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Ella Matson Lindsay recalls the Holocaust

Ella Matson Lindsay Recalls the Holocaust

(Told in her own words.)
It has been 50 years since the liberation of Concentration Camps by Allied Forces which took place in Europe during World War Two.  I kept a detailed journal of my activities as First Lieutenant Army Nurse, 58th Field Hospital, Third Army, during the war, though it was prohibited to do so.
After witnessing the horrors of Buchenwald Concentration Camp one week after it was liberated by my friend, Leo Hymas, of Issaquah, Washington, and his three buddies, I did a little writing in this journal, then stashed it away unread for the next 50 years.  Recently I was asked to participate at the Silver Anniversary Annual Conference on the Holocaust and Churches held at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, March 5-8, 1995.
I am the daughter of Afton and Flora Stone Matson.  Both my father and I were born in a little adobe house that no longer exists at 1200 North St., Mapleton, Utah.  My paternal grandfather, George B. Matson, Jr., owned the brick home and most of the ground of the present Mapleton Elementary School.
My parents, my grandfather David A. Stone and family, my sisters and I moved to Aberdeen, Idaho, when I was eight years of age.  It was there that I and my sisters finished elementary and high school.  I graduated in 1937, and Dr. McKinnon encouraged me to enter Nursing School.  I graduated in 1940, and January 1943 in Rochester, New York, joined the Army Nurse Corps which I served for the next three years.
Our Medical Unit was put ashore at Omaha Beach a few weeks following D-Day, where we waded ashore amid the terrible litter remaining from that now famous day.  The front line was at Paris when we scaled the cliffs at Omaha Beach.  We were stationed in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge and cared for the casualties of that great Battle.
I remember the first prisoners of war that we cared for that came from German Stalags.  They had been captured for nearly six years in Eastern Germany, Russia, Poland and slowly moved to western camps.  They had been without the aid of life-saving Red Cross packages which carried little packets of Vitamin C and were horrible sights to see, lying in fetal positions on the stretchers when brought into the hospital.  Covered with lice, mouths and gums bleeding, starved and skin so sensitive they screamed when we touched them, all the result of scurvy, beriberi and lungs filled with tuberculosis bacterium.
None of this prepared us for what we later saw, April 17, 1945, when we were commanded by General Dwight D. Eisenhower and General George Patton to witness the unbelievable horror of the liberation of Buchenwald Concentration Camp.  (My husband, Lt. Colonel M. Grant Lindsay, whom I met after the war, and I became close friends in 1983-84 with Leo Hymas of Issaquah, Washington).
Little did I know at that time that Leo and his three buddies, in April 1945 stumbled onto the barbed wire enclosure of Buchenwald, and Leo pushed a pipe-like bomb under the fence and blew it up.  They were true liberators of this infamous killing camp.  Leo and I, including my cousin, Keith Davis of Springville, Utah, and several others gave our personal accounts of what we saw at the killing camps of Germany at the recent Holocaust Conference in Provo.
Rumors have started that the armies have just liberated several Concentration Camps.  General Eisenhower has visited one and found conditions so terrible he has requested the U.S. Senators, journalist and the British House of Commons to visit them and see for themselves.  Orders have just come through for outfits near Buchenwald, near Weimar, to see and witness what has happened there.  This included us, 58th Field Hospital.  Buchenwald was liberated April 11, 1945.
April 18, 1945:  Yesterday Jean and many of the others in our hospital went to Buchenwald.  Today it was my turn, along with nurses, Eisen, Beebe, Coop, Alta, and about 16 of our enlisted men.  We wrapped up in blankets in the back of a 6×6 truck.  Weather extremely cold, drizzly rainfall.  Roads very bumpy.  It seemed we had been riding for ages when we reached Weimar, but actually Gotha, where our hospital is set up at a Hitler Youth Camp is only 12 miles away.
We drove on to Buchenwald, a mile or two further.  All along the way we noticed liberated prisoners who had left the camp to strike out for “home.”  They were tired of waiting for their turn on the Army vehicles.  The prisoners could easily be recognized by their black and grey striped uniforms.
As we left Weimar this morning, we drove up a winding, paved street through pine covered hills.  About a mile from the camp we were shocked to silence by the smell, a terrible odor!
We passed a black and white Guard House, now occupied by U.S. Army guards, rode a short distance before stopping at the iron gates of the camp.  They were wide open.  The camp was surrounded by a wire fence, which we were later told once carried many thousands of volts of electricity.  To the side was an area flattened by bombs.  It had previously been a munitions factory operated by forced laborers.
The streets or courtyard on each side of the iron gate was filled with milling  crowds of gaunt prisoners, their uniforms hanging loosely on their starved bodies; Army troops and German Civilians.  We learned later that the Germans were civilians from Weimar who had been forced to come and see the atrocities.  They had reported that they knew nothing of what was going on here even though the camp had been here for 12 years and the smell seemed to impregnate the surrounding forests and area.
We hurried by those poor, surviving prisoners with such listless faces.  I didn’t know what to do, or what to say!  I was shocked to see several young boys about 10 to 15 years of age.
Inside the gate were rows and rows of wooden barracks and the same milling crowd of prisoners, liberators and the German civilians.  The rain beat down on the hard cobblestones that had replaced all former green grass and trees.
A tall, very slender, pasty-colored survivor, wearing the regulation grey-black uniform and cap, and wearing thick-lensed glasses stepped up to us and asked in a heavy accent if he could “show us around.”  He led us to a near-by rack, (like a saw
horse) which had a “dummy” pinioned over it, bent at the waist with a crossbeam across it’s back.
“This,” he said, “was one way they punished us.  We were put in this position and beaten across the back with something like a baseball bat.”  None of us spoke.  We just stared at this figure the prisoners had made to show us graphically how they had been tortured.
Then he led us to the next one six yards away.  “You can see for yourself what happened here,” he said.  A dummy was hanging, it’s hands tied behind it and then drawn upward over a high post until the prisoner was thrown forward and off the ground.   “We were left in this position until we lost consciousness,” he said.  “If the roped was jerked too quickly, the prisoner’s arms were wrenched out of their sockets.”  It was humbling to behold, but the real truth of inhuman atrocities didn’t strike us until we were led into a nearby brick building.
The stench was overpowering and nauseating.  I don’t know why I saw this, but I noticed the floors of tile and the well-finished walls.  It was the crematorium to burn human beings to ashes!  The doors to each furnace were open, and as we filed by we saw the ghastly sight of charred bones, rib cages, lying on top of piles of human ashes.  The last furnace held a blackened skull, face and brain charred but not completely disintegrated.
Before partially recovering from this hideous sight, our guide led us through a small door into a closed, cement-covered courtyard in the middle of which were 30 or 40  naked, emaciated corpses piled in a heap on top of each other.  The rain made their grey-white bodies glisten.
All of them looked the same, so starved their individuality, their facial features were one; just bony frame-work covered with taut skin.  Each body lay sprawling, lips drawn tightly across open mouths, sunken eyes staring darkly from bony sockets.  Their heads were shaven, and many had visible numbers tattooed on chest or arms.  Bruises and sores covered many of the bodies.
A cart was pulled up and some of them were loaded onto it to be taken away for a decent burial.  “These,” the guide said, have died today.  Each day we have some die, but not as many as before.  One day we had 600 piled here just before the Americanish came.  They took out all those who might have a chance to live first.  Those who were sure to die were left.  Soon all will be gone,” he said.
I stood for a minute.  It was hard to believe what I was seeing.  It was unreal!  I turned to leave and bumped into a young woman.  Polish?  Russian?  She was crying.  She had come, searching for a lost relative.  I looked at her and wondered how she could possible identify anyone from this human heap!  They all looked alike!  They had lost all identity!  I couldn’t believe this was happening.  It doesn’t happen in safe America.  Suddenly I wanted to be home!
Our guide led me and three of our enlisted men out of the courtyard.  The rest stayed behind for a few minutes longer.  As we left, I noticed the “gallows.”  Eight prisoners could be hung at a time.
We were next led to one of the buildings where the prisoners slept and then to the kitchen.  As we crossed the cobblestones, I noticed a different flag hanging in different sections of the barracks.  I saw a Hungarian, a Czechoslovakian, and a Spanish flag, and on a large building was a flag pole with the French tri-color, the British flag, and the Stars and Stripes at the top.
Farther on we passed a building with a red flag embellished with the hammer and sickle.  There were barracks for the Belguiqes, the Dutch, Poles, Lithuanians, etc.  “Before the Americanish came we were all mixed up,” the guide said.  It was difficult to speak to each other.  Now we have our own building.”
I asked him what nationality he was, and he replied that he was Hungarian.  “When the Germans came, they took all of us who were against them and scattered us throughout many camps – men, women, children, all scattered.”
I asked him if there were many women and children here, and he replied that there were many of them.  At one time there were nearly 300 little children who had been here for four to six years.  “When the Americanish came they took all of the women and children still alive to a better place.”  I asked him how long he had been here, and he said, “I am much fortunate, only one year.”
“Do you see that monument over there?” he said.  “We built that last week to honor the 51,000 people who have died here in 12 years.  5,000,000 prisoners have been in and out of this camp.”  I looked at a pyramid-type monument built of plywood.  On it were the numbers 51,000 encased in a large pine-bough wreath, and above this, the letters “HLB.”
“Were there German prisoners here?” I asked, and he answered that there were – politicals and saboteurs.  “How did the other prisoners treat them?  I asked.
“We hated them!   Always they were fatter than we, and friendly to the guards.  They spied on us!”
He took us to the kitchen where huge, steaming vats filled with boiled potatoes and fresh meat were much in evidence.  The guide told us that before, they ate black bread; one loaf to 10 people, and thin potato soup.  He stated that they worked 12 hours a day, and sometimes 15 to 18 hours for punishment.  They worked in the mines, in the factories, and “out there.”  He swept his hand toward the west and the north.
Then he led us to the building where they slept.  It had a very unpleasant odor, but it had evidently been cleaned a lot.  On both sides of this narrow, low room were built three wooden shelves the entire length of the room.  The distance between the shelves was about four feet, the depth about seven or eight feet, wide enough for six people.  A few filthy quilts were laying about.
Our guide stated that there was no heat in the winter, nor mattresses.  “When one of our comrades died from cold or hunger, we didn’t report it, but left him lying in his place.  Then we could some times get his food rations.”  He told us that 600 persons slept on each side.  “How do you say that in American “for each side?” he asked, and I answered him.  “Twelve hundred.  That is too many!”  As we left I noticed but one filthy bucket-like toilet for 1200 people!
Outside were printed crude signs on the buildings.  “We Welcome the Americans.  Viva La Americain, etc.”  A dummy of Hitler was hanging from a scaffold with a sign beneath.  “I asked him what the sign said, and he answered, “The German people will not be free, ‘til Hitler is dead.”
I asked him about the laboratories, but he wouldn’t take us there.  “It is a bad place.  Prisoners never come back from there.”  Eisen and Alta, however, saw the laboratories, well-equipped, clean, modern, several bottled specimens of human organs, a tattooed skin peeled from a prisoner and made into a lamp shade.
It seems that Ilsa Koch, the Commandant’s wife, had a sadist penchant for human tattoos.  There was a lamp made with a base made of a human femur, and Mickey saw the shrunken head of a Polish prisoner, who had tried to escape, was beheaded, and his head ‘shrunken.’  I’m glad I didn’t see this.
As we returned to the main part of the camp there were 16 Army trucks filled with liberated prisoners, some returning to France.  The guide said that it was a happy day for them, but not nearly as happy as on Wednesday when the Americanish came and freed us!
Some of our enlisted men were busy handing out candy bars and gum to the survivors.  I thanked our Hungarian guide for what he had done for us today, and asked him when he thought he would be going home.  He replied that it would be a week or 10  days.  I wanted so very much to say something besides “good-bye.”  I wanted to do something for him, but I didn’t know what to say or to do.  Everything seemed so inadequate.
 As I went to our truck near the gate, French survivors who weren’t leaving today were gathered near the trucks of those who were leaving for home.  Standing crowded together in the truckloads, some still in prison garb, others in cast-off clothing, those starved, but elated survivors broke into song, singing their national anthem, “La Marseilles” with all the fervor they could muster as their truck rolled by.  Tears were streaming down their gaunt, white faces as they waved to their fellowmen, left behind.
I, too, waved.  I started to cry and couldn’t stop.  I walked slowly to our “6×6” and with the rest of our group drove back to Gotha.  None of us spoke.  It continued to rain.
(This article was published in either the Deseret News or the Salt Lake Tribune in  June 1995.  Ella Matson Lindsay died of bone cancer on March 10, 1996, one day before her 77th birthday.)


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Organizational Survival Part 2


Why is it that with all our technical advances, with our unparalleled capacity to learn and store knowledge, with the coming of reengineering, balanced scorecards and Quality management—why is it with all this going for us we are unable to build organizations that can hold up over time? One wonders if any system can survive more than a few decades…

Interestingly enough, the most enduring systems are found in nature. The oldest life forms on this planet are California’s redwood trees. Ecosystems of mountains, forests, streams, meadows, insects, and animals are amazingly resilient. These systems can survive physical calamities, destructive weather patterns and other major environmental shifts and endure for centuries unless humans intervene and attempt to “civilize” them. What these natural systems have in common with your organization is that they are both living systems, meaning some of their key elements are living, breathing entities. A review of the natural laws that govern the survival of living systems offers profound wisdom for understanding organizational longevity.

Let me take a moment to elaborate on the concept of natural law. A natural law expresses a universal truth that governs the makeup of something or some dynamic process. An example from the world of physics is the natural law of gravity. Jump off a cliff and you will fall to the ground below. Natural laws are not subject to our desires or beliefs; we are always subject to their rules. In other words, natural laws govern our interactions whether or not we are aware of them, agree with them, or follow them. We must align ourselves with these laws to arrive—and remain—in a desirable place.

But how do you know if something is truly a natural law, or merely someone’s value or preference? A practical way to determine the difference is to look at the universality and timelessness of the value. If the value leads to success in a wide variety of circumstances, in diverse cultures, in all ages, then it qualifies as a natural law. Values, on the other hand, may serve us well in specific situations, but won’t be successful in others.

forces of time

A review of the characteristics and attributes of living systems can help us identify natural laws that also apply to organizations. Because the following seven characteristics are always present in living systems that survive over time, I believe they also qualify as natural laws:

1. Ecological ordereach element of the ecosystem must fit into the order of things. Living systems are all part of a larger network of elements. They either fit into this ecosystem in a way that maintains balance of the greater whole, or they perish.

2. Purposeeverything else is subordinated to the highest purpose—survival for self, group and species. Natural instincts lead to self-preservation, the law of the pack, and preservation of the species. Failure to be concerned with anything beyond self ultimately leads to ecological imbalance and death.

3. Steady statesurvival is maintained via steady processes that follow a proven, functional routine. The steady state is a pattern of habits that assures daily survival and stores energy for meeting critical challenges. Without a steady state, the system uses more energy than it can obtain from the environment.

4. Mobilizationthreats to survival and the steady state are sensed and met. The dynamic of mobilization is a two-edged sword. It certainly protects the steady state. On the other hand, it can actually attack a force that would cause constructive change to occur.

5. Complexitysystems develop more complex, specialized functions. We humans often misunderstand this law. In nature, greater complexity generally leads to expanding skills or functions and a greater ability to adapt to the environment. In human organizations, greater complexity usually translates into creating steeper hierarchies and narrower spans of control.

6. Synergythe whole is greater than the sum of its parts; synergy comes from new relationships. When static elements come together in different ways, synergy is produced. Synergy is the creative force that shapes the beauty of nature and the survival of a species.

7. Adaptationprocesses change as necessary when environmental changes threaten survival. Effective living systems subordinate processes to purpose. They are able to grow and adapt in remarkable ways when new environmental conditions require them to do so.


These seven natural laws govern all living systems—from sagebrush, to mud swallows, to bison to human organizations. They identify for us the characteristics an organization must possess if it would endure for more than a few decades. Following nature’s script:

  • ¡  An organization would always plan what it does in the context of the most important needs and expectations of its major stakeholders.
  • ¡  It would develop a sense of purpose so that each member would instinctively act to fulfill it and to protect the organization from anything that might threaten it.
  • ¡  It would develop high quality work processes that consistently deliver high quality outputs.
  • ¡  Daily problems would be solved competently by those closest to their source.
  • ¡  It would grow over time in its skills and flexibility so that environmental changes could be handled without major trauma.
  • ¡  The teamwork and use of resources would be so synergistic that it would enjoy competitive advantages over others in terms of quality, unit costs, cycle time, innovation and problem solving.
  • ¡  Whenever the environment introduced new complexities, the organization would be able to draw on all of the other attributes to re-strategize and redeploy its resources to remain in an advantaged position.

The following table spells out the Survival Code for the 21st Century:


1. Ecological ordereach element of the ecosystem must fit into the order of things.

2. Purposeeverything else is subordinated to the highest purpose—survival for self, group and species.

3. Steady statesurvival is maintained via steady processes that follow a proven, functional routine.

4. Mobilizationthreats to survival and the steady state are sensed and met.

5. Complexitysystems develop more complex, specialized functions.

6. Synergythe whole is greater than the sum of its parts; synergy comes from new relationships.

7. Adaptationprocesses change as necessary when environmental changes threaten survival.



1. Strategize in the context of your major stakeholders’ most important needs.

2. Develop a sense of purpose so that each member instinctively acts to fulfill it.

3. Develop processes and systems to consistently deliver high quality outputs.

4. Solve problems at their source.

5. Grow in skills and flexibility so you can handle whatever changes the environment serves up.

6. Develop true partnerships with all stakeholders to enjoy competitive advantages in quality, unit costs, cycle time, innovation, and problem solving.

7. Re-strategize and redeploy your resources as circumstances require to maintain a competitive advantage. (Doing this requires all of the other processes.)


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An Organizational Survival Code

We live in a global market that offers—and demands—more for less.

This means organizations have to do what they do better, faster and cheaper than ever before. It also means they have to adapt to a myriad of changes with minimal trauma and distraction. Because it is a global market, an organization’s competitors are no longer just around the corner. Competition can come from any corner of the world from any size enterprise.

At the same time, those who work in and with these organizations also want more for less. They want more income, more personal freedom and more challenge and excitement in what they do. And the global market now offers them multiple options for satisfying their needs.

Tree growing in Rock

Doing More With Less

Trying to meet everyone’s expectations of “more with less” is no easy feat. Leaders have been trying to do it for some time with very mixed results. Consider this track record:
• Only 30% of companies with Quality programs say they are successful. Most Quality programs last only two or three years.
• Only 20% of those with self-directed teams say they are getting better results.
• The success rates for reengineering and mergers are equally discouraging—ranging between 20-30% success.
• Only 30% of new incentive plans, such as gainsharing, achieve their desired outcomes.
• The effectiveness of downsizing efforts is even more bleak. An American Management Association study of 700 firms who downsized reported that 86% had seen employee morale collapse, 66% saw no improvement in efficiency and only 50% improved their profits even as long as five years after they downsized.

These developments are but the latest data points in a more significant bigger picture. Looking more broadly at the world of organizations, consider what the following organizations all have in common:
• Cambria Steel
• Guggenheim Exploration
• Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal
• Pressed Steel Car
• Intercontinental Rubber
• Schwarzchild and Sulzberger
• Central Leather

Each of these institutions was one of the top 100 U.S. firms in 1909, but none exists today as an independent entity. They are either out of business or a minor player in some larger corporation. Some were quite large in their glory days (Central Leather was number seven on the 1909 list). Unfortunately they were not able to maintain whatever it was that made them successful. In a few management generations they have disappeared. These seven are certainly not unusual: of the top 100 U.S. industrial firms in 1909, only 14 are still in the elite group today. Only 23 are still around at all!

On the other hand, think about what the following corporations have in common:
• U.S. Steel (now USX)
• E. I. Dupont De Nemours
• Eastman Kodak
• Standard Oil (now Exxon)

These companies were also in the Top 100 in 1909 and they (or the organization of which they play a leading role) are still there based on the latest Fortune Magazine list of the top 500 Industrial firms. But even those in today’s top 100 are anything but secure. Each of the five companies listed above has been undergoing serious business shakeups and downsizing in an attempt to remain competitive in the global market. And other giants such as General Motors, IBM, and Sears have experienced severe economic problems in recent years as profits have been down and thousands have lost their jobs. They are straining to do more with less just like everybody else.

The struggle for life isn’t something peculiar to large corporations. What about the small enterprises that enter the global market’s competitive field every day? Research indicates that approximately one million people in the United States start their own business each year. Unfortunately, by the end of the first year at least 40% of them will be out of business. And more than 80% of the small businesses that survive the first five years will fail in the second five. Is this what the global market will be known for: creating countless shooting stars who burst onto the scene and then fade as rapidly as they appear?

These alarming trends aren’t just in businesses either. Budget cutters are trimming whole departments in government. Schools from kindergartens to universities are closing down or scaling back significantly as the educational structure reshuffles.

Why is it that with all our technical advances, with our unparalleled capacity to learn and store knowledge, with the coming of reengineering, balanced scorecards and Quality management—why is it with all this going for us we are unable to build organizations that can hold up over time? This will be discussed in PART 2.

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Leaders or Bosses?

By Dave Hanna

Often in today’s organizations we refer to those at the top of the hierarchy as “leaders.” The title is respectful, but not always accurate. Members of the hierarchy have authority to act. This does not necessarily make them leaders.

What is it that separates real leaders from those who merely have the title “leader?” The best way I’ve found to understand the dynamics of leadership is to picture yourself in a situation where someone comes to you with a special request: “We are facing a serious problem! I will need you to give everything you have over the next several weeks to help us solve it. I’m afraid you won’t sleep much or be able to spend much time with your family until things are back to normal.”


Leader or Boss


Would you follow this person with enthusiasm?

Before answering this question, let’s put a face on the one making the request. Which of these individuals would you follow enthusiastically?

  • Steve Jobs
  • Bill Gates
  • Barack Obama
  • Meg Whitman
  • Hillary Clinton

Each of these individuals has (or had) a formal leadership position in an organization. But just because they have subordinates doesn’t necessarily make them a leader. Bosses have subordinates; leaders have followers. That’s been the bottom line throughout the ages.

By this definition, each of these individuals is also a leader. Some people have sacrificed or are sacrificing much to follow their lead.

But the question to you is a very personal one. Would you be willing to forego sleep and family relationships and give everything you have for several weeks for any one of these leaders? The seeds of leadership are found in the relationship between them and their followers. Colin Hall, CEO of Wooltru Ltd. in South Africa, puts it this way, “We’ve forgotten that leadership is really about followership. We’ve never had the followership of 85 percent of the people in this country. We’ve had compliance, but we’ve never had followership. Leadership is about earned followership.”
Now consider your relationship with each of these
individuals. What are some of them missing? Or what do some have that would cause you to volunteer your best efforts to support them? The bonding agent is trust—a trust that can only be earned by trustworthy people. Trustworthiness is a function primarily of two factors:
• Commitment—are you committed to the same purpose as the leader and are both of you willing to make personal sacrifice for that purpose?  Commitment is what the leader is.
• Competence—can they deliver on their promises? This causes us to look at the leader’s skills (technical, strategic, teamwork, etc.) to see if they can effectively mold individuals into cohesive and competent teams. Competence is what a leader does.

Again, the critical test is how you perceive them to measure up in these two areas. And this is the same test for your own leadership. Those who work with you are also assessing who you are and what you can do. Can you confidently expect them to follow you?

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