World War II veteran remembers 'walking dead' at Nazi camps

Sydney Rosenblatt says we cannot forget

SAINTE-MÈRE-ÉGLISE, France – There were more than 42,000 Nazi camps during the Holocaust. There were forced labor camps, transit camps and prisoner-of-war camps. Those who were security risks were in the 938 concentration camps that were independent of any judicial review.

The Nazis also had five killing centers and several euthanasia facilities. The first were in German-occupied Poland, the country with the largest Jewish population. There were gas chambers where about 6,000 Jews died daily. 

At first, the prisoners included anyone who was gay, a socialist or a Jehova's Witnesses. Historians remember the Night of Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht, as the night of November 9, 1938, when about 30,000 German Jewish men were arrested. 

Sydney Rosenblatt, who is Jewish, was a teenager in the United States at the time. He signed up to serve in the U.S. military right out of high school. He was a rifleman within an infantry unit during World War II. 

"You see so much death around you," Rosenblatt recently said about his service in the military. "That is scary. I would be a liar if I said it is not."

Rosenblatt, 95, also said he spent endless hours hiding in a foxhole to dodge the Germans' bullets. He still remembers the "walking skeletons" and the "smell of death" at a Nazi concentration camp. 

"That was probably the worst experience that I have ever had, and that has lived with me all of my life," Rosenblatt said.

Rosenblatt said he could never understand what the Jews have suffered. Trying to escape Nazi terror during the war wasn't easy. Starting Sept. 19, 1941, the Nazis started to require Jews over the age of six to wear a yellow, six-pointed star with the word "Jude" at all times. 

After the Germans surrendered May 7, 1945, Rosenblatt said he experienced antisemitism as a Jewish man in America. A memory he has of someone he served with during World War II has never left him. 

"He got pretty drunk. He was dancing around and all of a sudden he turned and looked at me and said, 'What are you laughing at you dirty Jew bastard?' That stuck with me," Rosenblatt said.  

Rosenblatt said it is important for everyone around the world to understand the sacrifices that World War II veterans made. He also remembers sailing into New York Harbor after Victory in Europe Day was proclaimed May 9, 1945.

Rosenblatt said there was a big sign that said, "Welcome Home Soldier." He said he cried when he saw the Statue of Liberty. 

"We fought to save the world and we did," Rosenblatt said.  

No one really knows how many people were killed in the Holocaust.

Historians estimate the victims were 6 million Jews, 7 million Soviet civilians, 3 million Soviet prisoners of war, 1.8 million non-Jewish Polish civilians, 312,000 Serb civilians, 250,000 people with disabilities, 196,000 Roma Gypsies, 1,900 Jehovah's Witnesses and possibly thousands of homosexuals.

About the Authors: