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Silver pea whistle taken from an SS officer by a US soldier

Object | Accession Number: 2000.598.1

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    Silver pea whistle taken from an SS officer by a US soldier


    Brief Narrative
    Silver pea whistle taken from an SS officer by Hy Silverman, a soldier in the 322nd Field Artillery Battalion, US 83rd Infantry, at the liberation of a concentration camp in Germany, or possibly Austria, in spring 1945. While Hy, who spoke German and Yiddish, was talking with the emaciated prisoners, he saw a large man in a dark suit with a whistle and compass around his neck within the crowd. Hy felt the man did not belong because he looked too well-fed. At gun-point, Hy ordered him to remove the compass and whistle and took them. Hy asked the prisoners, in Yiddish, who the man was, and they said he was the commandant. As Hy remounted his truck, he said to kill him, and they did. Hy had landed on Omaha Beach in June 1944, was wounded, and returned to fight in the Battle of the Bulge. Around late April 1945, Hy’s group liberated a concentration camp during a rapid advance through Germany toward Austria. His division liberated Halberstadt-Langenstein-Zwieberge, a subcamp of Buchenwald, but Hy later believed that he and his unit might have freed a Mauthausen subcamp. On May 7, Germany surrendered. In March 1946, Hy’s Division returned to the US.
    found:  approximately 1945 May
    found: liberation of concentration camp;
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Hy Silverman
    Subject: Hy Silverman
    Hy Silverman was born in the United States. Soon after the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the US entered World War II. During the war, Hy served in C Battery, 322nd Field Artillery Battalion, 83rd Infantry Division. He was the only Jewish soldier in C Battery. In April 1944, his unit was deployed to the European Theater of Operation. In June, Hy participated in the D Day invasion of Omaha Beach in Normandy. While advancing toward Luxembourg, Hy was wounded and sent to France to recover. In December, Hy rejoined his unit, which relieved the 101st Airborne Division near Bastogne, Belgium. In spring 1945, Hy’s unit advanced eastward across Germany. During the advance, Hy and eight other soldiers were riding in a truck pulling the unit’s 105 mm Howitzer gun when the vehicles halted suddenly at a concentration camp. The Division is recorded as having liberated Halberstadt-Langenstein-Zwieberge, a subcamp of Buchenwald. Hy later believed that it might have been Mauthausen, which is in Austria. Hy was not prepared for the horrors he saw in the camp. From his seat on top of the truck, Hy could see “a few hundred emaciated men speaking Yiddish,” wearing flimsy, blue and white striped concentration camp uniforms and eating raw potatoes which a German woman had given them. He was the only Jewish soldier in C Battery and spoke German and Yiddish, so he was able to communicate with the prisoners. While talking, Hy noticed a large, husky man wearing a dark blue or black suit that looked like a uniform with the insignia torn off. The man had a compass and whistle around his neck. Hy felt that the man did not belong with the others because he looked too well-fed. Hy jumped down from the truck, pointed his gun at the man, and ordered him, in German, to remove the equipment from around his neck. The trucks began to move away and the prisoners moved closer to Hy and the other man. Hy asked the nearest prisoners who the man was and they said that he was the commandant. As Hy jumped back onto the truck, he told them, in Yiddish, “kill him.” The other soldiers did not understand what was happening until they saw the prisoners pull the large man to the ground and stone him to death. Hy’s unit put up photos of the camp in the town nearby, where the townspeople protested that they “didn’t know” about what was happening there. The 83rd Division continued to advance through the region until May 6, 1945, when they met Soviet Forces at the Elbe River. The following day, Germany surrendered. In March 1946, Hy’s Division returned to the US and was inactivated the following month. Hy settled in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania.

    Physical Details

    Object Type
    Whistles (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Tubular, silver colored metal whistle with an arched mouthpiece, or tipple, and a thin, flat rim and semi-circular hole at the end. Near the center is a semi-circular slot. Inside is a small, cork ball, the pea. A metal block fills the lower portion of the mouthpiece. A split ring and bale are attached to the endcap.
    overall: Height: 2.000 inches (5.08 cm) | Width: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm) | Depth: 0.625 inches (1.588 cm)
    overall : metal, cork

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The whistle was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2000 by Hy Silverman.
    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 17:22:56
    This page:

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