This month the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum held a conference to be a Tribute to Holocaust Survivors and World War II Veterans. I went because my father was both; an inmate of Dachau after Kristallnacht and with the U.S. Army when they liberated the town of Dachau.
As a child I knew my parents were “German Refugees”, and that most of my father’s family never “got out” and were all dead. I never heard of Kristallnacht (November 9-10, 1938) as a child and did not know that my father and grandfather were ever in Dachau. My mother didn’t know either. My father never said anything about it when I was young.
It wasn’t until the 1980’s that the term “Holocaust Survivor” was coined and that I learned about Kristallnacht and its influence on my family. My father and grandfather and about 20-30,000 Jewish males eighteen years of age and older were rounded up and sent to Dachau on November 9th and 10th, 1938.
How my father was released and his parents and siblings were able to get to America is a story in itself. But through quirks of history, my dad was in England as an enemy alien in 1939 and made his way to New York City. When America entered WWII, my dad joined the U.S. Army’s Third Infantry.
He traveled across North Africa, to Anzio, and the Battle of the Bulge, across the Rhein, was the first American soldier to enter Augsburg (his hometown) and then the Third Infantry liberated Munich and Dachau. So seven years after being sent to Dachau, he was the person who a high ranking Nazi camp officer (after hiding in a cellar) surrendered to. The Nazi sought the safety of the American Army over the wrath of the inmates who were filing out onto the streets.
The first photo in this post was taken by my father in front of his childhood home in Augsburg as his jeep entered the city. The other photo depicts a receipt that was sent to my father while he was in Dachau.
Future installments will include my work with various Memorials in Augsburg and Brooklyn, how and why I became a German citizen, and finally why I formed a Jewish contingent to march in the German American Steuben Parade in NY and why I give German-Jewish walking tours and lectures.