Minnesota Liberators of Concentration Camps Oral History Project: Interview with Kay Bonner Nee
Part 1


Part 2


Description BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION: Kay Bonner Nee was born on a farm outside Plummer, Minnesota. Her family moved to Minneapolis when she was a child. Shortly after graduating from the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, she signed up for the Red Cross in 1943 and was sent to London. Entertainers for front-line troops were needed, and she was attached as a civilian to the First Army Special Services Division. She and another woman were taught to drive a two-ton truck with a side that folded down into a stage on which they could sing and play a piano that they carried in the truck. They traveled farther forward than other entertainers, at times performing for soldiers in their foxholes. As the First Army moved through Germany, she accompanied the second group to arrive at Buchenwald, just after a first wave of troops liberated the camp. She spent about a week and a half at the camp, caring for survivors, before continuing to travel with the First Army. Later she returned shortly to find out what had happened to the survivors she had seen and to offer additional help. After the war, she did not speak about her experiences at Buchenwald until 1982, when she was asked to speak at Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul for a Holocaust memorial. Since then she has spoken at numerous school and colleges, and also spoke at events to raise money for the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. SUBJECTS DISCUSSED: Her duties as a field entertainer; stacks of dead people, on the ground and on carts, whom the Germans were unable to hide before abandoning the camp; unsanitary conditions, torture chambers, the crematoriums, and barracks; her mistake in giving her food rations to the starving survivors, who were too starved to digest the food; a series of "visitations" for nearby townspeople, who were brought to see the camp and who claimed to be unaware of it; and prisoners who said that the townspeople knew because work gangs of prisoners had fixed roads and repaired buildings in the town; a citizen's responsibility for his or her government's actions, including her feeling of responsibility for United States actions and her related shift toward political awareness and activity after the war; the need for witnesses to speak about concentrations camps and remind people of what happened; difficulty and frustration in trying to help survivors who were strong enough to leave but had nowhere to go; silence about the Holocaust for a number of years afterward, and other people's discouraging survivors from talking about it; the difficulty people have in believing such a thing could have happened, and the importance of emphasizing that it did happen and should not be forgotten.
Quantity 1.5 hours sound cassette
10 pages transcript
Format Content Category: sound recordings
Content Category: text
Measurements 00:49:50 running time
Creation Interviewee: Nee, Kay Bonner
Interviewer: Lewin, Rhoda Greene
Made in Fridley, Anoka County, Minnesota, United States
Subjects Made in Fridley, Anoka County, Minnesota, United States
Dates Creation: 11/25/1986
Holding Type Oral History - Interview
Identifiers OH 52.10
Accession Number AV1996.48.10
More Info MHS Library Catalog
Related Collections Oral History - Project, MHS Collection, project: 'Minnesota Liberators of Concentration Camps Oral History Project'

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