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Semi-automatic Walther PPK pistol, holster, and magazines found at a concentration camp by US military aid worker

Object | Accession Number: 1988.112.65 a-d

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    Semi-automatic Walther PPK pistol, holster, and magazines found at a concentration camp by US military aid worker

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Walther 7.65 semi-automatic pistol, leather holster, and two magazines found by Lt. Milton Shurr, a Jewish American soldier, at the recently liberated Buchenwald concentration camp in April-May 1945 in Germany. This pistol was never fired, but, lighter than a Luger, it was the type used by SS guards at the camp. First Lt. Shurr, Civil Affairs Unit, assisted in planning for D-Day, June 6, 1944. He landed on Omaha Beach soon after the invasion to organize supplies, then was placed with the 1st Army Displaced Persons Team. On April 11, 1945, the US Third Army liberated Buchenwald. Command of the camp was transferred to the 1st Army, which was responsible for establishing order, improving camp conditions, and caring for the inmates. Shurr worked 16 hour days trying to find food for 15,000 starving survivors. He later was sent to Bavaria as a health welfare officer to assist with the re-establishment of schools, hospitals, and other social services by the US Military occupation government. In 1949, he declined a permanent position and returned to the US.
    Date
    found:  1945 April-1945 May
    Geography
    found: Buchenwald (Concentration camp); Weimar (Thuringia, Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Milton L. Shurr
    Markings
    a. grip, both sides, within banner, engraved : WALTHER
    a. left side, slide, engraved : WALTHER Waffenfabrik Walther, Zella – Mehlis (Thur) Mod. PPK / Walther’s Patent Cal 7,65 m/m
    a. right side, frame, engraved : 401457K
    a. right side, slide, proof mark, engraved : eagle over an N / 401457K
    a. right side, barrel, proof mark, engraved : eagle over an N
    b. side flap, beneath strap, pressed : D.R.G.M. [Deutsches Reichsgebrauchsmuster German Nationally Registered Design]
    b. side flap, strap tip, underside, pressed : 2
    b. top flap, interior, stamped, black ink : WALTHER / P.P.K.
    c. left side, engraved : WALTHER / PPK 7,65 m/m
    c. bottom, engraved : 401457 K / 2
    d. left side, engraved : WALTHER / PPK 7,65 m/m
    d. bottom, engraved : 403812 K / 1
    Contributor
    Manufacturer: Waffenfabrik Walther
    Subject: Milton L. Shurr
    Biography
    Milton Shurr was born on January 28, 1911, in Rochester, NY, to Mr and Mrs. Harry Shurr. On June 3, 1941, he married Muriel Friedman, from New York City. That year, motivated by news about the persecution of Jews in Europe, including news from correspondents about the camps, Milton joined the field staff of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Fund. He moved from Minneapolis, MN, to Oklahoma City, OK, to head the Fund. He transitioned from being a program organizer in public health to arranging regional conferences to fundraise and to inform US citizens of what was happening abroad.
    The United States entered World War II on December 8, 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Milton was drafted into the US Army and enrolled in Officer's Candidate School. Corporal Shurr was then sent to military government school to be trained to rebuild postwar Germany. First Lieutenant Shurr and the rest of his class were deployed to Great Britain in February 1944. They assisted in the preparations for Operation Overlord, set for June 6, 1944. He was recruited from the Quartermasters Corp by the Army's Department of Civilian Affairs. Slated to deploy one week after D-Day, their departure was delayed to send more fighting troops. They then landed on Omaha Beach near Isigny. Milton was stationed with the 1st Army. He was assigned to collect medical or other supplies dropped on the beach and then throughout France.

    In October 1944, Milton was placed with the 1st Army Displaced Persons Team in Vervier, Belgium, and was in Malmady during the Battle of the Bulge. He continued to travel widely with a driver searching for supplies. They drove through combat territory and were often bombed. Around January 1945, Milton fell ill with hepatitis and was sent to England to recover. He returned to his unit in Germany the day after Patton's 3rd Army liberated Buchenwald concentration camp on April 11, 1945. Buchenwald was then transferred to the command of the 1st Army, which had the task of creating a stable, orderly environment out of the chaotic conditions found at the camp. Camp conditions were in turmoil; soldiers were looting and corpses were piled everywhere. Milton was faced with the enormous task of caring for the approximately 15,000 surviving prisoners, all men and boys, who were dying at a rate of 300 persons a day. Milton met daily with about fifteen capos who were his eyes and ears in the camp and his main source of information about what the former prisoners needed. He was in charge of supplies and worked with a team of three-four officers, six enlisted men, four-five liaison foreign officers, two Russian women who were the cooks, and an assortment of local assistants and mechanics. He worked 16 hour days trying to find enough food to keep the inmates alive. They scoured the surrounding country for supplies and obtained most of their food supplies by confiscating them from German civilians. Cigarettes were used as currency. The Army had obtained nearly a ton of Turkish cigarettes from German supplies. He paid inmates in cigarettes to load and unload trucks. About forty Polish prisoners were recruited to find him transport. They stole two diesel trucks from German locals, and painted them olive drab, with false ordnance numbers.

    Milton also assisted with the repatriation efforts. Western Europeans were repatriated first. Eastern Europeans were given the choice of returning home or moving to the West. Milton was a liaison with the Red Cross and the Joint Distribution Committee, who organized the repatriation and resettlement of the survivors. There were about 700-1000 boys in the camp and Milton worked with both groups to get them individualized attention. Most were resettled in Palestine. As prisoners left, they were replaced by new ones who wanted to move West. The camp gradually transformed into a displaced persons camp. Horrified by the lack of the value of life in the camp, Milton tried to preserve and collect evidence of the crimes committed there for military investigators. Milton remained at Buchenwald until July 1, 1945, when the camp was transferred to the Soviets, who turned it back into a prison camp. Milton was reclassified as a health welfare officer, part of the military occupation government. He was stationed in Bavaria, where he worked to reopen schools, hospitals, banks, and other social services. In 1949, Milton declined a permanent position with the military in Bavaria as he wished to return to his wife. After demobilization in New Jersey, Milton and his family relocated to Chicago where he worked in health planning. Milton was unable to speak of Buchenwald for many years. Supported by his wife Muriel’s belief that he had a responsibility to share what he had witnessed, after forty years, Milton began to share his experiences. Milton, age 98, died in 2009. His wife Muriel died a month later.

    Physical Details

    Language
    German
    Classification
    Weapons
    Category
    Firearms
    Physical Description
    a. Heavy, semi-automatic, black colored steel framed pistol. The hollow, rectangular handle is angled forward and has a curved back, flat front and sides, and an open base with a textured, black plastic grip. The frame extends forward from the handle to support a cylindrical barrel with an open, circular muzzle. A slide with straight, flat sides covers the barrel, which is visible only on the right side through an oval ejection port. On the left side of the slide, a decocking safety lever slides upward to expose a red painted circle. There is a ridged panel near the back on both sides. The top of the slide is curved with front and rear sights mounted at either end of a textured, narrow, rectangular, flat metal plate attached on the top. The curved hammer is fixed at the top back of the frame. A small, thin, rectangular bracket is fixed on the barrel underside. The magazine release, a textured button, is set into the left side frame, just below the barrel. Mounted below the barrel is the curved, spring loaded trigger with a hinged, oval trigger guard.
    b. Stiff, triangular, black leather, belt holster for a Walther semi-automatic pistol (a) with a top slotted end and back side flap to enclose the deep, rectangular, hard pocket molded for the barrel. A hard, rectangular pocket for a spare magazine is sewn along the front side. The top flap extends up from the back and folds over to cover most of the body. Sewn at an angle along the lower back side is a curved triangular flap. This folds over the pocket and is covered by the top flap when closed. The triangle flap has a leather strap with a slotted end that fastens over a large, black colored, brass metal ball stud on the top flap. A wide leather rectangle with a narrow top loop is sewn to the center back. The upper interior is creased, light brown leather and the base of the pocket is lined with brown suede.
    c. Narrow, rectangular, angled, hollow, black painted, 6 bullet magazine for a semi-automatic pistol (a). It has flat back and sides with a flat top panel that angles down at the front end and sets inside the magazine. When the top is pushed down, it compresses a narrow gauge, wire spring inside, visible through 6 circular holes on both sides. There is a short front extension tab on the bottom.
    d. Narrow, rectangular, angled, hollow, black painted, 6 bullet magazine for a semi-automatic pistol (a). It has flat back and sides with a flat top panel that angles down at the front end and sets inside the magazine. When the top is pushed down, it compresses a narrow gauge, wire spring inside, visible through 6 circular holes on both sides. There is a short front extension tab on the bottom.
    Dimensions
    a: Height: 4.250 inches (10.795 cm) | Width: 1.000 inches (2.54 cm) | Depth: 6.000 inches (15.24 cm)
    b: Height: 6.375 inches (16.192 cm) | Width: 4.875 inches (12.383 cm) | Depth: 1.250 inches (3.175 cm)
    c: Height: 3.625 inches (9.208 cm) | Width: 0.625 inches (1.588 cm) | Depth: 1.250 inches (3.175 cm)
    d: Height: 3.625 inches (9.208 cm) | Width: 0.625 inches (1.588 cm) | Depth: 1.250 inches (3.175 cm)
    Materials
    a : steel, metal, plastic, paint
    b : leather, metal, ink
    c : metal, metal

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The pistol and accessories were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1988 by Milton Shurr.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-25 16:30:25
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn514920

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