Courtesy of "The 30th Infantry Division Veterans of WWII"
Our thanks to Frank W. Towers for suggesting this article
At Letzlingen, Germany, we pulled off of the road to wait....
When Major Lowell, Major Huff and Cardwell left this area, I went with them. Col. Treherne and Meyers were in front of us. Soon we caught up with the Forward CP convoy as they were stopped along side of the road. We looked out across the field and we saw deer grazing. It was a small herd, but through the binoculars, one could see them very clearly. Farther on down the road, when the convoy was halted again, Major Marsh from the Military Government, drove up to Col. Treherne's jeep. He told him about a train of civilians that were prisoners of the Germans. Our jeep pulled out from the convoy and went to Farsleben, Germany, where the train was located.
Also in this town was the CP of the 823rd T.D. Bn., and we stopped there to pick up Capt. Baranov, the 823rd Bn. Surgeon. He took us down there, and it was something that you've read about, but couldn't believe. They were people that looked of being very refined and cultured. It is said that among the people, was the French Consul to Germany. Some great minds were among these people. There were two doctors that were members of the train, and they were caring for the people the best they could without any equipment. Capt. Baranov's men came up with a few drugs bandages, etc. to use until they could get more. It was about the same as nothing, but it was to go to the women and children first. About 75% of the members of this train were Jews so the drugs etc., were given to the two doctors and the Rabbi for distribution. Major Lowell and Major Huff told them to get all of the contagious and seriously sick to be segregated into cars by themselves. These cars that they were traveling in were box cars. Sanitation was terrible and the people had been traveling in them for eight days and nights, without food or water. Most of the sickness was due to malnutrition. There were only two typhus cases.
As all of the business was being transacted, a beautiful little girl, about eight years of age, came up to my side. She was very sweet and her complexion was very clear. I looked at her, smiled and patted her on the head, and she smiled back. As Tommy and I were standing there, I soon felt a little hand slip through my arm. As I looked around, a big lump came in my throat.
As we were leaving, a man came up to our jeep. He was one of the American citizens and was from Detroit, Mich. He was taken Prisoner two years ago in Warsaw, and his family is still now in Detroit. He was a sick man, but there was nothing we could do for him, as we were not prepared for such things. Military Government is taking care of things as fast as they can. This is what I mean when I say that warfare such as this, was not planned for by the Army. Things are going too fast. This man told us about the 33 American citizens. He went on to say that he knew our circumstances, knew we had to take care of the troops first, knew that everything possible will be done for them as fast as possible, and went on to say, "We know how busy you guys are, what you will do for us, maybe one week maybe two weeks, but even if nothing else is done, there is one thing we truly and dearly thank you for, and that is for our Liberty" There was a break in this man's voice, and I knew how he felt. There was a lump in my throat.
We went on to Wolmirstedt after giving the people what cigarettes and "K" Rations that we had, and found the Clearing Station. It was set up in a Nazi finance office records building. Where the enlisted men of our office are sleeping, is in the living room of the head of the Nazi organization's quarters. He was truly Nazi and had beautiful things
|14 April 1945|
Major Rock received a letter from Major Yontef, who is now with the 195th General Hospital. He stated in his letter that the Americans that have been freed from the Germans, were beginning to come through his unit. Among these men were three aid men that were captured at Mortain with the 2nd Bn. Aid Station, 120th Inf. Reg't. They were Harry Donnelly, Dewey Miller, and Joseph Hutten. MajorYontef said that were suffering from malnutrition. Major Knaus, the Regimental Surgeon of the 120th was in the office at the time Major Rock brought in the letter. Major Knaus said that Capt. Nash and Capt. Monahan, the Bn and Ass't Bn. Surgeons of the 2nd Bn., 120th inf., who were captured with the personnel of the Aid Station at Mortain, were also recaptured.
Today they brought in a wounded Jerry who was nicked in the arm. One of the recaptured British soldiers looked up and recognized him as being one of the guards on their long march. The Britisher said that he would make the men stand naked in the snow, and that he marched at the rear of the column, and as the men would drop out he would probe and hit them with the butt of his rifle. The German confessed that it was true, but said that he was carrying out orders. The Tommie said that he saw this Jerry kill two American soldiers on the march. He was well enough to be taken to the PW cage, and the Britishers wanted to take him. They were going to let them, but the officers changed the idea and wouldn't let them do it. They kept him around here, and during the day, they gave him a good working over. "Slim" the negro driver, was in charge. He had him out covering up a latrine with his hands.
|15 April 1945|
The town (Farsleben), that is located with the Extermination Train was evacuated of the German civilians and turned over to the members of the train. Capt. Fleming, of our 105th Engineers, found a warehouse filled with drugs, chocolate milk powder, baby food, bandages, and other medical equipment. Another warehouse was found. Major Huff went down to look into this one, and it contained about the same things. Trucks were sent to these warehouses, loaded and taken to the doctors in charge of these people. It was just like manna from heaven for them. Fifteen cases of Typhus had developed, and three other doctors were discovered among the group of prisoners- making a total number of five or six. Dr. Schweiter, (may not be correct spelling), was put in charge, medically, by Col. Treherne. He was born in Poland, but a citizen of Chile. He received his degree in Poland (probably University of Warsaw). He studied in Paris, Berlin and Vienna. He specialized in Surgery, Obstetrics, Gynecology and Pediatrics. Col. Treherne said that he was a very smart man and very cultured. The doctor said that we were saviors from heaven.
Dr. Julius Schweiger, (spelling??), the doctor that Col Treherne put in charge of the Concentration train, was in the office this morning. He came in for some vital medical supplies, and rode in on the back of a motorcycle. He showed us two pictures of himself before he was taken prisoner by the Nazis six years ago. He was a very fleshy man. This morning he stripped down to the waist. He was nothing but skin and bones. He would pull his skin and it would stretch out some three to four inches. He has his wife and two children with him. We gave him some white medical gowns, a stethoscope, medical supplies, and for himself, we gave him some soap, candy and chocolate for the children, sugar, coffee, soap, razor and blades, and other toilet articles. We also gave him some cigarettes and pipe tobacco. Concerning the medical supplies, when the Col. would ask him if he had enough, and he told him he could take it all, he would say, "It is too much. All that I want is just enough". He was very considerate. The thing that he seemed to get the most enjoyment from was the American Medical Journal that Major Lowell gave him. He subscribed to the Journal for fifteen years and hadn't seen an issue for the past six years. Dr. Schwieger was very interested that we write to a doctor friend of his in Detroit, as the friend believed him to be dead.
The following is an extract of more detailed information that is from the 30th Inf. Div. G-2 Report, 17 April 1945, about the Concentration Camp Train:
On 8 April* (It is believed that this should have been 13-14 April, as on 8 April, we were still in the vicinity of Brunswick), troops of the 823rd T-D Bn., moving into billets in the town of Farsleben, discovered that the normal population of 500 in the town, had been augmented by approximately 2,500 persons crammed onto a prison train of 45 cars, most of them freight wagons, which had been standing in the station for two days. Conditions on the train were frightful. It was critically overcrowded, and filthy almost beyond description, particularly in view of the lack of sanitary facilities. Nineteen persons had already been stricken with typhus and six more were already dead of the disease. No food had been received for three days, and those who still had the strength, were almost dangerously ravenous, some swarming into the local bakery to lick up the raw flour.
The commanding officer of the 823rd T.D. Bn immediately ordered the Burgomeister to provide food for the train's passengers by the slaughtering of cattle and sheep, and the all night operation of the town's two bakeries, and to provide housing by the community. These arrangements were confirmed by the Military Government, which later moved the group to barracks in Neuhaldensleben.
Interrogation of 20 of the passengers revealed that they were Jews and some other political prisoners who had been confined in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp located near Celle, Province of Hannover. This section of Bergen-Belsen was believed to be the only camp set up exclusively for Jews, and was termed as a stopover to Camp (?sufenthal slager). The prisoners were supposed to be used in exchange for German citizens through neutral countries.
The first group to come to the Camp after its formation in July 1943, was one of 2,700 men, women ands children from Poland, reportedly the only Polish Jews still alive in Axis-controlled territory, except for those hidden by friends. Soon thereafter, other groups began arriving from German-occupied countries, including Americans, Latin Americans, Russians and citizens of other neutral countries whose foreign citizenship had previously been respected. 3,000 Jews from Westerberg, in northern Holland arrived later, and in the fall of 1944, 1,600 Hungarian Jews arrived at the Camp and were sent to Switzerland in accordance with a Hungarian-Swiss exchange agreement. In February, 1945, a large number of prisoners from widely scattered concentration camps arrived at Bergen-Belsen, including many non-Jews. Earlier in the history of the camp, small groups of foreign prisoners were sent to regular internment camps for foreigners, and several large shipments were made from the Camp to unknown destinations.
On 7 April 1945, the entire exchange group of Jews was suddenly alerted and bundled into the train which wound up on the Farsleben siding. The train left 8 April and was said to be bound for Theresienstadt, in the Sudetenland. The train was halted at Farsleben because of the advances of our troops; before the guards and crew abandoned it, the prisoners were told to cross the Elbe River on foot.
The stop-over camp at Bergen-Belsen was considered privileged over the 29 other small camps sharing the same name and vicinity, because no outside work was required and because living conditions were somewhat better. They still were bad; the barracks had three-tiered bunks, about one and one-half feet apart, and the prisoners were fed once a day, the meal consisting of a quart of soup without fat, and (originally) 350 grams (12 ½ ounces) of bread, later reduced to 200 grams. Once a week some margarine, marmalade and sausage were distributed. Isolation from the outside world was complete and daily roll call was held.
The other camps at Bergen-Belsen were frankly work camps, and whoever weakened or fell sick, so as to fail to repay the meager investment, was refused food - literally starved to death. The informants stated that approximately 25,000 had been so killed between February and April of this year (1945). The bodies were cremated in a furnace at the camp, which they stated, worked day and night. This procedure was discontinued during the last eight days of the prisoner's stay at the camp, because of fear the heavy smoke would attract attention from the air.
This testimony is generally supported by that of Hauptmann Schlegel, the train commander, who was denounced and apprehended in a nearby town after having abandoned the train and donned civilian clothing. Capt. Schlegel, a 58 year old Landeschutten Officer, was reassigned in July 1944 to prepare for concentration camp duty. He arrived at Bergen-Belsen on 20 February 1945 as an extra officer and remained until 7 April, when the train left. On 6 April a message from Berlin directed the movement of all of the 40,000 persons then in Bergen-Belsen, with priority to the 7,000 inmates of the stop-over camp. As an extra Officer, he was designated train commander of the first group to leave, consisting, he said of 24,000 persons. When the train reached this vicinity, (Farsleben), he found that administration had broken down badly; he was unable to get clearance to move the train across the Elbe River towards its destination near Prague and conflicting orders from local commanders kept arriving. Finally, convinced that U.S. troops were coming, he jettisoned his command and went into hiding.
He estimated that 15,000 persons had died at the camp during his stay there, out of a constantly changing population of about 40,000, attributing the deaths to typhus and typhoid, both of which were frequent, rather than to deliberate starvation. He said he knew of two as doctors and a "number" of civilian doctors at the camp. On the train, he stated, there were three civilian doctors. Five persons died while enroute. He believed that the 33,000 prisoners outside the stop-over camp at Bergen-Belsen, were about equally political and criminal cases.
A PW stated that the camp was run by two Officers of the Totenkopf Verbande, SS/Hauptsturmfuhrer (Capt.) Framer and SS/Untersturmfuhrer (Lt.) Klipp. His own attitude was one of hand-washing apathy. He was not responsible for what went on, was just a pawn - - and if he was bothered by some of the things that went on, no one knows about it.
This is one of the many stories of the Nazi's organized cruelty of the German model of total warfare. Two other suspects of the case which certainly will affect the task of Military Government, which will face many of the units now devoted to fighting, were developed at Farsleben. The first in the report by many of the prisoners, that the inhabitants of the town were very friendly when the train first stopped there - - because they expected the hourly arrival of the U.S. Troops. Later, when our failure to arrive aroused some doubts, the populace reverted to hostility and contempt. Our troops, when they did arrive, however, found the citizenry of Farsleben most eager to be of help to the prisoners. The second observation was made by Military Government Officers, after the prisoners had been fed and deloused and after beds and clean bed-clothes had been set up for them in barns and other buildings. The set up looked beautiful, but only for a short time. The personal standards of cleanliness of many members of the group were bad, and some even went so far as to defecate on the floor of their living quarters. This rehabilitation for many of the victims of Hitler's Europe, must mean far more than mere relocation and provision of adequate food and quarters, which itself is no great problem. True rehabilitation must provide for even so fundamental a thing as a sense of physical decency, for a large number of those who have been treated and have lived for years as animals.
|18 April 1945|
Today a Capt. From the 501st Collecting Company, 82nd Med. Bn. which is an organization of the Ninth Army, was in here. His Unit is following up behind us and taking over the German Military Hospitals that were under our command as we have advanced. It is a great relief to Col. Treherne that this is being done. These hospitals have been a big responsibility. The Americans and our Allies have been evacuated from these hospitals, and the walking Germans have been sent to PW cages.
As the Col. And the Capt. Were talking, Col. Treherne brought up the subject of rations. The captain's organization is in charge of hauling rations to the hospitals. The Col. asked what type of rations that these hospitals were getting, and the Capt. Said "A" Rations. This is the best ration that the Army has! The Capt. said that he took one issue of butter for one day, and the hospital said that it was equivalent to two months of issue of their ration. They also get the hospital supplement. Ration "A" includes fresh meats, vegetables, butter, etc., and the supplement included fruit juices etc,
This burned Col. Treherne up, as our men on the front lines, patients in our Clearing Station, our own personnel and officers and men up here doing the actual stuff, were getting "K" Rations, and have been getting them for several days. It made Col. Treherne so mad, that these Jerry prisoners were getting our best, and our men the worst, that he immediately called col. Franklin and let him get his dander up. The Capt. said that it made him hot under the collar and also his men. It was hard to get his men to haul the rations. He also said that these hospitals didn't get all of these rations, as he would cut them down to about 25%. As they would haul the rations, they would drop a crate of eggs at some Recon. Bn., a side of beef to some Ack-Ack outfit. He's doing all right.
The foregoing document has been copied from the original document by Frank W. Towers, President, Historian & Editor of the 30th Infantry Veterans of WWII. The original document is barely legible in numerous places, so this re-typing and reformatting has been done to assist the reader. No part of the text has been changed to alter the context, except a few punctuation marks and grammatical changes.
Frank W. Towers was also involved in this incident. See his version: "The Death Train at Farsleben" at: http://www.30thinfantry.org under "Holocaust" and/or "History".