THE HOLOCAUST: WE MUST REMEMBER
Roger Fredinburg – Host
30-Hour Series of Interviews broadcast on the Roger Fredinburg Radio Program
2-25-1998 Eighteenth Program in Series
Guest: Colonel Irving Heymont
Book: AFTER THE DELUGE: The Landsberg Displaced Persons Camp
Letters of Major Irving Heymont
also known as
“AMONG THE SURVIVORS OF THE HOLOCAUST-1945: The Landsberg D.P. Camp Letters of Major Irving Heymont, United States Army”
ISBN-10: 0809504057 and ISBN-13: 978- 0809504053
Roger: Welcome, ladies and gentlemen! It’s a great pleasure to continue this series. We’re running close to the end of it now. I don’t know quite how much is left. Phew! What a learning experience!
Our guest this hour was a 27 year old major in the United States army sent to Germany to do a job. Of course, he wrote a number of letters home. Those letters have become quite an interesting point in history. “AMONG THE SURVIVORS OF THE HOLOCAUST-1945: The Landsberg D.P. Camp Letters of Major Irving Heymont, United States Army”.
Colonel Heymont, welcome to the program, sir!
Col. Heymont: Thank you.
Roger: It’s a pleasure to have you here! What were the circumstances that sent you to Germany, and more specifically, Landsberg?
Col. Heymont: Well, going to Germany, the reason was very simple! There was a war going on. I was an infantry officer in an infantry regiment, in an infantry division and we were deployed overseas. We went to Europe and we fought in France and Germany. The war ended for us in Austria when we met the Russians. Then we went back to Germany and I was stationed in Augsburg. I was on leave for a short period in England and came back. By that time, I was commanding the 2nd Battalion of the 5th Infantry. To my utter amazement, I found that in my absence my battalion had been moved from Augsburg to Landsberg, Germany!
Roger: So, you ended up going there? What was that, some kind of camp, I take it?
Col. Heymont: Well, I arrived there about 3:00 in the morning. My battalion had moved there about two days earlier. The next morning I woke for breakfast, I’ll spare you some of the details; but, anyway, the Assistant Division Commander arrived, General Onslow Rolfe. He told me there was a D.P. Camp in town and the German concern. There was a lot of controversy over it. My job was to get the camp cleaned up; but, to be certain I did not get any adverse publicity. If I did anything that would cause adverse publicity for the army it would be the end of my career! I was a professional army officer. What amazed me was that he told me that in all matters relating to the camp I would take orders from him and not from my regimental commander! This was a very awkward and unusual position!
Roger: When you arrived at the camp, what did you discover?
Col. Heymont: Well, he and I went to the camp together to see what it was like. He had not been there before. We were both shocked! My battalion took over precisely as they found it left by the previous battalion. To my utter amazement, I found there were American soldiers on guard at the entrance to the camp and the people in the camp were not allowed out unless they had a special pass! The camp was in the walls of this concern, a German military post with barbed wire on the top! It seemed filthy and littered, with people walking back and forth aimlessly, staring out watching the Germans on the street walking by freely!
Roger: This was after the liberation?
Col. Heymont: This was early September, 1945.
Roger: So, why were the people being held in a camp? I mean, it was a repartriation movement ongoing, I suppose; but….?
Col. Heymont: I can speak now from things I learned subsequently. The Americans were deeply involved in repatriation. Germany was a mix of everybody in Europe! As I found out later, most of the Jews did not want to go back home where they had been mistreated. They no longer considered themselves to be Poles or Russians or Hungarians. They considered themselves to be Jews and that Europe did not want them anymore! Many of them who had gone back, I am told, found their possessions had been taken over and they were resented for coming back! They were being mistreated and some were even killed!
Roger: After the war was over?
Col. Heymont: Yes.
Roger: So, as I understand it, I read a letter from Harrison to Truman in your book, that talked about the fact that the Germans thought that the Allied Forces had actually just taken over for the Germans, that there was some confusion about why they were there?
Col. Heymont: Well, at first many of the people in the camp told me that we had just taken over from the Germans! The only thing different was that we didn’t kill them, we merely kept them behind barbed wire and we fed them better than the Germans did, and we didn’t work them to death! They were cynical. Basically, from their viewpoint, I could see they were right.
Roger: In other words, they were still captive; but, they weren’t being killed?
Col. Heymont: That’s the way many of them felt.
Roger: But, that really wasn’t the case, was it?
Col. Heymont: I soon realized that a number of things had to be done. I told General Rolfe that the Number One thing we ought to do first was to move all the non-Jews out. It was roughly about 80% Jews and the other 20% were mostly people from the Baltic countries who I personally think were volunteer laborers for Germany. I said that if we kept the camp as one kind of camp, if we simplify, we’d have only one problem to deal with. He agreed and arrangements were made for all of the people of the camp who were non-Jews to be moved out. They went to Augsburg and other places.
I also told him that it was a disgrace for us to keep them under guard like that!
To make a long story short, he said I should do what I thought was right. I won’t go into the details; but, I had the American guards still kept at the camp, this time their instructions were to keep unauthorized Germans out! The people of the camp could come and go as they pleased. I had the people of the camp take down the barbed wire! I told them we did not come fight the war so we could stand guard over Jews! Can I add something to that?
Roger: Yes! You can add as much as you want, Irving!
Col. Heymont: I learned a good deal more about this many years later. The Harrison Report that came out—-the first I knew about it was when I read about it in the Stars and Stripes later on—castigated the army for the way it treated the Jewish D.P.s. I subsequently learned that General Eisenhower, in mid or late August, had issued orders to the 3rd Army that the Jews were to be kept in camps by themselves and they were not to be kept under guard! Those orders had not been carried out under General Patton in the 3rd Army area.
I thought I was really very powerful, very persuasive when General Rolfe agreed, “Sure, we’ll move the non-Jews out! Sure! Go right ahead and change the policy about letting them out of the camp!” I didn’t realize until many years later that Eisenhower had ordered these things but they had not been carried out by General Patton!
I later read General Patton’s letters and found that he had a tremendous, almost pathological, personal hatred of Jewish D.P.s! I wouldn’t say that he was anti-semitic and hated Jews because I know there were many Jewish officers on his staff; but, he couldn’t stand the sight of Jewish D.P.s! He considered them vermin! I’m not making this up –it’s in his letters! When he was with them he had to go home and take a bath! So, I’m sure that’s one of the reasons that contributed to the terrible situation that I found.
Roger: The descriptions by survivors were that they had lost their humanity. Their identities were squashed and they really were treated as nothing more than caged animals! Did you find that carried over into the psyche and personalities of the people in those camps?
Col. Heymont: No, it changed rapidly. I’m not a trained pyschologist and I’m speaking now over 50 years later; but, I have thought a good deal about it. Their attitude was that they felt they should have special treatment. From their viewpoint, I can understand why they should. From an American army viewpoint, I can understand that we were limited to what we could do.
Personally, I think we could have done more; but, after awhile their major thrust within the camp was that they didn’t want to be wards of the U.S. Army. They wanted to take over complete responsibility for the camp themselves. Of course, I couldn’t do that! I couldn’t let them run the camp. I kept telling them once they got the camp cleaned up to the proper standards, then we could talk about moral authority.
I also found out they had a camp committee, a really most unusual group of men, brilliant men! It was a sort of self-elected camp committee and they were sort of running the camp and acting spokesmen, although they were divided among themselves. The army pressed me and I finally did arrange to have a free election of a new camp committee. That was quite an experience, too! But, we did hold an election and the same camp committee was re-elected. I think the motivation of the army was that they did not want to be accused of putting people in authority and not giving the people an option themselves.
Roger: So, what was your job basically? I mean, what was your goal?
Col. Heymont: My goal? In what respect?
Roger: Well, you were sent to this camp, a kind of surprise assignment, so there you are. You’ve got this real situation with unsanitary condition and all these people who’ve been severely tormented by the Nazis who now believe that they’re free, but maybe not quite free. You want to repatriate them; but, you can’t repatriate them because they don’t want to go home because they don’t identify with the homeland, they identify with their Jewishness. I mean, this seems like a helluva problem for a career army soldier to me!
Col. Heymont: I must say, I don’t think I was quite fully prepared for it. I was 27 years old. I’d been in the army since the very beginning in 1940, an infantry officer. Before that I was a metallurgical chemist for two years from the time was graduated from college and went into the service. I served in Panama. Here I was commanding an infantry; but, I’d been a regimental operations officer during combat, a battalion commander and suddenly I have this sociological problem with a chain of command that’s all screwed up, abnormal! Every day there were more generals looking over my shoulder!
My goal was to do what I was told to do! Get the camp cleaned up. Get the camp running. Try to help these people as best as I could with the facilities I had. And above all, avoid any adverse publicity! That was kind of skittish!
Roger: Colonel, you were raised in a Jewish family and you’re a Jew.
Col. Heymont: Yes
Roger: And like all young men, you were maybe not as closely connected to your Jewish faith or whatever….
Col. Heymont: That’s a master understatement!
Roger: Ha, ha! But, you arrive there and these are Jewish people! These are your people! How long did it take you to identify with that, or did you immediately?
Col. Heymont: I went out of my way to make sure that they did not know I was Jewish. Some of them may have suspected it. Even within the army I wasn’t particularly well known as Jewish. I didn’t profess it. Anyway, I did not want them to know that I was Jewish for fear they would impose on me and expect me to do things that I couldn’t do.
In many respects, from a personal viewpoint, Landsberg brought me back to being a Jew again. After I came back from Europe in 1947 I started to study again Jewish religion and Jewish history. I was damned if I was going to let Hitler win by having people like me drift away! I don’t believe an anthropomorphic God; but, I do believe in the Jewish peoplehood and I respect their religion even though I may not practice it in detail. I don’t know if I’ve answered your question.
Roger: Well, like all good military men, you give us the facts, and just the facts! What I want to know is about the emotion. I want to know what then-Major Irving Heymont was really thinking when you were sitting there at night at your writing table writing letters home, which we’ll talk about in a minute. What were you really thinking?
Col. Heymont: I was really thinking, “What is it I have to get done? How can I get it done?” Here it is late at night. People have knocked off and they’re not around to answer my questions or take orders from me and I have to wait till the morning.
Roger: This wasn’t a little camp with 30 or 40 people, we’re talking about 6,000 people!
Col. Heymont: It varied. My best guesstimate would be between 5,000 to 7,000. Towards the end there were quite a few women and children.
Roger: At the time that you arrived there, did the totality of this incredible hell, this horrible hell on earth, did you understand that when you were at Landsberg? What really happened there?
Col. Heymont: Oh, yes! During the course of the war, in Austria we over-ran a subcamp of Althausen called Gunskirchen. See, all these big name concentration camps had many subcamps. For example, Landsberg-Kaufering, that area originally had about 10 little subcamps of Dachau. But, unlike the Dachau camps, the Landsberg-Kaufering camps were work-to-death camps. About 30,000 people went through there and about 15,000 of them died there. The remnants of those people formed the basis for the D.P. Camp.
When we over-ran Gunskirchen we found about 2,000 dead. I was there only for about 5 minutes and I’ll never forget the stench! Also, what I still recall and I believe this with full faith, one of the first men into the place told me they were so overwhelmed that he offered the man a cigarette —that’s all he had on him— and the man started to eat the cigarette! I didn’t see that; but, I believe that…..
Roger: That hungry, huh! So, you also had Germans as prisoners at this time, did you not?
Col. Heymont: Oh, yes! I had a few other headaches! One company had… we had a company that had a POW camp with SS prisoners. For a short time I had a little camp I inherited with 60 to 70 German generals and admirals until I finally managed to get rid of them! They were quite a bunch, too! They were all headaches; but, the big headache was the D.P. Camp and the sanitation. See, there were many inspecting officers; but, particularly as I found out later as a result of the pressure on Eisenhower from the Harrison Report.
I’d be inspected and many of them were very sympathetic ; but, down deep they thought that all these people should live like soldiers do – clean, sanitary, 40 square feet per person — forgetting that many of the things that these people wanted to do was totally unlike barracks life!
They were motivated first, to try to find family. They traveled all over Europe searching for family. I was told cemeteries were a sort of post office. They’d leave notes in cemeteries. The other thing; the few that did live, would try to reconstitute a family life. To them, that meant eating together. So they had little cook stoves in their barracks. That contributed tremendously to the sanitary problem! To solve that, I started a central mess with waitresses and so forth. It opened up with great fanfare, hoping that would cut it back. But, down deep, I think many of them came there, got the rations and went back to their rooms to eat it like a family unit.
Roger: It was probably really important to figure out a way to get some normalcy back in their lives at that time. What were these German prisoners like?
Col. Heymont: We had one camp full of SS prisoners. Immediately after the war we immediately started to discharge the Wehrmacht prisoners. We wanted to get them out of our hair! But, the SS were being kept until after the Nuremburg trials. So, I had one company, I think it was F Company, guarding the SS camp and I’d have to go up there about once every week or so to inspect. I practiced my Germany there and it was very amusing. The German SS officers would practice their English on me and I’d try to practice my German on them! They’d always tell me everything we did wrong in fighting the war. I finally reached a point where I said to them, “You’re absolutely right! I agree with you; but, excuse me, who is guarding who?” They shut up on that score!
Roger: You even talk at one point about they’re complaining about their rations in one of your letters.
Col Heymont: Oh, yes! I still have that note from some grand admiral! This was a little prisoner of war cage I had at a castle near Egling. I finally got rid of them. They went off to a bigger camp. They resented it because I had a sergeant in charge. I had very few officers. People were going in and out; as they accumulated points they were going home. One of them presented me with a note when I went to see them; how they were not being furnished enough grease, fat in their ration. The other one also wanted a Russian-German dictionary because he was studying Russian and according to some provisions of the Geneva Convention which he pointed out to me, the captive country is supposed to provide the prisoners with educational materials. I failed to carry that out. I was deficient!
Roger: You did say that you increased the toilet paper because you didn’t want to be that cruel! Ha, ha!
Col. Heymont: Well, yeah, I did do that. Ha, ha!
Roger: Your letters are kind of unique. Now, who were you writing all these letters to?
Col. Heymont: My wife.
Roger: You were writing letters to your wife. Did you write a letter every day or….?
Col. Heymont: Almost every night. I’d be so frustrated at the end of the day; everyone would lock up shop and I’d be all pent up, so I’d pour everything out in letters to my wife. When I got home, to my surprise, she had saved them all! I must confess, she wrote to me almost every day, too; but, I didn’t save her letters.
Roger: Ha, ha! Did you ever think when you were writing those letters that they would become such an important part of history regarding…?
Col. Heymont: Oh, no! I never had any thoughts about that! As a matter of fact, as it turned out later, under pressure I finally turned the letters over to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. But, I made them promise that certain parts of the letters will never be released to anyone because they contain a lot of personal comments about army people, non-friend army people, that I don’t ever want made known.
Roger: Right! Whether you like or dislike, personal things like that to your wife, things like that, just leave that out!
Col. Heymont: Yes, yes!
Roger: So, the body of the letters, the content simply reflects what you were seeing as you were going through…
Col. Heymont: They were published later in a book, where these comments were, of course, omitted. But, they are in the original letters and the Holocaust Museum does have the letters. I find that sort of restricts me to the stories I can tell!
Roger: Ha, ha!
Col. Heymont: I can’t embellish! I can’t magnify because somebody can always say, “Look buddy, this is what you wrote in 1945!”
Roger: You’re locked into the truth you created! Colonel, I’ve got to take a break, here. Just hang on here and we’ll continue our discussion. I’d also like to open phone lines if you don’t have an objection to that. We’ll see if we’ve got some listeners who might like to ask questions about your experiences as a U.S. Army officer dealing with the aftermath of the holocaust.
Roger: Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen! Retired U.S. Army Colonel Irving Heymont, is with us this evening talking about his experiences as he marched across Europe into Germany, with one of the major forces in WW II winning victory for the Allied Forces and ending up with responsibility for the Displaced Person Camps, especially Landsberg DP Camp. The letters he wrote home became a very important part of history. Colonel, we’re back, my friend! How long were you actually there?
Col. Heymont: In Landsberg?
Col. Heymont: It was the longest four months of my life!
Roger: It must have seemed like years. So, you wrote letters home nearly every day.
Col. Heymont: Not quite, almost every day.
Roger: While you were there you said you rediscovered your Jewishness.
Col. Heymont: Not rediscovered, became aware.
Roger: Became aware — and what was it that caused that?
Col. Heymont: The realization of what happened and that I didn’t want Hitler to triumph by different means, by just letting Jews assimilate—getting rid of them that way instead of by killing them. I am presenting it in an utterly simplistic way. It’s a little more complex than that. I’d just rather not go into it too deeply.
Roger: Were you able to make friends there?
Col. Heymont: Oh, yes! I’m still friends with some of them, except they’ve practically all passed away. I’ve made many German friends I still keep up with.
Roger: What ever happened to the German soldiers that you one time held captive.
Col. Heymont: Oh, they were all released finally. They were all discharged.
Roger: So, in the Nuremburg trials just certain people were tried?
Col. Heymont: Oh, yes! Most of the war criminals that were tried and executed by the Americans were executed at Landsberg. I was one of the official eyewitnesses at the first executions. The major ones, the top Nazis were executed at Nuremburg; but, the other minor ones, relatively speaking, were all tried at Dachau. In German it was known as the Dachau Trials. Landsberg was the big Bavarian state prison. Hitler had been in jail there in 1922-1923. That’s where he supposedly wrote “Mein Kampf.” So, the Americans took that over and it was known as W.P. 1, War Prison Number 1. That’s where the executions took place, about 200 were executed there and they’re buried in the prison cemetery.
Roger: Was there any protest by the German people after the trials?
Col. Heymont: Not in my time.
Roger: Those former soldiers didn’t come back to rescue their leaders, huh? Ha, ha, ha!
Col. Heymont: Oh, no! These were all in jail, guarded by an American MP Unit.
Roger: Alright, listen! We have a phone call. Folks, if you’d like to call in and ask Colonel Heymont about his experiences in Landsberg, Germany after the liberation, please feel free to call in. Lisa in Sparks, Nevada, hello!
Caller-Lisa: First of all, I want to say this is wonderful what you’re doing, promoting awareness about this. I’m in my second semester in college and I’m doing a report on the Spanish Inquisition. I was listening to your show and I realized, in speaking with my friends about my paper, not many of us realized that the Inquisition itself was primarily a persecution of Jews and Jews converted to Christianity. I was amazed and that led me into further research and throughout history, how the Jews have been persecuted and how little my generation knows about it! I’m considered part of Generation X.
I have two questions for the Colonel. What I want to know is, has he had that same experience of people in the younger generation not realizing what has gone on?
My second question is not related to the topic. Did the German prisoners he had at the camps, did they in any way try to rationalize what they had done? Did they try to explain why they were persecuting the Jews? Did they have a reason?
Col. Heymont: You’ll have to forgive me. Between age and war wounds, I’m a little hard of hearing. I think one was: Were the Germans aware of what they had done?
Caller-Lisa: Did the German prisoners ever try to rationalize to you why they done that?
Col. Heymont: Did the German prisoners I had in my custody try to rationalize what had happened? I have no knowledge of anything like that. I never carried on any discussions with them like that.
What was the first question?
Caller-Lisa: The first question was, have you, in everyday life, come across people in their 20s-30s, who are not even aware of the atrocities that have been perpetrated on the Jewish people?
Col. Heymont: Do you mean American or German?
Caller-Lisa: American, in present day life?
Col. Heymont: I’m in no position to answer that. I’m afraid my contacts with Americans about 20 years old are very limited. My friends are practically all my age, all people who served in the army. All my nieces and nephews are fully aware of what happened. I’m just not in a position to answer that with any degree of knowledge.
Roger: Now, when you went over there you had original orders? I mean, there was a certain goal and objective which we’ve talked about. Did that change over time? Was there a change in thinking about how all this was coming together and the realization of the fact that people didn’t want to be repatriated? What kind of problem did that create for the army?
Col. Heymont: It created a great deal of a problem! There we were with these thousands of people who could not be repatriated! That’s why there was the Bartley Crum Commission (Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry on Palestine-1945) and others. Even in the United States there was some opposition to letting them in initially. It was only until the State of Israel was created that the camps were finally emptied.
Roger: So, up to that point were we just providing foods and housing.
Col Heymont: Sheltering.
Roger: Essentially protecting them?
Col. Heymont: Yes.
Roger: But, after the war there didn’t seem to be any desire by the Germans or other European people to come after Jews. I mean, that kind of died after the war, right?
Col. Heymont: Again, you’re asking me for…… I’m in no position to comment. All I know is historically there were many riots, pogroms, massacres when Jews went back. The most famous one was in 1946 in Poland. That happened in many other towns on a much smaller scale. I heard many horror stories of people who went back to their hometowns and were driven out again. Some were killed there. This is even in late 1945. But, overall generalizations, I’m in no position…
Roger: Now, how about records? There must have been a lot of records that needed to be gone through and organized and put together which we now see as the official record of history.
Col. Heymont: Records of what?
Roger: Well, records of the camps and the imprisonments….
Col. Heymont: Oh, yes!
Roger: Did you have to deal with that at all?
Col. Heymont: Well, for example, in 1995 there were big commemorations. There are a number of institutes in Germany…. a year or so ago there was a big conference in Munich on the Jewish DP problem. The Fritz Bauer Institute out of Frankfurt just published the papers that were delivered at that conference. I attended that conference. It included papers that were expanded from that conference and covered various aspects. The organization within the camps, the reactions of government with the camps, the reaction of the local people in the camps.
Roger: Was it your observation, Colonel, that the Germans were pretty good record keepers?
Col. Heymont: Oh, yes! We had a standing joke! You know, we found the entire Nazi Party Membership List! You can see them here in Washington DC in the National Archives! The joke we had at that time was that at the end of the war the Nazi Party issued orders that all party records were to be destroyed, and they did it! But, before they did it, they made copies!
Roger: Ha, ha, ha! Very efficient!
Col. Heymont: Ha, ha! Well, you can see all the party records here in the National Archives!
Roger: Well, let me tell you why I asked that question when we come back on the other side of this break. Ladies and gentlemen, Retired Colonel Irving Heymont, US Army is with us! He was one of the people on the front lines over there in Germany for the liberation and after the fact, the aftermath and the attempts to repatriate and clean up the camps and get people re-situated and on with their lives. Quite an incredible story! We’d love to hear from you and will take calls right after the break!
Roger: Colonel, going back to what I asked about the records, and I bring this up for a reason, we continue to get people who call here, good ole boys from southern Texas or whatever, and they’ll tell us that the holocaust didn’t happen. Now, you were there, Colonel! Tell me that the holocaust didn’t happen!
Col. Heymont: Well, either they’re ignorant or they’re vicious! It did happen! Not only, do you remember what you saw; but, you can never forget the smell!
Roger: Were there a lot of bodies when you got there?
Col. Heymont: My particular regiment liberated a small subcamp of Malhausen. We found about 2, 000 dead scattered around the woods. There’d been no water, no food for several days. The Division, commanded by General Wyman, later a four star general, put out a pamphlet describing what we saw when we got there.
Roger: How many stories like that did you hear throughout Europe?
Col. Heymont: Well, if you go to the Holocaust Museums you see the flags of all of the Divisions that over-ran these concentration camps. General Eisenhower wrote this famous letter of what he saw. He wrote that letter because he didn’t want anybody to say later on that it never happened!
Roger: Well, they’re saying it, Colonel. That’s why you’re here. I want people to be real clear about what happened over there! Let’s go to BK in Austin, Texas. You’re on with Colonel Heymont.
Caller-BK: Yeah, Roger! Goodness gracious, last time I called you I fussed at you! Everything was going great and it was a great show until you had to start bad mouthin’ good ole boys from Texas!
Roger: I was kidding because I knew you were on the line! Ha, ha! It was a joke!
Caller-BK: Ha, ha! Hey, let me congratulate and thank the Colonel for his service to our country. I’ve got two brief questions. After spending 26 years in the Army myself, the first question is in the executions; were they electric chair, were they hung or were they shot?
Col. Heymont: They were all hung. The ones in the Landsberg prison were all hung.
Caller-BK: Okay. The second question, did you ever run across a Colonel John K. Webber?
Col. Heymont: I’ve run across a Colonel Webber. The name is familiar, but, I can’t go beyond that.
Forgive me, I’ll be 80 shortly and sometimes I’m only sure of my name and social security number!
Caller-BK: Ha, ha! No problem! John K. Webber was from San Antonio, Texas. My father was in ROTC and John K. talked my Dad into going into the service. Later on John K. was supposedly instrumental in helping to set up the Nuremburg trials. I got to meet him once when my Dad came to San Antonio. I only met him once and he was a fantastic old gentleman, long retired, back then. He’d be older than my Dad. Thank you again! Roger, it’s a great show!
Roger: Alright, BK! I’m just picking on you guys in Texas for fun, it was all in fun! Robert in California, you’re on the radio!
Caller-Robert: Hello, Roger! How are you guys doing tonight?
Caller-Robert: My question, sir, is for your guest. Do you see any similarities in America of what was going on in Nazi Germany, such as gun control, gun confiscation and some of the things that happened before Hitler rose to power?
Col. Heymont: No, I don’t see anything whatsoever similar. The situation is totally different!
Roger: We have a lot of people here who actually believe they’re free, Colonel.
Col. Heymont: What?
Roger: We have a lot of people in America who actually believe they’re free. Ha, ha! I don’t think you could do in America what happened in Nazi Germany. I mean, the people would not….
Col. Heymont: No. We’ve done terrible things here. We’ve lynched blacks. We’ve been anti-Irish. We’ve been anti-German. We’ve been anti-Jews. But, we’ve never deliberately set out to say all the people of a certain group don’t deserve to live, that we’ll round them up and kill them, or work them to death. That’s what the Nazis did!
Roger: As an army officer, an infantry officer, what were the lessons learned from the holocaust?
Col. Heymont: I never knew that a people could sink as low as I’d seen them. Then, of course, I had my own personal reaction as being a Jew. But, that’s not the point! I never thought I could see people as low as what I saw, who could treat people the way I saw people treated. To see living skeletons! The other thing it made me aware of; the spirit of the human body is incredible! I’ve seen living skeletons and years later see vibrant people! I never knew the human body could take so much, as well as the human spirit!
Roger: Well, let’s hope that history won’t repeat itself, that we won’t have to go through anything like this again. Colonel, it’s been a real pleasure to meet you, sir! I thank you for staying up late this evening, Eastern Time is pretty late for you. I just really appreciate you having been here!
Is your book out of print now or can people get it?
Col. Heymont: As far as I know, it’s out of print. There was an outfit that was going to publish it again, but they never did get to it.
Roger: Well, the letters were wonderful. I read through several of them today. It took a lot of courage for you to put them forward. I’m sure forever you’ll be appreciated for it, sir. Good Bless!
Col. Heymont: I’d like to see it republished; but, that’s beyond me!
Roger: Well, maybe it will happen. We’ve given it a little publicity here tonight! “Among the Survivors of the Holocaust-1945: The Landsberg D.P. Camp Letters of Major Irving Heymont”
Colonel, God Bless, Godspeed, take care!
Col. Heymont: Thank you and good night!
Roger: Good night, sir! Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for patiently going through this grinding subject with us once again. We really do appreciate your support and we’re encouraged by it. God bless you all and God bless America!
Transcription is from MP3 file converted from original cassette with minimal editing by Chey Simonton.
Errors, if any, may be due to unintelligible sections of original 1997 audio technology. Unknown/unintelligible words are spelled phonetically.)