Longform

Foreign Correspondence

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"It was incredible that such things could happen today, but there was the visible proof...."

Creasman sent copies of his account to his family, to KTAR and to the Arizona Republic, which reprinted it in mid-June 1945. He wrote home that the general ordered a copy made for every soldier in the division and attached units. "This is pretty strong, but it needs to be told. It is all true. I saw it."

While Creasman lingered at Dachau, his division roared down one of Hitler's prized four-lane highways leading to Munich -- part of a tremendous convoy of Americans sweeping into the birthplace of Nazism and mopping up what remained of them and the war.

"For days now I have been witnessing the complete defeat of the German army," Creasman wrote on May 8, the day after Germany's surrender, "...Prisoners are everywhere -- still coming out of the woods and mountains to surrender. Hundreds of thousands of them jamming every type of vehicle imaginable and streaming on foot back to the PW cages. These are the first German vehicles we have yet to see that run. Seems strange to see anything but wrecked and burned German trucks. The beaten Germans even come along in wagons...."

These were the survivors. On his way across Germany, in every house his division had occupied, Creasman had seen other evidence of the Reich's losses.

"Behind every room we live in there's a history," he wrote a few weeks later from his quarters in Kitzbuhel, Austria, "and the history of this one is told in the photograph album on the chest of drawers here in the front room. There are many snapshots -- and very artistic ones -- of Alpine snow scenes. Two people, a young man and woman, are in nearly all of them -- climbing the face of a cliff with ropes, playing with a dog, eating with a group of friends in a cabin high in the Alps. Then there is a picture -- evidently a wedding picture -- showing the two. He is in uniform, a German soldier. Very handsome. There are no more pictures of the couple after that. Just a black card, of the kind so common in so many German homes, a card announcing that Sepp Siberer was killed on the 21st of October 1944 in the field against der Sowjets fur Grossdeutschland -- greater Germany. Then there is a picture of a woman and a baby. Nothing more...."

Creasman's story didn't end there. "Day before yesterday," he continued, "just before the 9 o'clock curfew, I saw a young woman dressed entirely in black in the hallway, getting some linens from a closet. She looked up and -- as I came out of my room -- asked in English, 'You live there?' When I answered yes and asked if that were her room, she answered, 'the whole house is mine.' It was the same woman whose pictures are in the album. I assured her that I would take good care of the rooms, and she said she was sure of that and 'I hope you boys stay here -- that no others come -- because you really seem like such a nice bunch.' Hmmmmm. These people really know how to 'soft soap.'

"You can get an idea of the cost of this war in German lives by the death notices you see in nearly all the houses. All the way from the Rhine to Austria, wherever we stopped, there was in about 90% of the cases at least one black-bordered card with a soldier's picture and the date and place of his death. Sometimes two cards. And 'sharp' looking men too. What a shame that their minds were twisted by a little maniac. And the gal I mentioned talked to some of the other men here the other day, asking 'what about the Russians? Now you will have to fight them.' These people still believe Hitler's propaganda."


In the weeks following the German surrender, Creasman took a Jeep out to Berchtesgaden, where Hitler had built himself a fortress with a view of the Alps. The place had been overrun and trashed by American troops. Nevertheless, he found what remained of Hitler's movie room, and he filched the carbon lighting filaments out of the projector Hitler had used to watch the triumphal movies Leni Reifenstahl had made of him.

In July, Creasman left Kitzbuhel for Salzburg, to organize the Rainbow University.

He remained in Europe long after the Pacific war ended in August. What he saw heading into the winter of 1945 disturbed him.

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Edward Lebow
Contact: Edward Lebow