Senator Strom Thurmond | S.C. Voices: Lessons from the Holocaust
Senator Strom Thurmond was with the 1st Army all through the war in Europe. They encountered Buchenwald near Leipzig, and he recalls "never having seen the like of what I saw there." He relays that "most people died from starving, and there must have been several hundred people who had died from starving...and stacked up like cord wood...big pile of dead people. and some of them were not dead; some were barely living, and some of our doctors were able to save some of those people. I never saw such a sight in my life." He continues, "I guess there were mainly about three ways that they got rid of these people....one was mainly starving,..they gave them a bowl of thin pea soup a day and that's all...gradually starve them to death...Another way sometimes...when they're tempted to get over the fence and get away, they'd shoot them...as a second way they were killed. The third way was they had a box there like a telephone booth...there I saw a big old mallet...and these people would walk into it...and a big SS guard would...hit them over the head and kill those people...I couldn't imagine anybody could be so cruel as to treat them like that." He continues, "Of course, in some other concentration camps over there, they gassed them to death." Sen. Thurmond had landed there on D-Day with the 82nd Airborne Division in Normandy, and took that part of the country, and went through Paris and into Belgium...when the Battle of the Bulge occurred. He remembers bombs being dropped on people going back...killing a lot of people in Liege, and that he was lucky not to have been killed." He remembers "ice four to six feet thick, maybe...extremely cold." He recalls what a terrible fight the Battle of the Bulge was. He remembers that "we stopped them and were able to succeed...and our pilots were instructed not to destroy churches." He isn't certain who made the decision not to take Berlin, and recalls that they were disappointed not to have taken Berlin. He states that he cannot imagine "how any person could be so inhuman as to do to those people what I saw.[he continues]...it is just outrageous." Senator Thurmond's recollections are vivid and very detailed.