Oral Histories: Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust
William H. Applegate
Name: William H. Applegate (1920 – 1985)
Birth Place: Camden, New Jersey
Arrived in Wisconsin: 1969, Madison
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
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Tape 1, Side 2