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Milton Harrison oral history interview

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Material Information

Title:
Milton Harrison oral history interview
Series Title:
Concentration camp liberators oral history project
Uniform Title:
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects
Physical Description:
1 sound file (22 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Language:
English
Creator:
Harrison, Milton, 1925-
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 Milton Harrison. Harrison was a member of the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, part of the 6th Armored Division, who were, according to Harrison, the original liberators of Buchenwald in April 1945. The twenty-two man unit fought its way into the camp, subdued the guards, and interviewed some of the prisoners, spending several hours there; the next day, men from two other division arrived. In this interview, Harrison recounts his experiences at Buchenwald, speaking very passionately against the misconceptions about its liberation. He is also the chairman of the Buchenwald Information Committee.
Venue:
Interview conducted August 3, 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.
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 - 024824695
oclc - 647735514
usfldc doi - C65-00054
usfldc handle - c65.54
System ID:
SFS0022106:00001


This item is only available as the following downloads:


Full Text
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
segment
idx 0
time 00:00:0.0
text Michael S. Hirsh: Can you give me your full name and spell it for me, please?
1
00:00:2.2
Milton Harrison: First of all, who are you?
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00:00:4.9
MSH: Oh, who am I? My name is Michael Hirsh.
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00:00:9.1
MH: Right.
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00:00:9.9
MSH: Im an author. Im working on a book with the working title, The Last Liberators: Americans Final Witnesses to the Holocaust. It will be published by the Bantam Dell Publishing Company, which is a division of Random House. It will come out in early 2010. It will be my sixth book. I wrote Michael Schiavos book [Terri: The Truth] about the Terri Schiavo case that became a New York Times bestseller. I was
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00:00:39.2
MH: What do you or dont you know about Buchenwald?
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00:00:43.4
MSH: If you could be more direct about the question? I mean, its
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00:00:50.5
MH: You heard my question: what do you or dont you know about Buchenwald? Im Chairman of the Buchenwald Information Committee, and Im one of the twenty-two original liberators of Buchenwald.
8
00:01:5.7
MSH: Ive talked to some people who were at Buchenwald. Ive talked to a couple of people who were in one of the evac hospitals that was set up there. Im actually going to the reunion of the 80th Infantry Division in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in August.
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00:01:22.4
MH: What division are you going to?
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MSH: 80th.
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MH: The 80th? They had nothing to do with the liberation of Buchenwald.
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MSH: Well, let me ask you how youre defining liberation.
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MH: I dont have to define how. (laughs) Listen, Buchenwald was liberated by the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion of the 6th Armored Division, twenty-two men.
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MSH: Okay.
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MH: Of which, to my knowledge, there are from seven to nine of us left.
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MSH: Okay.
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00:02:2.4
MH: Now, other people from other divisions have claimed to have been liberators, but they were not liberators.
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MSH: Let meyoure
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MH: Now, hold onhold on.
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MSH: Youre starting off angry at me.
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MH: Hold on a minute and let me finish.
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MSH: Go ahead.
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MH: The Buchenwald Information Committee has all the information and they are currently in operation, and they are operated by sons and daughters, mostly of liberated people from Buchenwald. Now, what do you want to know?
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MSH: Given everything youve just said, youre aware that the Holocaust Museum and the Army have also designated the 4th Armored and the 6th Armored Divisions as having liberated Buchenwald.
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MH: No, the 4th Armored Division had nothing to do with it. That has been corrected.
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MSH: Thats been corrected?
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MH: Yeah.
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MSH: Okay. I know they were also at Ohrdruf.
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MH: They were there, yes.
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MSH: So, the museum shows the 80th Infantry of Buchenwald on April 12, it shows the 6th Armored, and again, the list I have still shows the 4th Armored on April 11. The reason
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MH: The 4th Armored was not there. The 4th Armored was on our flank when we went into Buchenwald.
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MSH: What Im trying to do is find as many people, GIs, who were there.
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MH: I told youas I told you, there are from seven to nine of us left living.
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MSH: Would you concede that there were people there the day after you got there?
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MH: Yes, there were.
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MSH: Who saw what was going on?
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MH: Yes, there were. They were from the 6th Armored Division and from two other outfits.
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MSH: Okay. So, what youre saying is that your guys were there first.
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MH: Correct.
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MSH: I dont have a problem with that. I just want to
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MH: Im glad you dont, because youll get your head beat in if you did. (laughs)
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MSH: See, let me tell you where I stand on liberators.
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MH: I know where you stand.
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MSH: No, you dont, really. I find it almost offensive that the Army and the Holocaust Museum would name people liberators, name an entire division the liberators of a camp when perhaps one small unit was at the campwait, let me finish. When there was no fighting to take that camp, and when the guys who were dead in the surf at Normandy Beach are just as much responsible for liberating the camp.
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MH: Well, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. Normandy had nothing to do with Buchenwald.
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MSH: Of course it did.
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MH: It was thousands of miles north.
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MSH: Of course it did. The Americans who landed in Europe are the people who were responsible for stopping this horror. And
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MH: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Lets get our stories straight. Sir, you are confused as heck.
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MSH: Okay, thats what my wife says about me, too.
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MH: There are hundredsthere were hundreds of men
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MSH: Right.
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MH: All right, 6th Armored Division took Buchenwald, right. Now the twenty-two men from the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, 6th Armored Division under General George Patton liberated Buchenwald. Right. After we went in and went through the camp, interviewed some of the people and the survivors and took prisoners there, some other men from the 6th Armored Division, and the following day from two other divisions, came in and had things to do with the camp. I dont have, unfortunately, right in front of me or available to my reach all that information right now.
54
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MSH: Okay.
55
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MH: But the Buchenwald Museum has it.
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MSH: Okay.
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MH: Have you contacted them?
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MSH: No, I havent contacted them
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MH: Well, why not?
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MSH: Because Im looking to talk to people like you. I dont want to talk to a museum. I dont want to go into archives where people have videotaped interviews, where people have given interviews over the years
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MH: Well, I dontwell, quite frankly, I dont recall all the information. I know the basic principles at this point, because its so long ago.
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MSH: Right. But of the men who were still alive who were there with you, how many of them do you think would be available to talk about it?
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MH: That I cant give you an honest answer on, because I know what I got back from division headquarters, and the museum.
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MSH: Can I talk with you about your own experiences?
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MH: Yeah, sure.
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MSH: Youre Milton Harrison, H-a-r-r-i-s-o-n.
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MH: Correct.
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MSH: And your address is
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MH: What do you need my address for?
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MSH: Because the publisher is going to send a copy of the book to everybody that Ive interviewed.
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MH: Okay, its.
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MSH: And your phone number is.
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MH: Correct.
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MSH: And your date of birth?
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MH: 10-22-25 [October 22, 1925].
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MSH: Okay, and the unit you were with at Buchenwald?
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MH: 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, 6th Armored Division.
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MSH: Where were you growing up, where were you before you went in the Army?
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MH: Pardon me?
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MSH: Where were you before you went in the Army?
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MH: Where was I?
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MSH: Yes.
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MH: I was in Philadelphia, in high school.
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MSH: And then when did you go into the service?
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MH: Ohthe exact date, sir, I do not remember.
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MSH: Close.
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MH: But I was drafted on an error by the armed forces when I was still in high school. I was in twelfth year of high school. There were 7,000pardon me, 70,000 of usdrafted by mistake.
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MSH: So, what do you do in a case like that?
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MH: What do you do in a case like that? We reported on Friday afternoon to an armory and we were sent towell, the group I was with to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where Saturday and Sunday we took infantry basic training, finished our training, went back, graduated high school, and were called up to active duty.
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MSH: And so you went on active duty and went over to Europe when?
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MH: Well, I was in service in the States before I went over to Europe.
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MSH: Did you form up with the division in the U.S. or
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00:10:0.2
MH: I was originally in the 1123rd Commando Intelligence Group Headquarters Company. And we were in Mississippi; we were shipped down to the Panama Canal heading for Australia, when we were transferred before entering the Panama Canal over to England. From England, after we were there for a while, we were shipped over to Paris, France, and from Paris, France, we wentoh, I forget what the heck it was, right outside of Paris, France, the name of the town. But we were shipped up to the lines and we were absorbed and taken into the 6th Armored Division.
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MSH: When youre with an armored infantry unit in an armored divisionfill me in on whats the difference between being in an infantry division thats riding on armor and being in an armored infantry battalion?
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MH: Theres no such thing. Theres no differences, either. Its straight infantry or armored infantry.
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MSH: Is armored infantryyour weapon was the M1?
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MH: Pardon me?
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MSH: Your weapon was the M1?
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MH: Basically, yes.
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MSH: So, youre assigned to this unit in the 6th Armored Division, and whats the first combat you see?
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MH: Ill be darned if, after all these years, I remember what the first combat was.
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MSH: What was the first time you had the hell scared out of you?
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00:12:9.4
MH: Pardon me?
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MSH: What was the first time you had the hell scared out of you?
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MH: The first time I had the hell scared out of me?
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MSH: Yeah.
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MH: Oh, boywell, Ill tell you this. In the armored outfit, I had a couple of times where I was the only man left from armored, you know, from attacks on us. And to tell you which battle it was, at this point I dont remember.
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MSH: Were you wounded?
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MH: No, thank you.
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MSH: What did you knowbefore you got to Buchenwald, what did you know about death camps, about the Holocaust, about anything like that?
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MH: Well, I have to give you a very honest answer. Before we got to Buchenwald, we knew, because we had heard through the newspaper, the Stars and Stripes and hearing through military reports, of other concentration camps being overrun.
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MSH: So, whendid you know you were going to come to Buchenwald? Was this an assignment or something your unit just happened upon?
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MH: It was something that was just happened upon.
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MSH: Can you just sort of tell me the story of that day?
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MH: It happened. Thats all I can tell you. Im not kidding you. Its a long time ago
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MSH: Right.
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MH: And a great many things happened, and a great many things were happening, and we were separated. The battalion was separated into different areas, and the group that I was with was ordered in to capture Buchenwald, and went in and, you know, got into the camp.
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MSH: Were the German guards still there?
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MH: Yeah. We had to break our way into the camp. We fought our way into the camp.
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MSH: So the gate was still locked?
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MH: Sir, I do not remember.
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MSH: Okay.
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MH: And this is no baloney.
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MSH: No, I believe you
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MH: This was a long time ago
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MSH: Yeah, of course; it was sixty some years ago.
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MH: A lot of thingsId have to sit down and really concentrate on them to bring it out.
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MSH: Let me ask the question this way: What stands out in your mind from that day?
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MH: Thank God Im alive. And Im not kidding.
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MSH: Really. I mean, it was a pitched battle for that camp?
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MH: Yeah, there was a battle to get into the camp. The twenty-two of us fought our way in.
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MSH: Do you remember your reaction once you got inside and saw what it was?
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MH: Pathetic.
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MSH: Yeah.
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MH: The people were mutilated, starved; the women were abused and degraded. The men were degraded. The children were overused andyou know, everything was in severe conditions.
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MSH: Right. How did youand I realize Im testing your memoryhow did you deal with it, personally? Seeing that sort of thing?
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MH: Cant remember. Because there was so much going on, to reach in and say yes, this happenedyou know, its impossible.
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MSH: Right. Right. How long did you actually stay in the camp?
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MH: About six to eight hours.
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MSH: And then whatdo you remember the situation when you left? All the Germans were either captured or dead?
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MH: Well, they were captured; there were some dead. When we left, the camp was under the United States Army control, under the 6th Armored control. The following day, some menI think it was from the 80th Division and the 76th Infantry Divisionscame in.
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MSH: You werent there when they got there.
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MH: No.
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MSH: No. Okay. How did being at Buchenwald affect your life?
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MH: Its a hard question to answer. It affected it, but to say specifically what it did is a little bit hard to say.
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MSH: Im curious, are you Jewish?
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MH: Yes. About four or five of the men who went in of the twenty-two were Jewish.
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MSH: Did the Jewish guys react differently than the other guys, as far as you could tell?
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MH: No, they reacted as United States soldiers.
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MSH: How could I go about finding the other people, the other men in your group who are still alive?
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MH: Thats a good question. I have no way of knowing. I dont know whos alive, who isnt alive, how old they are.
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MSH: Does the 6th Armored have reunions?
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MH: Not anymore.
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MSH: Not anymore? (voices in background) Do you want me to call you back?
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MH: If you need any more information, call back.
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MSH: Let me call you right back.
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MH: Okay.
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00:19:14.1
Pause in recording
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MH: Yeah.
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MSH: Sorry, I should have done that before, I just didnt think of it. But you dontyou havent had contact with any of these men?
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MH: Not for quite a few years. Hold on a minute. (to wife) When was our last reunion? About ten, twelve years?
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Unidentified Woman: Two thousand.
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MH: Two thousand was our last reunion.
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MSH: Okay. All right. This is going to be a strange question, but you didnt take any pictures in the camp, did you?
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MH: Youve got to be kidding.
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MSH: No, Im really not, because Ive talked to guys who had liberated cameras and there were pictures that they took in Dachau, so Imevery circumstance was different, so its just a question that I ask. Do you have a picture of yourself from World War II?
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MH: Oh, Ive got some pictures, but theyre old. Theyre from the service.
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MSH: Yeah, from the service.
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MH: Yeah.
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MSH: Could I ask you to send me one and I can scan it on the computer and then send it back to you? I could send you an envelope, if that would help.
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MH: I can get a copy of a picture and send it to you, if you think its necessary.
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MSH: Well, Id like to have it, if its okay with you. Do you have an e-mail address or not?
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MH: Pardon me?
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MSH: Do you have e-mail?
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MH: Yeah.
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MSH: Whats your e-mail address?
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MH: Oh, you dont need it.
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MSH: Well, I was going to send you
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MH: You dont need it, period.
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MSH: Okay, okay. All right. I was going to send you my address, but you know what Ill do? Ill mail you an envelope.
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MH: Okay.
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MSH: Okay?
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MH: Right.
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MSH: Thank you very much.
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MH: Youre welcome. And, as I said before, if you need more information about Buchenwald, the Buchenwald Association has it. And if you dont have the address, Ill be happy to send it to you. I dont have it right in front of me right now.
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MSH: Okay. Thank you very much.
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MH: Goodbye.
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MSH: Bye-bye.


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This is an oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator Milton Harrison. Harrison was a member of the 9th Armored Infantry Battalion, part of the 6th Armored Division, who were, according to Harrison, the original liberators of Buchenwald in April 1945. The twenty-two man unit fought its way into the camp, subdued the guards, and interviewed some of the prisoners, spending several hours there; the next day, men from two other division arrived. In this interview, Harrison recounts his experiences at Buchenwald, speaking very passionately against the misconceptions about its liberation. He is also the chairman of the Buchenwald Information Committee.
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Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects.
830
Concentration camp liberators oral history project.
4 856
u http://digital.lib.usf.edu/?c65.54
y USF ONLINE ACCESS
FTS
951
10
SFU01:002220982;
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