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Oral history interview with Melvin H. Rappaport

Oral History | Accession Number: 2014.51.102 | RG Number: RG-50.759.0102

Melvin Rappaport discusses his enlistment into the US Army in 1941 before Pearl Harbor; being a 24-year-old Captain in 1945, assigned as Liaison Officer within the 6th Armored Division; fighting towards Chemnitz and Leipzig in Germany; coming across Buchenwald concentration camp in the vicinity of Weimar; the lack of German guards in the camp; a group of German soldiers who were trying to surrender and were confronted by Russian POWs; the use of dynamite to blow off locks in the camp; the camp yard, which was clear of people but was scattered with dead bodies; seeing mostly men and very few women; the crematorium, where there was a lift with bodies placed on stretchers to be moved downward into the ovens; seeing ashes all around; seeing a torture chamber; going into the barracks, where there were emaciated men lying on shelves, all in terrible condition, looking like skeletons; a six-year-old boy who interrupted the inspection and beckoned Melvin to come with him, saying “Kleine Kinder”; being led by the boy to an inner barbed-wire enclosure where he found a group of small children running around like wild animals; how the entire scene was shocking and unbelievable; not understanding what he had seen until years after the war, after hind-sight and reading about it; his unit moving on and the men in the unit not talking about this experience at all, as if nothing had happened; the Military Government and Medical units following up on administering the camp; the 1944 coup against Hitler; his thoughts on the knowledge of current youth about the war; the imprisonment and disposition of the Commandant of the Buchenwald and the Commandant’s wife; and attending a meeting of an association of concentration camps as a liberator.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Melvin H. Rappaport
Mary Cook
Nita Howton
interview:  1994 July 23
1 sound cassette : analog.
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Mary Cook and Nita Howton
Record last modified: 2020-07-27 15:22:19
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