Oral History

US veteran Robert Patton describes Mauthausen upon liberation and his 2000 visit to the same site

Robert Patton, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, was with the 65th Infantry Division.

Transcript

Mauthausen was also very much involved as far as the 65th Division was concerned, and that came at the very end of the war. We were attached really to the 11th Armored Division at the time of that liberation. We were not with the 11th Armored Division and I've read up extensively on it because I had the privilege of being in Mauthausen the next day after it was liberated, and at that particular time there was no one there, there were no American soldiers there. We were very fortunate in that we were able to go through the camp and be guided by an inmate who could speak broken English. I saw all of the details there, I can remember the minute details so well -- the cremation furnaces, the gas room, the layout of the camp, the people, the dead people, and I've been back there, by the way, and I've been amazed at how well that I remembered every little detail about the camp. We were able to stay there for about two hours to three hours. We had to leave the jeep with the jeep driver because we were afraid somebody that would confiscate the jeep before we could get out of there. The amazing thing to me as far as memory is concerned, when I was there in 1990, beg your pardon, I was there in 2000, and I was going through and the guide... there was a beautiful open grassed area, and I said "I don't understand, " I said, "This is just a grassed area of about an acre," and I said "I don't understand, there's nothing, no signs or anything here," and she says "Why are you asking?" and I said "Well when I was here there were two ditches and there were bodies laying beside each other the whole length of this field, and it was open because they had not been covered up." And I said "I don't understand, there's no signs or anything here, " and I said, "Are there still people buried here?" And she said "Yes." I said, "How many people are buried here? Do you know?" She says, "Our estimate is 10,000 people in this one acre of field."


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