David Hubbard is not receiving visitors these days. At a century old, he’s not taking any chances with his health. His mind is still as sharp as ever, though, which is both a blessing and a curse. As a 23-year-old Army Sergeant during World War II, he was witness to the Battle of the Bulge, the D-Day landing beaches, and the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.
Buchenwald, located near Weimar, Germany, was the largest concentration camp within the German borders. It was liberated on April 11, 1945 by Third Army’s 6th Armored Division—among the first concentration camps to be liberated by a Western Allied army. General Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote “I have never felt able to describe my emotional reaction when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency.” There were approximately 21,000 inmates at Buchenwald on the day of liberation.
General Eisenhower wasn’t the only one putting his feelings to paper. Hubbard wrote a letter to his mother and father a day after his first experience at Buchenwald. He told his parents that photos, stories, and word of mouth could not significantly convey the horrors carried on in the concentration camps. “I was there yesterday and still I can’t get the sight of those poor souls out of my mind,” he wrote in his letter, which contained graphic descriptions of what he’d witnessed at Buchenwald.
This letter made its way into Tom Brokaw’s book “An Album of Memories: Personal Histories from the Greatest Generation.”
Even now, Buchenwald has left a lasting impression on Hubbard. “Some of the bad things I still remember were the smells and the conditions some of the survivors were in.”
Hubbard’s willingness to share his stories, and the clarity of his recollections, also had an impact on U.S Army Central/Third Army’s historian, Michael Clauss. Clauss valued the opportunities to speak with him, not just about the concentration camps, but also about Hubbard’s experiences as a Soldier.
“With each conflict, the opportunity to hear directly from the veteran slowly slip away with every passing year. We can still hear their words through their letters and recordings but lose the chance to hear it directly from the veterans and ask them questions about what they did and saw. We need to capture those stories not for Third Army history, but for history.”
For years, Hubbard has been lighting a candle as a witness of the Holocaust, as well as sharing his stories as a way to honor the memories of the victims. “I place much importance in sharing my experiences at Buchenwald concentration camp.”