Messages by survivors and liberators
It is a particular pleasure for us, that survivors and liberators have submitted personal messages for publication.
By clicking an individual name, you can view the respective message.
Erich Richard Finsches
Peter Johann Gardosch
Guy Pierre Gautier
Georges (Jerzy) Kielczewski
Willemijn Petroff-van Gurp
Henk van de Water
I was liberated on May 1, 1945, while on the death march out of Dachau, by the United States 3rd army.
In order for humanity to survive and live in peace, we must allow us to be guided by the Golden Rule.
“Mutual respect guided by the Golden Rule, is the key to the survival of humanity.”
There are 7 billion + people on this planet earth, we all belong to one race, the human race. So treat others the way you would like to be treated.
At age 15 I was deported from Hungary to Auschwitz.
Most of my family didn’t survive the Holocaust.
I focused on surviving one day at a time.
I was shipped to two other camps, to perform the slave labor.
Contracted typhus, and struggled with a serious foot wound, caused by a Nazi guard.
I was shipped to Dachau the first week of April on the Death Train, as 75 pounds of walking skeleton.
Still I call myself lucky that I am alive, I was liberated by the American forces.
They are my heroes.
With my wife of 64 years, we are blessed in the USA, with a family and a peaceful life.
We spoke out against hate, with a message of love and acceptance for 30 years, to students and adults alike.
Now our family is carrying on our message.
The Second World War ran over me like a tank
– this is how I wrote it in “War Triptych” in the weekly paper “Niedziela” [Sunday] – the three miracles of Eugeniusz, Diary – liberated from Dachau.
I found my way to the camp on September 5, 1944 with the expellees from Zielonka. It was announced that the front was approaching. We were grouped in Pruszków and mixed with the civilians from the Warsaw Rising. We were the Polish bandits. In cattle wagons, we were taken away to the camp.
By coincidence, actually thanks to Providence, I survived the hell of the camp. I pray to God everyday, giving thanks for my salvation. On the anniversary of liberation, I say a litany to Saint Joseph. Prayer and thanksgiving keep me alive and give me strength to forgive our trespassers.
I am Mario Candotto, born on June 2, 1926, former prisoner of the Dachau Concentration Camp.
On May 24, 1944, I was arrested together with my father, my mother and my two sisters. At the time, I was coming back home with my two sisters Ida and Fede and immediately understood that my two partisan brothers Massimo and Renzo had died in battle.
In my family, my parents and my two brothers died.
Even today, 75 years after the liberation of the extermination camps and the end of the war, I cannot put what happened behind me, nor may we!
One may not forget what has happened! Doing so would be a crime!
Three generations have passed since it all ended and I continue to remember and relate the atrocities which I experienced first-hand and which were brought about by the war and Nazism.
I often go to the schools to tell the story of my life and every time before starting I quote the words of my sister Ida, former prisoner of the Auschwitz Extermination Camp: “Children, what I am about to tell you is the pure, the pure truth, but if I hadn’t experienced those atrocities in person, I would have difficulty believing it.” These words make understandable how horrible the Nazi Extermination Camps were.
To conclude I want to say that we today are lucky to live in freedom in a peaceful and united Europe without hate or rancor. Free!
We lived in the city of Gatchina, 40 kilometers from Leningrad. I was eleven years old. On 22 June 1941, they announced that the war had begun! Our country, large and strong, was not ready for war. A peace treaty was concluded with Germany. The fascists treacherously captured large parts of our country. They say: “Russians harness slowly, but ride fast.” And so it was and the Red Army reached Berlin.
It was a terrible war for both Russians and other nations, but the Germans suffered no less.
We must negotiate, not fight!
No people needs war, it is necessary to negotiate!
Life in the concentration camp was scary and deadly! It should not be like that!
People must stay people.
I would love to come to you and invite you to visit us to introduce our culture and art. In Russia we have a lot of interesting things!
Greetings from Russia,
To be able to return to Dachau, to go back to Kaufering which was my Lager one, while there my work was to load the dead bodies on a wheelbarrow to bring them to the ovens to be burned. I was young, overworked, & starving and did not have the energy of mind to pray for the dead, especially, before delivering the bodies I had to make a stop where some Nazi removed their gold teeth.
Going back to the 75th commemoration would finally enable me to pray for my innocent brethren at the place where it took place, the rightful thing to do & hopefully this need which I have been anguishing with for over 75 years would finally take place. Yes, I have prayed in my synagogue & at many Holocaust memorials, however to recite prayers at the site where it happened is most important in the Jewish religion.
These images and becoming a non person, being given a number & that’s who you are, along with all the atrocities I endured with the loss of my parents (my father died of starvation in Dachau), loss of my younger siblings, all the above & all the memories will never leave me. Yes I have gone forward, made a new life all on my own, married, have a family, very educated & kind children & grandchildren, yet this horrific chapter of my life during Nazi occupation is always with me.
I smile, I enjoy my family & my life, but the dark shadow remains.
May the world embrace peace.
That such a thing may never happen again – I was only 13 to 15 years old and I had no idea of goings-on at the time. How I bore it all I cannot explain to this day – I was too young and always just hungry.
Had the Nazis won, I and many others would not have survived. Humanity should know and cherish this.
We are pleased that we can congratulate you on the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp.
Nevertheless, we mourn the victims, whose lives were cut off then. We hold the memory of them sacred and keep in mind their words:
“No hate, no wars! Yes to peace and creation!”
It is very important that the current and future generations draw proper lessons from the Second World War.
Now, in the time of new troubles we would like to wish everyone to be in high spirits, optimistic and happy in spite of all this. Being happy lets us develop, inspires, illuminates our lives.
I would like to make a small present of a spring-spirited poem written by Vladimir Dschelali.
Spring has come! The gardens
Start singing hosanna to life.
On the spur of the moment
Light blue skies all turn to pink,
Aurora, goddess of the golden dawn,
Will open new horizons soon,
And on some garden path
the youth will give us a bunch of lilacs
Wladimir Dschelali, Vera Solotar
Québec, March 31, 2020
I would have liked to have met other survivors and liberators at the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Dachau to share our memories of that sad period, but also of the days of liberation, the 29th of April 1945 in Dachau and the following day, the 30th of April 1945 in Allach.
I would have liked to talk about my getaway from the Allach subcamp together with three other prisoners, and about the trout which we found.
This is only a postponement – we will meet in 2021.
Erich Richard Finsches
To humanity: 75 years of freedom
Do not forget the slavery and martyrdom inflicted on humans by nationalism.
The worst madness cost the lives of 80 million human beings.
We want peace, freedom, health, happy families for all nations of the world.
Fight the rising Nazi danger!
Erich Richard Finsches
Peter Johann Gardosch
On 8 May 1945 I was walking on the roads of Fürstenfeldbruck with my father and 4 other prisoners from the Kaufering III subcamp. A number of American soldiers approached us. The American soldiers had Champagne bottles with them. One of the Americans took out a bayonet, cut open the bottle and said “The war is finished – you folks are free!!!” I was 14 and a half years old at the time and drank Champagne for the first time in my life! I was in Fürstenfeldbruck, where Pater Emmanuel Haiss, prior of what was then the Fürstenfeldbruck monastery, took me in after my escape.
For many years later I was friends with Pater Emmanuel until his death and I visit his grave in the cloister of the Ettal monastery together with my wife every year. Then on the Main Street in Fürstenfeldbruck I completely and irrevocably understood and felt, that the hell of Auschwitz, Dachau and Kaufering was definitely over!! Until today – I am now in the 90th year of my life – I am infinitely and eternally thankful to the 7th US Army. They were General Patton’s forces, at the time a very famous officer. We got away to Fürstenfeldbruck from the late-night death march from Kaufering towards Allach in a daring escape. At first we were in Puch with Pastor Brandstetter, who supplied us with some bread. Then we reached Fürstenfeldbruck by night, always fearful of the Nazi military police, where the Sisters received us caringly. We were given jacket potatoes with quark – I can still sense the smell of these lovely warm potatoes, after the gruesome grub from the Concentration Camp, in my nose until today!
The liberation 75 years ago was the most important event in my whole life and I remember the American Army and the dear German people, who helped us, with thankfulness.
Peter Johann Gardosch
Guy Pierre Gautier
Open Letter for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp
A virus appears and everything breaks down. Our great get-together is cancelled, which is a shame, but the world goes on.
I remember my arrival in Dachau after a terrible journey of three days and three nights without food or water.
I remember the handing over into Block 30. It was very warm, the weather was heavy and stormy. We were standing in the courtyard suffering the sarcasm of Kapo Meanssarian.
I remember our re-education regarding the principle words and the commands which were in force.
I remember how naked man is during sessions of delousing and shaving.
I also remember the comic striped clothing and the wooden sandals, our uniform then. During the torpor of summer we were piled up in the block.
I remember the confinement achieved with noise, anger and blows. A few days later after this rudimentary introduction we were assigned to the Kommando of Dachau in Allach.
I remember how long and hard this incarceration in the factory of the Dyckerhoff Kommando was.
I remember the transports with the Moorexpress on which the cadavers were piled up.
I remember the scathing rain during the endless roll calls early in the morning.
I remember the humble morsel of bread which we laid aside in favour of the most sick, when typhus fell down upon us …
… and that morning in April when suddenly in the shadow of a bridge this immense American soldier appeared who brought us freedom.
We would have recalled all this misery with the participants of this memorial day, but now it is up to you, my German friends, to maintain the sustainability of the memory.
I am not more than a simple aging witness of this difficult period in a torn world, but I will do my best if there is need of help.
A bad wind is blowing and nurtures doubt by distorting the facts and denying all evidence.
I thank you for your energy and hope that I will be able to come to the memorial site one day.
Guy Pierre Gautier
I am sad that the commemorative events for the 75th anniversary of the liberation have been cancelled. I want to share my thoughts in memory of the dark period of the Second World War and the Deportation with you. In the many times I have given testimony, particularly to young people, I want to remind them, that the tragic events of the war brought death and destruction throughout the world, depriving the supressed peoples of their freedom of expression and life. Millions of people died. People of all races, cultures, religions. There were mass graves, which are the pillars of Europe today, in which women and men are buried together. Hate led to all this. Never hate, you have to talk, discuss, because in the end there is always a solution, without trampling on the human rights of one or the other person. At this moment, more than ever it is necessary to testify.
My hope is that the pain caused by the current disease that is raging all over the world will bring us all together as it was during the time of my deportation. I thank the director of the Camp Memorial Site, Mrs. Hammermann and the staff of the Dachau Memorial, who work hard to keep the memory alive with their countless research projects.
Seventy-five years ago I was minutes away from death, waiting my turn at Dachau’s crematoria. Suddenly the German guards began throwing down their weapons and running. The US Army had arrived liberating me from a certain death. One of those soldiers was Don Greenbaum, a GI from Philadelphia. Sixty years later Don and I finally met becoming strong friends and together we share our story wherever we can: one who was on the outside looking in, the other who was on the inside looking out, so that we can proudly say, never forget, never again.
My real name is Nikoliay Xoprenko, but here in America it is Nick Hope. I was in the concentration camp Dachau, Allach, 28 months where I overcame many mockeries and today we are celebrating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of these camps where I suffered. I was 7 months at the bunkerhalle at BMW and the remaining 2 years I was at Halle 2 where I overcame many mockeries and sufferings, where I was whipped twice at 25 lashes each time, and every day I was beaten and many times on the verge of death, but God helped me and I survived.
I was involved in the death march, where we walked by foot two days and the German SS were ready to annihilate us but we were saved by the American soldiers who came and freed us. Then I was in the hospital for 3 years recovering and shortly thereafter I accepted Christ in my heart and God blessed me and forgave me and I forgave all those who tortured and mocked me. I actually met up with my superintendent, Herr Eisenbart, who worked at the BMW factory 15 years after the war and instead of killing him or turning him in to the police, I forgave him. God gave me a big bonus and extended my life. I am 95 years old and have lived in America for more than 60 years now.
My desire is that we all would pray that this terrible tragedy would never be repeated in the world, where approximately 50 million people have died and that God would come into our hearts and we would receive God’s peace not the worldly peace. I am very thankful for God’s love and forgiveness and I thank Him that He saved me and secured me. For this, I am committed to honor and serve Him until I die. I was 17 when Hitler took me and I survived all the problems he put upon me and I thank God for His help. I lived twice in the same place. Two years in Allach and 10 years in the same place, what is known now as Ludwigsfeld, not under the Nazi regime but a free, democratic Germany with joy that God blessed Germany and everyone after the war. I want us to remember those who died, who are no longer with us but the memory of them will stay in our hearts and minds, and that this would never happen again and God would bless us until He comes again. Thank you.
Georges (Jerzy) Kielczewski
When they needed help, I helped them
(by giving bread and medication to clergy at K.Z. Dachau)
When I needed help, they helped me
(clergy gave me room and board in Paris after the war)
When he needed help with the French language, I helped him
(German friend at University of Montreal)
When I needed help in a dental laboratory, he helped me
(same German friend at University of Montreal)
Helping each other is the secret of a long life
Dr. Georges (Jerzy) Kielczewski
The liberation of the Dachau Concentration Camp by the Americans is an unfathomable event, which has remained with me as an overwhelming memory until today. After all the immeasurable suffering, which for most ended in death in the gas chambers, liberation by the Americans gave me hope for a future beyond suffering and misery I had thought lost. My thanks mostly go to the American soldiers, who treated me, with just 27 kilograms body weight and at the end of my strength, with incredible kindness and released me from unprecedented suffering.
Honoured guests, dear friends,
I am a former prisoner of the Theresienstadt, Auschwitz and Dachau Concentration Camps. Let me say a few words. A curious coincidence has occurred to me – a paradox. We wanted to celebrate the 75th anniversary of liberation and practically the end of the Second World War, in which states tried to kill as many people as possible. It was prevented by the coronavirus, which forced states to try to save as many people as possible. And that is gratifying. During my lifetime, with great luck I experienced the end of World War II, including three years of imprisonment and a coronavirus pandemic. In the Concentration Camps and Gulags maybe around 20 million people died, in World War II 70 million people. We do not yet know the loss of life caused by coronavirus. My parents, Viennese Czechs, also experienced the First World War with 18 million deaths and the 60 million victims of the Spanish Flu. May our wish today be that our nations and states should not be ruled by smart but wise people, that our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren may be spared.
Reflections on my Slave Labor Victimhood at Dachau KZ
When I was thrown from Auschwitz into Dachau KZ on August 31, 1944, I found myself in Living Hell. At 17 years old I was totally orphaned, bewildered, frightened to death, surrounded by brutal Nazi SS with machine guns, and with vicious German Shepherds ready at any moment to tear me apart. I was registered, de-loused and assigned the barrack and the wooden bin where I had to live and sleep. The work was brutal and back-breaking. Then I was transferred to the Horrific Kaufering Labor camp.
These memories would haunt me forever.
When I was seven years old, war broke out. I could not go to school. When I was twelve years old, I was taken from Warsaw via Pruszków to Dachau in a freight car. The journey took four days. The whole night we stood in the roll call ground. After selection the living stayed in the camp. So passed my childhood.
Who wanted this, that the young years of a human being should pass this way?
May such a situation never happen again.
Former prisoner of the Dachau Concentration Camp
A Letter from Holocaust Survivor Ben Lesser, 03/20/20
It has been 75 years since I was liberated from Dachau Concentration Camp by the American Heroes.
We were barely alive. We dragged ourselves crawling on our hands and knees to kiss the feet of the American G.I.s who looked like Gods to us survivors.
We must stand up against hatred, bullying, bigotry, anti-Semitism and stop prejudice, racism, discrimination of any sort. We are all God’s creation, so why can’t we live side by side and appreciate our differences rather than hate them.
We must teach tolerance and be an example to our future generations. Remember that Love and Hate are both contagious so choose love.
To hear more read my book “Living a Life that Matters – From Nazi Nightmare to American Dream”.
I am thankful, that I am given the opportunity to speak in schools about what happened then. To make young people aware, how horrible the times were then and that such cruelty must never happen again.
Without the help of the staff at the Concentration Camp Memorial Site and without the Bavarian Memorial Foundation, this would not be possible.
Willemijn Petroff-van Gurp
Due to my resistance activities, I was imprisoned in Scheveningen, Vught, Ravensbrück and Dachau. We were liberated by the Americans.
I owe my life to my friends, who dragged me along with them when I passed out and kept me warm when I was in bad shape in the camp.
Because of the war, it became clear to me what freedom of expression, the danger of dictatorship and declaring human beings to be inferior mean. This is why I contributed to a report of my experiences of the war, because I think it is important that the youth also realize this.
My oldest son Robert had prepared himself to go to the commemoration in Dachau in my name. Unfortunately I can not go there myself anymore due to my health, as I am now 101 years old.
Willemijn Petroff-van Gurp
We live! Żyjemy! Wir leben!
Brognard, March 23, 2020
We former prisoners did not leave the Concentration Camps the same as we entered them. We are marked for life by this event.
All this was planned and organised – to make us disappear. I think that, if the Nazis had won the war, no prisoner would have returned.
Under these extreme living conditions, constantly changing depending on events, each prisoner took a different course more or less depending on chance, at the disposition of other men: SS or Kapos. Life was hanging by a thread, death was always present.
Considered as animals, we were nevertheless able to organize ourselves and resist. Our fraternity, our solidarity permitted some among us to survive this atrocious regime.
In order to prevent that this were to happen again, some survivors decided to give testimony, so that the world would know our living conditions, and to explain, how people in a civilised country could let themselves be conditioned by Nazism and commit unimaginable crimes.
I have long placed the luck of returning home, of being available again, in the service of problems of memory.
On the other hand the survivors will soon pass on, but luckily their committment will continue, as there are people to be found in all nations who are dedicated to carrying on. In this environment, I have refound this spirit of fraternity and mutual aid which permitted us to endure our suffering and I thank you for it.
March 18, 2020
The 75th commemoration of the liberation of Dachau is extremely significant in as much as it is a testament to the millions of victims of brutality perpetrated by the Nazis and as well it is a testament to those that survived and are still with us. It reminds us of the extreme suffering and the extermination of millions of human beings and ultimately victory over an evil and vile scourge.
Survivors of the Holocaust are dwindling rapidly, and as I write this during the coronavirus pandemic, we pray that we all survive through it. Seven babies, including myself, born in Kaufering, Lager 1, between December 1944 and February 1945 may be among the last living survivors, linking directly back to that dark period. Documented facts together with eye witness testimony and the education of the upcoming generations in the school curriculum will help to ensure that the memories will not simply fade into the dust bin of history.
What we had to endure inside the camps was an unbearable tragedy for humanity and it is my deep desire and wish that the entire population of the world know what we have had to suffer. That is why it is important that this celebration be held today and that the victims are commemorated and I am thankful that this opportunity exists.
The liberation of Dachau concentration camp 75 years ago! An indescribable experience. Huge relief, joy and gratitude to the Americans which stayed with me my entire life.
My friend Jaap van Mesdag and I had survived two and a half years of concentration camps, we were 22 years old and could go on with our lives.
I’ve never been hateful and therefore I could leave the misery behind me.
Unfortunately I’m now too old to go to Dachau, but it is certainly good that the war and all the victims continue to be commemorated!
It is very important for me to know that the commemoration of the anniversary of the liberation of Dachau will be ongoing so that this time in history is never forgotten.
The most important message that I want to convey, at this time, is that I survived and I am alive today. Hitler and Nazi Germany did not win. I am grateful that I survived to be able to tell people what Nazi Germany did, not only to my family, but to the world. We must make sure that it never happens again. This is the message which I want the world to remember: never again.
Henk van de Water
75 years ago I was liberated by the Americans from Dachau concentration camp. I had typhus and was about to die. The liberation should not have happened a day later, because then I would not have survived.
Through all this I have always experienced freedom very intensely in my further life and tried to get the most out of it.
I was very happy and prepared for the commemorations of 75 years of liberation in Dachau this year. Unfortunately it is not possible now, but I am now 96 years old and I still hope to experience this at a later date.
Henk van de Water
These historical days we celebrate the memory of the Dachau concentration camp victims who were victims of violence, torture or murder, all victims of the Nazi regime and its allies. The biggest tribute to the victims would be to never forget them, so that the generations to come will always remember this biggest crime and draw important lessons from it.
We pay credit to all Second World War and Holocaust survivors, who had gone through the ghetto and concentration camps’ horrors, through ordeals, injustice and suffering, who were destined for death, but resisted, struggled for life, preserved human dignity and triumphed over death.
The memory of victims of the Nazi and their accomplices’ crimes is unattainably separated from the memory of the liberators, the soldiers from the anti-Hitler coalition countries. We, the people, who survived the Shoah, along with the whole of mankind, are forever indebted to them. We are proud of our soldiers who freed Europe from Nazi occupation, who saved us and the whole world from barbarianism and destruction. Years are passing, values are changing, but our deep appreciation will remain the same for those who fought for our freedom sometimes sacrificing their lives. I am speaking about it on behalf of those who were saved from the Holocaust, as a son of a soldier who died on the front lines.
We will not forget the Righteous Among the Nations, who were saving us risking their lives, sometimes losing their lives. They did everything to help and save people who became outcasts in their home countries when the war raged through the planet, when millions of people became cruel, and dehumanized themselves. The Righteous, within the sea of hatred, indifference and apathy, despite the dangers and bitter trials, often overcame prejudices of people around them. They saved not only lives but also God’s world around them.
The commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp are now held under conditions as mankind fights an outbreak that has disordered life on a global scale. In crises, calamities and conflicts, xenophobia, intolerance, and antisemitism have risen accompanied by violence and hatred, as the generations of people who survived the greatest tragedy in the history of mankind and the past are fading away from the memory of the coevals, the Holocaust is lied about and denied.
That is why it is so important and remains pertinent to know, to preserve memory, to investigate faithfully history and lessons from it for the whole world. It is so important that there are joint decisive actions of all honest people on the planet against hatred, evil and violence. In the name of the souls who have passed on and for the sake of our souls we need to confirm our desire once again to fight for human dignity for everyone, promote life, not death, instill hope, not despair, prevent violence and bless freedom, justice and peace.
Dr. Boris Zabarko
Gerald O. Eaton
We had been pushing towards Munich when Dachau was liberated. General Collins sent word that any man who wanted to see why we were fighting should go over. The next morning, we were loaded into trucks for the trip. It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen. Bodies were stacked in rail cars. We were warned not to feed any survivors, doctors would do that.
At the dedication of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, a man grabbed my arm when he saw my Rainbow tie. He said, I want to thank you. He was a Dachau survivor.
Gerald O. Eaton, liberator
Dee R. Eberhart
In the 75 years since the liberation of KZ Dachau, my incomprehension of how this horror could have happened has not eroded. For me, there were no answers on April 29, 1945, nor 75 years later.
How could there have been such arrogance of power to inflict so much suffering and death on so many victims and cut short so much potential for good?
The 75th anniversary of the liberation serves as a reminder of what happened and could happen again unless emergent forces of depravity and evil are extinguished.
Dee R. Eberhart, liberator
The circumstances surrounding the cancellation of the celebration of the 75th liberation of Dachau are disappointing and sad. We were looking forward with great anticipation to meeting all of you who worked so diligently on this project. In addition, we would have enjoyed meeting other liberators and survivors of that horrific time in history, and sharing this experience with grandchildren.
To see Dachau in a time of peace is invaluable. We have been there once before and it was a moving experience – this time with this group of people would be extraordinary. Hopefully, it will be rescheduled.
Don Greenbaum, liberator
Early the morning of April 29, 1945, 2 months after our 21st birthday, my twin brother, Howard, & I, after seeing a trainload of boxcars, containing many dead bodies, entered the nearby Dachau Concentration Camp. We witnessed some unforgettable sights while not understanding what caused same.
I attended the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of the prisoner camp & was looking forward to attending the 75th Anniversary. My main reasons for attending was to honor the memory of those who perished, and to listen to the experiences of survivors. I hope that a 76th Anniversary event is held.
Hilbert Margol, liberator