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Obama’s Great-Uncle, WWII Vet Speaks

Regular readers of this site will recall that we were the first to notice the discrepancies in Mr. Obama’s claims about his father

"I had a uncle who was one of the… who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps. And the story in our family was that when he came home he just went up into the attic and he didn’t leave the house for six months."

Through our own research and Mr. Obama’s later correction, we eventually discovered that he had meant to say Buchenwald rather than Auschwitz.

Here is more from Mr. Charles Payne himself, via Germany’s Der Spiegel:

‘I Was Horrified by Lengths Men Will Go to Mistreat Other Men’

Barack Obama’s great uncle was one of the soldiers who liberated a subcamp of Buchenwald. One week before the US president’s planned stopover in Germany, where he is expected to visit the concentration camp memorial, SPIEGEL spoke to Charles Payne, 84, about his experiences in WWII.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Payne, early in June your great-nephew, President Barack Obama, will visit the former concentration camp Buchenwald, which you helped liberate at the end of the war. Will he be travelling in your footsteps?

Charles Payne: I don’t buy that. I was quite surprised when the whole thing came up and Barack talked about my war experiences in Nazi Germany. We had never talked about that before. This is a trip that he chose, not because of me I’m sure, but for political reasons.

The Buchenwald concentration camp memorial near Weimar, Germany. Obama’s great-uncle Charles Payne helped to liberate one of Buchenwald’s satellite camps.

The Buchenwald concentration camp memorial near Weimar, Germany. Obama’s great-uncle Charles Payne helped to liberate one of Buchenwald’s satellite camps.

SPIEGEL: What do you think could be his motives for this trip?

Payne: First, I think he already had this trip in mind — with Cairo on the one end and Normandy at the other, and time for Germany in between. Second, perhaps his visit also has something to do with improving his standing with Angela Merkel. She gave him a hard time during his campaign and also afterwards.

SPIEGEL: At first Mr. Obama claimed that one of his family members was involved in the liberation Auschwitz. How did this misunderstanding come about?

Payne: He couldn’t have gotten it from me since we had never talked about this particular episode in the war. My sister and her husband were both great storytellers and sometimes made up the details to go along with it. They told him about my deployment with the 89th Infantry Division and apparently they mixed up a few details. Of course it came out immediately that he was wrong since there are enough people in America who know that Auschwitz is in the East and that the camp was liberated by the Red Army.

SPIEGEL: Afterwards, Obama called you. What did he want to know?

Payne: He wanted to know where this camp was that I had helped liberate. I told him that it was Ohrdruf and that it was a sub-camp of the Buchenwald concentration camp. I described a little bit of what I had seen.

SPIEGEL: You were barely an adult as a soldier back then — how did you wind up at such a place?

Payne: Everybody who was able-bodied was drafted. I went down right at the time I graduated and told the lady that ran the Selective Service office. I said, "I’m ready to go," and she said: "Don’t you worry about it, honey. You’re on the list." Since I had been colorblind since birth, I was first turned down by the Air Force, then by the Navy and the Marines. Only the Army didn’t care and put me into the infantry.

SPIEGEL: You came from a small town in Kansas. Where did you receive your Army training?

Payne: The Army sent me to North Camp Hood, Texas, for basic training for 13 weeks. We learned to shoot, obey orders and to march.

SPIEGEL: What did you think about the Germans at the time?

Charles Payne: "I am unable to tell you what I was thinking then. That was a long time ago, and as I told you, until Barack misspoke, I hadn’t thought about any of this for a very, very long time."

Payne: They were the enemy, evil incarnate, and we were the good guys coming to save the world. We were all for the war. We all wanted to be in it. That doesn’t mean we enjoyed being in it, though.

SPIEGEL: But it took years for British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to convince US President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the necessity of entering into the war.

Payne: I think Roosevelt played it pretty smooth preparing people for the war. America at the time was isolationist, to a large extent. The majority were of the opinion that they should let Europe fight its own war. We were safe over here behind our ocean.

SPIEGEL: And you? Did you support America entering the war?

Payne: From the time I was in about the 7th grade, I knew there was going to be a war. There were these threatening headlines in the newspapers and more and more extra editions were coming out. Actually, in high school I never really worried much about going to college because I grew up expecting I would be in the Army and fight in a war.

SPIEGEL: What were your first experiences at the front?

Payne: At first there was no front. Because there were no facilities for our ship, we couldn’t anchor in the harbor. Le Havre had been summarily bombed. They finally took us off in the middle of the night on landing barges. It was bitter cold and snowing. There was about three or four inches of water sloshing around in the bottom. So we landed at Le Havre in bitter cold with wet feet. Soon afterwards we had a large number of people who suffered from frostbite. The camp doctors were forced to amputate fingers, toes, and feet and send these soldiers back to the United States. For them the war was over.

SPIEGEL: Which route did you take to Buchenwald?

Payne: We marched through half of Europe, but I never really knew where I was. In combat we low-ranking people in the Army were not allowed to have maps, guide books, cameras or anything that, if captured, would provide any information to the enemy. So I never had a map when I was in Europe, and I never knew where I was. It was painful in some ways. I hated that because I like being oriented.

SPIEGEL: What was your job?

Payne: I was transferred from my unit to a telephone communication group. I was to be the guard for a crew of four people. Their job was to provide telephone communications for the command post wherever it would be that night. I stood around with my carbine and protected them.

SPIEGEL: Did you encounter any Germans during this long march?

Payne: When we went into a German town or village, there were never any people. We’d be there sometimes for hours and never see a soul, and I always felt like they were watching us. It was pretty spooky.

SPIEGEL: There was no direct contact with the enemy?

Payne: There were mainly sniper attacks. I do remember somewhere, we got out in some town and maybe off a truck or Jeep, and we were just standing there smoking, everybody lighting up their cigarette like always, and this one guy I knew took his helmet off and was immediately shot through the head and fell.

SPIEGEL: When did you hear the term "concentration camp" for the first time?

Payne: You know, I don’t remember that I had heard about or knew about concentration camps where people were systematically killed off or starved. That is one of the horrors I remember, when people had been systematically starved and were nothing but skin sunk in over bones. There was no underlying flesh at all. It was pretty horrid.

SPIEGEL: Do you remember the day when you discovered the Ohrdruf camp?

Payne: Ohrdruf was in that string of towns going across, south of Gotha and Erfurt. Our division was the first one in there. When we arrived there were no German soldiers anywhere around that I knew about. There was no fighting with the Germans, no camp guards. The whole area was overrun by people from the camp dressed in the most pitiful rags, and most of them were in a bad state of starvation. The first thing I saw was a dead body lying square in the middle of the front gate.

SPIEGEL: A camp inmate?

Payne: It turns out that it was Polish or Russian camp inmate, who had gone over and become a guard for the Nazis. So he was guarding and helping starve the other people. Then when the Americans came, he tried to blend in with the regular inmates. But they recognized him and beat his head in with a tire iron.

SPIEGEL: What else did you see?

Payne: Inside the gate was an area where a bunch of the camp inmates had been machine gunned and were all lying on the ground. Each one had their tin cup in their hand or lying next to them.

SPIEGEL: What were your thoughts when you were confronted with these images?

Payne: You know, I am unable to tell you what I was thinking then. That was a long time ago, and as I told you, until Barack misspoke, I hadn’t thought about any of this for a very, very long time. In fact, I guess I prefer not to think about it. I can assure you I was horrified by the lengths to which men will go to mistreat other men. This was, to me, almost unbelievable. There was more: There were sheds full of dead bodies that had been stripped and thrown in and then stacked up on top of each other. I don’t know how many, but many high and the whole length of the room. They sprinkled lime to keep the smell down. That’s about the extent that I remember actually seeing.

SPIEGEL: What do you think about the Germans today?

Payne: I am puzzled by intelligent people who stand by and allow their country to be taken over and run by extreme radical types. I’m still somewhat puzzled by that. And I am fully aware that it could happen and has almost happened in this country. You know, I lived through the McCarthy era in the 1950s, when it was getting dangerously close to that sort of thing.

SPIEGEL: You’re a Democrat?

Payne: I was a Democrat from way, way before Barack was born.

SPIEGEL: Are you proud of your great-nephew?

Payne: Yes, naturally. I was at the Democratic Convention in Denver, where I was introduced by Senator John Kerry, and then also at his inauguration. He encompasses so much: self assuredness, competency, leadership and the great good luck that he had. Finally he had the good luck, if you will, of the financial crisis that got him elected, but now he also has to deal with it.

SPIEGEL: How would you describe your relationship with Barack?

Payne: Our relationship is warm and friendly, but I’m not part of his inner circle. We always have an interesting chat when we get in the same room together. He doesn’t call me up and ask what I have to say about world policy or anything. And I never offer my opinions on any of this.

SPIEGEL: And will you join your great-nephew on his trip now to Germany?

Payne: If he invites me on Air Force One, I’ll be there.

Mr. Payne sounds like a fairly sensible man.

He also sounds somewhat skeptical about his great-nephew.

In any case, it has always struck us as odd that Mr. Obama has never made any effort to hear Mr. Payne’s story from him. To get the facts straight about what is a amazing and of course terrible story.

Somehow Mr. Obama never seems much interested in the heroic stories about America.

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, May 29th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

14 Responses to “Obama’s Great-Uncle, WWII Vet Speaks”

  1. U NO HOO says:

    “This was, to me, almost unbelievable.”

    Unbelievable, perhaps the same way that the federal government is going to own General Motors is unbelievable.

  2. U NO HOO says:

    “Finally he had the good luck, if you will, of the financial crisis that got him elected, but now he also has to deal with it.”

    He has to deal with it because he volunteered.

    I didn’t ask him to misdeal with it.

    Pardon me, I’m nauseous…

  3. Reality Bytes says:

    Obama’s Uncle Charles: “I am puzzled by intelligent people who stand by and allow their country to be taken over and run by extreme radical types.”

    Look around Mr. Payne. History’s funny that way. It keeps repeating itself. Kind of ironic don’t you think?

  4. MinnesotaRush says:

    “Payne: I am puzzled by intelligent people who stand by and allow their country to be taken over and run by extreme radical types. I’m still somewhat puzzled by that. And I am fully aware that it could happen and has almost happened in this country ..”

    Taken over by “extreme radical types” like your nephew Mr Payne?!?!

    And yes, Mr Payne, .. it is puzzling when “intelligent people stand by and allow their country to be taken over and run by ..” your nephew who is an extreme radical lunatic.

    How’s that for karma, Mr Payne ..

    • catie says:

      Couldn’t have said it better myself.
      Seems old Uncle has a complex about being a “low ranking person who couldn’t carry a map”. I’m surprised he wasn’t made a General because if he was related to the messiah-well.
      Also, is this the same Uncle who the messiah said hid out in his attic for a while after the war? I seem to remember that story too when he was talking about the poor treatment of the troops by the Bush administration. BTW he’s stopping in Landstuhl this time. Yippee yahoo!

    • Right of the People says:

      Wake up Mr. Payne, it’s happening again and your nephew is in the center of it all. He seems like a nice enough man and I don’t blame him at all for trying to forget. Too bad he can’t see what his knucklehead relative is doing.

  5. Liberals Demise says:

    Mr. Payne………how do you feel about your knuckle headed nephew going to Europe apologizing and kissing Kings?

  6. Reality Bytes says:

    Hey, what about Poor Ol’ Uncle George. When’s he gonna get a ride on AF1?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXt0_25rHFo&feature=related

  7. tranquil.night says:

    “Payne: It turns out that it was Polish or Russian camp inmate, who had gone over and become a guard for the Nazis. So he was guarding and helping starve the other people. Then when the Americans came, he tried to blend in with the regular inmates. [But they recognized him and beat his head in with a tire iron.]”

    That kind of brutality isn’t a reflection of what should be America’s moral superiority, according to the great nephew. What if a modern American soldier beat an enemy combatant’s head in, one who was probably non-hostile? Pictures of the event would’ve been used by our own press to tick the world off at us!

    But maybe that was a different war, with a different enemy. Or maybe things just were so bad we by and large understood what the realities of war were because we were seeing the horrifying results of what happens when people stop standing up.

    I agree with your assessment, Steve, that Mr. Payne is wary of our President as he advances views that are contrary to that lesson of living history. But it’s clear that this man has already fought his war. May his days be only full of well-deserved peace and I thank him for sharing the story.

  8. canary says:

    Payne: Yes, naturally. I was at the Democratic Convention in Denver, where I was introduced by Senator John Kerry, and then also at his inauguration. He encompasses so much: self assuredness, competency, leadership and the great good luck that he had. Finally he had the good luck, if you will, of the financial crisis that got him elected, but now he also has to deal with it.

    Great-uncle who didn’t know his nephew referred twice to his “good luck”. “self assuredness and leadership” can mean Obamies self-loving and dictatorial pesonality.

  9. Barbie says:

    Mr. Payne is an ‘old style’ Democrat. He’s apparently unaware the Democrat party has now devolved into a liberal, anti-individual, anti-life, extreme leftist party which is being led down an even more oppressive, fascist path by his very own great-nephew.

    Thanks for posting the interview. It is very moving. It’s also so very scary that even great men like Mr. Payne will not open their eyes and look at what’s going on in this country.

    • catie says:

      Barbie, my elderly Aunts and Uncles are the same way (my father is almost 80 and the baby of the family and my mother is 76 and is the youngest surviving sibling) and they still think FDR is running the party, with the exception of my parents. My father was always the “black sheep” because he never voted for a dim his entire life. He didn’t even vote for Kennedy even though my mother did because she was excited a Catholic would become president. But that was the last one she voted for. My late Uncle Bill would say he would vote for Mickey Mouse before he’d vote for a Republican. I say I’d vote for Sponge Bob or Barney before I’d vote for a dim.
      OT a bit: Pray for me on the 14th. It’s my Dad’s birthday and we’re having a reunion in Chicago and all my lefty relatives on both sides are going to be there. My parents, my Godmother and her husband, one of my old high school friends & bridesmaids and her husband and my husband and myself will be the only Republicans out of the 96 people who will be there. God Help Us!

    • Barbie says:

      catie, Exactly – the ‘old Dems’ who did stand for something. Catie, my mother was a Democrat her whole life. She died in 1985. She used to say (when I was growing up) we were not ‘rich enough to vote Republican’. If she were alive today she would be a Republican due to the pro abortion all the time death platform of the Dem party (and all the other insane things they stand for). If she were alive today, I would tell her ‘I’m not mean enough to vote Democrat’. And she’d agree.

      I will keep you in my prayers on the 14th. Yes, God help your small band of intrepid non-koolaid drinkers. Be careful and remember to take holy water, a cross, and carry garlic. ;)

  10. Steve says:

    Mr. Limbaugh is talking about this thread as we type.


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