GIs Remember

Martin Donald - Bergen-Belsen


Berlin-born Martin Donald left Germany for London early in 1939. As soon as World War II started, he was rounded up by the British police as an enemy alien even though he was Jewish.

"I was put on a prisoner of war ship and sent to Canada. Fights broke out every day aboard ship between the Jewish people and German prisoners of war. Fortunately I was shipped back to England two months later with an apology.

In 1940 1 was thinking about joining the British forces to fight the Germans, knowing my parents were still in Germany. I didn't know whether they were alive or taken to a concentration camp. I decided to join up, landed in Normandy shortly after the 1944 invasion, and eventually went with my unit to Germany and witnessed atrocities at two camps, the larger of which was Bergen-Belsen.

Still today there are no words to describe what we saw there ... many people dying on a daily basis because they could not even be nourished back to life. They were so far gone that it was only a question of hours for them to die.

I had a very tough colonel ... for the first time, I saw tears in his eyes.... I felt that here is one man who understands the situation. I was sick to my stomach for days.

After the war I obtained permission to go to Berlin to find out whether any of my large family were still alive.... I went there with a very heavy heart because I had a feeling I wouldn't find anyone. Unfortunately it was true. All of my immediate family, including my parents, uncles and cousins were all killed in the concentration camps.

Later I was assigned to Hamburg to work on war crimes cases. We received a tip one night that the German Foreign Minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, was in the area, and we could pick him up. We went to his apartment, broke down the door and sure enough he was in bed with someone. He denied at first who he was, but it didn't help him any....

In 1947 1 moved to the United States. I am proud to be a citizen of the United States because I still believe today ... there is no better country in the world. Nevertheless people should not look away from what happened many years ago, because ... it could happen again."


Source: GIs Remember, (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American Jewish Military History, 1994).