If not for the American troops that stormed its gates on May 5, 1945, the entire chain of events that led to the birth of my two children would not have happened. So, when I read about Paul Seres, an 86-year-old retired pharmacist from King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, I got giddy.
Daniel Rubin, a columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer interviewed Seres:
“In 1945, [Seres] was a medic who’d marched across France to Germany with Patton’s Third Army. By Austria, he’d earned two Battle Stars.
‘I didn’t know what concentration camps were,’ he said. ‘None of us did. As a soldier, you fight the war that is in front of you.’
Pvt. Seres had just turned 20. He was a Central High School grad from Wynnefield, raised as a Jew. When drafted, he’d finished three years at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. He spoke some German and Yiddish.
As they rode through the town of Ebensee, they saw old women waving white towels from their windows, announcing, ‘We are not Nazi.’ Approaching the camp, he recognized a strong smell from his school years: chlorine.”
Many Holocaust survivors and their liberators can’t bear to talk about the events they witnessed, my mother-in-law and her Army medic hero included.
“For years, Seres didn’t talk about what he encountered – the dead and the dying, the prisoners who wanted to borrow guns so they could hunt down their captors. But there wasn’t a day that he didn’t think about it.
Seres reached out to Rubin after reading his column a few weeks earlier about how survivors can find out more information about their relatives who died in the Holocaust. The two men met up at Seres’ apartment; Seres unfolded a map of Europe across his dining-room table.
‘I was just a kid,’ he said, ‘a kid that grew up. I had never been outside of Philadelphia, or maybe Atlantic City.'”
*My mother-in-law, Hana Berger Moran, was born three weeks before Mauthausen was liberated. A U.S. Army medic peeked inside the filthy blanket she was swaddled in and discovered her malnourished and infection-ravaged body. He rushed her to his unit’s chief surgeon who operated on her immediately, thus saving her life. Stay tuned for the book…