Judy and I were present, 22 years ago, at the opening of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC. There we joined a great many Holocaust survivors and members of US Army Divisions of concentration camps, along with a large number of statesmen and speakers. We heard Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and then-President Clinton address the large group.
For quite awhile, Judy and I have been attending an annual program, sponsored by USHMM entitled, “National Commemoration of the Days of Remembrance,” at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. This program honors concentration camp survivors and US Army Divisions that have been certified by the US Army Center of Military History as Liberating Divisions.
Every Remembrance program includes musical selections by the US Army Band, remarks from the Chairman of the USHMM, presentation of the Division flags, presentation of the colors, singing of the National Anthem, Retirement of the Colors, remarks from Sara J. Bloomfield, USHMM Director, and greetings from well-known speakers.) Past speakers include, among others, President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Senator Joseph Leiberman and Secretaries of State, General Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice.)
Also included at every Remembrance Ceremony is a memorial candle lighting by six Holocaust survivors — each survivor accompanied by a current Senator or Congress person — Hebrew prayers, and a recessional march and music by the US Army Band.
Judy and I, and my son Stan and his fiancée, Venla, attended the most recent Commemoration Program on April 16, 2015, at which His Excellency Gerard Araud, French Ambassador to the US delivered the keynote address.
When the 42nd Infantry Rainbow flag passed by the group, we all saluted ,noting that the Rainbow Division was among those divisions certified as a liberator of the Dachau concentration camp on April 29 1945.
It is a well-known fact that many World War II veterans have passed away. (When a member of the 42nd Infantry Rainbow Division has passed away, we say that he has passed “over the Rainbow.”)
Not every member of each Army Division was able to enter the respective concentration camp that his division liberated. Nonetheless, every such division member was recognized as a concentration camp liberator. I was a member of the 542nd Field Artillery Battalion, but when fellow Battalion members, including myself, were on the way to Dachau, we were informed that, due to a typhus epidemic, our group would not be allowed to enter the camp.
During the April 16 Commemoration Program, the Master of Ceremonies asked that every member of the Liberating Divisions of concentration camps to “Please stand up.” I expected other liberators to stand up with me, but I discovered that I was the only liberator doing so (Others having passed away or being unable to attend). I will always remember this occurrence.
I want to add that I was asked to have my picture taken with the large group of Holocaust survivors. I was happy and honored to oblige.
I will never forget the April 16, 2015 Commemoration of the Days of Remembrance.
Member of the 542nd Field Artillery Battalion, 42nd Infantry Rainbow Division, present at activation of this Division on July 14, 1943, at Camp Gruber ,Oklahoma. Served in the US Army from March 1943 to April 4, 1946.
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