TwitterFacebook

The Granite of Mauthausen

• Views: 1,508

LGF reader
Personalized Towels Shirts Varsity Jackets”>Ronnie Schreiber
posted this powerful letter by Fred Friendly, who would become the president of CBS News, written in 1945 when he was a master sergeant with the American Army unit that liberated the Mauthausen concentration camp.

***

May 19, 1945

Dear Mother,

In just a few days I will be in an airplane on my way back to the APO to which you write me. Before I leave Europe, I must write this letter and attempt to convey to you that which I saw, felt and gasped at as I saw a war and a frightened peace stagger into a perilous existence. I have seen a dead Germany. If it is not dead it is certainly ruptured beyond repair. I have seen the beer hall where the era of the inferno and hate began and as I stood there in the damp moist hall where Nazidom was spawned, I heard only the dripping of a bullet-pierced beer barrel and the ticking of a clock which had already run out the time of the bastard who made the Munich beer hall a landmark. I saw the retching vomiting of the stone and mortar which had once been listed on maps as Nurnheim, Regensberg, Munich, Frankfurt, Augusburg, Lintz, and wondered how a civilization could ever again spring from cities so utterly removed from the face of the earth by weapons the enemy taught us to use at Coventry and Canterbury. I have met the German, have examined the storm trooper, his wife and his heritage of hate, and I have learned to hate - almost with as much fury as the G.I. who saw his buddy killed at the Bulge, almost as much as the Pole from Bridgeport who lost 100 pounds at Mauthausen, Austria. I have learned now and only now that this war had to be fought. I wish I might have done more. I envy with a bottomless spirit the American soldier who may tell his grandchildren that with his hands he killed Germans.

That which is in my heart now I want you and those dear to us know and yet I find myself completely incapable of putting it into letter form. I think if I could sit down in our living room or the den at 11 President, I might be able to convey a poertion of the dismal, horrible and yet titanic mural which is Europe today. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do that for months or maybe a year, and by then the passing of time may dim the memory. Some of the senses will live just so long as I do - some of the sounds, like the dripping beer, like the firing of a Russian tommy gun, will always bring back the thought of something I may try to forget, but never will be able to do.

For example, when I go to the Boston Symphony, when I hear waves of applause, no matter what the music is, I shall be traveling back to a town near Lintz where I heard applause unequalled in history, and where I was allowed to see the ordeal which our fellow brothers and sisters of the human race have endured. To me Poland is no longer the place where Chopin composed, or where a radio station held out for three weeks - to me Poland is a place from which the prisoners of Mauthausen came. When I think of the Czechs, I will think of those who were butchered here, and that goes for the Jews, the Russians, Austrians, the people of 15 different lands, - yes, even the Germans who passsed through this Willow Run of death. This was Mauthausen. I want you to remember the word… I want you to know, I want you to never forget or let our disbelieving friends forget, that your flesh and blood saw this. This was no movie. No printed page. Your son saw this with his own eyes and in doing this aged 10 years.

Mauthausen was built with a half-million rocks which 150,000 prisoners - 18,000 was the capacity - carried up on their backs from a quarry 800 feet below. They carried it up steps so steep that a Captain and I walked it once and were winded, without a load. They carried granite and made 8 trips a day… and if they stumbled, the S.S. men pushed them into the quarry. There are 285 steps, covered with blood. They called it the steps of death. I saw the shower room (twice or three times the size of our bathroom), a chamber lined with tile and topped with sprinklers where 150 prisoners at a time were disrobed and ordered in for a shower which never gushed forth from the sprinklers because the chemical was gas. When they ran out of gas, they merely sucked all of the air out of the room. I talked to the Jews who worked in the crematory, one room adjacent, where six and seven bodies at a time were burned. They gave these jobs to the Jews because they all died anyhow, and they didn’t want the rest of the prisoners to know their own fate. The Jews knew theirs, you see.

I saw the living skeletons, some of whom regardless of our medical corps work, will die and be in piles like that in the next few days. Malnutrition doesn’t stop the day that food is administered. Don’t get the idea that these people here were all derelicts, all just masses of people… some of them were doctors, authors, some of them American citizens. A scattered few were G.I.s. A Navy lieutenant still lives to tell the story. I saw where they lived; I saw where the sick died, three and four in a bed, no toilets, no nothing. I saw the look in their eyes. I shall never stop seeing the expression in the eyes of the anti-Franco former prisoners who have been given the job of guarding the S.S. men who were captured.

And how does the applause fit in? Mother, I walked through countless cell blocks filled with sick, dying people - 300 in a room twice the size of our living room as as we walked in - there was a ripple of applause and then an inspiring burst of applause and cheers, and men who could not stand up sat and whispered - though they tried to shout it - Vive L’Americansky… Vive L’Americansky… the applause, the cheers, those faces of men with legs the size and shape of rope, with ulcerated bodies, weeping with a kind of joy you and I will never, I hope, know. Vive L’Americansky… I got a cousin in Milwaukee… We thought you guys would come… Vive L’Americansky… Applause… gaunt, hopeless faces at last filled with hope. One younger man asked something in Polish which I could not understand but I did detect the word “Yit”… I asked an interpreter what he said - The interpreter blushed and finally said, “He wants to know if you are a Jew.” When I smiled and stuck out my mitt and said “yes”… he was unable to speak or show the feeling that was in his heart. As I walked away, I suddenly realized that this had been the first time I had shaken hands with my right hand. That, my dear, was Mauthausen.

I will write more letter in days to come. I want to write one on the Russians. I want to write and tell you how I sat next to Patton and Tolbukhin at a banquet at the Castle of Franz Josef. I want to write and tell you how the Germans look in defeat, how Munich looked in death, but those things sparkle with excitement and make good reading. This is my Mauthausen letter. I hope you will see fit to let Bill Braude and the folks read it. I would like to think that all the Wachenheimers and all the Friendlys and all our good Providence friends would read it. Then I want you to put it away and every Yom Kippur I want you to take it out and make your grandchildren read it.

For, if there had been no America, we, all of us, might well have carried granite at Mauthausen.

All my love,
F.F.

^ back to top ^

TwitterFacebook

Turn off all ads for a full year by subscribing!
For about 33 cents a day (per month) or 22 cents a day (per year), our subscription option turns off all advertisements at LGF!
Read more...

► LGF Headlines

  • Loading...

► Tweeted Articles

  • Loading...

► Tweeted Pages

  • Loading...

► Top 10 Comments

  • Loading...

► Bottom Comments

  • Loading...

► Recent Comments

  • Loading...

► Tools/Info

► Tag Cloud

► Contact

You must have Javascript enabled to use the contact form.
Your email:

Subject:

Message:


Messages may be published unless you request otherwise.
Tech Note:
Using the Contact Form
LGF Pages

This button leads to the main index of LGF Pages, our user-submitted articles. You can post your own LGF Pages simply by registering a free account with us.

Create a Page

This is the LGF Pages posting bookmarklet. To use it, drag this button to your browser's bookmark bar, and title it 'LGF Pages' (or whatever you like). Then browse to a site you want to post, select some text on the page to use for a quote, click the bookmarklet, and the Pages posting window will appear with the title, text, and any embedded video or audio files already filled in, ready to go.

Or... you can just click this button to open the Pages posting window right away.

Last updated: 2014-03-07 2:19 pm PST

LGF User's Guide
Recent Pages
FemNaziBitch
6 Innovative Ways We’re Reinventing Birth Control
Birth control pills and traditional latex condoms have been among the most popular and effective methods of contraception for decades. But innovators think it's time for an upgrade -- not only to increase protection, but also to establish safe ...

3 hours, 41 minutes ago
Views: 62 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 0
Lumberhead
Angry Letters to the One Member of Congress Who Voted Against the War on Terror - the Atlantic
My first attempt at a page - so here we go: The article is a little long but well worth while. I found it to be nicely balanced with interesting excerpts from supporters as well as detractors. Barbara Lee was ...

7 hours, 24 minutes ago
Views: 158 • Comments: 2
Tweets: 1 • Rating: 3
Randall Gross
NYC Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual Reissued as a Limited-Edition Book
I came of age in Fairbanks, Alaska, where signage, infographics, and semiotics where minimal so please forgive my fascination for things like subway sign standards books and reflective raised pavement markers. The manual will be printed using high-quality scans of ...

12 hours, 56 minutes ago
Views: 120 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 1 • Rating: 0
The War TARDIS
Doctor Who “Listen” Open Thread
I'm back. Last week, I couldn't do this thread, as something more important was going on. One of my best friends, a sweet, and very devout Christian, is going to the UK to help a Christian Group in Oxford, and ...

2 days, 5 hours ago
Views: 220 • Comments: 41
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 2
Rightwingconspirator
Are Higher Frame Rates Really a Better Moving Image in Cinema?
As a guy who scratches the surface of this medium with humble indy efforts and some industrial video experience I have to watch carefully. If I commit to the wrong camera or format, it can hurt financially. Once I had ...

3 days, 8 hours ago
Views: 410 • Comments: 6
Tweets: 25 • Rating: 6
Slap
For guitar fans…
I suppose one needs to be a guitar freak of a certain age to recognize both of these guys. Gabrels' work might be familiar to fans of Bowie/Tin Machine. Nelson's work? I believe him to be one of the most ...

3 days, 11 hours ago
Views: 253 • Comments: 2
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 1
GlutenFreeJesus
Check your gmail accounts!
Here's the link to the tool. One of mine was on that list, so I changed the password. Good luck! isleaked.com

5 days, 3 hours ago
Views: 471 • Comments: 2
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 7
I Stand With Big Sodomy!
French speaking tourists wanted for luring, kicking squirrel into Grand Canyon
Needless to say the little guy didn't make it. The tourists are described as two French-speaking men, wearing only cowboy hats and boxer shorts. Story

5 days, 8 hours ago
Views: 588 • Comments: 6
Tweets: 1 • Rating: 6
CriticalDragon1177
Ars Technica - Tasmanian depths may have been hiding unknown animal phylum
As John Timmer at Ars Technica points out, we may have found not only a new species, but a brand new type of animal! This is big news for the science of biology, and zoology in particular! Over the past ...

6 days, 6 hours ago
Views: 415 • Comments: 2
Tweets: 3 • Rating: 0
danarchy
Mysterious Phony Cell Towers Could Be Intercepting Your Calls
Weird stuff. Interceptors vary widely in expense and sophistication - but in a nutshell, they are radio-equipped computers with software that can use arcane cellular network protocols and defeat the onboard encryption. Whether your phone uses Android or iOS, it ...

6 days, 7 hours ago
Views: 324 • Comments: 0
Tweets: 0 • Rating: 3
 Frank says:

Politics is the entertainment branch of industry.