Veteran Stories:
Earle Stewart Iverson

Army

  • Booklet which describes the Gunskirchen Concentration Camp printed in Austria in the Summer of 1945. Mr. Iverson was part of the Division that liberated the Camp.

    Mr. Iverson
  • Photo of Landsberg Prison where HItler wrote "Mein Kampf" taken around June 1945. After the war, Mr. Iverson wrote an article on Landsberg Prison.

    Mr. Iverson
  • US Army meets the Russian Army in May 1945.

    Mr. Iverson
  • Photo of the unburied dead at Schwandorf as found by the 71st Division.

    Mr. Iverson
  • Earle Iverson, 1945.

    Mr. Iverson
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"I remember one of the guys in the truck said, hey, Iverson, those are your people. And that was, I think, the first time that it dawned on me that this was a concentration camp"

Transcript

Our job was to determine exactly where the guns were, where they enemy was, and what was the line of fire. We went over to Europe at the very beginning of 1945. We went into the line at Lemberg, France in January 1943. We were assigned eventually to the Third Army, which was [General George] Patton’s command, Patton’s Third Army, and that’s where we served out the war until 7 May 1945. The division says that it fired the last shot of the Allies on the eastern front on 7 May at 3:00 in the afternoon. At that time, the 71st [Infantry Division] was the farthest east of any of the Allied units on the eastern front.

There was no overt anti-Semitism. You were known as a Jew, but so the Irishman was known as an Irishman and a Polish man was known as a Polish man, and so forth. However, this was a very well-educated group and they seemed to perform well. We did have High Holiday services in the Augsburg Synagogue, which is one of the few synagogues that survived in Germany. It was built out of stone, and so forth. When they fired it, the inside burned, but the outside and the grounds, and the wall were standing.

The main thing about the 71st and Jewish orientation is the 71st liberated Gunskirchen Lager in Austria. Gunskirchen was a sub-camp of Mauthausen [concentration camp]. [It] was being used I gather [for] the Hungarian Jews [who] were imprisoned or whatever term is appropriate. But they were torn out later than some of the other countries and they were dumped into, this group was dumped into the Mauthausen area. And simply put over into a makeshift camp and secured so they couldn’t escape and left with nothing. A friend of mine from the camp has subsequently said if it had lasted three days longer, we [they] all would have been dead. But the 71st arrived, they released the prisoners.

Later on, there were all kinds of administration arrangements made, but goodness knows we weren’t involved in that. We dropped off some infantry. I actually drove by the camp, but I was riding in a field artillery convoy and I didn’t get out myself, there was no opportunity. You could see the prisoners out of the gate wandering and our guys were starting to go in. I understand our guys killed one of the guards and I understand the prisoners killed one of the guards. That’s the extent of my personal involvement with Gunskirchen.

I didn’t know what was going on. You see a bunch of guys, a bunch of people in striped uniforms walking around. I’m driving this three quarter ton truck; and I’m trying to stay in the convoy and not get too close, and not get too far behind. I remember one of the guys in the truck said, hey, Iverson, those are your people. And that was, I think, the first time that it dawned on me that this was a concentration camp and that there were Jews involved. There was a lot of, everybody knew it was there, but like a lot of things, you never think, hey, I’m here, it’s me. It’s like the bullet is always going to get the guy next to you; it’s never going to happen to me. And I think it was that shock which was numbed by the fact that I had other responsibilities. And it’s only in later perspective that I’ve realized what was going on.

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