Oral History

Colonel Richard R. Seibel describes food distribution after liberation of the Mauthausen camp

In June 1941, Richard was ordered to active duty in the US Army. After a period of training, he was sent to Europe. He entered Austria in April 1945. A patrol came upon the Mauthausen camp and Richard was appointed to take command of the camp. He organized those inmates who had survived in the camp until liberation in May 1945, and brought in two field hospitals. After 35 days in Mauthausen, he was transferred to a post in the Austrian Alps.


My doctors told me, said, "Now look. These people have been on a very severe diet, and you cannot feed them very much to start off with." So, as I mentioned, we found the potato storage, so we started out making very thin potato soup, same as they'd had previously. The most precious item in the...in their diet was bread. You could get your throat cut for a piece of bread so big. They guarded a little bit of bread with their lives. We found an old bakery, and we got some prisoners who had been bakers before and you won't believe this, but you know all the hullabaloo these days about oat bread and oats and all that sort of thing, well, I think we originated that. Because we didn't have any wheat and we didn't have any yeast. But we started making bread out of oats. And we baked thousands and thousands of loaves, but of course, when it first came out of the bakery, or off the...out of the ovens, it was just a mass of dough, not having any yeast or any curing agents of any kind. So we put it in...in a big warehouse and let it age until it dried out. As soon as that happened we started giving each prisoner a slice of bread. Oh my, the most precious thing they could have had. Well, we kept building up our bread supply, so finally we got to the point where we gave them two slices. And then a quarter of a loaf of bread. And then a half a loaf of bread. And they...they came in and said, "We don't want any more bread. We got enough." [laughing] We got a tremendous charge out of that.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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