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Irving Heymont papers

Document | Digitized | Accession Number: 1989.259.3 | RG Number: RG-19.038

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    Irving Heymont papers

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    The Irving Heymont papers contains material concerning Irving Heymont, a U.S. Army officer who assisted in the liberation of Gunskirchen, and was tasked in the administration of the Landsberg am Lech displaced persons camp. Within the collection are letters from Irving to his wife, Joan, discussing the conditions and administration of the camp. Other items include military reports, theses on the Landsberg camp, and various mixed media including German cigarette cards, news clippings, and various photographs of Landsberg and the Gunskirchen liberation.

    The Irving Heymont papers contain primarily reports and correspondence related to the Landsberg am Lech displaced persons (DP) Camp, of which Heymont was tasked to administer. The majority of the correspondence is from Heymont to his wife Joan from late 1945 to early 1946, and discusses his experiences and camp conditions. Other correspdence is a letter from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration to Joan, and a letter from Frederic Schafranek regarding the suicide of Dr. Max Blanke, an SS doctor and Landsberg-Kaufering. The reports in this collection are various military reports regarding Landsberg DP camp, as well as a booklet describing the 71st infantry division liberating Gunskirchen. The theses are various German theses collected by Heymont covering the topic of the Landsberg DP camp. The mixed media series contains photographs of Gunskirchen and Landsberg am Lech, Nazi propaganda cigarette cards, various news clippings, and a videocassette of the memorial dedication at the site of the Landsberg DP camp in 1989.
    inclusive:  1933-1995
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Colonel Irving Heymont
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Irving Heymont
    Collection Creator
    Irving Heymont
    Irving Heymont (1918-2009) was born to a Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. His father had immigrated to America from Russia, and his mother came from Romania. Irving attended public school, in addition to receiving a Jewish education. He celebrated the holidays with his family, but disassociated himself from his religious background for much of his early life. In 1937, Heymont graduated from City College of New York and started working as a metallurgical chemist.

    In October 1938, Heymont enlisted in the Army Reserves. He was initially assigned to the 18th Infantry as a Second Lieutenant, and was based out of Ft. Wadsworth on Staten Island in New York. He attended Infantry school, and in November 1940, was stationed in Panama. In 1941, while in Panama, Heymont married Joan Tobias (1918-1994). Joan was also a Brooklyn native and worked for the electrical division of the Panama Canal. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, drawing the United States into World War II. Heymont returned to the United States with his unit.

    Heymont was promoted to Major in May1944, and deployed to Europe at the end of the year, landing in France in January 1945. He served as a regimental operations officer with the 5th Regiment, 71st Infantry Division, nicknamed the Red Circle. They crossed the Rhine River into Germany in March. In early May, Heymont and his regimental commander saw two men in striped uniforms wandering dazed and confused on the road. They knew the men must be prisoners, but had never heard anything about the German concentration camp system. Later, while pursuing German forces, Heymont and his men came across railroad cars filled with dead and starving people. On May 4, 1945, K Company overran Gunskirchen concentration camp, a subcamp of the Mauthausen concentration camp system in Austria. A few hours after its discovery, Heymont briefly visited the camp, where he encountered foul odors and saw severely emaciated prisoners. He handed out cigarettes, which the prisoners later tried to eat.

    Heymont was in Austria when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. Afterward, he was assigned to command the Second Battalion of the 5th Infantry Regiment. In September, the battalion was stationed in Augsberg, Germany, and Heymont traveled to Paris to testify for a military board proceeding. While he was in in Paris, the battalion was sent to Landsberg am lech, near Munich, where they took over the nearby Landsberg displaced persons (DP) camp from the deactivated 80th Division. The Army had received bad publicity about the conditions and treatment of refugees at the camp, and Heymont was placed in charge with the orders to turn it around.

    When Heymont arrived in Landsberg, General Rolfe took him to look at the camp, which was set up at a former German army base. Heymont was shocked to find the camp was filthy and overcrowded with over 5,000 people living in barracks with inadequate plumbing and sanitation. The camp was surrounded by high barbed wire fences, and US soldiers guarded the gate. This was to prevent residents from leaving, unless they had an official signed pass. Despite immense supply problems, Heymont and his officers managed to make progress. One of his first actions was to move out the non-Jewish residents and make it an all-Jewish camp, with the goal of creating a sense of community among the remaining residents. He abolished the pass system that restricted the DPs movement and camp guards focused on restricting entry to camp, rather than controlling residents.

    Prior to Heymont’s arrival, teams from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and the American Joint Jewish Distribution Committee (AJDC) were installed at the camp. To ease communication with the DPs, Heymont helped to bring in a new, Jewish team leader for the UNRRA team, which took over day-to-day running of the camp, and ensured that all team members could speak German or Yiddish. He also secured German and Yiddish-speaking soldiers to be detailed to the camp. Heymont worked with the pre-existing, self-designated resident committee, which had already set up police, schools, and a hospital. He helped them publish a newspaper and establish a democratic election for a new resident camp committee, in addition to supporting other initiatives. Heymont also discretely secured German Prisoners of War from Dachau to clean up the camp and perform other physical labor.

    Heymont was assigned to Landsberg DP camp through December 1945, and returned to the United States in March 1947. Landsberg, the second largest DP camp, closed in October 1950. Heymont was awarded the Silver Star for his service in World War II, in addition to two Bronze stars awarded for his service in the Korean War (1950-1953). After his overseas service, Heymont taught at the Army Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and he and Joan raised two children. In 1960, Heymont published a book, Combat Intelligence in Modern Warfare. In 1962, he and Joan settled in Washington DC, where they were members of Fort Belvoir Jewish Congregation. Colonel Heymont retired from the military in 1964. In 1982, he published a second book, Among the Survivors of the Holocaust, 1945: The Landsberg DP Camp Letters of Major Irving Heymont, which was edited by a man born in the Landsberg DP camp. Throughout his life, Heymont worked to educate people on the horrors of the Holocaust, including residents of Landsberg, Germany, on return trips to the site of the former camp.

    Physical Details

    English German
    1 box
    1 oversize folder
    System of Arrangement
    The Irving Heymont papers are arranged as three series:
    •Series 1: Correspondence, 1945-1995
    •Series 2: Reports and theses, 1945-1992
    •Series 3: Mixed media, 1933-1989

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) 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

    The Irving Heymont papers were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum by Irving Heymont. The papers are a result of several donations made in 1989, 1994, 1998, 2005 and 2006. These donations were given separate accession numbers: 1989.259, 1995.A.0159, 2004.80, 2005.352.1, 2006.239, and 2006.80. These accessions are now unified, and can be located through the accession number 1989.259.3.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this collection has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Primary Number
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-25 17:20:33
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