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Tom Malan oral history interview

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Material Information

Title:
Tom Malan oral history interview
Series Title:
Concentration camp liberators oral history project
Uniform Title:
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects
Physical Description:
1 sound file (20 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Language:
English
Creator:
Malan, Tom, 1921-
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:
Oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator Tom Malan. Malan was a mortarman in the 63rd Infantry Division, which liberated Landsberg on April 29, 1945. En route to Munich, they found the camp. The gates were open and the guards had fled, but before leaving they had set some of the buildings on fire, with prisoners still inside. Malan gave one of them a piece of bread; the man could only eat a tiny morsel of it at a time. They did not find many survivors, and the camp was scattered with corpses. Malan stayed in Europe until 1946, playing trumpet in the 255th Regiment Band.
Venue:
Interview conducted September 5, 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 Hirsh (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 - 025749281
oclc - 692774590
usfldc doi - C65-00083
usfldc handle - c65.83
System ID:
SFS0022133:00001


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 Hirsh: Okay, can you give me your name again and spell it for me, please? 1 00:00:4.8 Tom Malan: Tom Malan, M-a-l-a-n. 2 00:00:8.0 MH: And your address? 3 00:00:8.7 TM: 4 00:00:9.6 MH: And your phone is.   5 00:00:11.1 TM: Right. 6 00:00:11.7 MH: And your date of birth, sir. 7 00:00:13.0 TM: August(laughs) youre gettin personal nowAugust 16, 1921. 8 00:00:19.1 MH: So youre how old? 9 00:00:20.0 TM: I will be eighty-seven in August. 10 00:00:23.9 MH:  Okay.  Youve got a great voice.  Have you ever been on the radio? 11 00:00:27.0 TM: Uh, no.   12 00:00:28.0 MH: You have one of those radio kind of voices that just resonates. 13 00:00:32.8 TM: Is that right? 14 00:00:33.7 MH: Yep.  So, where did you grow up? 15 00:00:36.3 TM: In southern Illinois.   16 00:00:38.6 MH: Whereabouts? 17 00:00:39.5 TM: Centralia, Illinois.   18 00:00:41.1 MH: Okay, and how old were you when you went in the service? 19 00:00:46.4 TM: I was aboutthirty-nine [1939], forty-three[1943]I was about twenty-two, twenty-three. 20 00:00:55.7 MH: So what were you doing before you went in? 21 00:00:58.1 TM: Well, I lost my fatherhe was forty-years oldso I got a deferment or two.  But I was working in the oil fields around there when I was called in. 22 00:01:11.1 MH: Okay, so then you got drafted? 23 00:01:13.8 TM: Yes. 24 00:01:15.2 MH: Whered they send you? 25 00:01:16.6 TM: First one was to Camp Grant, Illinois. 26 00:01:19.7 MH: Okay, and how long were you there? 27 00:01:24.3 TM: For basic training, engineer basic training. 28 00:01:28.2 MH: Okay, andIm sorry, what year was that that they drafted you? 29 00:01:32.9 TM: Lets see, about forty-three [1943]. 30 00:01:37.7 MH: Forty-three [1943], okay.  So, the war had been going on for a couple of years, and you knew that you were going to get sent over. 31 00:01:47.8 TM: Not then yet, I didnt know. 32 00:01:51.4 MH: When did they tell you? 33 00:01:54.0 TM: A couple years latera year later or so, a year and a half later, I guess. 34 00:02:0.2 MH: So, you were in engineering basic. 35 00:02:5.3 TM: I went from there to ASTP [Army Specialized Training Program]. 36 00:02:8.5 MH: At what college? 37 00:02:10.2 TM: At Washington-Jefferson, Washington, Pennsylvania.   38 00:02:13.8 MH: And the promise was, if you go to that, youre going to get to stay there until you get out of college? 39 00:02:22.4 TM: No, no, no.  That was just the Army program.  And it was an engineer, and Im no engineer.  So then, I volunteered for cadets, thenAir Force cadetsand was stationed down in Jackson, Mississippi when they alerted us all for overseas shipment. 40 00:02:50.5 MH: And they sent you where, to the 63rd?   41 00:02:55.6 TM: Yes, uh-huh. 42 00:02:57.3 MH: And the 63rd was being put together 43 00:03:0.9 TM: It was together.  (lawnmower noises)  Let me close this door so you can 44 00:03:7.3 MH: Okay. 45 00:03:8.0 TM: My Mexican lawnmowers are here. 46 00:03:9.6 MH: I see. 47 00:03:10.3 TM: (both laugh) Thats better, isnt it? 48 00:03:12.1 MH: Yes. 49 00:03:12.7 TM: Okay. 50 00:03:13.4 MH: So, they send you to the 63rd, which was where? 51 00:03:18.9 TM: At Centerville, Mississippi. 52 00:03:23.5 MH: And how long did you get to stay there? 53 00:03:26.5 TM: Well, until we went overseas.  I was supposed to go to OCS [Officer Candidate School], but this came up firstthe overseas first. 54 00:03:37.8 MH: And they sent overseasthey sent you by shipwhered you leave from? 55 00:03:42.6 TM: Yes, we left New York.  Camp Shanks, New York. 56 00:03:45.6 MH: Sailing for where? 57 00:03:49.1 TM: We landed at Marseille, France. 58 00:03:52.4 MH: And then what happens to you? 59 00:03:52.4 TM: Well, we were headedon New Years Eve that year, we were headed up to the Bulge when they broke through down at Colmar, so they called us back.   60 00:04:6.3 MH: You were riding in boxcars? 61 00:04:10.4 TM: No, no.  Trucksbig trucks, whatd they call em? 62 00:04:15.5 MH: Deuce-and-a-halfs?   63 00:04:16.7 TM: Whats that? 64 00:04:17.8 MH: Deuce-and-a-halfs?  Two and a half ton trucks? 65 00:04:20.8 TM: Yeah. 66 00:04:21.5 MH: And so they called you back. 67 00:04:25.1 TM: Yeah, in the morning.  They broke through down at Colmar, which is down in the southern part of Germany, you know [sic]. Colmar is actually in France, a little over twelve miles from the German border. 68 00:04:33.3 MH: And then what happens to you? 69 00:04:36.2 TM: Well, we finally went on line then and stayed on line till we leave this prisoner of war camp, and then we were done. 70 00:04:50.4 MH: What was your first combat? 71 00:04:54.4 TM: My first stop in combat? 72 00:04:57.6 MH: Yeah what was your first, you know, action that you saw? 73 00:05:0.6 TM: Well, I guess in the French Maginot Line. 74 00:05:8.1 MH: And what was that experience like?  Were you prepared for it, or? 75 00:05:14.6 TM: Got prepared pretty fast.   76 00:05:17.5 MH: (laughs) You were what, a rifleman at that point? 77 00:05:20.4 TM: No, I was a mortarman, 60mm mortar.  Which iswe were a rifleman a lot of times. 78 00:05:25.5 MH: But you said 60mm mortar? 79 00:05:29.4 TM: Yes. 80 00:05:30.3 MH: You remember the first time you had to fire that thing in combat? 81 00:05:35.5 TM: No, I dont, Mike.  At this age, you know. 82 00:05:40.4 MH: Thats a few years ago.  So, tell me how you came across the concentration camp. 83 00:05:46.1 TM: Well, we fought our way through, and one morning, we took that concentration campwe were headed for Munich, you know.  Its a suburb of Munich.  And 84 00:06:1.6 MH: What did you see?  Hello?  Hello?  (static sounds)  Hello?   85 00:06:19.7 TM: of bread, about the end of my finger. 86 00:06:21.9 MH: Start again, because something disconnected us.  I was asking you what you saw 87 00:06:29.0 TM: Well, we got in this town, and we got to the camp and we liberated it.  And I never will forget, I ran across a Jewish fellow.  I gave him a piece of bread.  All he could eat at one time was a little piece, about the size of the end of my finger, because hed beenhe was thin and been starving.  Now, the ones that were left in the camp, they burnt the buildings as they could.  They were burnt from the neck on down.  They tried to dig out underneath, you know, underneath the buildings.  And they didnt make it; many of them did not make it.   88 00:07:13.9 MH: So, you mean these were people who were locked in buildings, and the buildings were set on fire? 89 00:07:18.6 TM: Thats right. 90 00:07:19.6 MH: Were the buildings still burning when you got there? 91 00:07:21.5 TM: Some of them were, yes. 92 00:07:23.3 MH: So, what do you do? 93 00:07:25.0 TM: Well, do what we canI mean, there wasnt many prisoners; the Germans had taken off, and taken care of the Jewish people that were in there.   94 00:07:36.0 MH: How many did you find alive? 95 00:07:39.3 TM: I dont remember.   96 00:07:41.1 MH: But you said theyd tried to crawl out from underneath the buildings? 97 00:07:46.0 TM: Yes, uh-huh.  Dig their way out, you know.  And they just didnt make it, many of them didnt. 98 00:07:54.6 MH: And Im sorry to ask you this again, but they were burned which way? 99 00:07:59.2 TM:  Well, from their neck on downor depending on how far they got out, you know.  Maybe from their waist on down. 100 00:08:7.1 MH: And you had to walk through these bodies? 101 00:08:10.3 TM: Thats right. 102 00:08:11.3 MH: How do you deal with that? 103 00:08:13.0 TM: (laughs) Thats hard.  Thats hard.  Just try to get through as fast as you can, you know. 104 00:08:21.3 MH: Do you remember the smell? 105 00:08:22.9 TM: Oh, yeah.  Yes, sure do. 106 00:08:25.8 MH: Can you describe it? 107 00:08:27.1 TM: I dont know how I would describe it, really.  It was terribleI mean, like dead bodies everywhere, you know. 108 00:08:37.4 MH: How do you react?  I mean, do you cry, do you scream, do you want to kill somebody? 109 00:08:42.5 TM: No, no, you dont do either one if youre in combat or a GI, you know.  Even though that Jewish fellowyou felt like crying, but you didnt.   110 00:08:54.8 MH: How did you know he was Jewish?  He had a star on the? 111 00:09:0.3 TM: I could tell by looking at him and what little English he could speak. 112 00:09:4.4 MH: So, what did you do with him? 113 00:09:7.9 TM: I just let him go.  I mean, he went his wayon his way. 114 00:09:13.6 MH: When you got there, were the camp gates open? 115 00:09:16.9 TM: Yes. 116 00:09:18.8 MH: And were the survivors wandering out of the camp? 117 00:09:23.2 TM: Yes. 118 00:09:23.9 MH: Did you guys have any instructions? 119 00:09:27.0 TM: Not many, not many. 120 00:09:31.5 MH: And this was Landsberg? 121 00:09:33.4 TM: Landsberg, right. 122 00:09:35.2 MH: Landsberg; was it Kaufering, a sub-camp? 123 00:09:37.8 TM: Sub-camp of Auschwitz. 124 00:09:41.4 MH: Of Dachau. 125 00:09:42.4 TM: Dachau, right.  Yeah, thats right. 126 00:09:45.0 MH: How long did you stay there at that camp? 127 00:09:51.7 TM: Oh, not very long: a day, maybe. 128 00:09:54.4 MH: But you sit in therewhen you had a chance to talk to your buddies about it, what do you talk about?  What are the conversations like? 129 00:10:3.2 TM: Oh, we never talked much about it, to be honest, because then the war was over for us.  We went back to around Heidelberg, Germany, you know, and we never talked a whole lot about it; it was just part of war, you know. 130 00:10:22.9 MH: When you came home, did you tell people about it? 131 00:10:27.1 TM: Yes, when they asked.  Right. 132 00:10:33.8 MH: I mean, those sights gotta stay with you the rest of your life. 133 00:10:37.3 TM: Oh, yes, yes. 134 00:10:38.9 MH: Do you have nightmares about them? 135 00:10:41.4 TM: No, no. 136 00:10:43.8 MH: But you just remember that theyre there. 137 00:10:47.0 TM: Thats right.  I dont remember all of my Army career, but I remember that, all right.  You know. 138 00:10:52.8 MH: Can you tell me anything else about that day that you were at the camp? 139 00:10:57.2 TM: No, I cant remember much about it, Mike. 140 00:11:2.2 MH: Did they bring medical people in to help those folks? 141 00:11:5.2 TM: Well, Im sure they did.  Our medical people helped them what they could.  Because there was no fighting, we didnt fight any; none of our men were hurt. 142 00:11:5.2 MH: The SS had already gone. 143 00:11:18.4 TM: The SS had already gone. 144 00:11:20.3 MH: In the course of your time in combat, did you run into the SS often? 145 00:11:24.5 TM: Oh, yes.  I cant say how often, but we did run into them. 146 00:11:29.5 MH: Did you treat the SS differently than the regular German army soldiers? 147 00:11:33.3 TM: (laughs) Yes. 148 00:11:35.6 MH: Tell me about that.  Ive heard some of it from some other people, too. 149 00:11:40.2 TM:  Well, you didnt take all the prisoners in.  You know.  I never will forget we had a wonderful captain; he got his commission over in the Pacific.  Captain Bob Young.  And I brung in some winethey said we were division reserve, and this was up in northern Germanywestern Germany.  And I ran into some wine.  I was passin it out and boy, I was gone.  About three oclock in the morning, they come to wake me up, and I had thrown up and layin in it.   150 00:12:22.2 MH: Nice. 151 00:12:24.3 TM: I said, Hey, were division reserve.  No, not anymore.  So I was laying in the ditch that morning and Captain came by and said, Hey, Handsome Tom, whats the matter?  I said, You know everything thats going on in this company, Captain; I dont have to tell you.  But anyway, that day, there was a ravine.  We had to go up a bigI dont know what youd call it; Im not familiar with the mountain region when theyd have a plateau, I guess.  And it was steep, and there was a ravine running down it, naturally.  And our outfita couple of companies got held up over there, and Captain Young raised up and said, Send me some help.  He was going to go get it, that machine gunner.  Well, the machine gunner got him right through the forehead.  So, he had me do all his work before we went overseas while he was out with the troops; he called me in his office, and I stayed and he almost got to first sergeant.  And he was a great guy.  I went to see him, laid out the next day.  He was dead, you know.  He was piled up with the rest of em.  And he was a great guy, like I said.  He didnt get CMH [Congressional Medal of Honor], he got the next highest thing, which was the 152 00:13:56.1 MH: Legion of Merit? 153 00:13:57.8 TM: Yes.  Because he didnt know his value as a company commander, he led his company from the front instead of from the rear.  Can you imagine that? 154 00:14:9.9 MH: I was in Vietnam, so I know what youre talking about. 155 00:14:13.2 TM: Right. 156 00:14:14.0 MH: So, when that sort of thing happens, you tend to get pissed off about things? 157 00:14:27.0 TM: Oh, yeah, we didnt take many prisoners that day.  No.   158 00:14:31.3 MH: Howd you sort out the SS from the regular Wehrmacht soldiers? 159 00:14:36.3 TM: I dont recall offhand.  Yeah. 160 00:14:41.0 MH: All right.  Any other thoughts about the camp that you liberated?  Im trying to get a picture of these buildings on fire: how big were they? 161 00:14:54.2 TM: How big were they? 162 00:14:55.9 MH: Yeah. 163 00:14:57.2 TM: This lawnmowers right outside the window.  (lawnmower noise) 164 00:14:59.9 MH: I can hear you okay, its not a problem. 165 00:15:1.5 TM: Can you? 166 00:15:2.0 MH: Yeah. 167 00:15:2.5 TM: What was that question again? 168 00:15:5.2 MH: Howtell me about the size of the buildings that they burned 169 00:15:7.7 TM: Oh, they werent very bigtwenty by forty [feet] maybe. 170 00:15:12.3 MH: And did you go in them? 171 00:15:13.9 TM: Not any more than we had to. 172 00:15:16.2 MH: I mean, whatd you have to do?  Break down the door? 173 00:15:20.6 TM: No, they were mostly open by then. 174 00:15:23.0 MH: And when you walk in the doorway, what do you see? 175 00:15:26.7 TM: Dead bodies.  The live ones had got out. 176 00:15:29.8 MH: I mean, you see tens or dozens or hundreds? 177 00:15:35.2 TM: Well, it all depends on how many did not get out.  You know.  Dozens, maybe. 178 00:15:41.1 MH: Were they wearing uniforms or were they all burned off by then? 179 00:15:44.8 TM:  Oh, no, they were POWs.  Yeah. 180 00:15:49.8 MH: Anything else you can think of? 181 00:15:53.3 TM: Not offhand, Mike. 182 00:15:55.8 MH: Well, if anything else comes to mindwhen did you finally get back home? 183 00:16:1.1 TM: March of forty-six [1946]. 184 00:16:4.0 MH: So you stayed on occupation duty for a while? 185 00:16:6.5 TM: Yes. 186 00:16:7.5 MH: Or were you getting ready to go to Japan? 187 00:16:9.4 TM: No.  I was on occupationI played in a dance band for a while.  Tony Bennett was our vocalist. 188 00:16:17.8 MH:  Where? 189 00:16:18.5 TM: And then I got in the athletic end of itmy lips went bad.  I played trumpet.  So, I was referee, helped officiate football games all over Germany, spent two months down at the French Riviera, refereed one game down there.  Then I came back and went home. 190 00:16:37.6 MH:  What was the dance band you were in? 191 00:16:39.3 TM: It was the 255th [Regiment] Band was what we called it. 192 00:16:43.3 MH: And Tony Bennett was the vocalist? 193 00:16:45.0 TM: Right. 194 00:16:46.2 MH: Have you ever seen him since? 195 00:16:47.4 TM: Yes, four or five times. 196 00:16:49.4 MH: So you remember him singing in the Army? 197 00:16:52.3 TM: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. 198 00:16:55.6 MH: Thats pretty cool.  So, did your lip ever get better? 199 00:17:0.0 TM: No.  A friend of mine, I got down here in Houston and a friend of mine gave me a trumpet and said, Go play it, Tom.  Man, I couldnt get a tone out of it.  Course, I got all dentures now and everything. 200 00:17:12.9 MH: So when you came back home, whatd you do? 201 00:17:17.7 TM: Thats a good question.  Little bit of everything for a while, because Shell Oil said I resigned instead of being taken by the Army.  Well, I was surveying for Shell Oil.  I had to go out of townI wanted to stayI knew when about I was leaving, and I wanted to stay home with my mother and brother and sisters, you know, but I couldnt fight it.  So, I forget what my next job was, working in a bakery or something.  And I finally ended up as a manufacturers representative, traveling six states.  Represented about seven or eight companies.   202 00:18:2.5 MH: Okay.  And when did you retire? 203 00:18:6.5 TM: Eighty [1980], I guess it was, yeah. 204 00:18:12.4 MH: Nineteen eighty.  Did you get married? 205 00:18:14.3 TM: Oh, yeah, Ive been married since I got out.  Sixty-some years. 206 00:18:19.6 MH: Congratulations.  How many kids? 207 00:18:21.6 TM: Just one.  Yes.  And shes the reason were down here in Houston.   208 00:18:28.7 MH: Oh, she lives down there. 209 00:18:31.5 TM:  Yes, right.  I had a heart attack up in Arkansas and moved down to ArkansasId traveled the state and I fell in love with the people, and there was a gated community for retirees right outside Hot Springs, Arkansas, in the Ouachita Mountains, thats seven golf courses, five lakes, and we loved it.  But when I had that heart attack, my daughter wanted me to come home.  Come down to here, close to her.   210 00:19:2.2 MH: How are you feeling now? 211 00:19:4.9 TM: Oh, pretty good. 212 00:19:6.2 MH: Well, I thank you very, very much for calling me.  I sure appreciate it.   213 00:19:11.0 TM: Well, thats all right, Mike. 214 00:19:12.4 MH: Okay, take care of yourself.   215 00:19:14.3 TM: Mike, you gonna publish a book or something? 216 00:19:16.8 MH: Yeah, Im working on a book. 217 00:19:18.2 MH: Im in the early stages of researching all the camps that were liberated by the Americans. 218 00:19:24.3 TM: Uh-huh.  Have you heard anything from anybody else on this one? 219 00:19:27.0 MH: Ive heard from a couple people, yes. 220 00:19:29.1 TM: Yeah?  Were they in Company A? 221 00:19:31.6 MH: I dont remember. 222 00:19:34.2 TM: Yeah, okay. 223 00:19:35.1 MH: I dont remember.  Hang on just one second, cause I got one namehang on just a minute.  No, this guy was in the M Company of the 255th.  His name was George Fait, F-a-i-t. 224 00:19:53.1 TM: Oh. 225 00:19:53.8 MH: Well, thank you very, very much.  I appreciate it.   226 00:19:57.4 TM: Well, youre all right, Michael. 227 00:19:58.8 MH: Okay.  Bye bye. 228 00:20:0.2 TM: Good-bye.


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Oral history interview with Holocaust concentration camp liberator Tom Malan. Malan was a mortarman in the 63rd Infantry Division, which liberated Landsberg on April 29, 1945. En route to Munich, they found the camp. The gates were open and the guards had fled, but before leaving they had set some of the buildings on fire, with prisoners still inside. Malan gave one of them a piece of bread; the man could only eat a tiny morsel of it at a time. They did not find many survivors, and the camp was scattered with corpses. Malan stayed in Europe until 1946, playing trumpet in the 255th Regiment Band.
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