Marvin Bochner | Regimental Sergeant Major, U.S. Army, 83rd and 89th Division | Served in France, Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia | Received the following medals for his service: Bronze Star.
Mr. Bochner captures the aftermath of the atrocities of the Holocaust, retelling in vivid detail, the approach to the Ohrdruf concentration camp, which was the first Nazi concentration camp liberated by U.S. troops.
“Well, it was a horrible day in my life, and the life of all the guys with me, I think, because coming into that camp, we were a good couple of miles away. You could smell something wrong. Something don’t smell right here, because all of a sudden you’re going to clear air, a beautiful day, clear air, and there’s an odor in the air that is not, it, not very appetizing odor. We come up the line a little way and one of the guys says “Hey, we got troops coming at us.” But they finally get a little closer and I says “They’re not troops. They’re people walking at us, but they’re all in uniform but they weren’t in uniform. They were in the striped – gray striped, concentration camp get-up. We didn’t know what to do. One of the medics yells out, I mean he was, he was in medical school at one time, he says “Don’t feed them!” Because like I said, K rations, or the D rations we had with us, uh, were pre-juiced up because that was the cold food and uh, he says “They’ll eat any of that stuff that we have there and nine chances out of ten it’s gonna get them sick. It’ll kill them, because they gotta be weened back into food again because they were walking skeletons.” That’s what you saw. Walking skeletons. Now, what are we gonna do with them? There we are. We’re marching away and we got these people. We had to herd them back in to camp because we made ourselves understood that we couldn’t take them, and that they’re coming up with food for them and medical supplies. And, it was just a point where we were just flabbergasted. And I saw people, people – corpses. Half of them you wouldn’t recognize them as human beings. Bones just standing up, piled up like hardwood. And smell? Awful. Awful. And, uh, they had to bring up special troops for them because we didn’t know what to do. They needed special attention. And, next day, uh, they sent up from Paris Headquarters, General Eisenhower, General Patent, General Bradley, General Montgomery. They flew them up by helicopter, I think they came. Whatever they had came, to see the place, because I think we were the first concentration camps liberated, and Eisenhower wasn’t too happy no how.”