GIs Remember

George Fichtenbaum - Gunskirchen


George Fichtenbaum, enlisted in the Army in June 1942, and served as a rifleman with the 71st Infantry Division through France, across Germany and into Austria.

"We came to this concentration camp, Gunskirchen, near Lambach, Austria, at the end of April 1945. There was a stench I'll never forget.

When we walked through the gates, a woman was standing there and in perfect English said: 'Thank God you've come.' When the other inmates saw us-I don't know how they had the strength-they went after some of the German guards. They stoned them and killed some of them; not one GI intervened.

About 800-1000 inmates were alive; most of them were Jewish. I talked to some of them and they were speaking Yiddish. Some couldn't even walk, they were so weak. They were glad to know a Jewish person helped liberate them and they blessed me ... made me feel like a Messiah. I almost wanted to cry.

Even the gentile soldiers were flabbergasted. They went along with the inmates when they beat up some of the guards, they even egged them on. Some said, 'If they don't kill them, we will.'

How do I feel about Germany and Germans? I can't hold the new generation responsible for what went on before. I try to forgive, but I don't forget.

On November 6, 1992, 1 spoke at Young Israel Synagogue of Jackson Heights, N.Y. about the liberation of the Gunskirchen Concentration Camp. After I finished, a man (Morris Stark) came over to me and said: 'You saved my life."'

 


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