Charles T. Payne

Last updated
Charles Thomas Payne
Charles Payne.jpg
Charles Payne greets his grandnephew President Barack Obama in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, on the 65th anniversary of D-Day.
BornFebruary 16, 1925
Peru, Kansas
DiedAugust 1, 2014(2014-08-01) (aged 89)
Chicago, Illinois
AllegianceFlag of the United States.svg  United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1943–1945
Rank Private
Unit 89th Infantry Division
Battles/wars World War II
Spouse(s)Melanie Payne
Relations Madelyn Lee Payne (sister)
Stanley Ann Dunham (niece)

Jon V. Payne (brother)

Barack Obama (grandnephew)
Other work University of Chicago Library

Charles Thomas Payne (February 16, 1925 – August 1, 2014) was an American who served in the U.S. military during World War II as a member of the U.S. Army's 89th Infantry Division [1] [2] that liberated Ohrdruf, a sub-camp of the Buchenwald concentration camp [3] [4] [5] when he was age 20. A brother of Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham, Payne was former President Barack Obama's great uncle and was mentioned in Obama's speeches, including the one given in 2009 commemorating the anniversary of D-Day. [6]

Americans Citizens, or natives, of the United States of America

Americans are nationals and citizens of the United States of America. Although nationals and citizens make up the majority of Americans, some dual citizens, expatriates, and permanent residents may also claim American nationality. The United States is home to people of many different ethnic origins. As a result, American culture and law does not equate nationality with race or ethnicity, but with citizenship and permanent allegiance.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

89th Infantry Division (United States)

The 89th Infantry Division, originally known as the "89th Division," was an infantry formation of division-size of the United States Army that was active during World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.


Obama has often described Payne's role in liberating Ohrdruf forced labor camp. [7] There was brief media attention when Obama mistakenly identified the camp as Auschwitz during the campaign. [8] In 2009, Payne spoke about this experience:

Auschwitz concentration camp German network of concentration and extermination camps in occupied Poland during World War II

The Auschwitz concentration camp was a complex of over 40 concentration and extermination camps built and operated by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II and the Holocaust. It consisted of Auschwitz I, the main camp (Stammlager) and administrative headquarters in Oświęcim; Auschwitz II–Birkenau, a combined concentration and extermination camp three kilometers away in Brzezinka; Auschwitz III–Monowitz, a labor camp created to staff an IG Farben synthetic-rubber factory; and dozens of other subcamps.

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 against 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. [9]

Gotha Place in Thuringia, Germany

Gotha is the fifth-largest city in Thuringia, Germany, located 20 kilometres west of Erfurt and 25 km east of Eisenach with a population of 44,000. The city is the capital of the district of Gotha and was also a residence of the Ernestine Wettins from 1640 until the end of monarchy in Germany in 1918. The House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha originating here spawned many European rulers, including the royal houses of the United Kingdom, Belgium, Portugal and Bulgaria.

Erfurt Place in Thuringia, Germany

Erfurt is the capital and largest city in the state of Thuringia, central Germany.

Payne appeared in the visitor's gallery at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, when his great-nephew was nominated for President. [10] He was the assistant director of the University of Chicago Library. [7] Payne died on August 1, 2014, aged 89. [11] [12] On August 5, 2009, Obama visited the former Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany, to learn more about the history of the site and of the experiences of his great uncle. In his speech, Obama said, he heard from this place yet as he was a boy - from Charles T. Payne. [13] Payne was longtime close friends and shared the same dormitory for six years with the former Vice President and Premier of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Dr. Lien Chan. [14]

University of Chicago Private research university in Chicago, Illinois, United States

The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1890, the school is located on a 217-acre campus in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, near Lake Michigan. The University of Chicago holds top-ten positions in various national and international rankings.

Buchenwald concentration camp nazi concentration camp

Buchenwald was a Nazi concentration camp established on Ettersberg hill near Weimar, Germany, in July 1937. It was one of the first and the largest of the concentration camps within Germany's 1937 borders. Many actual or suspected communists were among the first internees.

Weimar Place in Thuringia, Germany

Weimar is a city in the federal state of Thuringia, Germany. It is located in Central Germany between Erfurt in the west and Jena in the east, approximately 80 kilometres southwest of Leipzig, 170 kilometres north of Nuremberg and 170 kilometres west of Dresden. Together with the neighbour-cities Erfurt and Jena it forms the central metropolitan area of Thuringia with approximately 500,000 inhabitants, whereas the city itself counts a population of 65,000. Weimar is well known because of its large cultural heritage and its importance in German history.

See also

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Ohrdruf concentration camp

Ohrdruf concentration camp was a Nazi forced labor and concentration camp located near Ohrdruf, south of Gotha, in Thuringia, Germany. It was part of the Buchenwald concentration camp network and the first Nazi concentration camp liberated by U.S. troops.

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Ohrdruf Place in Thuringia, Germany

Ohrdruf is a small town in the district of Gotha in the German state of Thuringia. It lies some 30 km southwest of Erfurt at the foot of the northern slope of the Thuringian Forest. The former municipalities Crawinkel, Gräfenhain and Wölfis were merged into Ohrdruf in January 2019.

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Events in the year 1945 in Germany.

Charles Payne may refer to:

Buchenwald Trial Holocaust trial conducted in 1947

The Buchenwald Trial or United States of America vs. Josias Prince of Waldeck et al. was a war crime trial conducted by the United States Army as a court-martial in Dachau, then part of the American occupation zone. It took place from April 11 to August 14, 1947 in the internment camp of Dachau, where the former Dachau concentration camp had been located until late April 1945. In this trial, 31 people were indicted for war crimes related to the Buchenwald concentration camp and its satellite camps, all of whom were convicted. The Buchenwald Trial was part of the Dachau trials, which were held between 1945 and 1948.


  2. The 89th Infantry Division, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  3. Obama kin recalls liberating Nazi camp Archived 2008-08-21 at the Wayback Machine Great-uncle was appalled by what he witnessed July 23, 2008 Associated Press
  4. Carla K. Johnson Obama's great-uncle recalls liberating Nazi camp July 22, 2008 Associated Press
  5. Profile: Obama's great-uncle Charles Payne June 5, 2009 BBC News
  6. Steve Chaggaris Morning Bulletin: Friday, June 5, 2009 June 5, 2009 CBS News
  7. 1 2 Johnson, Carla K. (July 22, 2008). "Obama's great-uncle recalls liberating Nazi camp". Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts. Associated Press. Retrieved April 17, 2009.
  8. Major Garrett (May 27, 2008). "Obama Campaign Scrambles to Correct the Record on Uncle's War Service". Fox News. Retrieved January 31, 2009.
  9. "Spiegel Interview With Obama's Great-Uncle : 'I Was Horrified by Lengths Men Will Go to Mistreat Other Men'". Speigel. May 26, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  10. "Democrats salute Obama's great uncle". Jewish Telegraphic Agency . August 28, 2008. Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved January 31, 2009.
  11. Barack Obama’s great-uncle dies at 89; Charles Payne was WWII vet, U. of C. library official Archived August 12, 2014, at the Wayback Machine , Chicago Sun-Times , Maureen O'Donnell and Jon Seidel, August 11, 2014
  12. "Charles Payne's Obituary". Chicago Tribune. August 10, 2014. Retrieved September 21, 2017.