A transcription of a letter from Frederic Keffer.

    Pittsburg seal

University of Pittsburgh

Department of Physics

                                      5 May, 1975

Mr. Maurice Bolle

First Vice President

Amicale de Buchenwald

Avenue du Gui, 19

1180 Brussels, Belgium

Dear Mr. Bolle:

I have been forwarded by Edward F. Reed, Secretary of the Sixth Armored Division Association, copies of letters written to you by Jack K. Elder and also by Ed Reed, the correspondence being concerned with anniversary ceremonies in Liege this coming September, 1975, to commemorate the liberation of Buchenwald Concentration Camp.

I am very much interested in this.   I was the officer in command of the scout car which turned south from the main eastward-moving column of the Sixth Armored Division and drove up to the northern fence of Buchenwald on April 11, 1945.   I took this side journey of about 3 km away from our main force because we kept encountering SS guards and prison inmates, and the latter told us of the large camp to our south.   The guards had fled as our column came across high ground and into distant view from the camp. We had been told by our intelligence that we might overrun a large prison camp, but we---or at least I---had no idea of either the gigantic size of the camp or of the full extent of the incredible brutality.

So I and my three comrades (Technical Sergeant Herbert Gottshalk, my assistant; Sergeant Harry Ward, radio operator; and PFC James Hoyt, driver) went in our armored scout car towards the camp, accompanied by two “guides” who had been among the fleeing inmates. When we arrived, Gottshalk and I went into the camp through a hole in the barbed wire fence. This was far from the main entrance, which was on the other (south) side of the camp. We were tumultuously greeted by what I was told were 21,000 men, and what an incredible greeting that was. I was picked up by arms and legs, thrown into the air, caught, thrown again, caught, thrown, etc., until I had to stop it, I was getting so dizzy. How the men found such a surge of strength in their emaciated condition was one of those bodily wonders in which the spirit sometimes overcomes all weaknesses of the flesh.   My, but it was a great day!

I was slowly pulled and pushed through the crowd towards a headquarters building. There I met some of the leaders of the prison underground who were now in control.   I told them I would radio for medical help and for food, and I requested them not to let the former prisoners, if they could help it, to wander far outside the camp and possibly unwittingly interfere with our military progress.   Then I managed somehow to return to the scout car, give all the food we had to the camp, and drive back to our main column.

And now it is thirty years later.   If you wish, I would like to attend your ceremony in September.   I am now a professor of physics at the University of Pittsburgh.   I come to Europe every now and then to attend scientific conferences and meetings, but this would be a very special and unusual sort of visit. To see again some of the 21,000, who were surely the finest men in all of Europe.  I have classes in September, but I think I could arrange for my colleagues to handle them for a few days.   What exactly is the date planned?

In the meantime, I am coming to Europe in June.   My primary purpose is to go to Warsaw, where I am to lecture at the University of Warsaw. But on route I have decided to visit the Bastogne area and look over some of the regions where we fought and which I think I know so well. I have not been back to any of our battlefields ever before, and I don’t really know why I want to go back now. I must indeed be getting old!

So perhaps, if you wish, I could see you during this trip.  I will certainly be near enough to Brussels to go there easily.  On the other hand, if I can come to Liege in September, there may be no particular reason for me to bother you in early June.

Please answer in French if you wish.  I can read French with ease, mais je ne le peut pas ecrire sans les fauten nombreuxes et seriouxes, et ma machine a ecrire est plus bęte que moi.

With the best wishes to you and to all of your comrades,

Yours very truly,

Frederic Keffer