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Small poster issued to US troops to discourage socializing with Germans received by a US soldier

Object | Accession Number: 2013.442.8

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    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Don't Fraternize Mauthausen handbill received by 24 year old Captain James (Jim) Kirkebo while serving in the US Army, 11th Armored Division, in Germany in May 1945. The US Army issued poster uses an image of piled rows of inmate corpses discovered at Mauthausen concentration camp to remind soldiers not to fraternize with German civilians. The camp was liberated by Kirkebo's Division, the 11th Armored, on May 6, 1945. Kirkebo, age 19, enlisted in the US Army in September 1940. In August 1942, 2nd Lieutenant Kirkebo became commanding officer of C Company, 21st Armored Infantry Battalion, 11th Armored Division, Third Army. In December 1944, Kirkebo's unit landed in Normandy, and defended Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. The 11th Armored spearheaded the Allied advance into Germany and pushed through to Austria. Kirkebo received a battlefield promotion to captain on February 1, 1945. On May 5 and 6, soldiers from the 11th Armored liberated Gusen and Mauthausen concentration camps. At Mauthausen, they discovered over 19,000 starving inmates. The unit was tasked with caring for the inmates and improving camp conditions. On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. Kirkebo was on occupational duty until October when he returned to the US. Kirkebo was awarded a Silver Star and 3 Bronze Stars for his heroism and leadership in action.
    Artwork Title
    Don't Fraternize
    Date
    creation:  1945 May
    received:  1945 May 08-1945 June 09
    Geography
    depiction: Mauthausen (Concentration Camp); Mauthausen (Austria)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Estate of James Edward Kirkebo
    Markings
    front top, white ink : DONT FRATERNIZE
    front bottom, white ink : MAUTHAUSEN
    bottom right corner, white ink : PHOTO P R O / I & E OFFICE / 1 1 ∆
    Contributor
    Subject: James E. Kirkebo
    Producer: United States Army, 11th Armored Division Headquarters, Information and Education Office
    Biography
    James (Jim) Edward Kirkebo was born on April 22, 1921, in Tacoma, Washington. He was the second of three children born to Gerhard and Irene Kirkebo. His parents were both born in Norway and immigrated to the United States in the early 1900s. Gerhard was a building contractor. In spring 1939, James graduated from high school and took a job as a shipping clerk.

    On September 14, 1940, he enlisted in the US Army. Following the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II. James was deployed for four and a half months with the Asia Pacific Technical Operations (APTO) unit, through December 1941. James rose to the rank of Sergeant, with a specialty in reconnaissance. On December 7, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor,a, and a few days later the US entered World War II. On May 11, 1942, James was selected to attend the Army’s newly formed Officer Candidate Course at Fort Benning in Georgia. In early August, Staff Sergeant Kirkebo, 2nd Training Regiment, 16th Co., graduated from the Officer’s Candidate Course and was reenlisted as a Second Lieutenant with a specialty in automotive maintenance and repair. In mid-August, the 11th Armored Division, the Thunderbolt Division, was activated, as part of the Third Army. James was made commanding officer of C Company, 21st Armored Infantry Battalion. The unit was deployed in September to Great Britain. In early December, his unit landed in Normandy, France, and moved north into Belgium. They entered combat on December 30, defending the road to Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. In January 1945, the Division spearheaded the Allied advance into Germany. On February 1, James received a field promotion to Captain. In February and March, the 11th Armored overran several cities, then crossed the Rhine River. In April, the unit turned south towards the Danube River and Austria. James was wounded by shrapnel on April 25, but continued fighting. On May 5 and 6, the Division liberated Gusen and Mauthausen concentration camps, two of the largest camps in Austria. The Medical Inspector’s report on Mauthausen stated that "the situation in the camp on the arrival of the US Forces was one of indescribable filth and human degradation." There were over 19,000 prisoners, most little more than skeletons, and over half in need of immediate medical care. They had to keep the inmates from leaving the camp, until they were able to eat again. After starving for so long, they became sick from eating the soldier's rations or regular food. The 11th Armored Division turned to the task of providing medical services, caring for the inmates, and improving conditions in the camp.

    On May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered. The Division was placed on occupational duty until August 31, when it was deactivated. On September 1, James was reassigned to the 9th Armored Division, 52nd Armored Infantry Battalion, C Company. The 9th armored continued occupational duties in Germany until early fall. James returned to the US on October 13, 1945, the same day the 9th Armored Division was deactivated. He was relieved from active duty and honorably discharged. James had participated in the Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe Campaigns and received many medals for his service, including a Silver Star, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in leadership while in action against the enemy, Bronze Stars for heroic conduct, Purple Heart, American Defense Service, and campaign medals. James returned to Tacoma and went into business with his father as a building contractor. In the late 1940s, James married Lorna (1920-1998), and the couple had two children. James joined the 6th Army Reserves Company, Instructor Group, transitioning to retired in 1962. James, age 70, died on June 4, 1991, in Tacoma, Washington.

    Physical Details

    Language
    English
    Classification
    Posters
    Category
    War propaganda
    Physical Description
    Small paper handbill of a black and white, half tone reproduction photographic image of a row of 3, large stacks of emaciated, naked corpses in front of a large wooden building. A line of male bystanders, most in civilian clothes, and 1 in concentration camp uniform trousers, are looking at the bodies. There is white printed text at the top and bottom.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 10.375 inches (26.353 cm) | Width: 13.000 inches (33.02 cm)
    Materials
    overall : paper, ink
    Inscription
    top, black ink : May 8 to June 9, 1945.

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The handbill was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013 by Jamie Kirkebo, on behalf of the Estate of his father, James Edward Kirkebo.
    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:
    2023-08-28 10:34:41
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn84696

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