Today, January 27, 2014 is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. A day for remembering that which we must NEVER FORGET!
This day holds not only meaning for me in a universal sense, but also for a very personal one as well. You see my father, William, was a Liberator.
My dad rarely spoke of his war-time experiences and duties, but thankfully he did once.
It was a warm evening and my family and I were visiting my folks, who at that time had moved from the frozen tundra of Minnesota to the warmer climes of Florida. I said I was going for a walk on the beach. My dad piped up and said that he would join me if we also took my son and daughter with us. Now this was quite a departure from the norms for my dad, so I rousted our children and made it clear to them that they had no alternative other than joining their grandfather on this walk. Thank goodness I was stern and ignored their pleas to stay indoors.
We had walked, in silence, just looking at the stars and listening to the gentle lapping of the waves on the beach when my father said “Come, sit on the sand with me and listen to what I have to say. I want to make sure that you each know what war is really like. Not the war of the movies, but real war.” He then proceeded to tell about his service as a member of the United States Army in World War II.
While all of the stories remain vividly in my memory and have now been written down, two stuck out a bit more than some of the others. The first was that he was assigned for months to lead a Graves Registration Unit immediately after D-Day and how horrific that was. The second was what it was like when he and his men liberated Langenstein Concentration Camp.
My father said the horror of that Camp is with him every day of his life. The stench, the indescribable human suffering, the apathy of the local residents, the mass graves, and the pleading of the inmates as he encountered them. He said that it was heartbreaking to have to listen to their pleas for food, knowing that the medical team needed to begin feeding them properly or they might die from eating.
Langenstein Concentration Camp is now a memorial site. But it is also a key part of our family history and our genealogy. It is a crucial part of our ancestry now that demands to be handed down from generation to generation. As painful as the memoires might be, we must never, ever forget!
One of the most poignant places on this site is the tree they used for torturing prisoners. It still stands today as a stark reminder of just some of the horrors of this place.
The Langenstein site is a quiet place now. Silent most of the time and almost forgotten, but we all know we must NEVER FORGET! Thanks to God that my father had the foresight and the strength to recount his stories, memories, and experiences for his grandchildren and for me. As terrible as many of them were they are now part of our genealogy and will live on in my children and me. I know from the look in my children’s eyes that night and the number of times they have recounted that night to me that my father’s mission that night was accomplished well.
While the next photo will be disturbing to many, it is because it is deeply disturbing. I put it here to show that the horrors of the holocaust were not merely buildings and memorials, but they were people! Real people who died horrid deprivation, torture, and more often than not, death at the hands of other human beings.