Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

My gratitude to the American soldier knows no bounds.

Should anyone ever question why we – the entire Jewish community should observe Memorial Day, the day America honors its war dead, let them watch this video.

Buchenwald was liberated on April 11, 1945 here is a brief description of what followed:

On April 15, 1945, the German civilians from the nearby town of Weimar were brought to see the evidence of Nazi atrocities.

General George S. Patton wrote in his autobiography that the number of Weimar citizens brought to the camp was 1,500, although other accounts say it was 2,000. The German civilians had to march five miles up a steep hill, escorted by armed American soldiers. It took two days for the Weimar residents to file through the camp. No precautions were taken to protect them from the typhus epidemic in the camp.

On April 15, 1945, the day that he visited Buchenwald, General George S. Patton wrote the following in a letter to General Dwight D. Eisenhower:

We have found at a place four miles north of WEIMAR a similar camp, only much worse. The normal population was 25,000, and they died at the rate of about a hundred a day. The burning arrangements, according to General Gay and Colonel Codman who visited it yesterday, were far superior to those they had at OHRDRUF.

I told the press to go up there and see it, and then write as much about it as they could. I also called General Bradley last night and suggested that you send selected individuals from the upper strata of the press to look at it, so that you can build another page of the necessary evidence as to the brutality of the Germans.

The liberation did not come cheap. Under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower the Allied forces entered the European war zone on D- Day, June 6, 1944 in Normandy France. The Germans were ready for them. As wave after wave of amphibious vehicles descended on the beaches of Normandy soldiers were virtual cannon fodder for the Germans.

Estimates of anywhere from 2500 to over 6000 US forces were killed on that day storming the beaches of Normandy against heavy fire from fortified Nazi positions. Knowing that there was a high probability that they would be maimed or killed they kept moving forward until the invasion was a success. An excellent depiction of this is in the first 10 minutes of the movie Saving Private Ryan.

The total number of American soldiers who died fighting Hitler during World War II according to the Department of Defense is 291,557 – all killed in action. There were many more military deaths beyond that – and a great many more permanently injured.

If the Allies had not entered the war, who knows where I would be. I am a product of two parents who were liberated by allied forces and met immediately after the war. And who knows how many survivors there would have been if any - Rachmana Litzlan.

Unlike some of the subsequent military actions by America post WWII there was broad sentiment across America in support of our participation in the effort to defeat Hitler. Instead of protests - young men lined up to join the army then. World War II has been dubbed ‘The Good War’ and the generation that fought it has been called ‘The Greatest Generation’.

What took place at Buchenwald after the liberation could only have been done by America.

The liberation of the Nazi concentration camps would not - could not - have happened without the sacrifice of the American soldier. We owe an unprecedented debt of gratitude to him and all veterans of World War II. Indeed we owe every American soldier who fights – or ever fought to protect its citizens an immense debt of gratitude.

But if there was ever a moment where America earned its reputation as the Medinah Shel Chesed it was on June 6th 1944 - and on April 15, 1945 when Buchenwald was liberated and the nearby German citizens were forced to see what their government had done. God bless the United States of America.