Scrapbookpages Blog

April 14, 2010

African-American soldiers who “liberated” Buchenwald

So many American soldiers have claimed that they were “liberators” of a Nazi Concentration Camp that the US Army and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have gotten together to make rules regarding which soldiers can claim the honor of liberating a camp. Only soldiers who arrived within 48 hours of the first soldiers to enter a camp can claim to be liberators. That means that only the 6th Armored Division and the 80th Infantry Division are the official liberators of Buchenwald.

African-American soldiers from Headquarters and Services Co. of 183rd Engineers Combat Battalion, 8th Corps, Third Army arrived at Buchenwald on April 17, 1945, too late to be given the honor of being liberators of Buchenwald. Among these soldiers was Leon Bass.

African-American soldiers at Buchenwald on April 17, 1945

According to a news article on this web site, the Jewish community of Akron, Ohio observed Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) on Sunday, April 11, 2010. The theme of the Holocaust commemoration was “When Time Stopped & Hope Began: 65th Anniversary of the Liberation of Buchenwald.” Dr. Leon Bass was one of the speakers.

The American army was segregated during World War II, with white soldiers fighting in exclusively white divisions while black and Asian soldiers had their own separate divisions, commanded by white officers.

The 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion was attached to the 1126th Engineer Combat Group in April 1945. On April 12, 1945, the 1126th Engineer Combat Group was sent to the town of Eisenach, around 100 kilometers from the Buchenwald concentration camp. Five days later, on April 17, 1945, several black soldiers were sent to Buchenwald to deliver some supplies. For most of the liberated prisoners, this was the first time they had ever seen a black man, and many of them would recall it later in their survivor accounts.

By 1993, the story of the black troops at Buchenwald had escalated to an account of how African Americans had been the ones to actually liberate the Jews of Buchenwald. Even though there were only 4,000 Jewish prisoners among the 21,000 inmates still in the camp when the liberators arrived, the irony of the persecuted people of America freeing the persecuted people of Europe appeals to the Politically Correct generation.

The records for the 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion are stored in the National Archives at Suitland, Maryland, filed under Record Group 407, Vol.33, ENBN-183 -0.##. Strangely, the unit records for April 1945 are missing. Because of this, William A. Scott III and Dr. Leon Bass can claim that they were sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp on April 12, 1945, not April 17th. The rules state that a liberator is a soldier who arrived at a concentration camp within 48 hours of the first soldier to enter the camp. If Scott and Bass arrived on the 12th, that means that they are officially considered liberators of Buchenwald.

The following quote is from an article entitled William A. Scott, III and the Holocaust: The Encounter of African American Liberators and Jewish Survivors at Buchenwald by Asa R. Gordon, Executive Director Douglass Institute of Government (Dedicated to the Scott Family):

In his pamphlet World War II Veteran Remembers the Horror of the Holocaust, William A. Scott, III describes what happened when they arrived at Buchenwald. “We got out of our vehicles and some began to beckon to us to follow and see what had been done in that place – they were walking skeletons. The sights were beyond description. … I had thought no place could be this bad. I took out my camera and began to take some photos – but that only lasted for a few pictures. As the scenes became more gruesome, I put my camera in its case and walked in a daze with the survivors, as we viewed all forms of dismemberment of the human body.”

Scott describes an incident that occurred after they entered Buchenwald which indicates how early they must have arrived at the concentration camp after its initial discovery. “An SS trooper had remained until the day of our arrival and survivors had captured him as he tried to flee over a fence. He was taken into a building where two men from my unit followed. They said he was trampled to death by the survivors.” Scott expressed a sentiment that is shared by many veterans who were witness to these camps. “I began to realize why few, if any, persons would believe the atrocities I had seen. HOLOCAUST was the word used to describe it – but one has to witness it to even begin to believe it.”

Both Dr. Leon Bass and William A. Scott, III have been on the lecture circuit since 1968, telling their story of how black soldiers in the segregated U.S. Army “liberated” Buchenwald. Dr. Bass appeared in the Academy Award-nominated Documentary film entitled Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts in World War II, which claimed that black troops liberated not only Buchenwald, but also Dachau.

Gunther Jacobs was a survivor of Buchenwald who had spent three and a half years in Nazi concentration camps. In an interview with Jeff Bradley of the Denver Post in 1989, Jacobs said: “The first Black people I ever saw in my life were the Black soldiers who liberated us on April 11, 1945.” Jacobs told Bradley that he had never been able to speak out about what happened at Buchenwald, but he wanted to speak now “on behalf of his Black liberators” whom he had never thanked.

In 1989, Henry Kamm visited the former Buchenwald camp and then wrote an article about it for the New York Times. He quoted Elie Wiesel, Buchenwald’s most famous survivor, regarding the black liberators of Buchenwald. In a telephone interview, Elie Wiesel told Kamm : “The most moving moment of my life was the day the Americans arrived, a few hours after the SS had fled. It was the morning of April 11…I will always remember with love a big Black soldier. He was crying like a child — all the pain in the world and all the rage. Everyone who was there that day will forever feel a sentiment of gratitude to the American soldiers who liberated us.”

Gunther Jacobs and Elie Wiesel were both seventeen years old when Buchenwald was liberated. Jacobs told Kamm about the Black soldiers “coming to the camp with half-tracks and armored personal carriers. About a half dozen vehicles. These Black GIs came out and gazed at us — we were very malnourished and dehydrated and I was hardly able to walk.”

Why is it so important for an American veteran of World War II to be considered “a liberator of a Nazi concentration camp?” It is because of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous remark that the American soldiers did not know what they were fighting for — until they saw the concentration camps; then they at least knew what they were fighting against.

Buchenwald was mainly a camp for Communist political prisoners and anti-Nazi Resistance fighters who were fighting as illegal combatants in violation of the Geneva Convention; it was not a death camp, designated for the genocide of the Jews.

The Germans knew what they were fighting for: they were trying to prevent their country from being taken over by the Communists. America was fighting on the side of the Communist Soviet Union, so according to Eisenhower, American soldiers were fighting against the imprisonment of Communists and illegal combatants in the French Resistance.

The Germans lost the war and half of Germany became Communist.  America fought World War II in Europe to free the Communists in the concentration camps and to aid the Soviet Union in taking over half of Europe.

The truth is that the prisoners in the Buchenwald concentration camp liberated themselves at 3:15 p.m. on April 11, 1945 when they took over the camp, killing some of the guards, while the rest of the guards fled into the nearby woods. When American soldiers in the 6th Armored Division saw the prisoners chasing down the guards and shooting them, they followed the action to the camp. The next day, soldiers from the 80th Infantry Division arrived in Weimar, five miles from the camp, and saw prisoners roaming around the town. The soldiers followed the prisoners to the camp where they joined in as the prisoners beat to death the SS guards who had been captured. According to one account, 76 SS soldiers were killed by the Americans.

Black soldiers in the 183rd Engineer Combat Battalion brought some supplies to the Buchenwald camp on April 17, 1945.

13 Comments »

  1. “The truth is that the prisoners in the Buchenwald concentration camp liberated themselves at 3:15 p.m. on April 11, 1945…and So many American soldiers have claimed that they were “liberators” of a Nazi Concentration Camp that the US Army and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum have gotten together to make rules regarding which soldiers can claim the honor of liberating a camp. Only soldiers who arrived within 48 hours of the first soldiers to enter a camp can claim to be liberators.” Every one of the men whether black or white who claim to have been there when Buchenwald was liberated should be thanked for putting their lives on the line during the war. When they enlisted, as almost all of those men and women who fought in the Second World War did, they didn’t know about the Nazi death camps. Nonetheless they fought and their blood was shed, and at least the survivors of the death camps were liberated because of these men’s and women’s sacrifice.

    Comment by Dawna Peat — August 24, 2013 @ 11:08 am

    • There were no “death camps” in the country of Germany. The six “death camps” were in what is now Poland: Auschwitz, Majdanek, Treblinka, Sobibor, Belzec and Chelmno. American soldiers did not see any of the “death camps.” At the same time, during World War II, America had “internment camps” for German-Americans, and Japanese Americans. If Germany had won the war, the German soldiers could have come over here and visited the Democrat camps, set up by a president, who was a Democrat.

      Comment by furtherglory — August 24, 2013 @ 11:28 am

  2. [...] One of the most famous events that never happened, but are true is the role of African-American soldiers in the liberation of Buchenwald, which you can read about here. [...]

    Pingback by April 11, 2013 — the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Buchenwald | Scrapbookpages Blog — April 11, 2013 @ 10:57 am

  3. My father was one of the liberators and I didn’t find this out until at age 79. I walked into the den as he was watching the tribute at the Apollo Theater in NYC where he had been shipped out as a young man. The picture with the dead piled on top of each other burst the dam of pain that he had been holding onto all those years. Finally at age 80 he finally got the thankyou that’s all he said he wanted was for someone to acknowledge what he had done. He felt he did something. But he was told and I painfully quote “Nigger you didn’t do nothing” that’s what he told me. In a full ceremony held in Newark NJ 1998 at the North Reformed Church.. he was given medals and a thankyou. I have my father on film telling his story. I have since submitted to my Alma Mater Rutgers University, New Brunswick,NJ. My father was Otto Sampson Sr. He was not an easy man to live with now I understand. My brothers and I used to say that Dad loved the jewish people more than he loved us. I’m a proud daughter of a liberator. Whoever said that this didn’t happen and these men didn’t do what they said they did. What my father said he did, can take a long walk off a short pier!!! okay and finally I had his records researched by the military who confirmed his story! All the information was confirmed!!

    Comment by Rasheeda — July 21, 2011 @ 2:10 pm

    • I did a search on the internet to find out what outfit your father was with in World War II. I found a comment which you had made on another blog in May. In your comment, you mentioned that your father was in “the 380 quartermaster truck company” and that he served under General Patton. The credit for liberating Buchenwald goes to Patton’s Third Army, so you got that part right.

      You wrote, in your comment on this other blog in May: “These men liberated over 3,000 survivors of Buchenwald…” There were 21,000 survivors of Buchenwald at the time that it was liberated, including 4,000 Jewish prisoners. Who liberated the 18,000 other Buchenwald prisoners?

      I did a search on the “380 quartermaster truck company” and all I found was the 380th Quartermaster Battalion. Was this the outfit that your father was in during World War II? All I found out about the 380th is that they delivered petroleum (oil) during World War II. Can you explain why your father’s battalion was delivering oil to Buchenwald when these soldiers liberated the camp?

      You mentioned that your father loved the Jewish people. Sampson is a Jewish name. Could that be the reason? His ancestors might have belonged to a Jewish slave owner and that’s how they acquired the name Sampson.

      Comment by furtherglory — July 21, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

      • Perhaps he was one of the lost tribes of Israel and not just a possession of a slaver.

        Comment by sam — February 14, 2014 @ 12:27 pm

  4. I was told about the liberation of a camp by black soliders in 1954 by a solider who was there.

    Comment by ray Lemual — February 7, 2011 @ 7:11 pm

  5. You should read “Night” by elie Wiesel. He was neither communist, an anti-nazi fighter. Also many children were killed there. Hate is hate and you are perpetuating it.

    Comment by Eric the Noble — October 20, 2010 @ 11:29 am

    • I wrote that the prisoners at Buchenwald were MAINLY Communists and Resistance fighters. There were a few Jews there who had been evacuated from Auschwitz in January 1945. I have read Night twice. Elie Wiesel was a Jew from Hungary who survived Auschwitz and was then taken to Buchenwald. Do you have a list of the “many children” who were killed at Buchenwald? If you tell me their names, I will mention them.

      Comment by furtherglory — October 20, 2010 @ 12:19 pm

  6. Right away, as I begin to read this, I am surprised that the U.S. Army “gets together” with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to make rules about who can say they liberated concentration camps.

    Is the USHMM an official spokesman for the U.S. Government’s policy regarding holocaust belief?

    What is the standing of the USHMM re our government? I know our taxpayer money is used to enable the functioning of this institution to the tune of millions of dollars every year!

    How is it that some non-governmental institutions end up with government/taxpayer assistance, and others do not? Was the funding for the USHMM mandated by Congress?

    Comment by sceptic — April 14, 2010 @ 12:50 pm

    • According to Wikipedia, Congress voted in 1980 to establish a Holocaust Museum and the federal government donated 1.9 acres of land for the building. The USHMM now has an operating budget of $47.3 million from the federal government and $31.4 million from private donations. I’m not sure but I think government funding for the USHMM was mandated by Congress.

      We still have free speech in America, so the US government has no policy regarding Holocaust belief.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 14, 2010 @ 1:05 pm

      • We may have “Free Speech” (and believe me, I value it highly) but when our government gives almost $50 million dollars of our taxpayer money EVERY YEAR to a Holocaust-promoting institution, and gives nothing to those who oppose the ideas this institution promotes, it ends up being government-sponsored Holocaust belief.

        Is this not impeccable reasoning? It is clear that our government, via our current crop of Congressmen, does have a pro-Holocaust belief policy. They back it up with money and also lots of cooperation in many other ways. Our State Dept. has a special department devoted solely to monitoring “Anti-Semitism”; this department is lavishly funded and spends most of it’s efforts on Holocaust awareness promotion.

        It’s all very un-American, but very pro-Jewish.

        Comment by sceptic — April 15, 2010 @ 8:16 am

        • Jews make up around 2% of the American population, while African Americans make up at least 13%. America should have a Museum in Washington, DC devoted to the history of slavery in America. It could be in the same building as another Museum about the genocide of the Native Americans. Americans were not the perpetrators of the Holocaust and the Holocaust didn’t happen on American soil. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum in America’s capital city is like having a Museum about American slavery or a Museum about the genocide of the Native Americans in Berlin, the capital of Germany. America should also have a Museum about the Japanese-Americans and German-Americans who were put into internment camps during World War II.

          One thing that I noticed when I visited the USHMM is that almost all of the people who work there are African Americans, and there were almost no Jewish visitors.

          Comment by furtherglory — April 15, 2010 @ 8:57 am


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