Early Life

Becoming a Soldier

Preparing for D-Day

D-Day and Breakout

Battle of the Bulge

German Concentration Camps

Postwar

Concentration Camp Inmates

Returning Home

Reflections

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Arthur Seltzer was born in Norfolk, Virginia in December 1923. He was a youngster in the Great Depression. His father owned a broom factory in Norfolk. He prospered there, but his wife grew homesick so the family moved to Philadelphia for her. His father made a lot of money selling the factory. He became sick in Philadelphia and was hospitalized. This was in 1928 and 1929. One day, the senior Seltzer told his wife to go to the bank and withdraw all the family funds. She got there too late as all the banks had closed. The Stock Market crash had occurred, resulting in the family loss of all its wealth. They had to start over again. Young Seltzer could not afford many things that other children could get, but he felt he did alright. His parents successfully supported their three children. As Seltzer entered high school, he played multiple sports. He lettered in football, basketball and tennis. He also sang in the choir and performed in many shows. After graduation, his family could not afford to send him or his brother to college. Seltzer saw in a newspaper that the Army Signal Corps would send young men to college if they would serve with them after being drafted. Seltzer took the requisite examination and passed. He was sent to the University of Pittsburgh. He attended one year of training before being drafted into the Army in February 1943. He was 18 years old.

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Before Arthur Seltzer was drafted into the Army, he had received multiple letters of commendation from the Army Signal Corps [Annotator’s Note: Seltzer had taken a year of civilian training at the University of Pittsburgh under the auspices of the Signal Corp just prior to being drafted]. He went to Indiantown Gap where he was inducted. He indicated that he wanted to be in the Signal Corp. Some guy with stripes told him to stand down and Seltzer decided to be patient. About a week later, he was loaded on a train. He assumed he was going to Signal Corps School. He experienced a perplexing journey to the south away from any Signal Corps training camps he knew. He found himself in Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi. He was not at Signal Corps School but was at the home of the 99th Infantry Division. He began to complain but to no avail. He got in line as ordered and went to the barracks. Seltzer tried to figure a way to get to his proper assignment with the Signal Corps. He spoke to the First Sergeant and then the commanding officer. The officer insisted that Seltzer finish his basic training, and he would see what he could do. After basic and during maneuvers, Seltzer found out he was being transferring to Baltimore, Maryland for Signal Corps training. He learned to operate wireless radio equipment for voice messages, teletype, and transfer of pictorial information. It was VHF and highly secret for the time. After the training, he was sent to the 99th Signal Company which was attached to the 99th Infantry Division. He reported to the commander and was told that he was being transferred to Camp Polk, Louisiana. He would be a member of the 4th Armored Signal Battalion. He had not received a furlough prior to that time. Upon arrival at Fort Polk, he was told that the 4th Armored Signal Battalion was preparing to go overseas. That was in March 1944. After a brief stay at Camp Shanks, New York, he voyaged across the Atlantic unescorted on the Queen Elizabeth. The liner could travel faster than any convoy so it needed no escort.

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After landing in Glasgow, Scotland, Arthur Seltzer took a train down to a town near Liverpool called Congleton Cheshire. That was where his outfit [Annotator’s Note: the 4th Armored Signal Battalion] started their training for D-Day. There is an island offshore called the Isle of Wright [Annotator’s Note: Isle of Wight]. Messages were being sent there in hopes of the Germans interpreting that the invasion would be coming toward the Pas de Calais. This was intended to confuse Hitler and keep the German panzer or tank divisions in a location removed from the actual planned invasion sites. Seltzer was then transferred to Portsmouth to be assigned to the 29th Infantry Division for the D-Day invasion. The equipment that Seltzer utilized was normally placed in a trailer attached to a halftrack. There were two such units. One unit was in the forward action and one was in the rear. The equipment was loaded on a different ship from Seltzer. Seltzer was loaded aboard a ship with the 29th Infantry Division. The men had been onboard for about five days. On 5 June, after three days of rain, the ships pulled out of Portsmouth to transfer across the rough seas toward the landing sites. Inclement weather conditions persisted. By early 6 June, at three quarters of the way over, the 36 men who were to board the same Higgins Boat [Annotator's Note: the LCVP, or Landing Craft Vehicle, Personnel, was also known as the Higgins Boat] were asked by a sergeant to sign a dollar bill. The Higgins Boats were built in New Orleans by Mr. Higgins [Annotator’s Note: Andrew Jackson Higgins designed and built the LCVP]. Seltzer still has his dollar bill with his name plus the other 35 men who were in his landing craft with him.

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At about 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning, Arthur Seltzer went over the side of the ship to enter his landing craft. He was part of the third and forth assault waves. The first two waves had experienced nearly 80 percent casualties from the intense German resistance. Seltzer carried a radio on his back. He was in communication from the landing craft back to the ship. It was not his original equipment. That was on another ship and would be brought to the beachhead after it was secure. Prior to reaching the beach, the men were told to go over the side of the boat to give them a better chance. Going over the side, Seltzer found himself in deep water. His heavy radio equipment pulled him down. He quickly assessed that his chances were better above the water than below the water. He could not swim. That was the case for many of the troops. They had to assist one another to shallow water between bullets flying all around them. Finally reaching the beach, there was no way to dig foxholes in the wet sand. The only cover was behind dead or wounded bodies. The heavy enemy firing from the cliffs above forced the assault troops to attempt to find any place they could hide. Omaha Beach came to be referred to as "Bloody Omaha" because of the many dead and wounded American soldiers. By late in the afternoon of 6 June, the men made their way off the beach. Seltzer found the sergeant who was in charge of the landing craft. He informed Seltzer that they were the only two men from their landing craft who survived the morning without being killed or wounded. Seltzer felt that God was with him to survive that day. Seltzer had to wait for his equipment to reach the beach late that day. When the equipment arrived, Seltzer and his crew began to move into France. Getting off the beach, the fighting lessened but there was plenty of gunfire. The local French population was happy to see the Americans. They treated their liberators with wine and other things. The fighting in the hedgerow country was difficult. The town of St. Lo was leveled to the ground during the conflict. The fighting would see saw back and forth. Patton [Annotator’s Note: General George S. Patton] would work toward liberating the hedgerow country of Normandy. The invention of the teeth welded to the front of tanks to cut through the hedgerows' thick vegetation helped the breakout from the Norman region. The next major battle that Seltzer was to experience was the Battle of the Bulge.

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Arthur Seltzer was a participant in the Battle of the Bulge. The battle began in December 1944. It was cold and snowing. The troops had not received their winter equipment at the time. The 101st Airborne Division was surrounded at Bastone. Seltzer was attached for communication purposes to Patton’s [Annotator’s Note: General George S. Patton] 7th Armored Division. Patton committed to relieving Bastone and he did. When asked to surrender, the defenders of Bastogne replied "Nuts" to the Germans. Some other colorful wording might have been included besides that single remark. Seltzer was the platoon leader of the two communication units operating in separate trailers. He placed himself toward the forward position directly behind the front lines. The second unit would be with headquarters. Messages were sent back and forth. All information from the front went through Seltzer’s unit. The unit also had a channel for monitoring. That enabled them to listen to messages. Messages were blurred when they were transmitted. That made the information hard for the Germans to understand should they intercept them. While Seltzer was back in England before the invasion, he had requested that his parents send him packages of Kool-Aid. The packaged flavoring worked fine with water during the summer, but the weather during the Bulge was very cold. When Seltzer attempted to create the beverage mix, the Germans bombarded their position. The mixed beverage was left outside and it froze. The men commented that they could strip the container away from the frozen beverage and have popsicles. [Annotator’s Note: Seltzer smiles as he recollects the event.] The men attempted to relieve the tension in the war by making any kind of joke. Seltzer was in the Ardennes Forest during the battle. To get to Bastone, they had to traverse the adjacent Ardennes. When the Germans bombarded the Americans, the shells would burst overhead in the trees causing splinters and shrapnel to shower the troops below. The communication trailer offered some protection, but in case of severe attack, the men went for foxholes that had been dug for their protection. Seltzer found protection in his foxhole many times. It was cold and the men knew the 101st was surrounded. They did not know if they would get out of the forest. Seltzer was fortunate because, although they were in forward positions, they were not on the front lines. The danger came from artillery for the most part. When the communications unit was attached to troops, they wanted distance between them. German direction finders could locate the communications transmission sites and target it. As a result, Seltzer would place his unit behind the forward troops. The Battle of the Bulge ended on 25 January [Annotator’s Note: 25 January 1945]. After the Bulge, Seltzer’s unit travelled through German towns. The next major town reached was Munich. Most of the messages sent during the Battle of the Bulge dealt with urgent calls for food or ammunition or calls for reinforcements. The weather was bad so supply by air was not possible initially. The troops in the Ardennes were not at full strength when the Battle of the Bulge started.

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Arthur Seltzer reached Munich, Germany. The troops could tell the war was coming to an end. That was the location of Hitler’s Eagles Nest. That was the German leader’s favorite place. The town of Berchtesgaden is a great town. It was there that the troops heard about a camp. From D- Day forward, the marching orders were to push the Germans back and free any troops found in prisoner of war camps. The men had never heard of concentration camps. In Munich, the troops were basically in a policing action. As they headed to a town called Dachau, Seltzer was riding in a halftrack pulling the trailer behind. Looking through the field glasses, he thought he found a prisoner of war camp. Upon closing in, the troops noticed that the inmates had funny uniforms. That was strange because most prisoners of war kept their existing uniforms. These inmates had striped clothes that were black and white. There was no incoming fire from the camp. It seemed very quiet. At this point in the war, Seltzer was attached to the 20th Armored Division. The men observed iron gates with shriveled up bodies standing against it. When the tank commander got to the gate, there was no resistance at all. There were dead bodies everywhere. The camp was named for the town close by. It was called Dachau. Entering the camp, the people looked half starved. The troops tried to give their rations to the inmates. The commander of the 20th Armored wanted to communicate to headquarters about what they had found. They wanted Eisenhower [Annotator’s Note: General Dwight David Eisenhower] and other high ranking officers to see what had been discovered. The 20th command thought that the first concentration camp had been liberated by the United States Army. Seltzer would find out later that other divisions had been involved in the liberation of Dachau. It was noon on a Sunday on 29 [Annotator’s Note: April] 1945. Seeing the situation at Dachau was unbearable, particularly to Seltzer because he was Jewish. The next day, Eisenhower arrived at the camp. Being with the Signal Corps, Seltzer was issued a camera to take pictures of any unusual or special circumstances. Some of his photographs were used in a movie called the "Trials of Nuremburg". General Eisenhower made sure plenty of pictures were taken. He also called the mayor of the local town and made the citizens observe what had happened in the camp. The civilians all claimed that they knew nothing of what was going on there. The camp was run by the SS troops. Experiments were run there. The SS would pick up notes on the experiments in order to help German troops in the field. It was hard to believe the locals did not know what was going on there. There were deep trenches where bodies were disposed of by the SS. The inmates were Jews, gypsies and others. When the United States Army closed in, the orders were given by the SS to get rid of as many inmates as possible. As Seltzer moved in toward the camp, he observed smoke from a chimney. He discovered that it was a crematory in the camp used for burning bodies. After being there for three days, the 20th Armored moved on. Seltzer had taken many pictures. After Dachau, the 20th moved toward the Elbe River and the meeting with the Russian Army. That was where the war came to an end for him. The situation at Dachau was unforgettable. Nearly seven decades after the war, Seltzer retraced the locations he went through during the war. He went from England to Munich, Germany where he visited the camp at Dachau. The 20th Armored troops had stayed three days in Dachau before they moved along. Seltzer stayed a few days beyond that because of his Signal Corps association. He saw Eisenhower in Dachau. The commander was very busy. Seltzer turned his pictures over to the Signal Corps except for a few he brought home. While in Dachau, he spoke a little German to some of the inmates. He had taken German in high school because it was close to the Jewish language that he had to learn as a child. There were only six low ranking SS troops in Dachau when the Americans arrived. The weak inmates would have killed the six guards, but the Americans wanted to interrogate them. The American troops’ first reaction to seeing the starving inmates was to give them food. They were quickly told by the medical group not to feed the inmates because of their depleted condition. Too much food could kill them. After the war, Seltzer discovered more about what happened to the inmates.

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Arthur Seltzer came home after the end of the war. He was discharged and never wanted to talk about his experiences. He just wanted to get back to normal life and go to college and get a job. His parents only knew of his involvement in D-Day. They never knew of his participation in the liberation of a concentration camp. His granddaughter asked him about the Holocaust. He helped her with her report on the subject. She received an A on the report. When her teacher found out the information was from her grandfather, she wanted him to speak to the class. Seltzer’s granddaughter volunteered him to speak before the class. He could not let her down even though he did not feel like he was a public speaker. He talked as calmly as he could to the class. The granddaughter’s teacher urged him to discuss his experiences with others in order to discredit the Holocaust deniers. Seltzer worked with a representative from a Holocaust Museum near him. Her name was Helen Kirshmaum [Annotator’s Note: unsure of spelling]. She was pleased to meet a concentration camp liberator. At that point, Seltzer began speaking at various schools. Children have written letters to Seltzer expressing their satisfaction at listening to a liberator. Seltzer has searched for survivors from the Dachau camp he helped liberate. While visiting a Holocaust Museum in Ohio, Seltzer’s niece found a list of six survivors who lived in that state. The niece and her friends made contact with one of them and determined that he would be interested in speaking with a camp liberator. The niece gave Seltzer the number and he called the survivor. The survivor remembered the liberation of the camp including the incident of Seltzer taking pictures of inmates lined up along a fence. The survivor was in the picture and offered to identify which individual he was in the picture. When Seltzer called back, the survivor was in the hospital but the wife identified her husband in the photograph. Prior to his planned trip to Dachau, Seltzer attempted to make contact again with the survivor but the telephone had been disconnected. Seltzer has also been thanked for saving the life of another Holocaust survivor. It was during a speaking engagement at a synagogue when a young person came up to him and showed appreciation for the liberation of his uncle. Seltzer spoke to the survivor in Florida by telephone. The two men spoke for awhile. The man thought that he was in the photograph that Seltzer took of surviving inmates. A story was told that brought chills to Seltzer. The survivor told of a final meeting with his father just after the liberation of the camp. The father and the son had been inmates in the same camp but never knew it until that moment. Because of his weakened state, the father only lasted two weeks despite medical attention that was given to him by the Americans. If the Americans had not arrived, the lack of food would have been fatal for many more inmates. The survivor indicated the barrack that he was held in at Dachau. When Seltzer reached Dachau, almost all of the barracks had been removed. In place of the barrack structure, a cement block with the barrack number had been erected. Seltzer took a picture of the man’s barrack block indicator and sent it to the survivor. Another Dachau survivor who lived in Chicago also requested that Seltzer send him a copy of the liberation photograph so that he could see if he was in the picture.

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Most of the inmates of the Dachau concentration camp spoke Hebrew which Arthur Seltzer could somewhat communicate with because of his Jewish background. Most could not believe they were liberated. They felt they could not have lived much longer because of lack of food. Every morning they hoped they were picked for a work detail by their captors because they would be fed a minimal amount of food. If not on work detail, no food would be allowed until the midday meal. That meal was not very much either. Seltzer learned a lot about Dachau when he became a public speaker regarding its liberation. He came to learn that Dachau was built in 1933 for political prisoners opposed to Hitler. It was also used to eliminate Jewish people who had committed no crime other than being Jewish. Built to hold 2,000 to 3,000 inmates, at the height of the war, it held 66,000 inmates. Each barracks had an inmate picked to be in charge. The barracks chief had to discipline those under him to follow the orders of the SS troops. Morning roll call tallied the inmates. At that point, the barracks chief would be told how many less had to be in the barracks the next morning. He was responsible for getting the head count reduced by picking those who would go to their death. After a few weeks, the barracks chief himself would be executed and a new chief named to replace him. That was the pattern followed by the Nazis. Seltzer learned of this as he researched what was done at Dachau. He also learned of the experiments conducted on inmates by the Nazis. None of the inmates involved in the experimentation survived the experience. Seltzer has a list of the experiments that were done at the death camp.

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Arthur Seltzer and his unit [Annotator’s Note: Seltzer served in the 4th Signal Battalion and was attached to the 20th Armored Division at this time] left Dachau and continued moving forward. As they proceeded, they advised headquarters on the progress being made. Fighting had significantly tapered off. They reached the Elbe River where they met the Russians. The female Russian soldiers were proficient at drinking gin and vodka. The war came to an end after Seltzer met the Russians at the Elbe. He had enough points to return home in September 1945. The 4th Signal Battalion was instructed to install communications from Paris to Bonn, Germany. After completion of that task, Seltzer was able to return home in January 1946. Having not been home on leave for years, he was happy as a lark to return. After discharge, it took a few weeks for Seltzer to organize himself and plan his next step. His first thought was to attend the University of Miami to complete his education. He planned to use the GI Bill of Rights and participate in the 52-20 Club. That allowed an unemployed returning veteran to receive 20 dollars a week for 52 weeks. As he walked down the street in Philadelphia, he spotted a building with flags out front. When he walked in, he noticed radio equipment scattered all over the floor. He recognized the equipment as the same type that he operated in Europe during the war. The store owner must have acquired it in a surplus sale. There were other electronics such as televisions in the store. A man came up to Seltzer and they discussed the equipment. The store owner heard the discussion and offered Seltzer a job since he was familiar with the equipment. At first, Seltzer refused. When the owner persisted and offered 25 dollars a week salary, Seltzer accepted the job offer. When Seltzer told his father of the situation, the elder Seltzer told him that he had done the right thing. Seltzer went to night school and graduated. He worked for the Almo Company for 45 years, becoming an executive vice president. The company became the second largest electronics company in the country. The company revenue doubled during Seltzer’s tenure with them. The business line has changed over the years, but they are still in business. Seltzer saw that the Russians had no compassion for the German people. They had experienced the harshness of the German offensive into their country. They had no mercy on their enemy as they advanced through his country. If Patton [Annotator’s Note: General George S. Patton] had his way, he would have moved on Berlin. Patton was not a good politician but he was a good general. After a week on the Elbe River, Seltzer’s outfit withdrew to Peine, Germany. While with the Russians, most of the time was spent in celebration of Germany’s defeat. Seltzer was not a drinker so he stayed sober. Not much was said of the harsh treatment of the Germans by the Russians. He heard of Hitler’s death during the time on the Elbe. The details of Hitler’s death were not discovered until Seltzer reached Peine, Germany.

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Arthur Seltzer matured very quickly as a result of the war. He was 18 when he was drafted and 19 on Omaha Beach. He was 20 years old when he liberated the concentration camp at Dachau. He has always felt that he missed the best years of his life as a result of those experiences. Nevertheless, without the sacrifice of those who fought the enemy in World War II, the people in the United States might be speaking German or Japanese. Seltzer was drafted and served his country best in the Signal Corps. He sees some of the same things occurring in the world today as he saw prior to the war he fought in. Many wars have been fought since the end of his war. He is concerned for his children and grandchildren. Little help is provided to the young people who are burdened with college loans. Money is being spent in a direction that he does not always approve of. People who are voted into office that do not do their job should be voted out of office. Seltzer tells young people to educate themselves on the record of people who are running for office. The National WWII Museum has done a great thing in displaying what the veterans did for this country. Many people are not aware of what has gone on. The National WWII Museum is one of the finest in the country.

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