I was a reconnaisance sergeant, photographer, camoufleur and part-time historian in S-2 (Intelligence Section) of the 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion. We were in the: 8th Corps of General George S. Patton's 3rd Army. As we rode into Buchenwald, I can remember thinking--"there is no place as horrible as we have been told--no atrocities--we should turn around--stop wasting time--go back to Eisenach and establish our Battalion Headquarters." But we continued and finally, arrived at a place that did not look so bad as we passed the main entrance--but, as we rolled around the front building, we saw the feeble mass of survivors milling around.
We got out of our vehicles and some began to beckon to us to follow and see what had been done in that place--they were walking skeletons. The sights were beyond description. What little we had been told in an orientation session in Northern France in early December, 1944, was nothing in comparison--and I had thought no place could be this bad.
I took out my camera and began to take some photos--but that only lasted for a few pictures. As the scenes became more gruesome, I put my camera in its case and walked in a daze with the survivors, as we viewed all forms of dismemberment of the human body. We learned that 31,000 of the 51,000 persons there had been killed in a two week period prior to our arrival. An SS trooper had remained until the day of our arrival and survivors had captured him as he tried to flee over a fence. He was taken into a building where two men from my unit followed. They said he was trampled to death by the survivors.
I began to realize why few, if any, persons would believe the atrocities I had seen. HOLOCAUST was the word used to describe it--but one has to witness it to even begin to believe it--and, finally after going through several buildings, with various displays--lamp shades of human skin, incinerators choked with human bones, dissected heads and bodies, testes in labeled bottles, so that they could be seen by the victims on a shelf by the door as they went in and out of the barracks (after two weeks of this procedure, they would be killed, but, we arrived before this ritual could be continued), my mind closed the door on this horror.
We everltually left after helping to remove some of the survivors for medical assistance. As we rode back to Eisenach in silence, I remembered that about 1,000 persons in an isolated area were in better shape than the others-- who were they?-Russians we were told. But, I asked myself, how could a country, classified during my high school days of the late 1930's as probably the world's most literate, allow this type of mass murder and psychotic behavior to take place? There were no answers, as many thoughts raced through my mind.
Even though my ancestors had arrived in our country (the United States of America) as slaves in chains from Africa, and subjected to torture and death during the long centuries of slavery, it all seemed to pale in comparison to the glaring impact of what I had witnessed at Buchenwald. I later learned about other death facilities-including the monstrous Auschwitz. My slave ancestors, despite the horrors they were subjected to, had value and were listed among the assets of a slave holder.
Had the Nazi position prevailed in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War, (my slave great grandfather and namesake-- William Alexander Scott fought with the Union Army in Mississippi) I, or others similarly situated, would not exist in the world today--the earth would have literally become the "Forbidden Planet" where no humans would exist, only Robby the Robot and Hal the Computer would patrol the plains. My life, as I contemplate the impact of past events on it, has evolved into a character that exhibits an attitude to fellow humans that they have nothing to fear from me or my family. I am only one. But my wife, our children (a son and a daughter--their children, 2 boys, a girl and 2 boys, respectively) have the character and function that no orle should fear them--they have no designs on others or their families.
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