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Oral history interview with Robert Persinger

Oral History | Accession Number: 2014.51.99 | RG Number: RG-50.759.0099

Robert Persinger discusses his experiences during WWII when, in 1945, he was a 21-year-old Staff Sergean in the 3rd Cavalry Squadron, which was assigned to XX Corps, Third Army; his unit, at the end of World War II, liberating camp Ebensee, an outlying subcamp of Mauthausen concentration camp; details about the camp; driving a tank into the open gates of the camp; coming upon a large mass of about 15,000 male inmates who had been crammed into filthy barracks and fed very little; seeing former inmates as young as 15 and possibly even younger; the a small group of British prisoners in the camp; the hundreds of inmates who died after liberation; the dead bodies scattered around the camp; the former inmates who were extremely hungry, but also overjoyed in gaining their freedom; the unbearable smell of the camp; the crematorium; seeing a building labeled hospital; the primary effort of his unit to organize the feeding of the former inmates; the preparation of soup; the frenzied reaction of some of the former inmates to the food; one of the younger inmates, who spoke numerous languages and became the official interpreter; being in the camp for two weeks before they were relieved by Quartermaster troops; the demographics of the camp population, and his estimates that it was equally divided between Russian, Jewish, and political prisoners; the local residents’ fear that the former inmates might take revenge; finding it difficult to believe that they had not known what was going on in the camp; the locals being taken into the camp to see what was there; the detainment of a group of ‘Volkssturm’ (men drafted near the end of war who were too young or too old for the regular draft) members who had acted as guards; returning home from the war and not having a problem adjusting back to normal life; not discussing his experiences much about the war with family and friends; finding it was easier to speak with fellow veterans; and attending reunions of his unit, often around the site of the camp.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Robert Persinger
Mary Cook
Nita Howton
interview:  1994 April 16
2 sound cassettes : analog.
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Mary Cook and Nita Howton
Record last modified: 2020-05-27 12:50:58
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