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April 12, 2010

A World War II vet’s memories of Buchenwald

Filed under: Buchenwald, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:37 am

In today’s online edition of The Register Guard, there is an article by Winston Ross about Bill Sarnoff, a U.S. navy man who was sent to Buchenwald for five days to help the survivors after the camp was liberated on April 11, 1945. Now 84 years old, Sarnoff told his story yesterday to more than 100 people who attended a Holocaust Remembrance Day event. Bill Sarnoff was sent to Buchenwald because he was familiar with several European languages. His job was to help by communicating with the sick prisoners in the camp.

According to the article by Winston Ross, here’s what Sarnoff told the crowd in the Thurston High School auditorium, followed by my comments:

“One day the call came from his superiors for any sailor who could speak a European language, and before long Sarnoff found himself en route to Buchenwald, in western Germany, to help the 23,000 surviving prisoners recuperate and ultimately leave the camp.”

Most accounts of the Buchenwald liberation say that there were 21,000 survivors in the camp.

“The only healthy prisoners he met were women, fed adequately so they could be sex slaves for German soldiers, Sarnoff said. He fed prisoners in the shadow of three crematoriums, used to incinerate the dead.”

There was a brothel at Buchenwald, but it was for the prisoners.  There was only one crematorium at Buchenwald. There were 3,000 sick prisoners and 18,000 who were not sick. The photos below show healthy prisoners and the one crematorium.

Some of the 18,000 healthy prisoners at Buchenwald

The one and only crematorium at Buchenwald

Ovens in the one and only crematorium at Buchenwald

“Buchenwald starved and beat to death 238,000 prisoners, Sarnoff said. Prisoners were shipped there weekly, 300 at a time, he said. Those under 105 pounds were sent directly to Auschwitz, to be executed.”

According to a U.S. Army report dated May 25, 1945, there was a total of 238,980 prisoners sent to Buchenwald during its 8-year history from July 1937 to April 11, 1945, and 34,375 of them died in the camp. This report was based on records confiscated from the camp by the US military, after the camp was liberated.

A later U.S. Government report in June, 1945 put the total deaths at 33,462 with 20,000 of the deaths in the final months of the war.

Prisoners were not sent from Buchenwald to Auschwitz to be executed.  It was the other way around: survivors from Auschwitz, who had not been executed, were evacuated to Buchenwald.

“Children ages 6 to 15 were used for medical experiments, injected with typhoid, diphtheria, pneumonia and syphilis, he said. Sarnoff said he saw a brass blowtorch that had been used to burn many children, to see how they would recover.”

This statement by Sarnoff could easily win a prize for the biggest lie ever told.  There were 904 young boys in the camp who were protected by the Communist prisoners who ran the camp.  They ranged in age from 4 years old to 17 years old. (Some accounts say that there was a 2-year-old among the orphans.)

There were medical experiments done at Buchenwald, but these experiments were done to find a vaccine for typhus, which was the disease that devastated all the concentration camps in the last 5 months of the war. The prisoners who were used in the experiments were criminals who had been condemned to death and had been sent to Buchenwald to await their execution date.

The youngest survivors of Buchenwald

“He learned that each new prisoner was given a spoon and a bowl, provided so they could consume a meager ration of watery potato soup. If they lost the bowl, they starved. There were no weeds or grass in the camp, as all vegetation had been consumed by the prisoners.”

It is true that each prisoner had to keep his spoon and bowl in his possession, and he had to keep these items from being stolen.  If a prisoner lost his bowl, he still had a cup that he could eat soup out of, or he could steal someone else’s bowl.  A prisoner who lost all of his dishes and utensils could still eat bread, and he could share a bowl with another prisoner.

Another article published online on April 8th by Glenn Farley/King 5 News had this information about Joe Moser, a World War II fighter pilot who spent two months as a prisoner at Buchenwald:

What gets his daughter Julie Hanes, a nurse, was the torture and the medical experiments carried out on her father and the others.

“They just injected medicines. They didn’t know what they were. They used the same needle over and over and over again,” said Hanes.

According to Wikipedia, there are laws against Holocaust denial in Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Switzerland.  Holocaust denial is punishable by up to 20 years in prison in Austria, and up to 5 years in most other countries.  Isn’t it time to punish Holocaust liars?

This article totaled me out for today; I can’t read any more news about the Buchenwald anniversary celebration.


  1. Yeah, the truth is the best defense. But in the immediate aftermath of the war, there was so much hatred, maybe it can be understood.

    Comment by paolosilv — April 14, 2010 @ 10:49 pm

  2. Same with Joe Moser … no one checks out his story … they just pull out the old, unidentified film clips.

    And his daughter! She gets her information from Joe. And they’re both considered experts.

    Comment by sceptic — April 12, 2010 @ 12:40 pm

  3. Bill Sarnoff is a Jew. The U.S. military (and the State Dept) was partial to sending Jews to work in postwar Europe, knowing they would have an attitude of revenge and would make things as hard as possible for the Germans.

    What’s amazing (although typical) is that after all these years, and all the success that Jews have had, all over the world, following the war … that Sarnoff is probably more extreme in his “remembrance” of Nazi evil than he was right afterward.

    Sarnoff is a shameless liar, as you pointed out. But what is even more shameful is that Sarnoff is invited to high schools and given free rein to say whatever he feels like saying, with no one allowed to contradict him or question his truthfulness. The teachers and administration accord all ‘holocaust speakers’ the utmost respect, even though they themselves know nothing about the events he describes and make no effort to know.

    No one would dare call him a liar, but that is exactly what he is. It makes me sick too. And it’s only getting worse.

    Comment by sceptic — April 12, 2010 @ 12:23 pm

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