Research

Gotz, Dr. Alexander

Liberator
Moscow (Russia), Mauthausen

An only child, Gotz was born in 1913 in Moscow, Russia. He grew up in a Jewish home. His father, who worked as an engineer, passed away in 1919, and Gotz moved with his mother to Riga, where she worked there as a physician. At the age of ten, Gotz was sent to Berlin to attend high school. Afterward he studied medicine at the university in Pisa, Italy, where he graduated in 1939. Gotz states that he did not experience any anti-Semitism at all during his time in Italy.

In 1940 Gotz immigrated to the United States in order to continue his education. In 1943 he volunteered for the U.S. Army medical corps and joined the 11th Army as a medical officer. On December 20, 1944, he was shipped to France together with his unit, which then proceeded through France and Germany toward Austria. In May 1945, Gotz was involved in the last battles in the Upper Austrian capital Linz before his unit moved along the Danube to the west.

On May 5, the 11th Army liberated the Mauthausen concentration camp, and Gotz was placed in charge of the medical treatment of the camp's survivors. Gotz remembers that he heard music while approaching the camp. The camp's inmates had forced those German soldiers who did not manage to escape in time to play some typical Nazi songs. He also saw the dead bodies of German guards at the entrance of the camp; they had been lynched by the survivors. But as soon as he entered the camp, Gotz encountered the real horror of Mauthausen: He saw piles of bodies of the camp's prisoners, which had been prepared for being burned in the crematorium; he saw the gas chamber, where thousands of inmates had been annihilated; he saw the camp's quarry, where thousands more had been mistreated, killed, or worked to death; he saw the big chains on the wall, where prisoners had been put in irons and mauled to death by the dogs of the guards.
Within the barracks, American soldiers found many prisoners, who were not able to walk. Gotz encountered sixteen different nationalities in the camp, about 20,000 inmates were still alive, but most of them were in terrible condition. He states that for another week after liberation, about 200 inmates continued to die every day. The majority of the survivors were non-Jewish, because most Jews, who the Nazis considered as not able-bodied for work, had been exterminated. Gotz heard that the Jewish prisoners had been treated worse than the Gentile inmates. The American army used bulldozers to dig huge ditches in order to bury the dead inmates. U.S. soldiers forced people of the local population to carry the bodies to the graves. On the second day after the camp's liberation, Gotz met a Jewish prisoner who wanted to sell him some of his drawings to make enough money to be able to leave the camp immediately. Years later, Gotz learned that this prisoner was Simon Wiesenthal. After the war, Gotz returned to the United States.

Interview Information:
Date: May 28, 1992
Interviewer: not identified
Length: 1 hour
Format: Video recording