GIs Remember

Harold Wahl - Gunskirchen


Harold Wahl, from the New York area, was working as an accountant during the day and going to college at night when he was called into military service in August 1942. He was sent to Europe late in 1944 as a replacement in the 71st Infantry Division, serving in several campaigns in a cannon company of the 66th Infantry Regiment.

"Toward the latter part of the war, we were proceeding down a narrow road in Austria when we came upon an RAF prisoner of war camp that we liberated. A little further down that road we came across a concentration camp (Gunskirchen), with Jewish prisoners all in blue and white striped uniforms. I spoke Yiddish to some of them.

Right after we broke down the gates and fences that enclosed the Gunskirchen camp, we gave the survivors our rations. Our column took a lunch break, and after we ate we threw away what we did not eat. These poor souls had to be driven away from our garbage because they, were scooping up whatever edibles they could lay their hands on. Suddenly there was confusion and tumult. Our medics took the clothes off the survivors, and dusted them with DDT powder because they were full of lice.

After the war we went back to Dillingen, Germany, where I observed my first Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in Augsburg. Services were conducted in an imposing stone synagogue that the Germans had used as a stable.

Later on we were stationed in Garmisch where there was a large group of Jewish DPs whom we befriended. Most came from Poland. For a time the Army used them as interpreters, kitchen help, and as expediters in matters between us and the German civilian population. This soon came to a halt by Army directive.

We provided the DPs with rations to supplement their food supply. When the time came for me to go home I gave away all the canned goods I had managed to squirrel away from the packages my mother and wife had sent me.

I do not know what happened to these DPs but I do know that they did not want to return to their countries of origin. From my conversations with them, the United States represented their future.

I have strong feelings about what happened in World War II. The Holocaust was the most shameful event in world history."


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