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Anthony Acevedo papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 2010.440.1

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    Anthony Acevedo papers

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    The Anthony Acevedo papers include the diary he kept as a prisoner of war describing his experiences at Stalag IX-B in Bad Orb and Berga concentration camp and on a death march, listing fellow soldiers who died in the camps or on the march, and including his drawings of places and scenes he witnessed. The collection also includes a letter documenting his father’s consent to Acevedo entering medical service in the US military; a copy of his 2012 memoir "Personal Account of an Undesirable" describing his wartime experiences; and photographs of Acevedo with family, friends, and colleagues before, during, and after the war.
    inclusive:  1935-2012
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Anthony Acevedo
    Collection Creator
    Anthony Acevedo
    Anthony (Tony) Acevedo (1924-2018) was born in San Bernardino, California, to Francisco Guillermo and Maria Luisa Acevedo. Francisco was born in Mexico City, Mexico, and Maria was born in Sonora. Tony had one sister, Maria Luisa (1925-?). His mother died in January 1926. The family moved to Pasadena. Francisco remarried in 1930 and had two children. The family was Catholic and Tony attended a segregated public school. In 1937, his parents were deported and the family relocated to Durango, Mexico, where Francisco, an architectural engineer, was appointed Director of Public Works. One day in 1940, Tony heard Morse code transmissions near their home. He reported this to his father and it was discovered that two employees were spying for a German submarine near Baja, California; the spies were soon arrested.

    In 1942, Tony, an American citizen, returned to Pasadena, CA, to join the Army. Since he was only 17-1/2 at the time, his father wrote a letter grating permission for Tony to return to the United States and join the military. When Tony reported for induction, he was informed by the Army that his education in Mexico was insufficient, so he began classes at Pasadena City College. After a three month semester, he was inducted into the Army in 1943. Tony had a strong interest in medicine and was assigned as a medic to Company B, 275th regiment, 70th Infantry Division. In December 1944, the company was deployed to Marseilles, France, and sent into combat in the Battle of the Bulge. The company was surrounded at Falkenburg Hill and endured heavy casualties. Tony was struck in the shin by shrapnel. The soldiers took cover in foxholes for a week with no food or water. On January 6, 1945, the unit was ordered to surrender to the Germans. They were forced to take off their boots to prevent escape, and then walk down the hill in waist deep snow to the train depot.

    After a short truck ride, they marched for six days and nights to prisoner of war camp, Stalag IX-B, in Bad Orb, Germany. Tony was prisoner number 27016. He was interrogated for several hours by a German officer in English and Spanish, and revealed only his name, rank, and serial number. The officer knew detailed information about Tony and his family, including the incident with the German spies in Mexico. Tony was beaten numerous times for refusing to talk and tortured with needles pushed under his fingernails. The prisoners slept in barracks without bunks and were given boiled grass to drink. In early February, there was a line up and Jews were told to step forward. There were not enough in this self-selected group, so the Germans selected prisoners who they thought looked or sounded Jewish, as well as those they deemed undesirable. A guard pushed Tony with a gun and ordered him to step forward.

    Tony and 349 of his fellow soldiers were transported to Berga an der Elster labor camp, a subcamp of Buchenwald concentration camp. They were placed in Berga 2. Berga 1 held political and Jewish prisoners from other countries who wore striped uniforms. They were interrogated again. The prisoners slept two to a bunk in lice-ridden barracks. Food rations were 100 grams of bread per week and according to Tony it was made of sawdust, ground glass, ground sand and barley, and that they received soup made from cats and rats. Later, there was even less to eat. The prisoners were used as slave labor, digging tunnels and working in mines in 12 hour shifts. Tony worked as a medic, crossing floating bridges to retrieve injured or fallen workers. He used clothing for bandages, ordinary sewing kits for sutures, and melted snow to clean wounds. The Germans made clear that his job was to aid the prisoners so that they could be forced back to work. The death rate was high due to starvation, overwork, disease, and mistreatment, such as frequent beatings by the guards. Tony tried his best to keep others alive, but, as with one friend who was too weak to eat, he could only comfort him as he died in his arms. Some tried to escape and were executed with wooden bullets; medics had to fill the holes with wax. They also had to bury the dead. Tony received a diary in a Red Cross care package, where he recorded the name, date, and cause of death of his fellow soldiers. Sometimes he had trouble keeping up, as the death rate reached six a day.

    On April 3, 1945, as American forces advanced near the camp, the prisoners were ordered on a death march. Tony pushed a cart loaded with twenty wounded and dead men; some were suffocated by the weight of those above. The Germans killed prisoners from other camps and fleeing civilians that they passed during the march. At one point, Tony asked permission to perform a tracheostomy on a soldier suffering from diphtheria; the camp commander, Erwin Metz, denied the request and hit Tony with his rifle butt. They walked for three weeks and over 150 miles with little food or water. The prisoners died so quickly that Tony could not record all the deaths in his diary.

    On April 23, they were liberated by the 11th Armored Division near Cham. The inmates were taken to a field hospital. Of the 350 prisoners who were sent to Berga, it is estimated that half of the men died during their imprisonment and the death march. Tony weighed only 87 pounds at liberation. He was next sent to a general hospital in Reims, France. Prior to being sent back to the US for further care, Tony and some of the other surviving prisoners from the camp were ordered by the US Army to sign an affidavit that they believed stated that they would never speak about their experience in Berga. If they did so, they would be subject to disciplinary action. In June 1945, Tony was sent to a recuperation center in Santa Barbara. He was discharged on December 10, 1945. When he returned home, his father accused him of being a coward for being captured and held as a POW. Tony could not describe his ordeal and he never did for over fifty years. He received several awards, including the Bronze Star, for his wartime service. Tony settled in California, married, and had four children. He had a career as an aerospace design engineer. Tony later divorced and reconnected with his sweetheart from before the war.

    In 1999, Tony began speaking about his experiences as a prisoner of war in the Berga slave labor camp to local groups and, later, to national newspapers. It was not until 2009 that the US Army publicly recognized that the Berga camp where Tony and his fellow soldiers had been imprisoned was a slave labor camp.

    Physical Details

    Photographs. Diaries.
    5 folders
    System of Arrangement
    The Anthony Acevedo papers are arranged as a single series: Anthony Acevedo papers, approximately 1935-2012

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Donor retains copyright on the memoir. Other material in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Anthony Acevedo donated this collection to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2010. He added his memoir to the collection in 2013.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this collection has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    The accessibility of this collection was made possible by the generous donors to our crowdfunded Save Their Stories campaign.
    Special Collection
    Save Their Stories
    Record last modified:
    2024-04-11 13:19:07
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