Oral History

US veteran Raymond Buch describes forcing civilians to bury the dead

As a US Army sergeant, Raymond fought in the Battle of the Bulge. In May 1945, his unit was deployed to the Mauthausen camp in Austria to bulldoze mass graves for the victims. He watched as German civilians, on US orders, hauled bodies to the mass graves. He also saw stronger camp survivors pull clothes off their weaker counterparts to replace their own tattered uniforms. Raymond went on to Mauthausen's Ebensee camp and Gusen, guarding SS men.


From the German civilians nearby we started to get the...those people to come up by the truckload and we told them to dress in their Sunday best, and then we made them dig graves, and...uh...we wanted them to see what was going on and then we had them carry the bodies, load the bodies in the wagons. We took wagonload after wagonload of bodies out to the grave site, which was the soccer field or the sport...uh...they call it the sport Platz. And...uh...we made the Germans handle, load them up in the wagons from inside the camp, take them down to the, the...um...graveyard, the grave site, and unload them, put them down in the graves, side by side, by the hundreds--there'd be 150 people or so in a row--and side, practically on top of each other. They were such, they were all skin and bones, and it was--I have pictures of them and movies, which you'll see later--but the...um...uh...bodies were...uh...were so emaciated that you, you, you, you couldn't possibly understand how those people were alive and walking around. And, uh, some of those walking around looked better than the dead, of course--a little better than the dead--and some of them looked worse, and they're still alive, depending on their resistance or whatever, I...I don't know. But it was incredible that they were still walking, in many cases. "The walking dead," we called them at that time.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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