Schulz witnessed horrors of death camp
By Bert Lehman
Last week’s Tribune-Gazette included an article about Eugene Schulz’s experiences in World War II leading up to D-Day. This article includes more experiences from WWII that he shared with those in attendance at the Clintonville Area Historical Society’s Fall Event on Nov. 5.
Schulz, born and raised in Clintonville, said about two weeks before D-Day, June 6, 1944 General Dwight D. Eisenhower moved his headquarters from London, England to Portsmouth, England along the English Channel.
“He wanted to be closer to where the action was,” Schulz said.
Schulz said he landed on Utah Beach on July 22, 1944, his 21st birthday.
Utah Beach was all sand, Schulz said.
“French people loved to play here,” he said.
He said the Germans had built some coastal guns into the dunes on the beach to fend off attacks.
“When you go to Normandy beaches today and tell them you’re an American you will get bear hugs,” Schulz said. “They fly the American flag next to the French flag in Normandy because the Americans liberated these people. They were so happy.”
Today there is a museum café at Utah Beach. During a trip to Utah Beach about three years ago, Schulz said he was invited into the café to meet the owner.
“I walked in and he handed me a felt tip pen, and said, ‘Sir, please sign your name on the wall,’” Schulz said.
The wall was filled with signatures of American soldiers who walked across Utah Beach on D-Day or anytime after.
“I was completely honored, and really overcome with emotion to be able to do that,” Schulz said.
Schulz told the story about how his grandson visited Utah Beach and found the signature on the wall.
“He was pretty thrilled about that,” Schulz said.
He said the casualties were much higher at Omaha Beach because it had different terrain than Utah Beach. He added that the opening scenes of “Saving Private Ryan” are an accurate account of what happened at Omaha Beach on D-Day.
Schulz said there is an American cemetery at the top of a cliff at Omaha Beach that contains 9,385 graves.
“It’s a very hallowed ground,” he said.
After reaching France, the XX Corps, which Schulz was part of, traveled across France to Germany.
“We were headed to Berlin and then politics came into play and Patton was denied the hope he could get to Berlin,” Schulz said. “Instead we were ordered to turn south to go into Austria and that’s where we met the Russian army.”
Schulz said he saw General George Patton several times and spoke to him once. He described Patton as a “marvelous” man, and a military genius.
“I’m an eyewitness to the first concentration camp that was liberated by American troops,” Schulz said. “We heard rumors all along that there were these concentration camps, these death camps, but no one had ever seen one.”
On April 5, 1945 American troops liberated the town of Ohrdruf. When troops reached the outskirts of the town, a concentration camp filled with dead bodies was discovered, Schulz said. Eisenhower was informed immediately about the camp.
“We were ordered by General Eisenhower to see this camp,” Schulz said. “He was already looking down the pages of history that people wouldn’t believe this because it was so gruesome and horrible.”
Schulz shared with those in attendance, photos that he took when he was at the camp. He also described the atrocities he saw at the camp.
Citizens of Ohrdruf were also ordered to come to the concentration camp to view the carnage.
Schulz tells his complete story of his World War II experience in the book, “The Ghost in General Patton’s Third Army.”