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Arthur Goodfriend Papers

Oral History Transcription:

Tape IV, Side B: Augus 20-21, 1997

NOTE: AG = Arthur Goodfriend; JY = Jason Yamashita; ST = Shari Tamashiro

AG:

[continued]. . .and a train came in at that particular time loaded with mummies. There were still a spark of life in these people but they were all dying and there were very little you could do about it because you couldn't feed these people. If you fed them that would mean their automatic, immediate death. Their stomachs could not consume food. So you're surrounded by the stench. More than anything else, it was not only what you saw but the stench of the decaying bodies that made it such an inferno. And yet on the other hand, there was something else and I'll never forget this. In Dachau, there was one building occupied by women, and the women for some reason or other, were in somewhat better shape, for some reason or other had been fed a little bit more. I'll never forget the hysteria, the happiness, the emotion of these women as they realized, my God, it's all over. And then I had a very strange feeling. This is a confession I've never really made before. I had a very strange feeling. Why don't I pick up one of these women and rescue her and take her back to Paris and get her washed and get her dressed and rejuvenate her and rehabilitate her? Strangely, I don't know if it was a sexual thing that was motivating me or whether it was some more philanthropic purpose. I wanted to reach out and take one individual and see whether I could rescue that person from the horrible past and give her a total re-introduction to society. Cleanliness, clothes, food, position, and so on. And I could have done it. I had transportation, I could have picked out any of these people and put them in the jeep and gone off. Thank God I didn't because God only knows the pickle I would have been in. It certainly would have been interpreted as a sexual maneuver. No one would have credited me with any philanthropic motive, that wasn't in the cards. But it's interesting as I reflect on my feelings that the horror and the realization of what the war was really fought for, especially me with my background. And to realize how fortunate I was that if my mother and father had not left there, but with the grace of God was I, I would have been one of these skeletons. There was that realization. And then on the other hand, there was this strange feeling of personal wish to pick out one person and rehabilitate that person. But unfortunately that person would have been a woman and never, it never would have been understood what my motivation was. That would raise the question: what was my motivation? Was my motivation sexual or was it something of a much different, higher level? It's very difficult for me to even understand that in the perspective of time.

ST:

Were you there as a private or...

AG:

No. Oh, no. No, I was highly privileged. I had my own transportation. I was...no, I was, not everybody could...unless you happened to be with the troops themselves that liberated. [ ] I was in a position to be with them. But as an officer and with all of the entitlements that I had so I could go in there and I could interview the Germans who were in command. And witness their interrogation. And then go around and inspect the premises and ovens where the people were being, had been incinerated. And so I had grand view of the whole thing. And that was true of Dachau, of [Buchenwald], and of Auschwitz. So I really saw most of the, many of the concentration camps. But unless you saw them and unless you smelt them...and you know there are people today who don't believe it. Who say it didn't happen.

JY:

Did you know of all of those things that were happening prior to going there or was it discovered as you went there?

AG:

There was no way...nobody really knew. No, you had to be there to...there's no...and I really don't believe that anything's ever been written...Now they do have the Holocaust Museum in Washington, which I visited. And of course there are pictorials, archives now where you can see photographs, and so on. There's Shindler's List...but to me Shindler's List did not work out because to me it was not convincing because having been it, in Dachau, I knew the difference between the really...the people in the movie were really obviously well fed. There were no gaunt people or anything of that sort. The difference between reality and the movie picture version just didn't come through. The...there really is no way of getting a point across other than to have really experienced it in the in the real situation.

ST:

What about Maus by Art Spiegelman? Have you seen that? Maus.

AG:

No.

ST:

The graphic novel that won the Pulitzer.

AG:

No.

ST:

Okay. Shall we stop?

[recording session paused]

ST:

I'm sorry, could you go over that.

AG:

I don't believe...ready?...I don't believe that the reality of Dachau, [Beltsin], Buchenwald, Auschwitz, and so on, can be dealt with through any literary or pictorial or other treatments such as a movie picture or a novel or a cartoon series such as Maus, so on. The reality does not lend itself to anything other than the total experience itself. Because that's that is such a melding, such a blending of the visual and the olfactory and the...The mood is such that it does not lend itself to genius - [ ], Tolstoy. None of the great novelists can ever really capture the reality the realities...is too, is beyond human, human ability to reproduce it in any synthetic way. It is, it's such a combination of...how can you possibly translate the the last grimace of a corpse's face, just still there in the awful hues. The, for some reason I can never forget how green these would become. Together with those who were still alive and were on the very threshold of death. And how somehow these emaciated creatures were able to stagger around, such as the man under the, being knocked down by a drop of water, and so on. If you do any, if you do something that might be called a treatment of that, the treatment of that reduces its essence. It deprives it of its reality and it deprives it of its dignity. It becomes advertising or it becomes, I'm going to use this to teach you something. But the lesson itself is unteachable, it resides within the reality of a thing that does not lend itself to interpretation or manipulation, and so on. It's the ultimate human grotesque[ry], it's the...that human beings could behave this way and have these things happen to them. And I ran into this again, you know, just a few years ago when I was in Hungary as a teacher in the Peace Corp, and so on. That I was able to relive that whole thing by going to the, in both in [ and ] of the two cities where I worked. The synagogues, we were able to go there and actually see the where the Jewish people were brought together and they all came with their [leases] and their property, and so on. And they said leave it here. We'll transfer this [ ] march to the railroad station. And I was able to talk to people who had actually witnessed the the march of these people, and so on. And they were taken to the station and put on these box cars and carted away. And that was the end of them. And then when you went into the synagogues and...the most beautiful one, I think, was in [ ] and actually see the place where they these people were corralled and marshaled, and so on, and lead off. It's an exercise in trying to recapture the reality of the situation and the circumstances that cannot be described...cannot be...can't really be relived. But [ ] all this was that tremendous impact on me especially because that this would have happened...I was a patsy for for that...my age was such that no matter what happened I'd be, either been in the in the Hungarian army dying on the in the on the eastern front in Russia. Or I would have been, as a Jew, corralled in, sent into a concentration camp for which I never would have emerged. So I always get back in some strange way to something that was...somebody was on guard, somebody was taking care of me. And still is.

ST:

Good. You want to call it a day?

[End of August 20, 1997 taping session] Tape IV, Side B: August 21, 1997

ST:

What is today? August 21, 1997. Arthur Goodfriend Oral History Archives. We talked yesterday about Dachau and you mentioned that you were at two other concentration camps. Could you just talk about those experiences as well?

AG:

The other concentration camps were [Beltsin] and Buchenwald. And, there is nothing to add really to what I've already said about Dachau. However, I would like to mention something else. Before we got to [Beltsin], before we liberated Dachau, Beltsin, and Buchenwald and Auschwitz, I was with an outfit as an infantry replacement. With an outfit that liberated a prisoner of war camp in which several hundred American soldiers who had been captured during the Battle of the Bulge were incarcerated and this was my first contact with what happened to prisoners of war or other people who were in the custody of the German army. These men had been captured a hundred days before, and these were American soldiers, and they were all starving to death. They were emaciated and they were in very, very poor physical condition. And the unfortunate thing that happened that we didn't know at that time, were our first experience in dealing with people who were being liberated after several months of incarceration. We didn't realize that to give them food was a very dangerous thing to do. But they wanted food and we had food and so the first impulse was to give them these K-rations, these tin goods. Things like Spam and other fatty, highly nutritious things that was the basis. . .ration of the American army. And several of the men grabbed these things and just stuffed them in their mouths and died as a result of their inability to ingest and digest food after a hundred days of starvation. And that taught us two things. In the first place, it was our first experience realizing the condition of human beings who fell into the hands of the Gestapo, the German army. And it also taught us that in dealing with these people, we had to be very, very careful about overcoming our generosity, our desire to supply the food they were so anxious to have and to refrain from doing that because of their own best interests. It was necessary they be fed on liquids for several days, possibly weeks and then a very gradual addition of nutrients that their systems were able to ingest and to digest. So the only thing we could really give them to start with was cigarettes and that raises some very interesting questions. The importance of tobacco, as we see tobacco today which is now under such fire because we know now what it does to the lungs. But in World War II, really, the army lived on cigarettes. Cigarettes were the way you dealt with tension and the way you dealt with the hardships and so on. It was the first thing you needed when you were in a combat situation, when you came out of it was to puff on a cigarette. They were really the basic commodity, without which the war could not have been fought. It's very interesting now, with the way this whole thing has reversed and we realize now that something that was so useful and in a way, beneficial then has turned out to be the menace that it really is.

ST:

Was it easy to get, the cigarettes?

AG:

Well, the army practically had a monopoly on cigarettes, so that all the cigarettes that were coming out were sent overseas for the troops. But then they had a big problem, that is because cigarettes were so precious, they became more valuable than currency so they were used by the soldiers to buy things, for instance, in France or in Germany, if you wanted to buy anything at all. If you wanted to buy a book, or you wanted to buy food, if you wanted to buy a bottle of wine, or if you wanted to buy anything at all, the currency that you used was cigarettes. Once pack of Camels, one carton of Camels, very interestingly, one carton of Camels, when I was in Tokyo in Japan, one carton of Camels would have bought me a piece of real estate on the Ginza, the most expensive real estate in all of, probably, all of the world. One carton of cigarettes in Hamburg, Germany could be translated into, a building, into an automobile, you name it! A carton of cigarettes had that incredible value. And of course, what happened then, cigarettes became the focus of crime. Soldiers that could monopolize and steal these things, like Supply Sergeants, for instance, and were dishonest, instead of distributed cigarettes to the troops who were intended to have them, they were used as currency for drug dealing and for prostitution and that sort of thing. So cigarettes became the currency, not only for soldier satisfaction but also for some of the most evil and undesirable aspects of human behavior.

ST:

So you smoked too?

AG:

Did I smoke? Yes.

ST:

You don't smoke anymore, do you?

AG:

No.

ST:

This is a random question. What do you think about Spam?

AG:

[laughs] Spam is a very fine thing. Because that was the basic issue, we automatically didn't like it. The reason why we didn't like it was when that's all you have to eat it becomes very, very monotonous. It was very interesting when we liberated Paris, right across the street from my office in the Herald-Tribune building was the hotel where we were bivouacked and we turned our K-rations over to the chefs in that hotel and they were going to take this Spam and turn into absolutely delicious gourmet dishes. They knew what to do with Spam that we Americans did not know. And it was a very interesting thing to see how this stuff that we just abhorred would come back to us with beautiful spices and gravies and garnished with little things and so on that made it a very, very good thing to eat. But it's interesting now to be back here in Hawaii and to realize that Spam today is a very popular dish among the Hawaiian people. It's a standard affair. But basically what the lesson of it is, if that is what you are supposed to eat and that's all they give you to eat, you automatically dislike it. It becomes a good thing if it becomes compulsory turns into a bad thing. So there was a great resistance to practically all of our K-rations, which really were basically were not all that good. And the only thing in the K-rations that we appreciated were two things. One were cigarettes and the other was toilet paper.

ST:

You attended the Nuremburg Trials.

AG:

Yes.

ST:

Tell us a little bit about that.

AG:

Well of course, that was the great, dramatic and the whole combat fighting effort of the war. All of these people that ran the German government, with the exception of Hitler who had already committed suicide in Berlin, [Goering and Hesse] and all the German generals. Not the combat generals but the generals who were advising Hitler back in Berlin, they were all rounded up and they were placed on trial and this tribunal that was set up with judges representing the United States, Great Britain, France and Russia. And it was the first thing really of its kind in history where a judgment was being made by the victors over the men who represented the enemy. And it was a very, actually, suddenly you saw in flesh and blood the human beings who for so many years, ten years now, were monopolizing the headlines and were regarded really as the quintessence of evil and so on. And there they were, human beings looking very frightened, very pale. Rudolph Hesse was obviously out of his mind. Goering, this fat man sitting there very malevolently, he eventually committed suicide. He secreted a pill somewhere in his body and when he knew he was going to be hanged, he anticipated his hanging by taking the pill and committing suicide. But to see all of these figureheads, the men who surrounded Hitler, in the flesh and to witness the trial in which they were impeached and having the verdict handed down, it was a tremendous climax in a way to these brutal years of conflict and world havoc.

ST:

What was the atmosphere like at the trials?

AG:

Well, it was obviously one of great solemnity. It was a very dignified thing so that the audience was quiet. There was nothing in the way of manifesting any emotion. We were ordered to just sit there and listen, so that's all we could do. But you, I felt very strongly the presence of the Russians in the audience because we had never met them in combat before this. This is at the end of the war when we met them at the [ ]. But here they were, the physical presence as you see in the picture there. The Russians, there were more Russians there in audience than there were anybody else. So I had a feeling of camaraderie with these Russians with whom we had fought the war. But at the same time I had the first inkling that agreement between the Russians and ourselves might not be easily achieved because they were very difficult to talk to. They were obviously ordered not to fraternize with us and I realized for the first time that there was a tension developing between the allies who had fought the war. But now that the war was won, already the relationship was frayed and it was the Russians, the Communists against us, the capitalists. But that was just the Nuremburg trials were just the beginning of that. And I think my first great experience with, contact with the Russians was this great big, two great big parties when the Russian army and the American army met. Zhukov, the general in charge of the Russian army threw a great big party for the Americans and we were all invited. General Bradley, General Eisenhower, and I were all invited to Zhukov's party. And we were warned about the party. That they would try to give us a great deal of vodka which they drank, just tossing them down. And the whole idea was to get us drunk and we had to be very careful that we didn't get drunk otherwise there could be real serious consequences. So we were issued, all of us who went to the party, were given big chunks of black bread and sour cream which we ate to line our stomachs, so that when we drank the vodka, the sour cream and the pumpernickel bread would absorb the alcohol and so on. So we were prepared for this, we were toasting and toasting and so on and putting down all this vodka, it was absolutely incredible. Then General Bradley had to invite Zhukov's army, the Russian army to our party and this time they had been giving us vodka, we were giving them martinis, we were giving them gin. And the Russians came without any preparation whatsoever, so there they were downing their martinis and in no time at all they were absolutely drunk and for days afterwards, we were finding Russians in closets and Russians under desks and Russians under tables, Russians hidden all over the place sleeping off their intoxication and so on. One of the funniest things that happened, the Russians put on a great show for us with dancing and singing and playing [ ] and so on. A very highly cultural thing. And when it was our turn to entertain them, we had two great acts. One was [Jasha Heifitz], the violinist who would represent the classical aspect of American culture and so on. This would show how cultured we were, that we listened to great violinists and loved great music, which corresponded with the Russian love of music and so on. And the other guy was Mickey Rooney the comedian. And Mickey's act was to have a wrestling match with himself, in which he was wrestling himself. It was very, hilariously funny. But then we ran into a big problem. [Heifitz] would not perform if Mickey Rooney performed. He didn't want to have anything to do with, he didn't want to have his high class act contaminated by this crazy comedian. And so at the end of the war, we had a new conflict. We had a conflict between Mickey Rooney and [Jasha Heifitz]. And the way it was solved, General Bradley had to solve this thing. He said, well I guess we have a problem here. The way he solved it was, yes, [Jasha Heifitz] would play in the theater over there and then in a totally different place, Mickey Rooney would wrestle with himself and so on. So by separating the two and not having them appear on the same stage, he was able to satisfy Jasha and things went on. But it was the beginning of the Cold War. [laugh] Beginning of the Cold War really started with their giving us vodka and we giving them gin.

ST:

And they got drunk.

AG:

And did they get drunk.

ST:

Were you satisfied with the Nuremburg Trials? Do you think that was an effective response to war crimes and war criminals?

AG:

Well, there are two answers to that obviously. The victor obviously calls his shots. The victor writes the history. There is no such thing as really an objective judgment made at that particular point. After this enormous tragedy, it was just human nature for us to lay it on very heavily on the vanquished and the same question that was asked, that you asked the other day about the atom bomb. My answer, quite frankly, is that if I were President Truman, I would have ordered the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima because that would save the lives of possibly hundreds of thousands of American soldiers who would have otherwise would have had to invade Japan under very, very difficult circumstances. The Nuremburg Trials were again, it was rigged. The Germans had no case and if they had a case, there was nobody to make the case for them in a way that anyone would listen to. They were convicted. It was a show trial. They were convicted with a facade of legalism. It was just a facade. Behind that was a total determination on our part, the part of the Allies to condemn these men and to hang them. And so it was just a natural thing. But we have to realize, in all fairness, as we look back over history that it is the victor always who writes the record. It's the victor that determines the fate of the defeated. Again, it is an aspect of human behavior that I don't think is ever going to be changed. It's just natural. I certainly had no sympathy whatsoever for the Germans who were sitting there in the box and who were condemned. Many were condemned to being hanged. [Rudolph Hesse] was sentenced to jail for life and he committed suicide. The only guy who came out of it, I think, in pretty good shape was the German architect. I've forgotten his name. Who really in a way vindicated himself. He was the guy who did all these wonderful buildings for Hitler and so on. And really ran the economic side of the war. He turned out to be a salvageable individual. I think he was ultimately released. But the others all suffered death and imprisonment

ST:

By this time you were a Lieutenant Colonel and you had a lot of decorations and awards. Could you talk about getting them? The Legion of Merit?

AG:

Well, the Legion of Merit is among the highest awards that are given out. The highest award is the Medal of Honor and that is only given for people who behave extremely heroically in combat. And then there is the Silver Star which is also given exclusively for combat. Then the next award is the Legion of Merit and that is given both for combat and for other activity of great quality. The fact that I was editor of the Stars and Stripes obviously was the reason I was given the Legion of Merit. Before that I got the Bronze Star and I'm sure, I'm pretty sure about this, that was given for what I did on the Army Talks. Remember yesterday I was reading to you that article in the New York Times. I was the unnamed soldier. I was not named publicly but in the army it was known that I had done this and therefore I was given this fourth award, which was the Bronze Star. The French awarded me the Croix de Guerre and I think that was just a protocol matter that we gave a bunch of French officers American decorations and they returned the courtesy by giving certain Americans the Croix de Guerre. So it was just a courtesy. But I had the commendation medal, I had several other medals which rewarded me in a way for my military performance. Which I think is interesting because I was not a West Pointer. I came into the army with a civilian background but because I was able to adapt my civilian abilities to army needs such as the basic training manuals on rifle marksmanship and so on. These earned me the decorations that I was given.

ST:

It says here, you wrote that you flew over to Shanghai and a rendezvous with Hirohito following this. Tell us about that?

AG:

Well, it was, I was being transferred from the European theater of operations to the Pacific. And the Pacific, of course, meant contact with the Japanese and so what I was anticipating was encountering Hirohito again after my garden party fiasco back in 1935. But Japan was under the aegis, was under General McArthur and I wound up in Shanghai under a totally different General. I nevertheless went to Japan for general visitations. I was not serving there but I was sent there for contact purposes or whatever may be. But I never really met Hirohito again. I did meet General McArthur but I did not meet Hirohito. So my work in China was totally in China and then of course, very happily, the war. . .the Japanese surrendered and therefore I was not in a combat situation. It was a wild scene of magnificent disorder as we celebrated our victory in Shanghai. It made Paris look like a very quiet situation compared to the Chinese. The Chinese really did a job on celebrating with firecrackers and parades and incredible. . .enthusiasm.

ST:

You wrote that the whole town was going crazy.

AG:

The whole town was going crazy. Mad. I've never been in a situation where everybody was totally hysterical with, out of control. The closest thing I ever came to it was a Mardi Gras in Buenos Aires. . .in Rio de Janeiro. You know what a Mardi Gras is. When people just, costumes running up and down the streets and so on. With music and bands playing and all kinds of magnificent things going on. It was just a great show and it went on for days and weeks. It never really seemed to end. But you could imagine the euphoria that you felt when this whole war was over and you realized you survived. My God, I'm alive. I can't believe it. And then of course, the Chinese, even though most of them were starving to death. Certainly, they fed us. We went to party to party. I've never eaten so much Chinese food as I did in those days of Shanghai.

ST:

You were in Shanghai to run The Stars and Stripes?

AG:

Yes.

ST:

Can you tell us about that?

AG:

Well, I was the Editor of The Stars and Stripes in Europe. When Germany surrendered, they sent me out to set up a Stars and Stripes in China on the understanding that the war was still going on and we had thousands of American soldiers there and they needed a newspaper and so I was the obvious man to go out there and set the thing up, which I did. It was a great newspaper because we started it from scratch and I had a wonderful staff and there were no problems or jealousy or anything of that sort. We got along very, very well. Whereas in France, in the European Theater, I always had problems with staff who resented being, these were newspaper men, they didn't want a military man over them, so there was always a certain tension which resulted obviously in things like, "So You Want To Go Home" and the Mt. Suribachi picture and so on. But nothing like that happened in China. It was just a joy to run the newspaper there. But on the other hand, what happened was, I was captured by the Communist Army and I had a little run in with, that was my first experience with being a prisoner of war.

ST:

How much time do we have?

JY:

Do you want to flip it?

ST:

Yeah.

[Pause on copy tape 4, side B.

JY:

Okay.

ST:

August 21, 1997 continued. Let's talk about that rendezvous or...the rendezvous that you had with the communists.

AG:

Well, what happened was that we there was a marine contingent

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