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Oral Histories: Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust

William Applegate.
William H. Applegate

Name: William H. Applegate (1920 – 1985)

Birth Place: Camden, New Jersey

Arrived in Wisconsin: 1969, Madison

Map of survivor's journey in Europe.

Everything I had heard about the gas chambers was true.

— William Applegate

Biography

Col. William H. Applegate was an American witness to the Holocaust. He was a 25-year-old soldier who arrived at Dachau only hours after its liberation. William was born on February 25, 1920, in Camden, New Jersey. He joined the U.S. Army in 1940. During World War II he was a captain in the 44th Infantry Division. It landed in Cherbourg, France, in September 1944, and headed southeast toward Bavaria and the Austro-Italian border. At the war's end, his unit was only 140 kilometers from Dachau and he decided to go there.

Like most Americans, William did not realize the extent of Nazi brutality - until he saw it for himself. As witnesses to Dachau only 72 hours after it had been liberated, William and two other officers soon found that the truth exceeded even the worst rumors. He took 40 photographs of the concentration camp, but somehow they disappeared. He believed they were stolen by the Nazi-sympathizing mother of his live-in maid in Germany.

From December 1946 to November 1949, William served as a sub-post commander at Butzbach displaced persons camp. After a distinguished military career and attaining the rank of Colonel, William retired from active duty in 1968. He became the Assistant Director of the Wisconsin Historical Society in January 1969 and continued in that role until 1983. He died in 1985.

Audio and Transcript Information

Below are the highlights of each tape. They do not list all topics discussed. Recordings of only one tape side are marked: (no Side 2). Documents may be printed or downloaded at no cost. See Rights and Permissions


Listen to William's testimony and view transcript

Tape 1, Side 1
  • Recollections of encountering labor camps
  • Describing Dachau
Download Audio (MP3, 28 minutes, 13.0 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 182 KB)
Tape 1, Side 2
  • Describing Dachau
  • Impressions of German civilian attitudes toward the Holocaust following the war
Download Audio (MP3, 27 minutes, 10.7 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 182 KB)
Tape 2, Side 1
  • Impressions of German civilian attitudes toward the Holocaust following the war
  • Working with displaced persons at Butzbach
Download Audio (MP3, 23 minutes, 12.6 MB) View Transcript Page (PDF, 182 KB)

About the Interview Process

  • A 90-minute interview was conducted by Jean Loeb Lettofsky on March 11, 1980, in William's office at the Wisconsin Historical Society. William was the only liberator interviewed for the Oral Histories: Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust project. He was prompted to be interviewed for this project by his staff. They thought he would offer valuable perspective to the testimonies of the survivors.

Audio and Transcript Details

  • Interview Date: Mar 11, 1980
  • Interview Location: Applegate's office at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin
  • Interviewer: Archivist Jean Loeb Lettofsky
  • Original Sound Recording Format: 2 qty. 60-minute audio cassette tapes
  • Length of Interview: 1 interview, total approximately 90 minutes
  • Transcript Length: 30 pages
  • Rights and Permissions: Any document may be printed or downloaded to a computer or portable device at no cost for nonprofit educational use by teachers, students and researchers. Nothing may be reproduced in any format for commercial purposes without prior permission.
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