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Ohrdruf Concentration Camp: GI's Remember

by Abe Plotkin

Abe Plotkin, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, enlisted in the Army in 1942 and served with the 284th Field Artillery, 3rd Army, in France and Germany.

"My initial experience with what was going on in Europe came in the city of Metz, France, in 1944, when I was called by Chaplain Herman Dicker to help clean up the localsynagogue, which had been converted to a house of prostitution by the Nazis.

concentration camp I came to was Eisenberg, where I saw recently liberated prisoners who had been forced to march from nearby Buchenwald to evade the oncoming American Army. I introduced a former prisoner, a Czech-Jewish doctor, to our Captain Kittell, who gave him medical supplies for the liberated prisoners. In early April, 1945, we witnessed the horrendous scenes at the Ohrdruf Concentration Camp, near Erfurt, Germany.

The ghastly sight which met our eyes were the dead bodies near the entrance. These were the sick and the old who were forced out of the barracks and killed just before we arrived. In a shed nearby, the bodies were piled up like cordwood, and in-between was a sprinkling of lime. The empty barracks still had a repugnant odor of filth; tattered garments and shreds of blankets were still strewn about.

The Nazis tried to hide their misdeeds by burning bodies in a pit, but some, remains were still evident. I found a survivor with whom I spoke in Yiddish and who acted as an interpreter for an officer. He told me about prisoners who were shot to death before the Americans arrived. He said he would have been happy at the liberation if only his family had survived. He was the only survivor I talked to there.

Later on that month, we came to Dachau. I met a child, who was referred to as Benyomin of Buchenwald, and his father. When the family was about to be deported to the death camps, Benyomin's mother handed him, in a sack, to his father. Benyomin, then age seven, was warned not to utter a sound. With the assistance of other inmates, Benyomin was hidden in the barracks of Buchenwald and kept alive until liberation.

After the war was over, I spent most of my remaining spare time helping Jewish displaced persons in the Munich area. We tried to help survivors locate relatives, and distributed needed supplies."

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