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45,000 Walking Skeletons

Heroes Remember

45,000 Walking Skeletons

We entered Buchenwald on August 15th, 1944. We were not physically greeted, but milling around the camp were 45,000 walking skeletons; men, old men, young men, young boys, some had the striped suits on, some had the ordinary clothing on, and so these men were just walking skeletons. And then we found out later these poor men were slaves because Buchenwald was a slave labour camp because it had two huge factories within the confines of Buchenwald and so these slaves worked in these factories, 10 to 12 hours a day, and then crawled back into their camp, crawl back into these shelves, tried to survive on these meagre rations that we had and had and so if you died, it didn't matter because they had hundreds of other people come in from other areas so they had an endless supply of slaves to work in these factories. And so if you took sick in Buchenwald, if you didn't survive, you were a goner because if you couldn't work, you died in Buchenwald. Anyway, so they took us down to an area called the Klina Lager (sp), it was a little camp. So once we got in there they took us into a building and they shaved every shred of hair we had on our bodies so here we had 168 men, allied airmen who were in Buchenwald, shred of every hair we had on our bodies, bleeding like stuck pigs because the hair was shred by prisoners who were very unkind and they had these hand clippers so we were bleeding underneath our arms, all over, and then they got some kind of a chemical on a stick with a cloth and they would dab between our legs underneath our arms and it burnt so horrible. Here we had 168 men jumping down like cats on a hot tin roof because of the burns of the chemical they put. But it was so humiliating, so degrading because we had never, ever been exposed so embarrassingly to anybody else and it was from there that we went to another building where they gave us clothing, I had a shirt and a pair of pants, no shoes and so for nearly two weeks we slept in the open on the cobblestone road in the little camp, exposed to all the elements.

Mr. Carter-Edwards describes the sights of poor men and women milling around this notorious slave labour camp being exposed to all the brutal elements and treatments of prisoner life.

Ed Carter-Edwards

Edward (Ed) Carter-Edwards was born on April 2, 1923, in Montréal, Quebec, and was raised in Hamilton, Ontario. He enlisted in August 1942, and then joined 427 (Lion) Squadron, 6 Royal Canadian Air Force Group, in Leeming, England. He was a wireless operator air gunner and completed 21 successful missions in a Halifax bomber. On his 22nd mission, Mr. Carter-Edwards was shot down near Paris. He was betrayed to the Gestapo by a collaborator, threatened with execution and forced into the Fresnes prison, near Paris. He spent five weeks in the prison in 1944 followed by a five-day trip in a French cattle car to the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp. He was there for three and a half months as one of 26 Canadians - 168 allied airmen in all. He was forced to participate in two death marches shortly before the end of the war. Once released from service and safely back home, Mr. Carter-Edwards returned to Hamilton and worked at the appliance manufacturer Westinghouse. He was married in 1946, and he and his wife raised three children.

Meta Data
Veterans Affairs Canada
June 25, 2012
Person Interviewed:
Ed Carter-Edwards
War, Conflict or Mission:
Second World War
Bomber Command
Air Force
4th Medium Artillery Regiment
Wireless Air Gunner

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