On April 10, 1945, at the 828th Convalescent Hospital in Leeds, England, my wound had finally healed. I was placed on "limited service," and given orders to report for duty to the 19th Replacement Depot, some 30 miles south of Paris. It was the largest depot of its kind in our armed forces. One of its many assignments was to receive, feed, supply, and shelter newly trained replacement soldiers arriving from the States. We did the same for veterans who were on their way home.
One day, we had a conversation with a GI who was waiting to board a truck to a "cigarette camp" on his way back to the States. He told us his outfit had recently helped to liberate a German "death camp." His descriptions were simply unbelievable, and we told him so. He quietly reached into his duffle bag and brought forth a tied package of about 50 snapshots, and passed them around.
"I took these with my own camera," he exclaimed. Now, his audience consisted of three ex-combat officers, each of us proudly wearing the Combat Infantry Badge, plus ribbons for the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and more. We were hardened, battle-scarred veterans. Nothing much could shock us anymore, or so we thought. His pictures blew us away! It was the first time any of us had ever heard of the "atrocities," "the death camps," "the Holocaust," and here in our hands was the very proof of it all. I asked for, and he gave me six pictures. They were grotesque!
Forty-five years later, my wife and I were in conversation with our next door neighbors, an elderly couple, both of whom wore the telltale "tattoo" on their forearms. They were about to visit Israel and asked if we would donate the pictures to a memorial museum there. We did. A few weeks following their return home we received a letter from Beth Hatefutsoth, the Nahum Goldmann Museum of the Jewish Diaspora in Israel. The letter read as follows:
"Dear Mr. Saffer,
"Your friends, Mr. and Mrs. Blavat, very kindly visited the Photo Archive at Beth Hatefutsoth and brought us the six photographs of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, which you wished to donate to Israel.
"Two of the photographs are suitable material for our archive and will be valuable additions, the other four are more suited to Yad Vashem, and we have therefore sent them to Jerusalem for their archives.
"We appreciate very much your recognizing the importance of handing over such photos to Israel, to be kept for the use of researchers in this and future generations.
"The photographs are registered in our archive under 'AR-89.30.'
The pictures are now in their rightful places, and we are pleased to have provided documentation of this terrible event in history.
Sy Saffer L & B/395
1876 Harbor Island Dr
Orange Park FL 32003-7456