Greenhut, Leonard

Greenhut, Leonard


Born in 1925 in the United States, Greenhut grew up in a traditional Jewish home. In 1943, at the age of eighteen, he volunteered for the armed forces and was assigned to the 284th Field Artillery Battalion of the Third U. S. Army.

In August 1944, Greenhut’s unit landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy, then proceeded to Germany, where they joined the 761st U.S. Army Tank Battalion in April 1945. Greenhut notes that the German army was in full retreat at this time and did not put up any resistance.

On April 12, 1945, the Buchenwald concentration camp was liberated by American troops and a day later Greenhut’s unit entered the camp. Only a few survivors were still in the camp, and their physical condition was terrible. Greenhut recalls that he saw a huge table full of artifacts made out of prisoners bodies. He also heard that the wife of the camp’s commandant, Ilse Koch, collected patches of tattooed human skin and shrunken human skulls. She selected the prisoners whose skin she wanted, who were killed than immediately. Greenhut states that he saw piles of bodies which were buried in big ditches dug by the American army. American soldiers found a mass grave containing about 2,000 corpses. There was also huge cement pit, about 15 feet deep, in which, he was told, prisoners were placed for punishment, staying there without food or water, until many of them perished. In the middle of compound was the so-called “little camp”, built especially for Jewish inmates, who were treated worse than non-Jewish prisoners. Greenhut also mentions that he saw a crematorium within the concentration camp.

After the end of the war, Greenhut stayed for some time in Germany with the American occupation troops before he returned to the United States.

Interview Information:
Date: August 6, 1996
Interviewer: Manny Cutler
Length: 35 minutes
Format: Video recording