Baldwin, Harold W.
Buffalo (United States), Dachau
Born in 1910 in Buffalo, New York, Baldwin became a part of the U.S. Army (12th Army Division, 714 Tank Company) in 1943 and consequently a liberator of the Dachau concentration camp. Baldwin states he would have volunteered earlier, but he did not want to desert his family. He describes the prevalent anti-Semitism in the United States before the war and acknowledges that he had Jewish friends in New York who lived in very primitive surroundings. He recalls, however, that prejudice manifested itself against other ethnic groups in addition to the Jews.
When speaking of the American involvement in World War II, he emphasizes that Americans were fighting a war against the Japanese more than against the Germans. Baldwin also indicates that Americans began to fear the Germans when they started to envision them conquering the United States. Little was known of Jewish persecution; the war was a patriotic one. As a result the soldiers were not able to imagine what awaited them at Dachau.
While in Munich Baldwin had been informed that there could be a German munitions factory nearby. Baldwin and his fellow soldiers assumed this factory to be Dachau. The things he saw when he entered the camp continue to haunt him, despite the fact that he underwent psychological therapy before being discharged. Along with the indescribable stench and the countless skeletons, he recalls how huge the children’s heads appeared in comparison to their starving bodies and how he saw lamp shades made from tattooed skin. When he recalls such images, Baldwin finds it difficult to believe that they really occurred and were not just nightmares. He still feels a strong hatred toward the Germans and recalls shooting them without remorse.
When Baldwin was finally discharged he began to drink heavily. He also began compiling a book of things he had encountered during his war years. He later had to stop writing because it was disturbing him emotionally. He is bewildered by the fact that people are simply uninterested in the Holocaust and that America is still anti-Semitic. He recalls the comment of one fellow soldier to another that the Germans should have killed all the Jews. He criticizes the media for not describing or emphasizing the horror of the camps.
Date: February 21, 1991
Length: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Interviewer: Donna Sklar
Format: Video recording