Wisconsin Survivors of the Holocaust
Dachau prisoners destined for massacre are freed
Israel Wolnerman was on a train carrying thousands of Dachau prisoners to annihilation in the Austrian Tirol when they were liberated by the U.S. Army
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"While we were stopped and, you know, the word came out that something is going on. Besides, we saw already that the end is near, it was just, you know, you could see that just that all we were praying for was to survive that particular period.
Some of them started to disappear, some of the guards, and soon enough the army walked in.
As the Americans, you know, started walking in, some of the inmates knew where the bread on that particular train was located. So, they overtook that warehouse of bread and they started throwing bread.
As the American officer approached the train, the German SS transport director, hopped over to the American and started to report that so and so many people on the train.
But the American officer looked, you know, at the way they throw down loaf of bread and people grabbing, they were not paying attention to anything, but just grab a loaf of bread and eat it.
So the American officer, you know, kind of dismissed him. The SS, you know, handed over his weapons. I can recall the Americans, you know, he spoke German he must have been.
He says 'With all that bread there you let the people starve?'
And he kind of said some abusive words and they took the SS away. But at the same time here, we were left, so to speak, free.
But all we could think of is grab potatoes and grab bread and we were free but no place to go.
We were just sitting there on the tracks waiting for something, you know, to happen. Some more adventurous of our guys, you know, start walking into a village there. And if they went in a big group, some of those as the Americans approached, some of the people did leave— they evacuated so there were some houses unoccupied.
Some of our people, you know, just did walk in and settle down in the houses. By the time me and a friend of mine decided to leave the train and go into the village, you know, because we heard that the village nearby and there are people there, and they went into houses and some of them came back already dressed! [laughs]
So I walked in by the time it was already dark we walked in, we thought, you know you have to sleep someplace. So, we knocked on the door and they wouldn't let us in.
So we sneaked into some kind of a stall and spent the first night on a straw pile or whatever. So then, like I said at the beginning, we were supposed to be free but really there was no place to go, we didn't know what to do."
Wolnerman Interview, Tape 8, Side 2
Transcript page 96 (PDF, 489 KB)