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German marching compass in a case taken from an SS officer by a US soldier

Object | Accession Number: 2000.598.2

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    German marching compass in a case taken from an SS officer by a US soldier

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    Brief Narrative
    German marching compass 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
    manufacture:  after 1930-before 1945
    manufacture: Furth (Bavaria, Germany)
    found: liberation of concentration camp;
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Hy Silverman
    overall : top, embossed : Marsch- / Kompass [marching compass]
    overall : bottom, embossed : [S in an elongated hexagon] / D.R.P. [C. Stockert & Sohn / Deutsches Reichspatent]
    Subject: Hy Silverman
    Manufacturer: C. Stockert & Sohn
    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

    Tools and Equipment
    Physical Description
    Hinged, rectangular, black Bakelite case, with a top clasp, enclosing a compass. The base has a 50 mm ruler engraved on the beveled right edge and a 60 mm ruler embossed on the straight left edge. The case opens flat to expose a metal plate with a central hole screwed to the inner base and lid. A movable, thin, flat, hinged, shiny metal disc with a sighting slot rests in the lid. A flat, metal arrow is attached to the hinge. The compass has a clear glass bezel with a ridged, black plastic rim set into the base. Around the interior is a flat, white painted metal ring with painted black Arabic numerals and lines to mark angular mils, 4 to 60. Black, painted directional letters replace some numbers. There is a dot of radioluminescent paint below each letter, on a small arrow, and on 1 end of the central needle. The needle locks into place by pressing a small button beside the compass, which pushes up a lever beneath the needle. An 18 inch long loop of black cord is inserted through the top bracket.
    overall: Height: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm) | Width: 2.250 inches (5.715 cm) | Depth: 2.875 inches (7.303 cm)
    overall : bakelite (tm), metal, plastic, paint, radium paint, cord

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The compass 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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