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Interview with Arthur Mainzer [3/15/2001]

Pierre C. Escaron:

[What follows is a transcript of the veteran and interviewer discussing vintage WWII films shot by Mainzer during his time in the service] So what date is that?

Arthur Mainzer:

Let's pull back and see.

Pierre C. Escaron:

March 26, 1945.

Arthur Mainzer:

So we saw this already, it has been duplicated a few times, it is not very sharp. That was right before Buchenwald.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Is this Buchenwald here?

Arthur Mainzer:

No this is taking prisoners of war to camp, all German prisoners. I climbed on the cab of the truck for the scene to shoot some of this stuff.

Pierre C. Escaron:

What city of Germany are we in?

Arthur Mainzer:

Guess I don't remember, this is the guy who was with me.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Reading the clap board: Mainzer four sixteen, (April 16 1945).

Arthur Mainzer:

Yes this is Buchenwald

Pierre C. Escaron:

How many days would you say after this was discovered by the Americans would you say that is? Just a few days?

Arthur Mainzer:

Yes.

Pierre C. Escaron:

And these are the people of Weimar?

Arthur Mainzer:

Yes. I spent about a week there, covering different stuff they didn't ... we don't have here.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Sure.

Arthur Mainzer:

But the people of Weimar yes, they were brought in about four days after the liberation of the camp, four or five days.

Pierre C. Escaron:

(looking at inmates) these people did not know what to do.

Arthur Mainzer:

No, they were dazed. They were happy to be liberated but they did not know what to do with themselves.

Pierre C. Escaron:

The shape they were in! Who were the people who were in Buchenwald? Were they Jewish or were they from anywhere?

Arthur Mainzer:

Political prisoners, from anywhere, whoever was against the Nazis.

Pierre C. Escaron:

So there could have been Germans as well!

Arthur Mainzer:

Yes, there were some Polish, French.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Reading c. brd April 16 Mainzer, what does it mean SFR?

Arthur Mainzer:

SFP Special Film Project. That's when Owen Crump came over to organize the crews.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Bodies packed up like this everywhere.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yah.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Piled all over.

Arthur Mainzer:

There were several areas where they were stacked up like that they didn't have time to burn them or bury them because the allies were approching.

Pierre C. Escaron:

So they had stacked them, the Germans.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yes they were ready to cremate some of them but they didn't have the time, they could hear the war front approaching so they just took off, the SS guys who were running the camps some of them just took off.

Pierre C. Escaron:

So here we see the German coming in and witnessing the mess. You can tell that these people can't believe what's going on. Astonishing movie. "Four, sixteen", so you were shooting like crazy on that day.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yes that's the same day, that's the day they came through. I got there on the twelfth, the day after it was liberated. The thing is that it is in colour. You don't see any other concentration camp footage in colour it is all black and white like Auchswitz, Berchanbertzen and some of those other camps, it all black and white coverage.

Pierre C. Escaron:

What is this?

Arthur Mainzer:

They are Russians but I don't know how this was cut into it, I guess the Buchenwald stuff, come over later like the shrunken heads.

Pierre C. Escaron:

This is not yours?

Arthur Mainzer:

No.

Pierre C. Escaron:

On this one we don't have this horrific music.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yes.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Russians, Carter production 184 strip 336.

Arthur Mainzer:

That's at an airstrip.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Ha here the music.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yes the Blue Danube. P47 thunderbolts-- we saw those at the beginning of this other film.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Those that were carrying the bombs I don't know what that is, it is too dark.

Arthur Mainzer:

Anti-aircraft artillery at a military airstrip, an American airstrip. I shot some of that stuff too, these are some ofthe pilots, fighter squadron ... shot some of it to send back home to show the guys in service. This is the airstrip, they used this truck with the plexiglass dome on top for control tower. He was high enough that he could see the field, it was an old bus.

Pierre C. Escaron:

A plastic dome!

Arthur Mainzer:

From an air plane, the nose of an air plane, Yes, he has an air gun if there are any wounded on the plane he shoots this flare through the opening to tell the other airplanes not to land right away to give that guy the priority. They called it the Vari Pistol, I don't know why.

Pierre C. Escaron:

He opened the door there and he shot his fuse.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yah if a plane came back from a mission that was shot up they gave it priority to land, may be the guy was running out of fuel, or coming in with a motor shot off, or wounded on board then they would shoot the flare to warn the other planes coming in. This looks like stuff we shot to show bomb damage. Or Carter did that 371 345. Yes that was us,

Pierre C. Escaron:

That was your group.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yes, Carter and I, just the two of us.

Pierre C. Escaron:

He was your partner.Where are you guys here?

Arthur Mainzer:

Somewhere in western Germany, somewhere in the Frankfurt area, or ... I can't remember actually.

Pierre C. Escaron:

But you were there?

Arthur Mainzer:

There was so much damn stuff we shot, that ... then we found out about Buchenwald so we just took off, we had to drive for 5 or 6 hours to get there.

Pierre C. Escaron:

So the stuff is of March 31.

Pierre C. Escaron:

That 2 weeks before, so no order, these need to be resynchronized, one day when I have a good CD/DVD recorder, we will do that.

Arthur Mainzer:

OK.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Put them in the proper sequence.

Arthur Mainzer:

The same old stuff.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Is that you on the left that I saw shot by Carter were you there?

Arthur Mainzer:

They are officers.

Pierre C. Escaron:

The guy on the left that's not you?

Arthur Mainzer:

That was an officer carrying his flight bag.

Pierre C. Escaron:

How did you operate with a guy like Carter, you would relay each other, one would hold the camera?

Arthur Mainzer:

We each had our own camera, we had 3 or 4 cameras with us we would reload, correcting mistakes, lining up shots.

Pierre C. Escaron:

What was that plane with the double tail?

Arthur Mainzer:

That was the B25.

Pierre C. Escaron:

The B25!

Arthur Mainzer:

That's the plane that bombed Tokyo, remember the documentary I have, The shooting war, they took off from a carrier.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Yes.

Arthur Mainzer:

That was B25.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Long range?

Arthur Mainzer:

Well not as long as the 4 engines jobs, but they carried, a couple thousands pounds load.

Pierre C. Escaron:

What's the date 22nd, entering Germany, "don't fraternize"!

Arthur Mainzer:

Yah that was right before Buchenwald was liberated, we are somewhere in the Rhur valley I think, cultivating a vegetable garden I guess.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Is she an injured person?

Arthur Mainzer:

No she is just kneeling down.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Look at this chair next to them (a woman is cultivating the soil near a child), she looks like an invalid.

Arthur Mainzer:

I don't remember now whether ... that's just a vehicle to get around.

Pierre C. Escaron:

You think so.

Arthur Mainzer:

Because I think she is standing up another scene they don't show that, she is standing up, backing up.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Well, she has a handicap, a normal person would not do that.

Arthur Mainzer:

They would stand up!

Pierre C. Escaron:

Here she is cultivating, can you imagine.

Arthur Mainzer:

We did not spend much time with her. We just shot that and kept going.

Pierre C. Escaron:

This person is handicapped.

Arthur Mainzer:

The way she is moving around.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Oh yes.

Arthur Mainzer:

I would say that was the reason Carter wanted to shoot that because he saw this handicapped person.

Arthur Mainzer:

This is now more of my prisoner stuff.

Pierre C. Escaron:

So we are at a camp here. Wow.

Arthur Mainzer:

There must have been a thousand that day.

Pierre C. Escaron:

It does not look that we are in spring here, March or April.

Arthur Mainzer:

We captured them toward the end of March, April. We were capturing a lot of German prisoners. They were giving up, they saw the end of the war coming, they did not want to be caught by the Russians.

Pierre C. Escaron:

My father was caught in that Russian trap, when his camp was liberated. I get the impression, that the front was approaching, the Germans fled.

Arthur Mainzer:

These guys were glad to give up to the Americans because they knew they would be treated right.

Pierre C. Escaron:

We are back where we started.

Arthur Mainzer:

Here is where I was standing on the cab of a truck and shooting.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Who are these?

Arthur Mainzer:

Civilians watching the prisoners being shipped away, waving at them, these are American trucks with prisoners in them. That's is my buddy Carter.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Does he have pictures of you?

Arthur Mainzer:

I don't think so no, I was usually behind the camera, he would mark up the slates, he usually putting his name, I didn't like that, but we were working together, what the hell what difference does it make, we were doing our job together. Now this is the part that I liked, he got this American GI shoving these guys, packing them in like sardines, we watch and see here. One guy pushing them shoving them like sardines, get in there.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Some of those wanted to have it easy, he would not have any of it, get to the center.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yah they had to pack as many as they could because you know roll up the truck and take off.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Here they go packed as tight as they could be, oh my!

Arthur Mainzer:

Isn't that something? When I saw that, I knew that the end of the war was coming pretty soon, how could they hold out any longer, we were removing hundreds and hundreds, thousands of prisoners!

Pierre C. Escaron:

What were they doing those Germans?

Arthur Mainzer:

Bah, they were giving up, the German airforce didn't exist, they ran out of equipment, they were using horse drawn carts, and they were using hand carts to carry supplies.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Who is this character (a beautiful, well composed, portrait of a German officer).

Arthur Mainzer:

I don't remember. He was an officer. He was this short guy.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Not very impressive, may be General.

Arthur Mainzer:

No, I don't think so. May be the equivalent of a colonel. I don't think he was a general. He did not have this colored lapel.

Pierre C. Escaron:

He was shot by you?

Arthur Mainzer:

Yah.

Pierre C. Escaron:

You were pretty artistic already, here in the middle of the battle.

Arthur Mainzer:

Here the scene is too long, you see.

Pierre C. Escaron:

It is too long, but it could be clipped. That would not be a problem.

Arthur Mainzer:

I don't know what I was doing, but I had the camera running and this guy was staring, till we told him what to do. That was a bunch of German soldiers being addressed by some German officer, yes, telling what is going to happen to them.

Pierre C. Escaron:

How do you think this one was?

Arthur Mainzer:

Hitler was taking the old guys and the young boys toward the end there, because the army was getting empty there, he was about 80.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Over 70.

Arthur Mainzer:

Then there were the young kids.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Soldiers!

Arthur Mainzer:

The Supermen eh!

Pierre C. Escaron:

"Four eleven"

Arthur Mainzer:

That was the day before we hit Buchenwald.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Yes, go through a war, look at this!

Arthur Mainzer:

You can tell the officers, the uniforms are different, those shoulders, what do you call them?

Pierre C. Escaron:

I bet you they were relieved. What is this?

Arthur Mainzer:

Some place in Germany I forgot what it was. We would drive along and see a damaged building, lets stop here, let's shoot this!

Pierre C. Escaron:

A lot of stuff, what is this?

Arthur Mainzer:

I don't know, its inside a building a bunch of tires, stacks of tires.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Tires?

Arthur Mainzer:

Well.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Some roman characters, OK airplanes.

Arthur Mainzer:

Cargo planes again flying in formations. I know what that was; on D Day, one of our guys shot this. They had parachuted paratroopers. No that's something else now. After 50 years I forgot all this crap.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Yes you can't remember after all those years.

Arthur Mainzer:

Now here we are, on the front somewhere.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Yes some recent bombing, is that your stuff?

Arthur Mainzer:

I don't think so, I never get that close to the fire.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Wow, body parts, is that yours, is that Buchenwald?

Arthur Mainzer:

Yes, this is our stuff.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Ah what horror.

Arthur Mainzer:

I shot most of it and Carter would load the camera, load his camera for another run. He was sick. He couldn't stand the site of this. I didn't feel too good either.

Pierre C. Escaron:

This is beyond humanity!

Arthur Mainzer:

You get sick to your stomach looking at that. He said go in there and shoot close ups!

Pierre C. Escaron:

Yes you did, but he could not take it.

Arthur Mainzer:

He reloaded camera.

Pierre C. Escaron:

This must be before.

Arthur Mainzer:

He said get closer to those heads, that's what I did.

Pierre C. Escaron:

This must be before. It looks like the camp is quiet This must be before you brought the Germans in.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yes, before the civilians came in. Yah they did not come until four or five days later. This is the first day.

Pierre C. Escaron:

This must be the 10th.

Arthur Mainzer:

No, this is the 11th or 12th, the 12th I think, because it was liberated on the 11th.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Because it is very quiet, here is this guy, he has a head wound obviously, what was the execution method.

Arthur Mainzer:

I really don't know.

Pierre C. Escaron:

They did not gas them?

Arthur Mainzer:

Ah yes, they gassed them. They piled up the bodies. They were going to throw them in a ditch. They put a lot in ovens. They did not have some many ovens they were trying to do a couple of hundreds a day I think.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Mein vater...me in vaterland (an inscription carved into the wood lintel of the entry gate) gee wiz, look at those guys, Germans.

Arthur Mainzer:

No this guy was a prisoner. He was hidden under the floor boards of the barracks because he knew they were out to get him. He is a British guy.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Gee wiz.

Arthur Mainzer:

The last few days there, he found out they were going to find him and kill him, so they hid him under the floor, in the barracks.

Pierre C. Escaron:

They are showing their numbers on their arms, so you say that Carter was using his name there.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yes, I had that in the documentary, you remember that, I said they looked like they were 60 or 80 pounds of weight.

Pierre C. Escaron:

How come some were naked? Are these Russians or...

Arthur Mainzer:

I don't know they were a mixture, of different prisoners, nationalities.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Look at the guy at the end of the line.

Arthur Mainzer:

Ho another prisoner I think. Here is my kid that I shot.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Some kid (an 8 years old kid with his bonnet).

Arthur Mainzer:

That was in the documentary.

Pierre C. Escaron:

A prisoner, in the camp! A prisoner.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yes you remember, you saw him in the documentary.

Pierre C. Escaron:

A Hallucinating picture, you don't remember what age or what language he spoke.

Arthur Mainzer:

No.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Who are these characters?

Arthur Mainzer:

Kids, prisoners.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Four fifteen (April 15 1945). You don't see all of this in the documentary.

Arthur Mainzer:

No they kept it to a minimum.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Some are trying to feed themselves in this mess, some are in uniform and others are not, I guess that at the end it must have been a holy mess, so anything went.

Arthur Mainzer:

They let them keep their clothes, some of them, then they ran out of the stripes, their uniforms.

Arthur Mainzer:

Without preying, you saw Emen documentary, you remember that shot.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Yes, what language was he speaking?

Arthur Mainzer:

Beats me I don't know.

Pierre C. Escaron:

I guess these people were so happy they didn't know what was happening to them.

Arthur Mainzer:

That's right, they told us don't give them any of your rations, don't give them anything to eat.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Yah you could kill them.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yah, they weren't used to the rich food.

Pierre C. Escaron:

How were they taken care of when they were released? Were they taken to a special...?

Arthur Mainzer:

No they had to keep them in there, they fed them, the army set up soup kitchen, soup pots.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Yah

Arthur Mainzer:

They gave them more nourishment and food.

Pierre C. Escaron:

I guess some of those guys were coming from central Europe.

Arthur Mainzer:

They had to find our where they were from.

Pierre C. Escaron:

The sorting process, the triage as I think they called it, must have been horrendous.

Arthur Mainzer:

This is the tattooed skin stuff that I shot, you see the nipples of the breasts on each side.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Ah god.

Arthur Mainzer:

The brown spots, there, some of a guys chest, I told to point to it.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Holy smoke, this was kept as evidence.

Arthur Mainzer:

Well it was there in the commandant's building, there is some more skin.

Pierre C. Escaron:

These guys were satanic.

Arthur Mainzer:

Ah they were terrible, they would experiment on people.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Some dragon and knight.

Arthur Mainzer:

I spent half a day there shooting this stuff.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Like you say look at this.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yah the nipples of a guy's chest.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Holy smoke I have never seen that, four fifteen (April 15 1945) ein betrag zur tatur.

Arthur Mainzer:

Some photographs there.

Pierre C. Escaron:

That was in the camp? Tatur wiruns...

Arthur Mainzer:

Here is a shrunken head, they took a prisoner and shrank him, they kept his hair though, they did not want to show that in the documentary, I asked them why? Oh no we couldn't show that! Too horrifying. Look at this, this was enough to make me sick at times.

Pierre C. Escaron:

I have never seen that.

Arthur Mainzer:

Then they had some enclosed in glass, some heads.

Pierre C. Escaron:

So this shows that some of the people in charge of these processes were absolute demons.

Arthur Mainzer:

They were mad men.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Mad men. It was not just a matter of keeping these people...

Arthur Mainzer:

Here is a display of tattooed skins again.

Pierre C. Escaron:

...prisoner, you know toys...

Arthur Mainzer:

Here is a head enclosed in glass like a glass brick.

Pierre C. Escaron:

They cut a head.

Arthur Mainzer:

There is a solution in there to preserve it.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Whew.

Arthur Mainzer:

The other side show the interior the brain, look at that.

Pierre C. Escaron:

That you could say "medical" or whatever.

Arthur Mainzer:

Body parts.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Body parts.

Arthur Mainzer:

This is what the German civilians had to look at too. I did not show them coming through here, because I had to go outside getting them, but they had to come in and look at that stuff too. (These guys are) simulating that the guy was getting beaten with a club, this was a noose to hang somebody.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Who is this white guy, is he a German? Is he a German?

Arthur Mainzer:

They took some prisoners and asked them to reenact exactly like this guy. They would bludgeon them to death, many heads, look at the blood on the club, you see that.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Yah, they had a machine that was designed to kill. You must have climbed on the roof of the entrance here.

Arthur Mainzer:

Yah that's the gate, there was not a stairways but something that you could walk to the top to service some big lamps I guess.

Pierre C. Escaron:

So this is it.

Pierre C. Escaron:

OK Art superb.

Arthur Mainzer:

Did you get enough information? [End of First Tape; Begin Second Tape]

Arthur Mainzer:

This commanding officer wanted a camera unit, so he came to Culver city and that's how I got to England.

Pierre C. Escaron:

What date did you go to England.

Arthur Mainzer:

November 43, 1943.

Pierre C. Escaron:

Did the German find these remote bases?

Arthur Mainzer:

Oh yah they knew where they were. They had a pretty rough time with them with the artillery the fighters, the RAF sent out Spitfires.

Pierre C. Escaron:

To protect these bases?

Arthur Mainzer:

Because they had Radar, they could tell when the German planes were coming (bombs) 500 pounder, 250 pounder, yah that must be a 1000 pounder P47 Thunderbolt, the P51 Mustang came out later, they had the P38 the twin engine ASee the vapor trails.

Pierre C. Escaron:

That would betray them.

Arthur Mainzer:

The ennemy could spot these trails (at 25000 ft. the plane was not visible with the naked eye) A mission: 1000 planes 8000 men in the air.

 
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