GI Edward S. Weiss, a resident of Gaithersburg, Maryland, was at the Dachau concentration camp shortly after its liberation.
I ended up the war just outside, in the vicinity of Dachau, and when the war ended on or about the 5th of May, I was with a small group that went to Dachau concentration camp to establish liaison with the German Wehrmacht hospital unit that had replaced the American hospital unit a couple of weeks before. One of my duties was to collect and dispose of the dead each morning from the barracks and from the hospital itself. And this was all carefully recorded by the German clerical staff. One morning when I came in to pick up the report, the clerk, one of the clerks told me that the report was ready but the colonel hadn't signed it, and so I'd have to wait a few minutes until the colonel arrived. And I went to the back of the room and sat on one of the desks, yakking with other German clerks when the colonel finally did come in, and one of the clerks jumped up, "Achtung," and the colonel responded "Heil Hitler." Then he saw this OD uniform at the back of the room and for the first time invited me into his private office where he explained about conditional reflexes to me and said that he had been responding in that fashion for 15 years and it was a conditioned reflex.
What was the context of the Holocaust and World War II at the time of the events described here?
What other source materials might be helpful to provide more historical context for this eyewitness testimony? What aspects of the history might these other source materials help reveal?
How can personal testimonies and oral histories provide insights into the challenges Allied forces faced when encountering and documenting the evidence of atrocities?
We would like to thank Crown Family Philanthropies and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia. View the list of all donors.