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Bill Aiken, Germany, 1945
Bill Aiken, Germany, 1945

"We Had Not Heard Anything about these Concentration Camps,"

Bill Aiken

January 12, 1995

Interviewer: Rheba Massey

Toward the end of his interview on his WWII experiences, Aiken was asked if he had been part of liberating any concentration camps. "Yes, I was in on the liberation of Mauthausen. We didn't know about it. It was all a surprise. We had not heard anything about these concentration camps . . . We went into what's called Mauthausen." Aiken was part of an engineering battalion, which had bulldozers, so they were called upon to dig mass graves." We buried 6,000 the first day we were there, 6,000 bodies. For six or seven years after the war I could not watch a program where they were showing scenes of a prison camp because the stink, the smell would come back to me as if I were there. The burned flesh. It was only after six or seven years that I could watch one of those things. I must say this, that even at my age, which is 71, I don't know what I'd do if I ever met anybody face to face that told me it didn't happen . . . . I've seen these men that weighed 150 to 200 pounds. That all that was left was a great big head on a 60-pound body. They were dressed most of them, either white, kind of like the southern Mexican Indians or some of them were striped and some of them were multi-colored. They were so loaded with fear they were afraid of us. Those that got out and escaped, you could see them running over the countryside like wild animals. We couldn't even be nice to them. They were just as afraid of us as they had been their German captors. I can understand it. It's terrible."

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