Oral History

US veteran Tarmo Holma describes encountering camp survivors

Tarmo Holma is a veteran of the 11th Armored Division. During the invasion of German-held Austria, in May 1945 the 11th Armored (the "Thunderbolt" division) overran two of the largest Nazi concentration camps in the country: Mauthausen and Gusen.


Well Mauthausen came after my first experience. We were in one of the lead tanks arriving at Flossenbürg, and that was so dramatic, they were swarming out of there and dying in front of me. It was very hard. And we got radio message, "Don't feed them, because it's too much for them." We were ready to give them our rations. And they were out there in droves because the Germans had been putting them to a forced march to get them away from us, but we arrived there too soon so they were still out there in droves. I had seen them from the top of a hill a few miles before with my binoculars and I said to my commanding officer, I said, "The whole German army looks like they're out there," and he said, "No, that's one of the concentration camps." And then when we arrived there they were still out there in the road where the Germans had been forcing them to march away. And that was so dramatic that once we got to Mauthausen, which was a few days later, I couldn't even go into Mauthausen actually.


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