Klein, Samuel

Klein, Samuel

Detroit (United States), Ebensee

Klein was born in 1924 in Detroit and attended Central High School, graduating in 1942. He is Jewish and was a member of the B’nai Moshe synagogue.

He was drafted into the U. S. Army on April 2, 1943, and served his basic training at Fort Gordon, Georgia, in the 3rd Cavalry. Subsequently he served at Fort Bragg and in July 1944 left for overseas duty in Europe. He landed in France on August 8, 1944, and was shot in the thigh on September 3, 1944, when his unit was strafed by German aircraft. Following surgery and recuperation, he rejoined his unit in February 1945.

While located in Gmunden, a town about 35 miles from Salzburg, Upper Austria, a detachment of his company was ordered to secure the village of Ebensee, a few miles to the south. There they discovered a labor camp used by the German to dig two tunnels into the mountain. Klein describes his own shock and amazement and that of his fellow soldiers at the sights and conditions they witnessed when the camp’s prisoners were freed by the American forces. Since they had not known of the existence of concentration or labor camps and had not been told about what they would encounter at Ebensee, the experience was a complete surprise to them.

The liberation was accomplished by F-Company, 3rd Cavalry, Task Force Polk, as a reconnaissance unit for the 20th Army Corps. Klein describes details of the initial efforts to save the approximately 16,000 inmates of the camp, mostly Jewish, who were dying at the rate of 350 per day. He makes specific mention of one of the inmates who spoke English and now lives in the United States, and of two Americans who were also inmates at the camp. Klein remained on duty at the camp for five days until military government and hospital units arrived to replace his unit.

Klein returned to Ebensee for a reunion of the inmates and the liberators, entering the former labor camp at exactly the same month, day and hour, forty-five years later. It was a very traumatic experience. He displayed a number of photos during the interview that were taken during the liberation and the reunion. He also displayed a painting of himself done by a Jewish inmate of the camp shortly after liberation when Klein confided to the inmate that he also was Jewish.

Interview Information:
Date: December 26, 1995
Length: 44 minutes
Interviewer: Hans R. Weinmann
Format: Video recording