Research

Lawrence, Steve M.

OSS Agent

Mauthausen

Lawrence was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1923. He was once of six children and his parents were Catholic and of Hungarian descent. He left school after the tenth grade in order to work.

In 1942 Lawrence enlisted in the U.S. Army and underwent basic training as a paratrooper. While in basic training, he was recruited to serve in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the World War II forerunner of today's CIA. The recruiting process which he experienced, full of secrecy and intrigue, is explained in detail on the video. He believes he was chosen because of his fluency in Hungarian.

Following his training as an OSS agent, he served briefly in Cairo, Egypt, before parachuting behind enemy lines to assist and train Yugoslavian partisans under the leadership of Tito and others. On a subsequent assignment, he parachuted into Italy to work with the Italian underground in attempting to knock out the Brenner Pass, the major rail and road passage between Italy and Austria.

Lawrence entered the Mauthausen concentration camp, near Linz, Austria, three times to search for missing Americans. His first entry seems to have been around the liberation date of the camp. He recalls that the German guards were gone as well as those inmates who were still able to walk. Only inmates who could not walk appeared to have remained. He does not recall seeing any American soldiers, an indication that his entry could have been after the Germans left but before the camp was liberated. Almost in tears, Lawrence describes the conditions of the camp as absolutely sickening and indescribably filthy. He can still remember the stench.

After the end of the war, Lawrence was instrumental in the capture of Hungarian war criminals. He tells how he located them in displaced persons camps in Austria and shows photographs, some autographed, of them being transported to Budapest. They were turned over to the Hungarian and Russian authorities. All were eventually executed.

As a verification of his service with the OSS, Lawrence displays a number of documents during the interview that directly pertain to him or the OSS in general.

Interview Information:
Date: February 27, 1996
Length: 1 hour, 21 minutes
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Format: Video recording