Dick Arnold, a Jewish American veteran of World War II, gave a speech on Sunday, April 11th, at the Jewish Community Federation’s annual program in Brighton, NY to honor Holocaust victims. Arnold said that he was with the 87th Infantry Division; he claims that he was one of the first four American soldiers to enter Buchenwald on April 11, 1945 the day that the Buchenwald camp was liberated. You can read more about Dick Arnold here and here.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has a web site where you can check to see which divisions were involved in the liberation of the camps. According to the USHMM, the 87th Infantry Division did not liberate any of the Nazi concentration camps, so Dick Arnold couldn’t have been at Buchenwald when it was liberated on April 11, 1945.
Dick Arnold made a video in which he told the story of the liberation of Buchenwald.
Dick Arnold’s version of his part in the liberation of Buchenwald is this:
Upon first arriving at the Buchenwald “murder camp,” Dick Arnold saw “railroad cars which led from the gas chambers (plural) to the crematorium.” “Slave laborers pushed the bodies from the gas chambers to the crematorium.”
General Patton’s Third Army was “on the move” through Germany and the prisoners at Buchenwald heard the guns. The SS guards said to themselves: “We’re Gestapo. We’re done here.” So the guards fled THREE DAYS BEFORE THE AMERICANS ARRIVED.
“The prisoners behind barbed wire were emaciated.”
For three days, there were prisoners, chained to the wall in a shed, who had no food because there “were no guards to give them food.” This shed was different from all the other buildings at Buchenwald. It was a TOBACCO CURING SHED like those in the southern United States. The Germans were growing and curing tobacco! Who knew?
Inside this building, there were two shelves, 7 feet deep, on each side with a corridor in the center. The prisoners were chained by one foot to the wall with their heads pointed to the center of the room. Fortunately, the Nazis had “left behind chain cutters” so the American soldiers could cut the shackles of the prisoners and free them. The prisoners in this shed, “grown men,” weighed only 50 or 60 pounds; they were “carried across the street” by the liberators and put into the “nice homes” of the Gestapo.
After saving the prisoners who were still alive in the shed, Dick Arnold says that he “walked into the gas chamber.” He saw scratches on the walls of the gas chamber where the inmates had “clawed the wall,” trying to escape; the walls of the gas chamber were “blood stained.” The American soldiers were told not to clean up the gas chamber because “we want the world to know.”
Sorry, but I don’t have a photo of the non-existent gas chamber at Buchenwald.
There is not one word of this story that is true. NOT ONE WORD.
Update April 14, 2010
The following quote from an article written by Tom Stafford on the web site of the 87th Infantry Division Association tells about a visit by American soldiers to the Buchenwald camp on one of the two days that German civilians were there, which would have been April 15th or 16th:
While marking time, waiting for the Russians who were slowly approaching our lines from the East, we were told by Capt. Kidd, our Company Commander, that higher headquarters wanted several men from each company to take a jeep and visit a recently liberated German concentration camp at Buchenwald — a small village located near Weimar about 70 miles behind our lines — to bear witness to the unspeakable atrocities which had been found there. Lew Goad and I volunteered to visit Buchenwald and, upon our arrival, will never forget what we saw. Etched forever in my memory were piles of dead bodies, at least 10 to 15 feet high, stacked on the ground in several places. Many more corpses had been loaded in open rail cars, apparently waiting to be moved to the crematory ovens or away from the camp. I remember seeing a number of German civilians inside the camp who had been ordered to go from their homes in Weimar and nearby villages to also bear witness to the atrocities committed by the Nazis.
One of the horrors that Lew and I remember seeing was a small shack located near the crematory ovens, which contained a number of cans with numbers stamped on their lids. We were told that the cans contained the ashes of cremated inmates which could be purchased for a fee by their families. I assume this offer applied only to the families of non-Jewish political prisoners because I am certain no Jewish family member, who might have been hiding somewhere within reach of the Gestapo, would have made their presence known by responding to such offer. I also recall seeing a number of former prisoners milling around inside the camp, so I believe our visit to the camp must have occurred shortly after its liberation.
In fact, I learned later that Buchenwald actually had been discovered on or about April 11, 1945 by a motorized patrol consisting of Capt. Frederick Keffer and three enlisted men from Task Force 9 of 6th Armored Division, while the 87th Infantry Division, having captured Bad Blankenburg to the south, was moving rapidly towards Saalfeld and Plauen. I also learned that shortly after Buchenwald was discovered, a detachment of soldiers and medical personnel from the 87th Infantry Division were sent to the camp to help in providing emergency care and evacuation of the camp’s survivors, most of whom were near death or in extremely poor condition.
Dick Arnold was probably with this “detachment of soldiers and medical personnel” that was sent to Buchenwald four or five days after the camp was liberated by soldiers in the 6th Armored Division. Only soldiers who were at a camp within 48 hours of the first arrival of US soldiers at a camp are recognized as liberators.