Steve Ross is the young boy on the far left, standing at the barbed wire fence around Dachau
According to a news article, which you can read in full here, Holocaust survivor Steve Ross, shown in the photo above, is recovering from a debilitating stroke that he suffered late last November. I can relate because I suffered a stroke a little over three years ago. There are a lot of things that happened in 1945, which I can’t remember, due to brain damage caused by the stroke.
Steve Ross (real name Szmulek Rozental) is famous for being a Jewish boy who survived 10 different concentration camps in 5 years.
According to the news article:
In places like Budzyn, Krasnik, Czechna in Radon, Bietigheim, Vaihingen, Unterriexingen, Grossachsenheim, Neckarsulm, Auschwitz, and lastly, Dachau. Nazi concentration camps where he was imprisoned, tortured, starved, and beaten for five years, from the age of nine to 14. Yet try as they did, the Nazis couldn’t break him. And in the end, Steve survived.
Note that Steve Ross survived Auschwitz, although he was under the age of 15. Why wasn’t he sent to one of the Auschwitz gas chambers? This is easily explained. Dr. Mengele could not estimate age to within 5 years, so many children got through the selection process by lying about their age.
This quote is also from the news article:
As a boy, [Steve Ross] watched as those big green tanks with white stars crashed through the gates of Dachau that spring morning in 1945, followed by lots of tall men in uniforms he’d never seen, shouting a language he’d never heard. They fanned out around the fence perimeter, then like some rapid parade in motion, poured into the camp. There were so many, so fast. Yet he and dozens of his fellow prisoners could only watch from their barracks, for they were too weak from starvation, overwork, disease, and injuries to move.
It is understandable that, after having a stroke, Steve Ross can’t remember everything about the day that he was liberated from Dachau. I can relate. So I am going to help him to remember what actually happened.
There were no big green tanks with white stars that crashed through the gates of Dachau. The photo below shows the scene just after General Linden had accepted the surrender of the camp by a tall SS soldier, Lt. Wicker, accompanied by a Red Cross man, wearing an arm band.
General Linden standing at the gate into the Dachau camp after the camp was surrendered
American tanks had not been able to get to Dachau, to crash through the “Arbeit macht Frei” gate, which is shown intact in the photo above.
This quote, about the time line on the day of the liberation of Dachau, is from this website:
09:30 Tanks of the 101st Tank Battalion enter the city of Dachau after an alternate river crossing is found.
10:30 I Company and elements of M Company (3rd Battalion) are dispatched in the direction of the concentration camp. Tanks are held up by a bridge over the Amper River which is blown when armor is within 20 yards, killing a large number of German soldiers who are unable to cross in time.
10:45 1st Lt. L.R. Stewart and 1st Sgt. Robert Wilson of L Company find a footbridge defended by a lone German machine gunner. After firing one belt of ammunition the German retreats and I Company then crosses. Tanks and L Company remain behind to clear Dachau and continue the attack toward Munich.
The news article continues with this quote:
He saw the guards put up their hands, as if to surrender. But wait, was he seeing things? Was his chronic malnutrition causing him to be delusional? No, this time it was real. But who were these strange big men whom his all-powerful Nazi overlords were cowering before? As if to answer his thoughts, one of his fellow prisoners shouted one word.
The American Army had arrived. His long nightmare was finally over. He would live. The American soldiers had saved him from certain death. And as 14-year-old Steve Ross walked out of Dachau that day in 1945, a tall American soldier on a big American tank called him over. The soldier gave him some cans of food, smiled, and warmly touched his head. Steve cried. For the first time in five years, he cried. His emotions, bottled up through a half decade of hell, had finally poured out. The soldier told him something he couldn’t understand, then handed him a colorful cloth with stars and stripes.
The regular guards at Dachau had fled the night before the Americans arrived. The “guards” who put up their hands, “as if to surrender” were SS men who were inside the SS garrison next to the camp. Steve Ross was in the concentration camp, where he could not have seen the SS men with their hands in the air. He might have seen the guards, who were in Tower B, come down with their hands in the air. These guards, who had surrendered in good faith, were shot by the Americans and their bodies thrown into the moat, where the Americans continued to shoot at their dead bodies.
Steve Ross could not have walked out of the Dachau camp on the day that it was liberated. The prisoners had to be kept inside until the typhus epidemic, that was going on, could be brought under control.
Fortunately, I wrote about Steve Ross on my website before I had a stroke that wiped out some of my memory. The following information is from my scrapbookpages.com website:
The young boy at the far left in the photograph [at the top of my blog post] is Stephen Ross, a 14-year-old Jewish orphan from Poland, who said that he had survived 10 different concentration camps in 5 years before he was liberated at Dachau. Standing next to him is Juda Kukieda, the son of Mordcha Mendel and Ruchla Sta.
According to the book “Dachau 29 April 1945, the Rainbow Liberation Memoirs,” edited by Sam Dann, Stephen Ross (real name Szmulek Rozental) was one of the lucky few who was rescued in the nick of time when Dachau was liberated. Ross was interviewed for the book and according to his own story, he was one of the 1,800 prisoners who were crowded into one quarantine barrack, which was designed to hold only about a hundred prisoners.
Ross said that the prisoners in the quarantine barrack had not been fed for two weeks before the Seventh Army arrived. Food was scarce, and according to Ross, the prisoners were fed only occasionally when they were given “a biscuit, hard as a rock and covered with mold.”
From the quarantine block, Ross said that 80 to 100 prisoners a day were carried out and put on the pile of dead bodies near the barbed wire fence, from where they were taken to the crematory. According to Ross, the quarantine block was where the German SS Doctors Sigmund Rascher and Klaus Schilling selected prisoners for their ghastly experiments. The doctors “removed thirty to forty prisoners on a daily basis for experiments” according to Ross.
Ross said that he “had been isolated in quarantine for experiments since 1944.” On the day of liberation, Ross made his way to the main gate, although he “was very weak and hardly able to walk.” With the help of his brother, who was also in the camp, Ross made it to the front of the crowd and was included in one of the most famous photographs of the liberation, shown at the top of this page.
After the liberation of Dachau, Ross had to stay in the camp until the typhus epidemic was brought under control. When he was released, he made his way to Munich where he was hospitalized for 6 months and treated for tuberculosis. He was then sent to a Displaced Persons camp for orphans at a former forced labor camp in Landsberg am Lech, near Munich. Finally, he was brought to America where he was able to recover his health.
Here’s my advice to young people: Write down everything that you want to remember, because when you get old, you might have a stroke, and make a fool of yourself by telling stories about events that never happened.
The following quote is also from my website:
The following information about Stephen Ross is from The New England Holocaust Memorial:
The effort to build the New England Holocaust Memorial began with a Holocaust survivor, Stephen Ross (Szmulek Rozental), who was imprisoned at the age of 9 and whose parents, one brother and 5 sisters were murdered by the Nazi’s. Between 1940 and 1945, he survived 10 different concentration camps.
Like so many others Stephen Ross suffered terribly. His back was broken by a guard who caught him stealing a raw potato. Tuberculosis wracked his body. He once hid in an outhouse, submerged to his neck in human waste, to save himself from being shot. At one time he was hung [by his arms] for eating a raw potato. At age fourteen he was liberated from the infamous torture camp Dachau by American troops. Stephen will never forget the soldiers who found him, emaciated and nearly dead. They liberated him from a certain death.
When Stephen and his older brother, Harry, the only other surviving family member, were released from the Dachau Camp to seek medical attention, they came upon a U.S. Tank Unit. One of the soldiers jumped off his tank, gave Stephen and Harry his rations to eat and put his arms around Stephen. Stephen fell to his knees, kissed the G.I.’s boots and began to cry for the first time in five years.
The soldier took out of his pocket a piece of cloth and gave it to Stephen to wipe his tears. Stephen later found out that it was a small American Flag with 48 stars. This small flag is a treasured item and it will be kept by Stephen and his children as a symbol of freedom, life, compassion and love of the American soldiers.
At the age of 16, Stephen was brought to America in 1948 under the auspices of the U.S. Committee for Orphaned Children. He was illiterate, having had minimal education prior to the Nazi occupation of Poland in 1939. Over the years, he managed to earn three college degrees. Steve made a new life in the Boston area and has worked for the City of Boston for over forty years.
He provides guidance and clinical services to inner-city underprivileged youth and families. He eventually achieved the level of Senior Staff Psychologist.
Note that Steve Ross came upon a U.S. Tank unit AFTER he was released from Dachau.
Note that Steve mentioned that he had been hung by his arms at Dachau. The “tree hanging” punishment was used at Buchenwald, not Dachau. I blogged here about Martin Sommer, the guard who originated this atrocity. Martin Sommer was put on trial by the Germans in the court of Dr. Konrad Morgen. After being convicted, Sommer was sent to the Eastern front, where he was wounded, losing an arm and a leg.
Note also that Steve was submerged up to his neck in human waste in an outhouse. Where did this happen? Dachau had flush toilets, but no outhouses. Steve was obviously remembering what he saw in a Spielberg movie, not what he suffered at Dachau.
However, he could have sunk down into a flush toilet at Dachau because the toilets had no seat. The photo below shows a toilet in one of the cells in the bunker, a prison within the Dachau camp.
The toilets at Dachau had no seat