World War II veteran shares stories of time as typist during war
Larry Tillemans wants people to know about the Holocaust and never forget that it happened.
The World War II veteran told his story Monday evening at the Park Rapids American Legion Club about working as a typewriter clerk during the Nuremberg and Dachau war crime trials. He showed slides of photos depicting Jewish prisoners who were starving and had suffered in concentration camps.
Despite the tragic topic of his presentation, Tillemans was in good spirits and maintains a positive attitude, hoping that by telling his story, others will know how terrible war can be and it won't happen again.
"I made a promise to myself to tell the Holocaust story," he said.
During the trials, Tillemans typed data that was sent or recorded to U.S. and allied officials conducting the trials. He said there were probably about 100 typists.
He praised the brave men who saved America. If they hadn't defeated the Nazis, "what would America be like today if we'd lost this war?" Tillemans asked.
There were 200,000 affidavits, 360 witnesses, Tillemans said of the war crime trials.
"That's a lot of typing," he said.
Gen. Eisenhower told the troops, after seeing victims in the death camps, to get films made and get witnesses because some day someone will say "this never happened," Tillemans recalled.
"This is what's happening now," he said.
He saw Nazis sentenced to hang for killing 6 million Jewish men, women and children. He recalled some who denied doing any wrong.
"We were just following orders," some of them said.
"We've gotta continue telling this story," Tillemans said.
He asked those in the audience to imagine having everything taken away.
Tillemans worries that children won't learn about the Holocaust. He wants everyone to know what happened.
He got into typing because his mom thought it would be a useful skill. She was right.
When he joined the military, he listed typewriting as a skill and it turned out he was needed during the war trials.
The definition of Holocaust is "a great destruction of life," Tillemans said. He heard about the torture of Jews during the trials and testimony of survivors.
"It is imperative to remind the world never to forget, never to forget what these people went through," he said.
Kapos, prison camp prisoner guards, burned bodies in incinerators or ditches, Tillemans recalled.
"There's nothing pretty here, but someone has to tell the story of what happened," he said.