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Liberation Of The Nazi Death Camps Memorialized With Dedication Of American Armor That Helped Knock Down Their Gates

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On the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Nazi death camps, one of the American armored vehicles similar to those that broke down the gates and freed remaining survivors was dedicated by the Museum of American Armor during ceremonies at the American Airpower Museum at Republic Airport by survivors of the Holocaust and G.I. veterans who participated in the liberation.

The M8 Greyhound armored car was acquired for the specific purpose of helping tell the story of the Holocaust from the point of view of the GIs who liberated the camps. Also attending the event were Farmingdale school students, officials from the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County and elected officials.

As dignitaries spoke, the M8 was placed behind a replica of the concrete posts and barbed wire that became hated symbols of Nazi genocide in order to give the audience a sense of what it must have been like long ago in Germany. Among those who remembered quite well was Thea Gottesman Rumstein, a Viennese native who survived Auschwitz before being transferred to Mauthausen where M8 Greyhounds arrived at the front gate to liberate the camp on May 5, 1945.  “The day we were re-born,” Ms. Rumstein told the audience.

The M8 was acquired through the financial support of Lawrence Kadish, Peter Kalikow, Jan Burman, Steven Krieger, Ed Blumenfeld, Donald Rechler, Stanley Silverstein, Gary Melius, Bennett Rechler, Alan Gerry and the family of the late William Lewi.

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto explained, “These ceremonies honoring those who liberated camps could not have come at a more urgent time.  Despite all the means of getting information to virtually every student around the world, the lessons of the Holocaust are in danger of being lost in a vast sea of trivia. We stand against that threat and we will continue to recall this murderous chapter in the history of mankind.”

 A unique effort in this dedication program was the unveiling of an illustrated story that chronicles the liberation of the Mauthausen slave camp by a column of M8 Greyhounds. Using original first person recollections, illustrator, artist and living historian Jim Hart drew a “comic strip” that will be used as an educational tool at schools throughout the region and in cooperation with the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center and corporate sponsors. He called his research into the drawing “haunting” but he has produced a “comic” that reaches its intended audience, school students, who are so often overloaded with digital information that they can miss compelling stories they need to truly understand and absorb their lessons. Liberating the survivors of the Holocaust is one of them.

The late Nassau County Legislative Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt was among those had attended the event. His remarks stand in lasting tribute to what was his personal commitment to keeping the flame of freedom of alive when he stated, “I stand before you in recognition that each and every one of us must continue to bear witness – whether we were there or not. Whether our families suffered inside the camps or not. Whether we are Jewish or Christian. It remains a moral imperative that we all continue to stand witness against those who perpetrated the Holocaust.”