Eyewitness Reports of Nazi Concentration Camps

Next week marks the 60th anniversary of Germany's surrender in World War II. During the weeks leading up to the surrender, Allied soldiers liberated Nazi concentration camps across Europe and reporters soon brought the full story of the Holocaust to the world. Day to Day presents excerpts of broadcasts made six decades ago by war correspondents viewing the camps for the first time.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

Sunday is the 60th anniversary of Germany's formal surrender at the end of World War II.

(Soundbite of 1945 broadcast)

President HARRY S. TRUMAN: General Eisenhower informs me that the forces of Germany have surrendered to the united nations. The flags of freedom fly all over Europe. For this victory, we join in offering our thanks to the providence which has guided and sustained us through the dark days of adversity and into light.

CHADWICK: That's former President Harry Truman, announcing the victory in Europe.

In the weeks before the surrender, Allied troops liberated Nazi concentration camps at places whose names would soon become infamous symbols of the Holocaust; Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald. The shock of what the soldiers discovered there was reported to the world by war correspondents, and today we return to April and May of 1945 in excerpts of broadcasts from reporters Patrick Gordon Walker of the BBC and Edward R. Murrow of CBS.

(Soundbite of 1945 broadcasts)

Mr. EDWARD R. MURROW (CBS News): Permit me to tell you what you would have seen and heard had you been with me on Thursday. It will not be pleasant listening. If you're at lunch or if you have no appetite to hear what Germans have done, now is a good time to switch off the radio for I propose to tell you of Buchenwald. It's on a small hill about four miles outside Weimar, and it was one of the largest concentration camps in Germany and it was built to last.

Mr. PATRICK GORDON WALKER (BBC): I reached Weimar's concentration camp a few days after its liberation by British soldiers. I met these soldiers. They were filled with righteous anger. Unlike British soldiers as a rule, they wanted to talk, to tell the world what they had seen. I made recordings of these men, all of them of the outfit ...(unintelligible) just outside the camp itself.

Mr. TYLER McKENNEY PAYNE (British Soldier): I'm Tyler McKenney Payne(ph) of the ...(unintelligible). I live at Mansfield Woodhouse(ph). I want to tell you a tale, just one tale, as there are many other horrible sights in the past days that I saw. I myself was guarding the milk store, and around this milk store was a screaming crowd of women with babies. I kept picking a few babies out and feeding them.

And one woman who was--I think she was mad, kept kissing my feet and clothing, so I took the baby from her. When I looked at the baby, his face was black and he had been dead for a few days. I couldn't come to say it was dead so I burst the milk can opened and poured milk down through its dead lips. The woman crooned and giggled with delight. I gave her the baby back and she staggered off and lay in the sun. And when I next looked, she was dead with the baby in her arms. So I put her in the stack of the dead bodies, 2 or 300 dead, and then I turned away. I was allowed to say that I'm a British soldier and it's not propaganda; it's the truth.

Mr. MURROW: As we walked out into the courtyard, a man fell dead. Two others--they must have been over 60--were crawling towards the latrine. I saw it, but will not describe it.

In another part of the camp, they showed me the children, hundreds of them. Some were only six. One rolled up his sleeve, showed me his number. It was tattooed on his arm; D6030 it was. The others showed me their numbers. They will carry them till they die. An elderly man standing beside me said, `The children, enemies of the state.' I could see their ribs through their thin shirts. The old man said, `I am Professor Charles Risha(ph) of the Sorbonne.' The children clung to my hands and stared. We crossed to the courtyard. Men kept coming up to speak to me and to touch me. Professors from Poland, doctors from Vienna, men from all Europe, men from the countries that made America.

Mr. WALKER: British soldiers have certainly won for themselves friends in Belsen. I came across innumerable acts and signs of gratitude. Perhaps the most touching was the playing of "God Save the King" in our honor on the rickety and out-of-tune piano in the SS canteen which the liberated prisoners had taken over. Listen.

(Soundbite of "God Save the King")

Mr. MURROW: Murder had been done at Buchenwald. God only knows how many men and boys have died there during the last 12 years. Thursday, I was told that there were more than 20,000 in the camp. There had been as many as 60,000. Where are they now?

(Soundbite of "God Save the King"; service)

Group of People: (Singing in Hebrew)

Mr. WALKER: You are listening to part of the first Jewish service held in Belsen concentration camp after its liberation by British soldiers. Rather less than half the surviving population in the camp is Jewish. The service was held by the Jewish chaplain to the British 2nd Army. It was held in the open air, amidst corpses and filth. There were perhaps 2 or 300 worshippers gathered together, more of them in tears. These people knew they were being recorded. They wanted the world to hear their voice. They made a tremendous effort that quite exhausted them.

(Soundbite of service)

Group of People: (Singing in Hebrew)

Mr. MURROW: And the country roundabout was pleasing to the eyes, and the Germans are well fed and well dressed. American trucks were rolling towards the rear filled with prisoners. Soon, they would be eating American rations, as much for a meal as the men at Buchenwald had received in four days. I was there on Thursday and many men in many tongues blessed the name of Roosevelt. For long years, his name had meant the full measure of their hope. Back in '41, Mr. Churchill said to me, with tears in his eyes, `One day the world and history will recognize and acknowledge what it holds to your president.' I saw and heard the first installment of that at Buchenwald on Thursday.

(Soundbite of service)

Group of People: (Singing in Hebrew)

Unidentified Man: (Hebrew spoken) The children of Israel still live us.

Unidentified Woman: Amen.

CHADWICK: Those broadcasts 60 years ago by Edward R. Murrow of CBS News and the BBC's Patrick Gordon Walker. And thanks to our friends at the independent radio group HearingVoices.com. Tomorrow is Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom Hashoah.

(Soundbite of music)

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY continues. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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