whole life? 219 00:37:57.1 WH: No, I actually started out at Northland College in Wisconsin, Ashland, Wisconsin.  How I love Wisconsin.  Well, you could say I started in Michigan as a teaching assistant, but my first job non-teaching assistant was Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin. 220 00:38:19.6 MH: Where is Ashland? 221 00:38:20.4 WH: Its right on Lake Superior.   222 00:38:31.6 WH: Yeah, I love Michigan and Wisconsin, our years spent there.  And then from Northland, well, I got a job there, because they wanted someone who could teach Spanish and German, which fit perfectly with me.  So I stayed there for two years, and then decided I better finish up my Ph.D.  If Id only knownthey didnt even make it known to me at the time.  The University of Michigan wouldve accepted my masters thesis as my dissertation.  So, years laterit was years later before I got my Ph.D., because I had all the requirements except the dissertation.  I had to get busy supporting my family and couldnt finish it up. 223 00:39:28.1 MH: Whered you finally get your Ph.D. from? 224 00:39:29.7 WH: It was, believe it or not, University la Americano, speaking Spanglish, Los Americanos Saltillo [Mexico].  A good friend of mine said, Well, dont bother.  Go down to Saltillo and get it.  Hes a good friend. I followed in his footsteps all my life, it seems.  I used to say to him, You going to heaven, Sid?   225 00:40:5.5 MH: And you retired from Brigham Young? 226 00:40:12.0 WH: Thats right.   227 00:40:16.6 MH: How many children do you have? 228 00:40:18.6 WH: We have six childrenand little Alice died in infancy, so seven altogether.  And, from a family of five boys, no sisters.  So, when John was born, I said, (inaudible). Here we go again, and after that, nothing but wonderful, beautiful daughters. 229 00:40:40.9 MH: Okay, all right.  Well, I think you very, very much for your time. 230 00:40:46.0 WH: Well, I appreciate your taking this interest. 231 00:40:48.3 MH: I will send you an e-mail, and if you can come up with a photo thatd be great. 232 00:40:53.9 WH: Okay, will do. 233 00:40:54.9 MH: Okay, take care.  Happy New Year to you, too, sir. 234 00:40:57.3 WH: Same to you.



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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).
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This is an oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator Wendell Hall. Hall was a member of the 103rd Infantry Division, which liberated one of the Kaufering camps on April 27, 1945. He and his unit approached the camp on foot and entered some of the huts, but spent only a few minutes there before their officers led them away. After the war ended, Hall spent several weeks at Dachau on occupation duty; although much of it had been sanitized by the time he arrived, he still found the empty crematorium ovens disturbing. Hall has written many letters about the Holocaust to his local newspaper; the letters are archived on his website, along with his wartime memoirs.
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