As the world commemorates Holocaust Remembrance Day today, the stories of the few remaining survivors of this – the darkest chapter in history – need to be remembered, need to be told.
Yediot Achronot brings us one such story – of two men, one a prisoner of Dachau concentration camp and the other the American soldier who liberated him, who were reunited seven decades after their first encounter:
Nearly 70 years after Holocaust survivor Joshua Kaufman was reunited with Daniel Gillepsie, the US soldier who rescued him from the hell he endured at the hands of the Nazis.
The men had no idea they lived within an hour’s drive of each other until a German documentary crew arranged their meeting …
Gillepsie entered the Dachau concentration camp in Germany on April 29, 1945. The first human being he saw was Kaufman, a Hungarian Jew. Kaufman was hiding in the camp latrines with other prisoners, unsure of whether they were about to be liberated by the Allies or murdered by retreating Nazis.
“When the Americans smashed in the door my heart did somersaults,” Kaufman recalled. Gillepsie helped the skeletal man outside before they parted, assuming they would never see each other again.
Kaufman moved to Israel and fought in the Six Day War and Yom Kippur War, later moving to the United States, where he married and had three daughters. He worked as a self-employed plumber. Gillepsie returned to the US and had eight children, working as a salesman.
When the pair met again after so many decades, Kaufman, now 87, saluted his savior, kissed his hands, and fell to his feet, exclaiming: ‘I have wanted to do this for 70 years. I love you, I love you so much…’.
Accompanied by his youngest daughter Alexandra, 34, to the meeting, he said:”I came out of hell into the light. For that, and to him, I am eternally grateful.”
Gillespie asked Kaufman: ‘How did you survive? What kept you alive?’
Kaufman replied: ‘Dying would have been easier. In Dachau we had to tote around 50 kilo cement sacks. The whole day long.
“Whoever broke down was immediately shot. I turned me into an animal. And animals want to survive. I wanted to live.”