Archives for posts with tag: Hana Berger Moran

LeRoy “Pete” Petersohn, 1945

Pete Petersohn 2001-v3

LeRoy “Pete” Petersohn, 2001

I’d like to introduce you to a really important person who unwittingly made a huge difference in my life. His name is LeRoy “Pete” Petersohn and he was a medic in the United States Army during WWII. He’s the other protagonist in my book, along with my mother-in-law, Hana. He’s truly the yin to her yang. Without him she wouldn’t exist. I’ve been working on the chapters about him recently and well, Memorial Day just snuck up on me. I want to dedicate this post to him, because without him my husband would not be here, and as you can gather, neither would my children. Pete saved Hana’s life when he discovered her at three-weeks-old at Mauthausen concentration camp in 1945, and swiftly administered medical care that staved off fatal infection. He was a war hero through and through.

He died in 2010 at age 87, but I did have an opportunity to meet him in 2008 when he was presented with the Golden Shofar Award in Albany, New York. I am in regular contact with his youngest son, Brian Petersohn, who has been generously sharing all of his father’s clippings, writings, photos and other war-related mementos with me over the past few years. Most endearing, however, are Brian’s own memories and stories of growing up with him. He sounds like one of those dads every kid wishes he or she could have, someone who’s loving, kind, fun and funny. It gets emotional at times, but it’s been so beautiful to share my journey with one of Pete’s kids. Pete really feels like family now, and indeed, he is. Thank you Brian, for bringing your father vividly to life for me and for the future readers of the book.

Paul Seres, liberator of KZMauthausen; credit: Philly.com

I have a special place in my heart for the liberators of  KZMauthausen, as that’s where my mother-in-law was rescued within an inch (and three weeks*) of her life.

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…