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Tarmo Holma oral history interview


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Tarmo Holma oral history interview
Series Title:
Concentration camp liberators oral history project
Uniform Title:
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects
Physical Description:
1 sound file (37 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Holma, Tarmo, 1921-
Hirsh, Michael, 1943-
University of South Florida Libraries -- Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center
University of South Florida -- Library. -- Special & Digital Collections. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
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Subjects / Keywords:
Concentration camps -- History -- Germany   ( lcsh )
Death marches -- Personal narratives -- 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 )
Oral history   ( local )
Online audio   ( local )
Oral history.   ( local )
Online audio.   ( local )
interview   ( marcgt )


This is an oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator Tarmo Holma. Holma was a member of the 11th Armored Division, which liberated Mauthausen and Gusen on May 5-6, 1945, although Holma's company was not at the camps, having been assigned to guard the road around Linz, Austria. Holma did, however, encounter prisoners from Flossenbürg on a death march from that camp. On the road near Cham, Germany, Holma, who was seated on top of his tank, could see some activity on the road, which turned out to be thousands of prisoners. It took his unit the entire day to pass through the crowd. Holma is frequently invited to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Remembrance Day activities and is featured on the museum's website.
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.
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).

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University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
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Resource Identifier:
aleph - 024873424
oclc - 653241711
usfldc doi - C65-00060
usfldc handle - c65.60
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Full Text
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript segment idx 0 time 00:00:0.0 text Tarmo Holma: in rehab from my hip injuryhard to get aroundfell down a couple of months ago and cracked my hip in a few places. 1 00:00:9.1 Michael Hirsh: Thats not a good thing. 2 00:00:10.2 TH: Okay, I got a good spot here. Now Im sitting. 3 00:00:12.6 MH: Okay, first of all, give me your full name and spell it for me, please. 4 00:00:15.9 TH: Okay, my name is Tarmo Holma. First name is T-a-r-m-o, and the last name is Holma, H-o-l-m-a. 5 00:00:26.1 MH: Spell the first name again. T 6 00:00:28.5 TH: T-a-r, like Thomas, like the Thomas, A, as in alpha, R as in Rod, thats T-a-r-m-o. Thats an ethnic Finnish name. I was an immigrant from Finland many years ago. 7 00:00:43.1 MH: Oh, okay. Whats your address? 8 00:01:4.4 MH: Whats your home number? 9 00:01:5.4 TH:   10 00:01:5.4 MH: And your cell phone number is and whats your date of birth? 11 00:01:8.5 TH: October 8, 1921. 12 00:01:12.4 MH: Okay, and what unit were you in when you were in Germany? 13 00:01:18.8 TH: I was with 11th Armored Division, 41st Tank Battalion, Headquarters Company, Tank Platoon. 14 00:01:28.0 MH: Where were you before you went in the service? 15 00:01:34.2 TH: I was a mechanic at a local transportation company. Martys Ice and Oil, it was called, but he had all kinds ofgrandfathered rights to haul anything by truck. He was a mechanic before that. The first unit I went into the Army, I went from Fort Devon, Massachusetts, to Camp Hood, Texas, which is now Fort Hood. 16 00:02:4.6 MH: Were you drafted or did you enlist? 17 00:02:5.6 TH: I was drafted, yeah, but I had to more or less volunteer because I had fallen down and hurt my knee so bad; it looked like a soccer ball. They were giving me deferments, and finally I was the only one left in my neighborhood, so I had to convince them to let me go in the army because that was the thing to do in those days. 18 00:02:23.0 MH: What year was this? 19 00:02:24.1 TH: This was 1943. They finally let me go in the last days of February, and I was officially inlets see, March 3, I think it was my official in the army. And they sent me from Fort Devon to Camp Hood, Texas, which is now a big place. And my original outfit was 106th Mechanized Cavalry, and so then we wereI did my basic training, quite a few months with this outfit, and then we were getting shipped to England many months before D-Day had happened. But the lieutenant looked at my papers as Im going up the gangplank in New York and saw that I was still a citizen of Finland. And Finland was allied with Germany against Russia. Finland fought the Soviets twice during 1939 to 1944 in the Winter War and the Continuation War. Due to the wars with the Soviets, Finland became a co-belligerent with Germany. This agreement lasted until the Lapland War (1944 to 1945) in which the Finns expelled the Germans and Soviets from their territory. So, I wasnt allowed to go to Europe to fight against my own people, supposedly, so they sent me to California to join some outfit to go to Japan, which would be all right for anybody. 20 00:03:38.1 But while I was in California, I became a citizen through the Army, and then D-Day had happened while I was in California, so now they needed a lot more soldiers in California, and they had put me in the 11th Armored Division to fill up their division, and they put me in a tank right away, they said they got plenty of mechanics, they needed to fill up the tank unit. So they put me in a tank. Luckily, they put me in a good position up in the turret, which I liked, kind of a bad position sometimesI liked it, personally, because I had the most space in the tank, in the Sherman tank. And my position was called the loader for the big gun and the anti-aircraft operator for the .50 caliber machine gun mounted on top of the tank, and also the radio operator. So I had a lot of duties. But I liked it, because I had the most space to lay down inside the tan. Of course, it was on top of the ammunition, but that was all right. 21 00:04:41.6 MH: When did they send you overseas? 22 00:04:44.1 TH: That was, that waswell, lets see, we landed in Liverpool on October 11, Im pretty sure it was 23 00:04:53.2 MH: Of forty 24 00:04:55.0 TH: Forty-three [1943]. Yeah, I dont rememberno, that would have been forty-four [1944]. 25 00:04:59.6 MH: Forty-four [1944]. 26 00:05:0.4 TH:  Yeah, that was in forty-four [1944]. I dont remember the exact date we left New York. I think it took a week to get there. But I remember landing in Liverpool, England, October 11. And then we went from train from Liverpool down to Southampton, England, on the south coast of England; thats where we were stationed until we received our new equipment. And we also finally left from there to go to Cherbourg on the LST [Landing Ship, Tank]. That waswell, we landed in Cherbourg December 16, just when the Battle of the Bulge was beginning; nobody knew it was the Battle of the Bulge then. But they got all excited as we were landing. We were supposed to go to southern France to take care of some German units that had been bypassed, but they told us as we landed, Go as fast as you can straight through to Belgium. The Germans were attacking and we had very few soldiers there, so we were the only large unit available. So, thats about the story up to that point. 27 00:06:9.4 MH: So, you were fighting in the Bulge? 28 00:06:13.0 TH: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That was our big battle. They gave us jobs to do right away, protecting the road that leads to Bastogne, so they could get some supplies into Bastogne, and then we actually went into the outskirts of Bastogne. I used some of the foxholes to sleep in at night that the 101st Airborne had used, because the ground was frozen solid; you couldnt dig a new foxhole. So, I sat in some of those foxholes at night. And that was tough going there. I dont know all the details on that. There was a lot going on. 29 00:06:58.2 MH: Were you wounded at all during that battle? 30 00:07:1.2 TH: No, I never got wounded. I had some close calls. We went through all through Germany after we got out of Belgium, and many placeswell, especially when we reached Fulda, a big city in the middle of Germany. The city seemed to be situated high on a hill. We had all arrived in this big plane, and they started bombarding us, and so everybody had to scatter all of a sudden, and that was close from the artillery, the German artillery landing all around us. And thats when we lost ourmy own company captain, he had just been issued a light tank, and he said, Ill look for a road around Fulda, and he took off on a side road looking for a way out. The Germans killed him right away because he was in the top of the tank, and so we lost our company captain right away in Fulda. And from then on, we went in single file. 31 00:08:4.6 My unit was in whats called the advance guard most of the time through Germany, and I was usually, like, the third tank because my tank commander was the operations officer, so he had to be up front to decide what to do. So, that gave me a good position, more or less. They told me I wouldnt last two weeks, because I insisted on sitting on top of the tank to see whats going on, and I felt comfortable with my .50 caliber machine gun in front of me. And I felta young kid, you know, you think youre invincible. I felt I could protect myself with that .50 caliber, before anybody else could shoot me. So, lets see, I dont know where I left off. 32 00:08:55.7 MH: At that point, had anybody told you about the concentration camps? 33 00:09:0.4 TH: No, we had never heard anything about them. And maybe vaguely, but we didnt know what was involved, you know, or how bad they were and all that. We didnt have any of that history. Some of the officers might have, becausewhere was I? When we did get tolets see, lets see. Well, yeah, that wastrying to think of that big city. I think it was near Cham, C-h-a-m. I think thats where Flossenbrg was. I didnt know it was Flossenbrg at that time. We had to travel single-file because the roads were narrow. 34 00:09:40.5 My tank had pulled over to the side momentarily, and I had always had binoculars. I looked around, because I was sitting on top to see what was going on, and many miles away I could see this activity on the road. And the road was filled with people; I assumed they were soldiers. I sawit must have been ten miles away, so I could just see the movement. And I said to my commanding officer, I said, The whole German army has to be out there waiting for us because I see movement. He said, No, were arriving at one of the concentration camps. 35 00:10:15.5 And so then, it took us several hours to finally get there, and when we got there, the road was completely filled with the victims from Flossenbrg. I found out the name later. And the Germans were trying to march them, I found out later, to Mauthausen, because they had tunnels there and they were going to dynamite all the prisoners that they had rounded up and bury them out of sight. 36 00:10:40.7 MH: You found that out later? 37 00:10:41.9 TH: Yeah, I found that out later; we didnt know. We were on a combat mission. We were still chasing that part of the German army, so we didnt go inside that camp; we just arrived at the death march outside on the road as they were marching them away. 38 00:10:59.1 MH: So, you saw the German soldiers there, the SS? 39 00:11:1.3 TH: I didnt see them: they had run away. And the prisoners been able to kill a few of them, but then even a lot of the prisonersthey were so excited, they appeared to be dying as they ran out to greet us. They came out 40 00:11:16.1 MH: What do you mean by that? 41 00:11:17.3 TH: Well, I saw them fall down and notI assumed they were dying because they were just walking skeletons; they looked like skeletons with a little skin on them. So, it bothered me to this day. Im surprised I can talk this much about it; usually I start crying and I cant talk anymore.  Because it was just bad shape, but they were anxious to come out and greet us. And then we were going to give them our rations, especially the K rations; they were very good. Because Im the radio operator, too, I got the message right away, Dont feed the prisoners, they cant stand that kind of food that we have, so they didnt want us to feed them. They told us that people coming behind us will take care of their health problems. So we had to keep going as best we couldvery slowly, because we couldnt move, because the road was filled, completely filled, with these concentration camp prisoners. 42 00:12:16.0 MH: How many do you think there were? 43 00:12:18.3 TH: Well, they told me later on there was many thousands of em; a few years ago, one of the young people that lives in that town of Flossen or Flossenbrg was taking information about that, and the teacher, the English teacher at Bentley College here in Waltham, Massachusetts, invited the survivorsseveral survivors of Flossenbrgbecause one of their relatives, I dont know if there was a father or grandfather, was one of the victims. So, she was doing a program, and she invited quite a few of the survivors from Flossenbrg to speak at the college. I found out about it because they had an article in the paper, and I told them I was with the 11th Armored Division. So, she invited me to come up and participate in thatand somebody from the 26th Infantry; they might have been the ones that went into the camp to help clean it up. And so I was at that. That would be nice, if you could get a hold of the English teacher; must have been five years ago at Bentley College. 44 00:13:30.5 MH: Do you remember the name of the teacher? 45 00:13:32.4 TH: Ive been trying to remember it. She was an English teacher, and if you called Bentley, Im sure they would know who it was. 46 00:13:39.9 MH: In Waltham, Mass.? 47 00:13:41.7 TH: Waltham, Mass., yeah. And they sent me a newsletter, because the editor of the newsletter interviewed me while I was there. I have that, but I havent been able to find it, so 48 00:13:54.4 MH: And there was somebody from the 26th Infantry Division there? 49 00:13:57.7 TH: Yes, an old guy, but he couldnt talk very good so the editor of their newsletter interviewed me. I dont know if he interviewed the guy from the 26th or not. 50 00:14:11.1 MH: It was the 26th, not the 36th? 51 00:14:12.9 TH: No, it was the 26th, I remember that. Yeah. I dont remember his name. 52 00:14:17.8 MH: Tell me more about the sight of the people on the road. I mean, was it men and women? 53 00:14:23.1 TH: Oh, that I dont remember noticing. Yeah, I dont remember noticing that. Seems to me it was all men. 54 00:14:32.0 MH: Did they have clothes on? 55 00:14:34.1 TH: Yeah, they hadthey had the striped uniform on. 56 00:14:36.9 MH: Hats or no hats? 57 00:14:39.0 TH: The hatsI dont think they had hats. 58 00:14:42.4 MH: What kind of a day was it? 59 00:14:44.5 TH: Oh, it was a beautiful day. It would have been late April, like April 20, 21, something like that. And some of my guys insist it was April 23, but they came behind me. So, we might have been there all day, I dont remember. But its in that vicinity, anyhow. The road was jammed with those victims; we couldnt move for a long time. 60 00:15:13.9 MH: You mean they just completely surrounded the tanks? 61 00:15:15.3 TH: Yes, they did. They were still swarming what I assume the road was into the camp. We were trying to proceed on the dirt road to continue the combat mission that we were on, because we were trying to follow the remnants of the German army. So, we were trying to proceed on the road, and the road for many miles ahead it was still full of the victims, because they were trying to march them, I found out later, to Mauthausen, which was quite a few miles away. And they told me they had tried to move the prisoners earlier by train, but our Air Force bombed the train so they brought them back to the camp. And so they were trying to march them this time. 62 00:16:2.9 MH: Did you see any of the dead SS? 63 00:16:6.7 TH: No, I didnt see anywell, I wasnt purposely looking for them, but I saw what I assumed to be dead bodies laying on the side every once in a while. 64 00:16:18.4 MH: In German uniforms, you mean? 65 00:16:20.9 TH: Thatsee, it was so hectic, I dont remember if I saw their uniforms. 66 00:16:26.6 MH: So, how long were you in this melee surrounded by all these people? 67 00:16:32.3 TH: Oh, that had to be all day. Im pretty sure it was all day, cause we could hardly move. At first we were just standing still, where they were still coming out of the camp onto the main road. And the main road was only as single-land dirt road. 68 00:16:47.7 MH: Were you getting radio calls saying, Move, move, and you cant move? 69 00:16:52.5 TH: No, they didnt say that, they just said dont try to feed them. I guess the officers knew what was going on. 70 00:16:59.3 MH: Did you get off the tank? 71 00:17:1.2 TH: No, I didnt get off. 72 00:17:3.2 MH: You stayed on it all day? 73 00:17:5.0 TH: Well, we had to, because we were supposed to keep moving, but we couldnt move because we had to wait until the victims got out of the way. I stayed on the tank and I was getting ready to hand em my K rations, which is in a nice cardboard box; they have a nice chocolate bar especially in it. But I immediately got the radio call not to give them, and the other tanks got the same call, so 74 00:17:29.1 MH: What language were these people speaking? 75 00:17:30.6 TH: I dont knowI dont know if they were speaking, they were just waving. They appeared to be so glad to see us. I dont remember hearing any language, if they spoke anything. Because Im sitting on top of the tank, Im, you know, like eight feet high. 76 00:17:52.4 MH: So, I mean, this has got to be the weirdest situation youve ever been in in your whole life. 77 00:18:0.7 TH: Well, I couldnt believe it, because we hadnt got any information about concentration camps. I think wed heard the term, but it didnt mean anything; we didnt know what it meant. And to think these thousands and thousands of victimslike I say, walking skeletons. Thats what they were. You wouldnt think a person like that can walk, or move. 78 00:18:20.5 MH: Even if they had clothes on, the uniform, you could still see that they were skinny. 79 00:18:23.7 TH: Oh, yeah, because you could see their head appeared to be large, and their hands and arms and legs, nothing to them, even though they had the striped uniform on. Yeah. No, you could see that they were skeletons. 80 00:18:40.3 MH: How did you finally move the tanks? 81 00:18:42.4 TH: Well, finally, little by little, they separated enough for us to move very slowly through them. And this went on for miles and miles up the road, because the march had already been going on. And thats what I had seen from the beginning, many miles away. I could see the road was black with people. But I couldnt identify if they had uniforms or not, thats why I assumed it was the army there. My command knew aboutmaybe our scouts had discovered the camp ahead of time. 82 00:19:16.5 MH: The scouts go ahead in what kind of vehicle? 83 00:19:20.0 TH: They usually have like an armored car; they call it an armored car. Its lightly armored and it has heavy rubber tires. They can travel better through forests than a tank. 84 00:19:36.3 MH: And they usually send one of those out in advance of the tank? 85 00:19:40.2 TH: Yeah, they do the scouting ahead of time. Its the armored infantry that has those. 86 00:19:47.4 MH: What was your tank driver doing at this time? It must have been really frustrating. 87 00:19:52.6 TH: Hes got a hard job. He has to stay closed up. He has to close his hatch and look through a periscope in order to drive. Because when you swing the big gun, it goes right over his head. So, hes got a hatch there that he can come out of, but he cant leave that hatch open if were going to swing the gun. 88 00:20:10.6 MH: And were you swinging the big gun while all these people were around you? 89 00:20:13.2 TH: No, we didnt need to there, so the gun was pointed straight ahead. He could have opened his hatch. He might have once we got there. I dont remember seeing if he opened it or not. But he probably did while we were sittin there waiting to go, because you cant see much through a periscope. 90 00:20:29.1 MH: I imagine he was worried about running people over, too. 91 00:20:32.1 TH: Thats the other problem. Oh, in some towns in Germany, we had to run German soldiers overand horses even, because the roads were so narrow going through some of the villages, and dead soldiers and dead horses would be might in the middle of the road, and we had to keep going as fast as we could. There were occasions when we actually had to run over dead human soldiers and dead German horses. There were situations like that. It was bad at times. Like they say, war is hell. 92 00:21:4.5 MH: So, how long did it finally take to drive through this mass of people? Hours? 93 00:21:10.3 TH: I think it took all day. Yeah, very, very slow. We obviously didnt want to run over or hit any victims. The victims had a hard enough time. And then it took us quite a few daysI dont remember; oh, I should rememberbefore we got to Mauthausen and Linz, Austria. That took at least a week, before we got to Austria. We were the first unit to arrive in Austria, and all through Germany we were the easternmost unit, ahead of the Allied army 94 00:21:46.5 MH: The 11th Armored got to Gusen, which is a Mauthausen sub-camp, on May 5. 95 00:21:50.1 TH: Oh, yeah. I remember May 3, they told us that the wardont do anything foolish, because the war was going to be over. May 3, they started telling us that. So, they told us not to do anything foolish, dont be the last victim, and sobut we were just trying to take it easy May 3, 4 and 5. 96 00:22:12.6 MH: Did you run into guys from the 80th Infantry Division? 97 00:22:15.3 TH: I dont remember any of those. 98 00:22:17.2 MH: So, several days go by, almost a week, and you come to the Mauthausen sub-camps. Do you remember them? 99 00:22:25.6 TH: No, because we didnt go directly in there. We were assigned a position to guard the road around Linz; we didnt go directly into that city. I think the other unit thats called CCA went directly into Linz. See, our division is comprised of three combat commands: Combat Command B, Combat Command A and Combat Command R for Reserve. So, my unit was CCB. We took turns doing the leading: some days it would be Combat Command B, then wed go back into reserve and Combat Command A was the lead. I found out later that Combat Command A, the 42nd Tank Battalion, they went directly into Linz. 100 00:23:19.8 MH: So, where were you when the war ended? 101 00:23:24.2 TH: We were in Linzyeah, Linz, Austria. On the Danube River, and there was a German barracks on the south side of Linz that they let us stay in those barracks there. Oh, yeah, but before thatthats right, toothey sent a bunch of us, not in our tanks, by train, into the town of Hradec, Czechoslovakia, so the Russians couldnt claim all of Czechoslovakia. So they sent a bunch of us just to say that we had control of that part of Czechoslovakia, because Linz is right on the border of Czechoslovakia. 102 00:24:3.7 MH: They put you on a train and sent you there? 103 00:24:6.7 TH: Whats that? 104 00:24:7.9 MH: They took you off the tank and put you on a train? 105 00:24:9.7 TH: Yes, they put a bunch of us in the train, and it was those little boxcars 106 00:24:15.7 MH: The 40-and-8s? 107 00:24:16.9 TH: Yes, yes. They packed a bunch of us in there and took us into this little town of H-r-a-d-e-k [sic]. I think its Hradec. 108 00:24:25.6 MH: So, what do you do when you get there? 109 00:24:27.1 TH: Oh, we just sat around. They let us walk around. Just to say that we were there, thats all. We didnt have to do anything. And they were taking a lot of prisoners there, because the middle of the roadthe dirt road over therewas stacked with thousands of stacks of German rifles. I kept a couple of those for souvenirs. So, part of our division had to capture a lot of prisoners there. It wasnt me. 110 00:24:55.2 MH: And then you eventually go back to where your tanks were. 111 00:24:59.1 TH: Yeah, into Linz. 112 00:25:0.8 MH: Into Linz. And youre in Linz when the war ends? 113 00:25:2.9 TH: Yeahwell, lets see. Yeah, when the war ends, yeah. But then they moved usthey kept us there and moved us into the city of Steyr, Austria, S-t-e-y-r, something like that, Steyr. And thats where I stayed the rest of the occupation, until I was sent home in February 1946. 114 00:25:24.6 MH: And, so February forty-six [1946] you come home, and youre out of the army? 115 00:25:30.2 TH: Yes, out of the army. They wanted us to stay, they promised us all kinds of promotions, but most everybody wanted to get home. So, we could have stayed and got all kinds of extra promotions. 116 00:25:43.0 MH: What was your rank at the end of the war? 117 00:25:44.9 TH: Oh, I was a PFC [Private First Class] almost the whole time. I got PFC fairly soon, but I couldnt get a promotion unless somebody in my tank crew got killed. So, thats the way that went. 118 00:25:56.8 MH: So, what did you do when you got back home? 119 00:25:58.3 TH: Ah, lets see. Oh, they gave everybody athey would have given us a year of, likewhaddya call it? Like work compensation, likewhat the heck do you call it when you get out of work? They wanted to pay us a certain amountI dont know how much it wasfor not working. I didnt have to go to work right away, so I stayed home. 120 00:26:25.0 MH: So, its like unemployment compensation? 121 00:26:27.3 TH: Yeah, I think it was like unemployment compensation, except it was through the army. I mean, they had their own unemployment compensation, and I think it would have lasted a week, but I only took six months and then I went to work. My mother had bought a house, so I helped her with the house in Quincy, Massachusetts, yeah. 122 00:26:45.9 MH: And you went to work as what, a mechanic again? 123 00:26:48.6 TH: Then I went to work as a mechaniclets see, where did I go? Oh, yeah, I went to workhow did I get there, hmm? I went to work. Oh, yeah, I went to work for a local mechanic, yeah, a small garage there. Yeah, thats right. Before the war I had been working as a mechanic for a company in the city of Boston, but I didnt want to go into Boston again. I stayed working near my home in Quincy. 124 00:27:15.9 MH: Did you get married? 125 00:27:18.1 TH: Nowell, yeah, I got married. Well, I was with a girl. I went to roller skate just before I went in the Army, and so I joined a roller skating competition club inwhere was that? Dorchester, Massachusetts. I went into competition roller skating and I met a girl there, stayed with her all the time, eventually got married with her, and we became New England Roller Skating Champions, dance skating. So, that was a big event, and I eventually married her. But she died from cancer during the blizzardoh, 1978, which we had around here, huge blizzard. And she died from cancer during that blizzard, 1978. And then for quite a few years I was single, but then I got married again in 19hmm, might have been 1980. I think I got married in 1980, but she died after five years from a different form of cancer. Now Im going with a girl for twenty years and Im afraid to get married again, because I dont want to lose another one. 126 00:28:34.0 MH: How old are you now? 127 00:28:34.2 TH: Im eighty-six. 128 00:28:36.7 MH: Do you have kids? 129 00:28:38.6 TH: Yes, I have two boys from my first wife. One is thirty, thirty-three and the other ishe must be forty-four, forty-five years old. One lives in Quincy and the other lives in Dover, New Hampshire. 130 00:28:51.8 MH: Let me ask you a question. The war was over and time passes, and youre married. Do you find yourself thinking about what you saw at Flossenbrg? 131 00:29:2.5 TH: Oh, yeah. When people ask me about it, I cant talk about it very long; that is, I start to talk about it, I start crying. And Im invited every year to Washington, D.C. to the Holocaust Museum activities. A few years ago, the sixtieth anniversary of liberation of the concentration camps, the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., made a big event and they invited me and five of my buddiesI dont know how they were chosento participate in the ceremony in Washington, D.C. at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. They had a big dinner there and they had Laura Bush there speaking to us, and Eisenhowers granddaughter. It was a real big event put on by the Holocaust Museum. And then, they took us all through the Museum and showed us. 132 00:29:59.7 Then, the following year, they invitedlets see. Yeah, they invited five of us to be personal interviewers, so the five of us are on the Holocaust Museum website, the permanent website, speaking, and Im crying during that. So, if you look on there, on the Internet, on the Holocaust Museum in Personal Stories by the 11th Armored Division, youll see me, my picture there and the short message that I was able to speak. It was hard to talk. 133 00:30:34.4 MH: Did you find these memories were keeping you awake at night? 134 00:30:41.4 TH: Oh, no, it wasnt that bad. Its only when I try to talk about it. Yeah. 135 00:30:46.9 MH: Were you a religious person? 136 00:30:48.5 TH: And what? 137 00:30:50.5 MH: Were you a religious person before the war? 138 00:30:53.3 TH: No, not very. I had to become a Catholic to marry my wife, because shes Irish. But Finland is mostly Lutheran, so when my mother and father were alive, I went to church with them, a Lutheran church and a Congregational church. My mother was very active in the churches. I never was too much. Although in the war, when youre sittin in a foxhole and the artillery starts coming toward you, you become very religious. 139 00:31:25.8 MH: Im familiar with that. 140 00:31:28.0 TH: Oh, youve been in that situation? 141 00:31:30.8 MH: In Vietnam. 142 00:31:32.2 TH: Oh, well there you go, yeah. You become religious. 143 00:31:35.2 MH: We didnt have artillery coming at us, but we had rockets and mortars. 144 00:31:38.3 TH: Oh, well, those mortars especially, they come pretty close sometimes. 145 00:31:42.8 MH: Yeah. Do you know any other guys who were with you, or who were at that camp? 146 00:31:49.7 TH: Well, Ive been trying to figure out what company was immediately behind me when we arrived there, but I havent been able to pin that down. But when we have these reunions, a lot of guys remember that, but I cant say which company. The advance guard was always made up of well, myself first because of my operations officer, and then whats called a line company. We had three line companies, A, B and C. So Company A would be the advance guard sometimes, then theyd swap with Company B and C, and then some units were D Company. D Company was light tanks. They could run fast and look around and be like reconnaissance. 147 00:32:35.2 MH: Im hoping that some other guys from the reunion call me. At this point, youre the only one who has. 148 00:32:42.0 TH: Oh, thats too bad, because they were sending out the fliers. They were on the table all the time, thats how I picked it up. And thats why I called: to find out what it is you want to find out. They should have called. You could call Bob Pfeiffer sometime; hes home now, and hes our historian. Our historian used to beoh, the guy in New Jersey. Hes sick now; he hasnt been able to come the last couple of times. 149 00:33:12.0 MH: Bob Pfeiffer is your historian? 150 00:33:14.4 TH: Well yeah, hes our secretary. Hes younger. His father was in the 42nd Tank Battalion, and hes taken over the duties that his father and mother used to do, to be the secretary of our unit. And hes familiar with everybody, he knows everybody by name. 151 00:33:32.8 MH: You dont happen to have his phone number, do you? 152 00:33:35.1 TH: Well, Ive got it in the house, if you want to wait. Ill have to go in the house to get it. So, all right, hold on a second. Ill leave this on hold for a minute. 153 00:33:44.0 MH: Okay, Ill hold on. 154 00:33:44.9 TH: His name isyou know how to spell it? 155 00:33:47.1 MH: No, go ahead and spell it for me. 156 00:33:48.7 TH: Lets see, whered I put it. Okay, the last name is P-f-e-i-f-f-e-r, Bob Pfeiffer. 157 00:34:5.8 MH: And his phone number? 158 00:34:7.3 TH: Phone number, lets see. Its up here. You want his address, also? 159 00:34:12.3 MH: Sure. 160 00:34:12.7 TH: How does that sound? 161 00:34:16.1 MH: That sounds good. 162 00:34:17.3 TH: Okay. And he might be able to put you in touch with Ray Bush, because Ray Bush used to be our historian. He has all kinds of movies and everything. He was in the 56th Armored Engineers, and he had to supervise digging holes to bury a lot of the victims in Mauthausen. He has a video of that. He had a movie camera, and he put the pictures he took onto video. You might be interested in some of that. 163 00:34:47.1 MH: Do you have a picture of yourself from wartime? 164 00:34:50.5 TH: I used to, but I sent it into a magazine they were putting together at one time and I dont know if I ever got them back. I dont know if I have any more now. I should have someplace, but Ive been looking myself and I havent found them. 165 00:35:5.2 MH: Do you have an e-mail address? 166 00:35:8.3 TH: My girlfriend has it. I dont have any of that stuff but my girlfriend has it. 167 00:35:13.9 MH: Do you know her e-mail address offhand? 168 00:35:15.8 TH: Lets see. Yeah. 169 00:35:17.1 MH: Im going to send her an e-mail with my address on it; or, actually, you have my address on the flier, right? 170 00:35:23.1 TH: Yes. Itd be good if youd send it to her, just the same. 171 00:35:27.0 MH: Okay, because if you find a picture, Id really like to have it, and Ill copy it and send it back to you. 172 00:35:34.9 TH: Oh, yeah, Id make copies if I find it again. 173 00:35:38.3 MH: But its just, the reasonif you find a good picture I can scan it and make a good scan that we use in the book. 174 00:35:44.8 TH: Oh, yeah, they got such good equipment now. I was just reading at the reunion, somebody had brought a nice map of our complete route from England. The week before, I was in Duluth, Minnesota, at my Finnish reunion, festival, and a guy from the Vietnam War was there. He belonged to the Veterans, the Disabled American Veterans, and the American Legion. They supplied me with a brand new electric wheelchair to use the whole time I was in Duluth. That was absolutely awesome. At no charge. 175 00:36:19.9 MH: You needed to get around with an electric wheelchair because of your hip? 176 00:36:23.0 TH: Yes, my hip is still bothering me. I have to use a mechanical wheelchair around here, and a walker. I can use a walker, too, as long as I dont put any weight on my right foot. 177 00:36:32.5 MH: Okay.

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Holma, Tarmo,
Tarmo Holma oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Michael Hirsh.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (37 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (18 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 August 21, 2008.
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.
This is an oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator Tarmo Holma. Holma was a member of the 11th Armored Division, which liberated Mauthausen and Gusen on May 5-6, 1945, although Holma's company was not at the camps, having been assigned to guard the road around Linz, Austria. Holma did, however, encounter prisoners from Flossenbrg on a death march from that camp. On the road near Cham, Germany, Holma, who was seated on top of his tank, could see some activity on the road, which turned out to be thousands of prisoners. It took his unit the entire day to pass through the crowd. Holma is frequently invited to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Remembrance Day activities and is featured on the museum's website.
Holma, Tarmo,
United States.
Armored Division, 11th.
United States.
Armored Division, 11th
v Personal narratives.
Flossenbrg (Concentration camp)
Concentration camps
z Germany
x History.
Death marches
Personal narratives.
World War, 1939-1945
Concentration camps
World War, 1939-1945
Concentration camps
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945
Personal narratives, American.
World War, 1939-1945
United States.
United States
Crimes against humanity.
7 655
Oral history.
Online audio.
Hirsh, Michael,
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.
4 856


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