Lee Kessler* Technical Sergeant, 8th Air Force Division, 306 th Bomb Group,
368 th Bomb Squadron
As the Russians advanced through Hungary and approached the Danube River in late March of '45, the Germans evacuated our prisoner of war camp and marched us toward the west. We marched past a place called Mauthausen. A group of prisoners from the concentration camp was coming down the road. They were Hungarian Jews, guarded by the SS. We were halted at the side of the road for these walking skeletons to pass, but when they came even with us their guards stopped them. One of our guys threw a cigarette toward them. They mobbed toward it, like a pack of hungry dogs. The SS beat them back.
A spectacle was made for our benefit of one who was too weak to get up. As we moved on we heard pistol shots, and we knew what they were for. All those who fell from exhaustion and could not get up were shot. Two prisoners followed in a wagon and loaded the bodies.
As I came upon one of the bodies at the side of the road, I noticed a crinkled photograph near his hand. He lay with one arm stretched out, as if reaching for the picture. He had been shot in the head. I moved off the road to get a better look at the photograph and was about to pick it up when a guard hollered for me to get back.
The picture was of a woman and two children. As I looked back, a butterfly landed on the man.
During the rest of the march, I thought about this man, dead by the side of the road. Probably the last thing he looked at was this picture of his family— all he had left. And where were they? Dead or in some other camp, I guessed.
Some time in the fifties I started my drawing, but finally put it away because I felt no one would understand what I was trying to portray. It lay in a drawer until two years ago. Then at a prisoner of war convention, I heard another POW being interviewed. He told a story about how he saw a man, who was lying on the ground, pull a picture from his pocket. As the man kissed the photograph, the guard shot him.____________________