Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research




Skip to main content

Oral history interview with John Orr

Oral History | Accession Number: 2014.51.95 | RG Number: RG-50.759.0095

John Orr discusses his experiences during WWII when, in 1945, he was a 37-year-old 1st Lieutenant assigned to the 120th Evacuation Hospital; his unit being ordered into the Buchenwald concentration camp near the end of World War II; being met by a couple of former prisoners who showed them around; seeing the Camp Commandant’s quarters; seeing up to 200 prisoners stacked in bunks within the barracks; speaking with some of the ex-prisoners who spoke English and all were willing to talk; interpreters being provided by the military government later on; seeing Jews wearing the Star of David, political prisoners marked with a diamond, and convicted criminals; the few women and children in the camp, most of the inmates were men; the stacks of dead bodies; finding out that the prisoners had performed hard labor in the quarry, and some also did manufacturing jobs; the guards having fled the camp before the American troops arrived; one instance of a guard had been identified amongst the civilian population and the ex-prisoners took their revenge, beating him to death; the physical condition of the former prisoners, who were malnourished and had difficulty walking; medical wards being set up in the former SS barracks; having 20 Doctors, 40 nurses, and 270 enlisted personnel in the unit; the doctors amongst the former prisoners who continued to care for their patients; the camp’s numerous former sex workers who were housed in a guest house and began working as nurses, helping patients; his work to maintain the hospital’s supplies, assuring that the unit had everything that was needed; how Buchenwald was different from what he had seen in the war before; trying to get back to normal as quickly as possible; thinking he would be sent to the Pacific before the bombs were dropped; and not understand how people could get to be so cruel to other people.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
John Orr
Mary Cook
Nita Howton
interview:  1994 April 23
1 sound cassette : analog.
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Mary Cook and Nita Howton
Record last modified: 2020-07-08 14:55:26
This page: